Travellers taken with southern kindness

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 12:21 08/04/2013
Elly Kern and Thomas Dietert
DOUG FIELD/Fairfax NZ

JOURNEY'S END: German triathlete tourists Elly Kern, left, and Thomas Dietert take a break with their bikes in Otepuni Gardens.

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A German couple who have spent the past year traversing the world in a travel triathlon have given Southland generosity the thumbs up.

Elly Kern and Thomas Dietert were in Invercargill on Friday after making their way across three continents - kayaking down the Danube in Europe, trekking throughout South-East Asia, and cycling the length of New Zealand.

The pair arrived in Bluff on Thursday, the end point of their Drift Away Global Triathlon. Mr Dietert said the couple had decided to test themselves by travelling environmentally with few possessions, and had funded the trip through sponsorship and a stint of fruit-picking in Marlborough.

Ms Kern had never kayaked or ridden a bike with gears before embarking on the trip, and neither of the two had trained for the journey, he said.

"Elly was crying on the side of the road for the first few days. You grow and your body grows and you keep on going."

While he was pleased he had achieved his goal, Mr Dietert said he was especially pleased to reach the end of the journey with their relationship intact. Apart from numerous fishing stops, the best part of the journey was the generosity of other people, including Southlanders, he said.

"In east Europe, people are really poor but they offer you what they've got, even more than what they've got.

"We experienced it in New Zealand too - not that they are poor, but they are really, really friendly."

He was not a fan of Vegemite, although he said he had been given more than one taste test while Down Under.

Undeterred by the Vegemite experience, the pair also made sure to try oysters in Bluff, with mixed results, Ms Kern said. "The uncooked ones - I couldn't eat those. The cooked ones - they were very, very, very good."

Having studied geography at university, Ms Kern was impressed by the central North Island, where she cycled past Rotorua's mud pools and the volcanoes in the Tongariro National Park.

"It was so amazing for me to see these in reality, not just in the books."

The pair will spend the next few weeks in Queenstown, where Ms Kern hopes to go paragliding, before returning to Germany.

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