A Boring Day at the Office
From: Kirstie and Stuart
Subject: A boring day at the office – overcoming boredom on the road
Place: Twizel, Mackenzie Country, New Zealand
I hate to admit it but…
Some days life is boring. Even on an adventure on this scale we have to admit it affects us too. Whether you’re in the buggy or hauling it, the symptoms are the same: a vegetative trance, noticing nothing, and a little voice inside your head saying “I’m bored, I’m sooo bored.” Before long your head is filled with the word “BORED.”
It doesn’t always affect us all at the same time. “Dad, I’m bored of being in the buggy” is one of Matthew’s chants that Stuart dreads. Some days it never comes; other days it starts after just 15 minutes on the road. Those are long days. People expect it’s the two year old that will be difficult but Cameron has never once been bored. He sings, he sleeps, he sings, he plays, he sings, he pretends to be lamby. He sings a lot.
Lindis Pass hell.. expectation is everything
On the day we were due to cross the 965m Lindis Pass, boredom was not something any of us expected. We knew the ride would be slow and arduous. Cyclists we had met who had crossed it the other way gave us a briefing, “It was hell and we didn’t have kids.”
We briefed the kids accordingly, “We’re going to Omarama. It’s going to be hell. Mum and Dad will be very slow and irritable. But we’ll all go wheeeeeee all the way down the other side.”
We’ve learnt quite quickly that setting their expectations about where we’re going, how long it will take and when we will be stopping is really important. Sometimes we forget and start cycling only to hear “I’m bored of being in the buggy Dad. Where are we going?” as if to remind us that pointless journeying is of little interest to anyone, irrespective of age.
Boredom is the real killer
On our crossing of the Lindis Pass, it wasn’t the gradients which nearly broke us but the boredom. This time the kids were fine; supportive and encouraging.
“It’s really hard work, isn’t it Dad?” shouted Matthew from time to time.
“Ee ii ad ee oo, the bone wants a dog” crooned Cameron on a loop.
But we struggled. Matthew and Stuart counted the panniers and recited the contents over and over. Kirstie counted the metres of ascent, one by miserable one. We tried chatting, singing, stopping, eating but still we were bored. It was a job that had to be done but there was nothing there to catch our interest.
The Lindis Pass marks the start of MacKenzie country, a vast inland outback of barren, tussock covered mountains and equally infertile, desolate plains.Flat to the eye, no features to grab your attention, the roads mostly straight to reduce any visual interest further. There’s no trees, flowers or wildlife to speak of that, at least not visible from a bike. Even the roadkill is boring with no dead possums or rabbits to count. The early settlers in this area were hardy pioneers who struggled to carve a living in this harsh countryside. Many of those in local cemetries died from drink but this was no disgrace here. Locals recognised that without the refuge and forgetfulness of a regular bottle or two, the solitary life combined with cold and wretched conditions would drive a man mad. After just one day we understood this too but water was all we had to save us from madness.
After several hours, boredom was relieved for a moment when Kirstie and Stuart laughed on discovering they were both wetting their pants with excitement at seeing a road sign for a tourist resort 25km away, the most interesting thing to happen in a very long time.
Overcoming boredom with creativity
Half way up the pass, Stuart threw down his bike.
“Right, I’m making a cup of tea and a hot lunch.”
We talked about the terrain and our response to it and tried to figure out ways to create interest. The answer we came up with was to look a little closer at where we were to create interest and entertainment from what little there was. Matthew was given a pot and collected 75 stones which we made a castle out of. Cameron collected grass. We made some paper aeroplanes and flew them at the shadows of clouds on the mountains. We counted the lorries. The cars. The campervans. Matthew painted his face as Shrek with green sun factor 50 and we made up songs from the movie.
And then British cyclists Jamie and Mark pulled up with their trailers. Time for a trailer party. Their company lifted us further out of the boredom, and the effect lasted to the top of the Pass and for the ensuing exhilaration of descent.
Playing the Christmas card
But at the bottom, another 25km of featureless terrain stood before us and civilisation. Matthew called a family meeting.
“I’m bored of being in the buggy Dad.”
We took shelter from the rain for a snack and a vote on how to handle the situation. Matthew wanted to go back up the hill. Cameron wanted to go back to Cromwell. Kirstie wanted to put a tent up on the scrubland. Stuart wanted a shower. Boring stalemate. Deadlock. We played the only Christmas card we’ll be using this year, “If we don’t carry on, we’ll never get to Timaru for Christmas.”
The boys were easily persuaded. We don’t know what we’ll do in situations like this after Christmas.