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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Day 27- There's still so much more to be said...

Day 27

... all the lines are in my head.....

But organising them and getting them onto 'paper' is difficult... yet I cannot give up the blogging just yet... I am not yet right back where I started from...
Perhaps this is the beginning of yet another chapter in the book of my life but Im not quite ready to turn the page from the last and desperately cling to parts of it... my arms tightly around  as long as possible.

I received message from a very good friend this morning which not only tipped me over the edge into tears again ... blaming lack of sleep this time... but part of what he said I wish to share with you (I hope he doesnt mind) as it struck me...

He said that they were on the outside looking into my journey and that they only got to see and feel a small part of the journey... like watching the film version of a book where you dont really get the story the author wrote.

And part of me wished I could explain bits better or hadnt been so tired at the end of the day... or had such a crap memory that I forgot some of it (like the kiwi sense of humour that called two tumbling waterfalls at the side of the road... 'trickle 1' and 'trickle 2'!)

But then part of me thought that if it left some interpretation they could attach their own meaning to my vague ramblings and maybe gain more out of it.. than just my vague ramblings - like modern art?? Lol

And so I find myself sitting in Brisbane Airport (I bought a fridge magnet cos this counts as having been to Australia!) with so much more to be said and all the lines in my head but maybe not converting into a full set of lyrics.

This morning was very strange... I had only really got to sleep at 0300 and woke pretty much every hour until I gave up about half six and started organising stuff into packing piles.. stuff to go in with bike... stuff for my seat bag... and stuff for my rucksack... Andy (from Auden guitars ) and Julie had been kind enough to let me crash overnight and were taking me to the Airport in the afternoon.. to begin my long journey home.

It was strange not to have anywhere to get to... strange not to have to worry about headwinds... hills... and a sore arse. In fact I already felt a loss... of freedom... and air to breathe... and beautiful scenery. The pain and effort already half forgotten. Im not sure I can describe adequately how free and alive it can make you feel... to push yourself and challenge yourself... to the point of breaking... standing on the edge and inching that little bit further..

I also cant thank Andy and Julie enough for having me to stay and sharing the end of the journey with me... There are many others I wish could have been there too. But with Lorraine.. Andy and Julie .. I was amongst friends.

We had breakfast...(must get out of that habit again) and then went for a little walk before dropping another friend of theirs off at the airport (his flight a few hours before mine). The walk was to the top of a hill where the views stretched out for an almost 360 degree panorama. It was sunny and cloudless and a perfect way to end my trip.
It felt like New Zealand was saying goodbye and come back sometime!

We dropped Chris off at the airport... which I will describe in a bit... and then went for a quick stroll round this beautiful lake... busy with at least 50 people there... I was being reintroduced to a non solo cycling lifestyle bit by bit. After that we went had lunch at a pub sooo busy (think Reading pub on a monday lunchtime) that we were asked to get our orders in as quick as possible!

We then went to check me and my bike in!

I like being early so it was with some consternation that Andy and Julie suggested we go back to their house for coffee after checking the bike in and watching it be carted away. (In addition Julie had written the words on it.. ' This bike has taken Lydia from North to South New Zealand for Love Hope Strength... ' it almost made me cry... again... once again on a knife edge of surging emotions.

The coffee turned out to be a great idea as I got to pick up a table tennis bat ... having had a gauntlet thrown down at my feet by their son. It was with some satisfaction that I managed to draw one game all... no time for a third game... and my ego intact! Thanks bud.. it was fun!

Then back to the airport ... where cows bordered the runway ... there was one gate for international flights and parking was actually at the airport... not miles away. A far cry from Heathrow and therefore very nice and peaceful... no scrum at security either.
Before that I had to say goodbye to Andy and Julie and given that we had really only just met... it seemed that I was saying cheerio to lifelong friends (probably just me... they most likely opened a good bottle of wine to celebrate!) Julie bought me a bracelet of hematite stones... a silvery/grey/black colour and very pretty.. thank you very much.
And then I was once again a solo traveller...

The flight to Brisbane was short... at least by my standards over the next day.. 4 hours. Probably long enough for the nice gentleman sat next to me in my unwashed off bike clothes to regret it..

And so I sit freezing in the airport... still contemplating. It took all of the four hour flight to come up with a title for the blog today and the important thing to impart from this journey... the main line still in my head...

Life is short... sieze every moment... love .. live.. laugh...dream aloud... see life in colour... and do all of those things with your whole heart and soul beacause if you do not throw all of yourself in.... you risk nothing and gain little. Make Love Hope and Strength part of your daily life ... impart it to others and gain it in return... Fight the fear.. Embrace the Randomness and Go With The Crazy!

Mike Peters and Love Hope Strength Foundation give people a chance to fight back against cancer by swabbing people for the bone marrow donor list and raising money and awareness across the globe.  Mike inspires many of us to follow his example and we have embraced LHS as part of us and along the way found many lifelong friends.

We are always looking for volunteers to help us... people to join us at our Rocks Events and to help us spread the word of LHS. To find out more about the charity please go to or for the USA site.

If you have enjoyed my ramblings over the past weeks and feel able to donate...

One Challenge At A Time.will continue to Dream Aloud and plans are already being hatched ... This is the game I choose to play!

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Day 26 - Time to believe

Day 26 ... Part 1

There comes a point in any journey like this that you have to believe you will make it to the end....

I hadnt reached that point yet when I woke up this morning. Determined to leave early in case anything should befall me or my bike in the last 40 miles... I went for breakfast at 06:45 only to find that it was too early... so instead I got my last bits and pieces together and head out the door....
20 miles to Invercargill then 20 to Bluff

Keep all fingers and toes crossed..

The words of Mike Peters running round my head as they have every day and through every emotion of this ride...

A tailwind to Invercargill saw me there in just over an hour!! Texted Lorraine... 'Get your arse out of bed... Im at Invercargill'.

Invercargill... quite a nice little town... First traffic lights in a while... must remember to stop... Reading cinemas (my town!) ... disjointed thoughts...

Must take everything in... last day on a bike... some tears... some smiles .. all in rememberance of the days I had felt ...

Last Chai coffee of the trip.... back on the road again... winding road with signs to Bluff! And there in the distance... the end of the road....
See a road going up a huge hill... BEG the cycling gods not to send me up it....

A car driving towards me... the word 'PHOENIX' emblazoned across its bonnet ... I couldnt make it up if I tried...

Headwind!! Just to make sure I truly earnt it!

Round the bay... a sign 'BLUFF' ... can it be that I am here??

The song on my Ipod ... The Life you seek does not exist.... what do I seek???

A climb... of course... on smooooooth town tarmac... and up round the corner and over the top and there were the signposts and standing nearby... waving at me ....Lorraine....

Stop... legs stopped... no more pedal turns to take.... I kept on Cycling To The End!!

Just some of the thoughts that rattled through my head... written like they occured to me. Seeing Lorraine there to meet me was like having someone Id known for years to welcome me in and just so happy to see her... Thank you Lorraine

Then the inevitable pictures and minutes to take it in... to store up for later when my brain could process it all better..

Lorraine then said 'Right lets see if the bike fits in the car!!' So funny!! It did fit and I was soon ensconsed in a nice warm comfy car... rattling along at speeds I could only generate downhill ... peddling for all I was worth and with a rocket booster on the back!

After a while my arse hurt!! I couldnt easily perform the two cheek shuffle either... a blanket was dug out to provide some padding... which greatly helped the issue.
We chatted for the three or so hours it took to drive to Andy and Julie's House. Andy and Auden guitars organised the gig tonight but more about that later... for the story now... they had kindly allowed basically a stranger to pitch up at their house... shower... change
.. drink coffee and then bugger off to the gig!

Greeted initially by Andy's mum and then Julie when she got back... I was made to feel at home and welcome. I felt a bit at 6's and 7's... not quite sure what to do with myself. Having showered and changed into the gig clothes I had sent to Andy's house... I felt wierd without my LHS cycle jersey ... so decided to wear that (the clean one) and my gloves to the gig..

Then myself and Lorraine went for a quick tourist stop..... the Steepest Street in the world... average 35% gradient with a section of 38% ... I would like to claim that it was a shame I didnt have my bike!!!!

Then onto Coronation Hall and the gig....

Part 2

Before I blog about the gig.. there is a huge long list of people I need to thank... so please bear with me.... In no particular order....

Mum,Dad, Paul (bro), Jax, Danny boy, Nath, Banna girl and Nathan.... better family I could not choose. X

My work mothers (Denise and Jilly)  and Solder... I am so lucky to have you guys propping me up.. X

Dave Spragg... My inspiration. X

Mike and Jules Peters... for the music and LHS! You have both inspired me to really live life. Mike your music and words have weaved through this journey and once again given me strength. Just so lucky to be a part of it all. Thankyou X

Mickey .. for the bug higs x

David and Nicola... for support... messages and always going with the crazy... Its alright... Its ok! X

Sue O.. for support and encouragement. X

Mark and Sue Hobbs.. for picking me up... welcoming me into this country and becoming instant friends and going above and beyond to help me. X

Roger... for being a kind New Zealander and checking I was ok on the road! X

Mary and Alec... for coming across country to meet a crazy stranger and being that piece of home. X

To everyone who has.. donated... liked... shared... talked about and given words of encouragement... This journey is also yours as I couldnt have done it without you. X

Doug from Auden... for making it possible. X

Lorraine... for being the person to welcome me at the end... for the stories and laughter we shared x

Andy and Julie... for the gig.. but more importantly for the friendship offered and the comfort given when it all became too much... that meant so very much to me. X

Part 3

So its 2am and I sit here blogging... trying to put my thoughts down on paper but words may fail me...

It was somewhat a daze... dreamworld... adrenaline high...a mixture of all the above that I landed in Coronation Hall to be greeted by a lovely gentleman wearing one of my promo t shirts! Andy from Auden Guitars had been sorting out this evening from the very early days of ride planning  and I greatly appreciate his efforts.

3 bands had kindly donated their time this evening... Valley Bluegrass... Melissa Partridge and The Eastern with maybe a surprise thrown in the mix... if I had the balls!

Valley Bluegrass kicked the evening off and the lively tunes got the feet tapping...
Melissa was up next... What a beautiful voice... and some lovely songs of country rock type stuff. Thank you for supporting LHS X

I was a bundle of nerves... determined to sing and attempt to play (with shaking.. slightly numb fingers (thats my excuse anyway) a song that I wrote. The hands were shaking so badly... it all went wrong from a playing point of view at times... okay most the song.. but encouraged by an understanding audience ... I hope I did my Phoenix proud. The video has been posted unreviewed/unedited on my facebook page...

It came from the heart and is what it is.

Then the Eastern... what energy!

And then a song and some words that prompted the tears to flow...

And it all suddenly overwhelmed me and I sat there... head in hands... sutrounded by a room full of strangers but at the same time amongst friends. I cant describe the emotions but they were whirling through head..  heart ... soul. All that I am... all I will ever be ... are words that come to mind. And two friends flanking me... silent comfort... thankyou

And then a song and words that prompted a smile....

And I was sitting there with the thought of how the world can have great beauty in such simple things...
A shared cause... a shared love of music...
This ride and the people I have met along the way and the support from back home have once again renewed... rebuilt... my faith in humanity and the good that can be created.

If just one person from the gig takes on board the message of Love Hope and Strength and shares it around... or one person signs up to GET ON THE LIST...or ... or... then who knows what it may lead to...


three words... put together... Save Lives .. and provide an inspiration and foundation. Check it out...

Its now 02:40 and im still awake and buzzin!

Tomorrow I will add thoughts once things have settled.

For now...

Fight the fear... Embrace the Randomness and above all Go With The Crazy!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Day 25 - Spiritual Regeneration Every single time we breathe...

Day 25

The second longest day in terms of mileage and coming after 2 long climbing days... this was not an 'easy day'. Im not sure this country has any of those in it.  97 miles but only 2700 ish feet of climbing... this was a wind dependent day... a lot hung on the wind direction and strength.

I admit... I pushed my bike up the hill from the hotel... and if you'd seen it... you would understand why... 20% gradient is a good way to break yourself for the rest if the day... as it was,  pushing the bike up that hill hurt!!

I then coasted down and rejoined SH6... having shunned breakfast in the very expensive hotel.. I knew that there was a cafe to be found 25 miles down the road at Kingston... First though I had to go along Lake Wakatipu..
With a bit of road called Devil's Staircase.. this could be bad.

A tailwind pummled me along to the lake... I hesitated to even think about it... because I knew if it changed... I could be in for a ridiculously hard day. But couldnt complain at the moment... 20mph down a straightish flattish road... with a tailwind for the most part.. perhaps a sidewind at worst.
And then I got to the lake proper and if I have used up all my superlatives previously... please forgive me for repeating myself. The Remarkables mountain range to my left were ... simply... remarkable. The Lake was a beautiful blue.. only with thousands of white topped waves whipped up by the strong wind.. fortunately in my favour... On the right across the lake were more peaks... some with flecks of white on them. The sky was for the most part brilliant blue and I just trotted along gazing at the scene. Then I screeched to a halt... a rainbow... picture time... and I could see where the pot of gold would lie as the rainbow ended in a blur of colours and water spray where the water was blown up by the wind... a little further on was another rainbow ... and as I looked back.. I could see two more. This is the Place where all Rainbows End and it was a silly notion but one that resonated with me and stuck in my head as a really lovely idea.

The road that wound round the Lake was NEVER going to be flat... so it climbed up... wound round and descended again... the wind still at my back... every time I stopped... usually at the top of a rise for a picture.. it hit me hard... as if urging me onward.

 One time I stopped for a photo and at least 20 cyclist... unladen... with a support van flashing its hazards.. swept by me. I greeted them as they did me and then started to give chase... the support driver dropped back a little and I managed to find out that they were doing some kind of Christchurch to Christchurch charity ride... at least thats what I think he said. I managed to throw one of my cards into his vehicle and then he sped off. Once again... I tried to chase them down. I wasnt doing too badly but then I thought... ' this scenery is beautiful... this is your last full day are never going to keep up with cyclists who have no kit and havent done 1400ish miles previously.' So I slowed down and then stopped for a photo and enjoyed the spectacular view!

And I kept stopping... because pretty much round every bend was a new view .. even greater than the last. I think .. and maybe im biased because of the tailwind.. this was the most beautiful spectacular part of the country that I have seen. There may have been more spectacular bits along the way... just covered in cloud and rain as I went past!!

I drank in the view and it was like regeneration of the soul with every breath... nature coursing through my veins... repairing the broken body from the previous 24 days...

Then the road made a more dramatic climb up... I assume this bit was the Devils Staircase... but actually it wasnt that bad. Whenever I stopped... the wind blew at my back... and the idea got into my head that the strength of the wind helping me up these final hills.. was the strength from everyone back home willing me along. Once again it was perhaps a silly notion but it seems to be the day for those.!

The downward blast was done with a gusting sidewind.. which at the speed I was going caused more than one scary wobble and may me slow down and be slightly more cautious... would be a right bugger to crash now!!

So I tiptoed down... not even worried about the loss of my downhill reward as my reward today was the scenery and the tailwind.
Then I saw two poor buggers.... kitchen sinkers... going the opposite way to me. I shot over and offered sweets etc to mitigate for the fact that they wete heading into that wind and probably would be all day. On chatting to them I found out that they were originally from Canada but now lived up Nelson way and were touring the South Island

They had only just set out for the day... so me bouncing over with a grin on my face.. confirming their fears about a headwind all the way down.. probably didnt help!

Kevin and Laureen... nice to meet you briefly.. I sincerely hope the wind dropped or changed direction!!

The cafe at Kingston arrived just in time and I sat down to my usual pancake breakfast and chai. Going to miss that for sure. My thoughts did turn today to the things I will miss about this ride..

The routine of packing up in the morning
The solitude out on the road
Nothing to think of except food miles and sleep
The serene beauty of the road
Blogging every day... putting my thoughts down to clarify them
The rythm of my legs turning the pedals round
Being exposed to nature...
Breathing the air... watching the sun rise and fall

Then it was back on the road... tailwind still in place and saying goodbye to the Place where Rainbows End ... head forward... metal on the pedals and going for it. I still had a good 70 miles to go. And it was 10:30.

From Kingston the road still wound through the hills... lumpy  but with the tailwind unbelievably mainly behind me. As the road twisted and turned it became a sidewind for a bit... Then the valley became wider.. the road now flanked by fields of gold and the hills jutting out beyond them.. some picture postcard moments for sure. Especially now the clouds were beginning to gather .. just to add to the drama. In the far distance I saw lightening but heard no thunder but the sky above was darkening and I felt like I was trying to outrun the storm.  It did pour down... but only for 5 minutes and Where was I Hiding??  I was hiding in a cafe in Athol having the most sublime sorbet ice lolly (If anyone finds a source in the UK.. please let me know!!)

After Athol came a succession of small towns until Lumsden at around 14:00 and with 30 miles to go... I felt pretty confident that id get there at a reasonable time

Lumsden spoke to me... (yup I have gone road crazy!!) Firstly there was Lydia Street!!!
Then a Route 6 Cafe... complete with American car inside. The sign is following me! Needless to say... I had to eat at the cafe... lunch ... another burger and fries. Im going to have to curb my eating again for sure!!

Then the last 30 miles. At lunch I had booked a room in Winton... partly to ensure some comfort but also partly because my brain was calculating how long it would take to get to Invercargill where Lorraine was staying. Where did you get to? Her question via facebook... well if you look outta your window.....
It would have been funny but possibly not sensible as have some things to do with real world... like checking flights home and making sure I can get home from airport... with my bike!
Incidentally... It did make me laff when Lorraine (staying in Invercargill... waiting to meet me at Bluff)... confessed to dinner of choc licorice sweets and a bunch of bananas... its not just me that has difficulty finding good road food!

Those 30 miles were mainly flat..  with a couple of longer kick ups ... good for the view at the top... and I blasted them... well until the last 5 ... when my legs gave out and all 1499 ish miles started to tell.

That said I did those thirty miles in under 2 hours 15.. including photo stops!!

I eventually arrived at The Continental Hotel and bar and chatted to the lady in charge. She couldnt give me a discount off the room but the hotel donated $20 to the ride and I got a free evening meal. Thank you!!

Before I ate I wandered along the street to go to Supermarket to pick up a few bits and pieces. I shouldnt be allowed out without my bike and without supervision... I stepped in between 2 kerbs.. scraping all the skin off my left ankle. Typical!!!

So now ensconsed in the room... getting prepared for tomorrow (that includes leg shaving(sorry) charging cameras .. phones etc... getting out my spare cycling kit (Lorraine will be pleased that Im not going to sit in her car for 4 hours in my cycling top thats seen me from top to bottom of NZ!) and a myriad of other little things.

So thats the day...  for those interested... what follows is a bit about bike and kit! If you really dont care... skip to the last paragraph!

My bike... Giant Defy 1 - 11 speed... 22 gears in all. Possibly could have done with a few more at the lower end but hey... I got up the hills somehow and my knees are intact.

Bags... Apidura done me proud.. pretty waterproof and held up very well. No problems at all. Hardly felt they were there... carried a load of kit. Drew some admiring glances from strangers!!

Bivvy set up... the one time i used it.. brilliant... fast set up and warm and comfortable. Just the sand flies that killed me camping! I would list everything but dont want to really bore everyone... if you are interested in my bivvy set up details.. message me.

TEP portable wifi hotspot... bloody fantastic. Would deffo use again. Well worth the money. Only had trouble one day really.. Haast had no phone signal at all... and slight trouble one other day with sloooww connection.

RAVPOWER portable power bank... exceptional ... would definately use again as holds a huge amount of charge and charges items quickly.

POWERMONKEY  solar charger... used a lot in the sunshine on the North Island... really good for rescue charging stuff... i.e not enough charge to power fully but will rescue your phone from 'dead' to 30-40%.

Things I would recommend to take on any long cycle trip like this that I did not take and had to buy...
High DEET concentration insect repellant

Things I brought but neednt have bothered with .... (some may surprise you)

Spare socks... when off the bike I went sockless...

Underwear for off the bike... like the socks.. I went commando (specifically to allow air to circulate) ... yup even in that posh resort in the North near Taupo !!

Towel... only used once as motels provided towels

Unsure about aerobars... my hands arent numb .. so maybe they made a small bit of difference... and more practice may prove beneficial.

Ok... WAKE UP!!!!

I cant believe Im 40 miles from Bluff! This place has been ingrained on my soul. The hard tough days will become the stories told... the people I met... part of the journey... but the beauty and the feel of this country and the emotions it has wrung from me..  will be solely mine... as I cannot explain them to my satisfaction.

Above all ... a lot of money has been raised so far for LHS ... but there is still time to donate
If you can... please go to

So 40 miles to go....
Today Spiritual regeneration every single time I breathed... New Zealand has imprinted itself on my soul.

LHS xx

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Day 24 - Let it Raindown....

Day 24

I struggled to wake up again this morning... a fact demonstrated by the squeezing onto my toothbrush... of Bepanthen!!!
Fortunately noticing before applying it to my teeth... I cleaned it off and applied toothpaste instead. It didnt have its usual minty taste.

Not a great start... things were looking up with breakfast (thanks bev) and the news that she had contacted a friend who was a reporter for the Wanaka Times... who wanted to meet me and write an article for the paper. It was arranged for the morning on my way to first Cromwell... then through the gorge to the outskirts of Queenstown. All on SH6... this road that had been with me since Greymouth would carry me all the way to Bluff.

Bev assured me that it was pretty flat from here to Wanaka (definately the kiwi version of flat Bev!!!! ) and the plan was to get there by 08:15.. but on setting off and climbing the hills as they appeared.. my legs werent in the game this morning and Wanaka town would be a detour too far off route... so I phoned Nicky.. the reporter and she suggested we meet at Puzzletown cafe! A wierd place with lopsided buildings and a backwards clock amongst other things. The article will be out after the ride but still hopefully raise awareness...

That done... the road to Cromwell was calling... and what a beautiful road.! Yes some climbs... it is New Zealand... but all managable... mountains behind and to the sides ... visable across fields burnt golden by the sun.. which was making an appearance every now and again!! I may also have been lucky enough to have a bit of a tailwind at times but was careful not to say it out loud in case the cycling gods realised their grievous error.

There was a lot of thinking done on this stretch... careful not to think too much about arriving in Bluff (stuff can still go wrong) I looked back over the last few weeks which simultaneously have gone by in a flash and also seem like forever ago. In fact .. this morning seems like a long time ago.. never mind the moment when I put my feet in the pedals for the first time here.  There are many many highlights ... although it may seem like I moan a lot in my blog... I have already forgotten the pain of the first few days and difficulty breathing and remember instead the lovely sunshine... the rainforest... the golden sandy beaches (still remember the sand flies in Oppononi though) and the people I met along the way... many who left a lasting impression on this journey and some who went above and beyond to keep this cyclists legs turning round!!

Also whilst I remember... have had many enquiries about the state of my hands. Last time after Route 66 .. I couldnt hold a knife and fork... couldnt do up buttons and generally had claws for hands. Im pleased to report that this time hands seem better (the last 2 days notwithstanding). I did get some major hand cramps after kayaking... but they were wet and cold and had been gripping the paddle for a while. The palm of my hand is a bit numb but the fingers seem to be working still. Fingers crossed (pun only half intended) that they continue to be as good!!

So the road to Cromwell went on... I have been told that I have taken the easy way as there was a 'shortcut' from Wanaka to Queenstown but it happens to go over the Crown Range and I for one am incredibly glad I inadvertently chose to go The Long Way Round.

I reached Cromwell in good time ... by 12:00  and found a cafe to shove even more calories down. Just by the cafe... The Large Plastic Fruit!! Had to take a photo to add to my collection of Giant things lol.

The last few miles into Cromwell had been dogged by a bit of a headwind and now as I turned to go through the gorge leading to Queenstown... it became a full throttle headwind... complete wirh some spots of rain though that held off for a bit. The headwind abated a little allowing me to negotiate the rises and dips of the gorge with little trouble. Nothing major at present I did have the feeling that it was working up to a creshendo...

In the meantime I stared at the turquoise River below as it gouged its way through. This area had had mines in .. as has much of the Otago region...(a fact I learnt from reading a book about cycling the Otago rail trail)... and because I had been forewarned I stared intently at the scarred and broken hillside... and sure enough .. once the eye was in... you could pick out remainders of miners huts dotted about the hillside.

The beautiful blue river was at times calm and tranquil and at other times crashing and fierce but the road continued beside it and above it. Some steeper climbs were starting to test my legs and in particular the one I hoped would be the signal for the road to turn downhill. Granny gears to the fore... I tapped up it and once at the top saw a lady climb away from her camper van and over the barrier...

Don't Do It!!!

I did actually shout that... but with a smile on my face and the lady turned round... camera in hand and said 'no thats further up the road' ( Turns out it actually was... as the famous bungee jumping bridge is located in this gorge!)

Andrea and Ian were from West Sussex in the Uk and were driving to Cromwell to visit friends on their vineyard. Thank you for giving me a smile and lovely to meet you. I hope you have a safe journey home... who knows we may meet in Chiangi Airport!!!

Then the road started downhill a bit but the headwind had kicked up to vicious proportions and was either straight on or mixed with a sidewind. So bad... I was crawling along on the flat around 4-6mph if not less at times when gusts bought me to a standstill. Downhill bits were becoming dangerous... narrow road and a gusting head/sidewind make for difficult bike handling... then ... yup... you've guessed it... the Raindown began.  Intense enough for me not to wait the usual 5 minutes... I whipped out my rainjacket and prepared to get very wet.

This stretch was about 15-20 miles and should have been done (including climbs and photos in 2 hours max... it took almost double that in the end... such was the strength of the wind.

Soaking wet once again... I struggled onward waiting for the point thaf the road turned... 7 miles away. Every inch of ground gained was a struggle. I did stop for more calories... sat down by the roadside when three mountainbikers came wooshing past (with a tailwind) on the Queenstown dirt trail that runs next to the road. The third guy... slowed up and asked if I was alright... nice... but it did make me smile... having come over 1400 miles ... is all i was doing was eating... though he would have got a different answer yesterday morning!!

The road turned slightly... after 7-8 very hard fought miles and with the rain still beating down... I picked up a bit of speed... no longer straining to overcome the headwind...

I did shout above the noise of the wind/rain and cars...

Let it Raindown... cos Im nearly  fcuking there!!

And boy did that feel good.

Entered Frankton.. on the road skirting Queenstown... past the full motor camp... past the no vacancy bandb and out of Frankton... plan b then. Up a steep hill to Peninsula Road and the Hilton hotel complex... my last avenue before having to cycle another 20 miles.

I rolled up to the grand entrance... literally dripping wet and went in. Only one room left
.. double apartment style $530... hmmmmm Tempting!!

I begged for a discount... explained what I was doing and how far id come... the manager went away to ask his boss and came back with an offer...$279... done deal thank you! So thats how I find myself in the very swish apartment with balcony and resplendent with sofas..

Makes me laugh though cos it makes bugger all difference to me ... long as I have a bed and electrical sockets... im good anywhere!

I also managed to Periscope this evening so if you didnt catch it live... it will still be available for a little while at and you can access by clicking the link above.

I still have 2 days to go... tomorrow to Winton... 96 ish miles... reasonably flat which leaves 40 miles for my last morning to Bluff... where Lorraine will be waiting for the transfer to Dunedin for the gig (massive thanks to Doug and Andy at Auden Guitars!!!).

Im raising money for Love Hope Strength Foundation and have battered my body and mind into submission in order to be worthy of your sponsorship... if you havent already and feel that you can... please visit and help me to the 'End of The World'


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Day 23 - There are no frontiers

Day 23

This was the big one... the day to end all days. If this was a Tour .. this would be the Queen's stage... the most anticipated... the hardest... the one that would see some break and others sieze the day! Just over 80 miles and 8750ft to climb. .. over 2000ft more than any other day.

I packed up and was out door... to hopefully find an open cafe... and luck was on my side. It was just as well because it was a good 50 miles before the first cafe... and that was after the Haast Pass through the mountains... so I needed food and supplies.  Both sorted... and the rain now falling heavily... I put on all waterproof layers (jacket only) and set off. Damn it was cold. Half tempted to stop and put the leg warmers on I decided not to because may be glad of them being dry later so ploughed on regardless.

The rain was hammering down and I was soon very wet... wet feet... arms... shorts... completely soaked through. The real climbing wouldnt start for 20 miles but there was no shortage of ups.... winding round the foothills with the river as a guide... often far below. There were flat sections and fortunately the tailwind on these short bits meant my legs werent completely dead just yet. .. in fact they were completing the climbs pretty well... but I was very aware that the real climbing had not yet begun.

Mount Aspiring national Park came up next. Unfortunately the cloud and the rain meant there wasnt much to see. Not that I was in an appreciative frame of mind. My feet were now numb with cold... my hands close to the same. Whenever I stopped there was nowhere to shelter so every now and again I stuffed a tracker bar down and a few sweets and a gulp of water... and set off as quickly as possible.
The worst bit being the wet shorts sticking to the legs until I got going again.

I could see how Mount Aspiring would be stunning in nice weather... the river was a glacial blue/grey in the valley below and high rock walls ran next to the road... well above the river at times... All the foothills that I could see were covered in dense green bush.. and mist and rain and cloud so that mostly just an outline was visable.

Battling the rain and the cold meant my reserves... both mentally and physically were close to zero... I had daydreams about thumbing a lift... but didnt stop near any laybys in case I gave in. I was so cold I had some concern about hypothermia... especially as the road started to wind upwards on a more permanent basis instead of the up and down.

I was concerned about time... it was already half ten and the real climbing was just beginning. Flashbacks to the Rimatuka Hill came and went... it cant be that bad ... can it??

The main problem was that I didnt know what I was really facing... it could be another Rimatuka... it could be worse... it could be better... the mind conjoured up scenarios of me still climbing the pass at 4 or 5pm... then what?? Being wet and very cold made it clearly worse and then I passed through the Gate of Haast (gate of hell more like) which signified the start of the proper climbing. 15-20% in places I reckon... with an escape hill on the opposite side of the road... (that tells you how bad it was!).. and gears that were slipping drove me to the very edge of breaking point. I was absolutely certain I wasnt going to be able to finish today... ..

You may not believe how close I was to stopping.. or how desperately I wanted to sit down and close my eyes... be warm and dry at home... or how the tears ran down my face in frustration at myself for being weak...

But something kicked in... and I honestly dont know what it was.... it just kept the pedals turning... even as the thoughts of quitting were shouting to me... the pedals kept turning. If I stopped... I started up again...

I kept going up... so slowly as it was still very steep... then downhill... then another steep climb.... and another...

I couldnt see out of my glasses further than the next foot of tarmac... but maybe that helped...

The steep climbs kept coming... with a little downhill in between... which served to freeze me solid... until I saw a sign... Haast pass... 564m. I had bloody done it. Well... got this far anyway. Shivering I stuffed down more fruit bar things and prepared for a very cold descent. My aim... the cafe.. in 20 miles...  It was mainly downhill with a bit of flat and the mountains started slowly receding into the background... the rain slowed to a trickle and some warm air found me!

Suddenly anything seemed possible.. There are no frontiers that we cant cross...

The twenty miles to the cafe were pretty pleasant... with the rain going... a tailwind at times and the scenery becoming more visable... the world seemed a better place.

I sped that 20 miles and found myself at the cafe at 13:40. Much better time than I dared to hope or thought realistic... given how id felt going up. But I had conquered the Haast pass in pretty awful weather and emerged with a quiet satisfaction that I hadnt given up even though every fibre in my body screamed for me to do so...

After lunch it was a short drop down to Lake Wanaka and the sun was out... I was quickly drying off and removed my rainjacket to allow other layers to wind dry.

Lake Wanaka... a beautiful blue... ringed with mountains (the peaks of the tallest still hidden by cloud... words cannot describe the beauty other than how it penetrated the soul to leave it bewildered.

The road wound round the lake neither rising or falling steeply... leaving me with energy to spare to gaze at it as I wound round it. Then the road started climbing sgain... i could see it in the distance make a break for the gap in the hills to jump over to Lake Hawea. It was warm now and I had found my climbing legs...

Lake Hawea appeared into view only after I had climbed The Neck... 400 and something feet and it was just as spectacular... only more so ... as it signalled that I would make it tonight. 5 miles to go and they were some of the prettiest... running alongside the Lake in all its glory... Up and down of course... and one absolute bugger of a climb... just to finish me off and twist the knife in a little. To add insult to injury... I was overtaken by a bunch of clowns... !! Literally as the circus was in town and kept passing me on the road!

Drying off as I 'sped along' (everything is relative) I wondered what the car drivers thought as they went from a to b when they saw me. Did they even notice at all??

Soon Hawea.. the town came into view. Never been quite so happy to see a little town.. so I crossed the bridge to the first... amd only hotel... fully booked. The kind lady 'phoned a friend' and sent me to see Bev...  (It was at this point that I fell asleep whilst blogging last night!)
And I was soon ensconsed in a nice room with a hell of a view of the lake... a loo with a view... my cycling clothes in a washing machine and on my way to get dinner at the cafe down the road.

The young lad serving me reminded me of my step son with his inability to finish off a sentence with anything other than 'sweet' and the burger and chips were pretty good but was too tired to finish them.

Back to Bev's and was soon crashed out.. unable to finish this blog I was so tired.

I came close to breaking point yesterday but whatever saw me through meant I am still on schedule and battling to get to the end. I cannot do it without your support.

A massive thank you to everyone who has shared the posts... messaged me and commented on the posts. And an even bigger thank you to everyone who has sponsored me so far...


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Day 22 - Only the phoenix knows...

Day 22

A bit about this phoenix I keep mentioning...
A mythical creature that rises from ashes...

To me it is my symbol for that which gives me inspiration... hope and strength. It stands for courage to face whatever is ahead. My phoenix flies above me to be summoned when needed. He watches over me.

Sad news from home...

It was a grey morning for many reasons... the cloud hanging over the mountains reflected how I was feeling. Gone were the white peaks of yesterday... hiding in the dense cloud... perhaps knowing that I would not appreciate their beauty today. It was even cold. The rain had held off... perhaps out of respect for the struggle I had inside. I wanted to be at home.

But would it change anything... no!
Some things are not within our control... like headwinds... you just have to accept.... shout and yell and curse all you want... but the wind doesnt care.

And I had a ride to finish...

I set off... rolling up the road and found breakfast. Oh the comfort of routine... packing up... looking at the day ahead... working out how long it would take me... all part of my ritual... distraction from the urge to run away.

Once breakfast was done... eggs and bacon if you must know... I turned my music up loud and began the climb out of Franz Joseph. A gentleman a couple of days ago told me that the three climbs on this day were more to worry about than the Haast pass (tomorrows little jaunt!) so I was wary of how I would go up this first climb... wondering if my legs would function after my not very restful rest day.

The words of Mike Peters filled my heart and soul as I climbed steadily upwards... taking strength from the lyrics of every song... There are no frontiers... The only limitation is in my mind... only the thunder knows... I breathe the air. I climbed strongly... aware my phoenix was watching me... giving me strength.

The hills.. shrouded in a deep green... surrounded me as I wound around and up. My legs grew stronger as I gained the climbing rythmn (granny gears of course). I was pretty much alone and this stretch of SH6 was bereft of civilisation. Very soon I topped out... hill 1  done and whizzed down the other side in glorious freefall... sweeping bends... still slightly damp from last nights rain.. taking care not to go in too deep or brake too hard.

This downhill did a bounce and catupulted me up the start of hill 2. An equally tough climb with gradients on the hairpins that would make Alberto Contador wince (slight exaggeration but hey ho) The road absorbed all my concentration .. the next inch of tarmac becoming the most important thing to me... leaving me with no brain power for any other thoughts... legs went round like a metronome set at 45 RPM for the hills. (Thanks for the advice Mike!) At one point I got off and hike a biked round the hairpin... it was just too steep. Then I got back on my bike and began again.

On the way up whilst I was sweating... huffing... groaning and generally looking every inch the crazy fool I am.. I passed two girls walking down the road.. As I passsed one of them said... in an American accent... 'You're so badass'. It was the first thing that made me smile all day.

I muttered something like... 'no just stupid' and continued on up.. but a large part of me wanted to go and thank her for making me smile.

Hill number three was easier than hills 1 and 2... though still required a significant amount of effort. All this and I still hadnt reached Fox Glacier yet.. a mere 15 ish miles away.
When I cruised downhill into Fox... I probably should have stopped to replenish water and increase stocks of food. But I hadnt done many miles and time was ticking on... so I whizzed straight through and up the other side.

The whole day to Haast was a total of 87 miles... it was 10:30 and id hardly done any. I hoped the road would get a little easier.

It did flatten out somewhat and as the road was winding around the valley i had descended into... I even occasionally got a tailwind. Id run out of fuck it juice and instead opened the pissed with the world bottle... which gave my legs the strength they needed to really motor... speeds of 17mph were maintained for a short while as all conditions alighned for a brief moment in time and space.

The road after that continued to dip up and down with jungle on either side. Cool strams ran beside the road but I was hesitant to drink the clear running water because id seen signs that stated the land had been poinoned to try and kill the possums. Somewhat a controversial subject... some farmers were using a poison called 1080.. whilst others displayed signs saying No to 1080. All very well but I wasnt confident the water was safe to drink. The sun was out in fits and starts though.. and given that I didnt think id get a refill until Haast.. my end destination.. I split my options and filled a bottle from the stream .. for emergency use only. Incredibly clear.. with no debris.. it would have otherwise been perfect!

I passed places with names but no services... the nicest being a bay with a beautiful beach.. stopped to take a photo and my legs became black with the swarm of sandflies!! I left pretty quickly!!!

Unbelievably a few miles down the road... I saw a sign for a cafe... at a salmon farm. Like an oasis ... it was a good thing cos I was running out of food and energy and there was still 40 miles to go. There were a few coaches of tourists who stared at me when I parked up my bike and two or three other bikes of the kitchen sink variety parked up. I ordered eggs on toast... my daily cup of chai latte and sat ... swatting off sandflies contemplating the miles to come. I didnt take long and was soon suiting up again. I got chatting with a kitchen sink cyclist ... he had come from Fox and as I was telling him about our ride another guy joined in the conversation. I asked him where he had cycled from and he said he wasnt on a bike... he just liked that particular cycling jersey!

His name was Max and he was from the Netherlands... a photographer of mountains.. he is off to Patagonia next... really quite jealous. Lovely to meet you Max... I look forward to seeing those photos!!

Then back on the road... ahead of the kitchen sink cyclist... determined to stay there but given the state of my legs wasnt sure I could manage it. Then it started to rain!! Fairly heavy but I decided not to put on my rain jacket as 'if you dont like the weather in New Zealand..wait 5 minutes'. Sure enough the rain soon stopped leaving me to contemplate another very hilly stretch.  Another 4 longish hills but with a reasonable gradient and a bit of flat in between. The first was ok and I just tapped up it. Coming down I went through a swarm of bees!! Keeping my mouth firmy shut I passed through without incident other than being hit a few times by wayward fliers. I stopped for more food and as I did so kitchen sink guy caught up with me!! Damn.  My bike was lighter but as he pointed out... I had way less gears... making it harder. Swings and roundabouts.

He continued on up and I caught him on climb number 2. Going past once again I struggled up this one ... my legs going round a bit faster so as not to get caught again (damn competitive streak) On the third hill.. there was a lookout point halfway up... beautiful vista of the ocean. Stood there and took photos for ten minutes surrounded by coaches of tourists. They all swarmed out of their coaches... took photos and hopped back on the bus. Wierd way to see a country in my opinion!

Of course had been caught and passed by kitchen sink... so once again set off after him.  Once passed... another bee swarm in the downhill... I bumped into another tourer. He needed some oil for his chain so I dutifully provided some. He had cycled from Slovenia to Singapore and then just kept on going. Admiring my light set up... we chatted for a while... kitchen sink passed me... and then time to go. He informed me that it was flat from here but headwinds all the way to Haast!

He was totally correct... the headwind slowed me down somewhat and were a real struggle. But due to my lighter.. more aerodynamic set up I passed kitchen sink for what turned out to be the last time! Running along the coast... the headwinds were the fiercest I encountered yet and slowed me to 6mph. The beach had golden sand and the sea and sky were bright blue. It was lovely. The sun was out and if it wasnt for the headwind this would have been one of the nicest stretches Ive done.

I fought for an hour before finally coming to the Welcome to Haast sign.. and whooopped with delight. Somewhat prematurely it turned out as there was at least another 5 miles to go. Fortunately the road turned inland a little and speed picked up a bit. There was a long bridge over the Haast river with two passing places... which meant I could get a photo. The mountains were once again making their presence felt... reminding me of the Queen Stage tomorrow. I battled once again against the headwind over the bridge... cursing all the way until finally in the town. 87 miles done on a very hilly day. Not bad at all.

Motel wise.. the first one I went into was full so tried the backpackers next door... yup had a room and showed me round... then you can bring your bike in... unload your stuff... and put the bike round the back.....
Eerrrrr ... no. He was adamant about the bike... comparing it to a car and pets!!!!!!

So I took myself... and my bike down the road where another motel was. Vacancy ... woohoo. And bike could be 'snuck' in the room. All good then. Dinner of burger and chips and all good except for the wifi. My TEP cant connect as no phone signal so had to pay for very bad wifi... hence no blog till this morning.

As for me.. how do I feel today? Only the phoenix knows...


Monday, 22 February 2016

Day 21 - Im made of life....

Day 21

I woke up at 7am after a lie in! It seemed like a silly thing to waste the day sleeping. I did stay in bed and chill fotlr an hour or so before heading into the town to mooch about and find breakfast. I checked out the wildlife place with the intention of seeing a kiwi... $35 for what seed like a very short experience. I walked out again .. hoping to go back later. I wandered into the souvenir shops... fortunately I am limited in what I can carry which means im limited to postcards and fridge magnets and my bank balance isnt under too much threat. Generally here prices were high as it was a 'tourist trap'... but a nice one. Franz Joseph has a nice bustling vibrant vibe to it..perhaps drawing its energy from the mountains behind.

And what a panorama awaited me today. The cloud had cleared... the sun was out .. sparkling off the snow on the peaks of the Southern Alps. For some reason.. cloud i think... I hadnt seen the mountains when I arrived yesterday... but it was like the cycling gods had said.. 'well done for getting here... here is your reward'!

Having done my shopping I decided to go for breakfast and wandered into a cafe with a mountain view... I wanted to soak up as much of the view as possible and imprint this day on my memory. As I was taking a seat I heard my name... turned round... and to my delight ... it was Mary and Alec! Having stayed at Fox Glacier, where there wasnt anything open.. they came here and we just so happened to choose the same place to eat. It was a lovely unexpected surprise for the day and we sat chatting whilst I devoured pancakes... again!

Eventually though it was time to say goodbye again and I waved them off and turned my attention to the day to come. This was the one day I had booked accomodation and had been determined to get to. I mosied on over to the Glacier guides base. As I did so I passed a kiosk for Lake Kayaking and on a whim.. went in to enquire. As luck would have it... they had one space for an evening Lake tour and with very little hesitation I booked myself in! You only live once right... rest day be dammed!

Then it was booking in time. A slight mix up meant that my flight time was 15 minutes later than I had thought it would be and it was going to be cutting it close to get back for the kayak... but couldnt be helped and I just kept my fingers crossed for no delays. The group I was with held some surprises. On the website .. this trek, Ice Explorer,  had been advertised as reasonably strenuous with three hours of walking on the glacier... those without a good level of fitness were advised to go for the helihike version.. with less walking around on the ice. As I surveyed the group there were two older people, who looked less thansteady on their feet on the flat! Yup guilty of pre judging but I was a little surprised. I had expected the younger people to be on this one. Instead they all seemed to be doing the hike to the glacier!

We suited and booted.. with all kit provided. Just as well because I cant carry boots and walking kit but I didnt like wearing boots that werent my own... and though they seemed to fit it could cause problems. We were assigned seats in the helicopter having been weighed. I didnt get the front unfortunately but was determined to get a window seat on the way up!
We walked along a jungle path to the helipad and watched as several helicopters landed and flew off with groups like our own. Then it was our turn. Excitement at a screeching level to match the noise of the helicopters roters we lifted off and turned before climbing up and hesing towards the hills. Briefly the thought of the heli crash at Fox glacier went through my mind but was quickly dismissed as the glacier came into view. White ice tumbling towards the valley floor.. flanked by ice that was brown with the debris from the mountainside. As we approached ... the size of the glacier and the ice formations became apparent. The people already on the ice were specks in the vast icefield.  The helicopter landed softly on the ice platform and we disembarked... the noise echoing round and the rotar wash doing its best to bliw us off our feet. We walked up past other groups with big grins on their faces and our guide Nick got us coralled together to put our crampons on. He introduced us to our other guide Nick (makes that easy) and before long we were all standing in a line ready for going up. We were the first people on the ice for 5 days as the weather had been bad and they explained they may have to do some path and step cutting along the way .. two huge axes having been brought along for the purpose. We set off ... the crampons biting into the ice and providing a secure step.

As we went along.. every now and again.. the axes would be swung and bits of ice sprayed.. as the two Nicks cleared the path and re- formed the steps. It was reasonably easy going. Any steep steps and a rope had been fixed with an ice screw. But the older couple were struggling in parts and did slow the group down a bit. I didnt mind as it enabled me to take lots of photos and part of me also thought fair play for coming out and doing this... i hope im still doing things like this when im their age! They hailed from Colarado and although the steep steps were a bit of a problem.. they managed it and kept ip on the flatter sections.

We were basically going up and down ridges of ice... carved out by the glacier movement and shaped by the wind and rain. Every now and again a look back down the valley showed the ice stretching down under the blue sky and a look up to the higher point of the glacier to the more 'unstable part' showed glistening tower blocks of ice ... seracs... ready to topple at any moment. The icefall was breathtaking in its beauty... the blue of the older ice sparkling through in places.

After a good few ups and downs Nick 2 stopped us and invited anyone who felt tired or finding it hard to stay at this point to be collected. I wondered if that was a hint to the older couple but they were determined to continue.

We kept walking until we reached the highest point we were to go. The icefall part deemed too unstable to go in... we stopped below what they call the hole! Appeared in 2008 this gap in the ice is widening quickly and may cause large sections of the glacier to shear off. Nick also pointed out the level of the glacier just 6 years ago and a line was clearly dicernable. It has receeded a huge amount in that time and although part of the cycle depending on weather systems.. of growth and recession... the last 6 years was more drsmatic than previous.

Eventually it was time to head downwards and a small problem worsened. The boots were rubbing on my left heel quite badly  and i could feel a sore area. I just hoped it wouldnt ruin the days to come. All too soon, having squuezed through ice cracks and wandered through more beautiful ice formations, we were back at the helipad... crampons off... and waiting for our ride back down the valley. The clouds had closed in making it a bit chilly and it was good to be back in the chopper heading for the warmer valley floor.

On landing... I had about 45 minutes to find a snack and check in for my kayaking trip!!

Checking in done I sat chatting to a young lady called Cesia... from Mexico. She had worked in a motel in Franz Joseph for over a year but had never gone Kayaking and was about to remedy that. Every winter she goes home expecting not to return but something draws her back here.
We piled in 2 minibuses and set off for Lake Mapourika .. a short drive away. Kitting up in the most fashionable spray skirts and jackets was funny and the sand flies took advantage of us standing still... biting wherever they landed. We were soon sitting in our kayaks... paddles in hand ready for the off. I was in the front and Cesia was in the back with control of the rudder ... so I was quite happy as every following crash into bushes and riverbanks was solely her responsibility!!

We slowly paddled across the lake... the early evening sun poking through the clouds and reflecting off the water... reasonably calm to start with... as we went further out it bacame slightly choppier but still easy paddling. We were aiming for the kiwi reserve at the far side of the lake and the calm of the lake and the evening seeped into me... taking away all the stress on the body of the preceeding days and leaving me feeling relaxed and calm. The sound of the water as we carved through it became a sountrack to just breathing in and out as we made our way across.
Lake Mapourika had once been part of the glacier and as a huge block of ice had carved off and melted.. it had formed the lake. Pretty deep as glacial formed lakes are... the water was extremely clear and a deep blue.

We reached the kiwi reserve and kayaked down a small channel... often becoming 'one' with the bushes on either bank. The reserve is where they breed the rarest kind of kiwi. The young are then flown to an island in the Marlborough sounds where they are safe from predators and then fliwn back here. They now number above 500. A fantastic programme which I have now contributed to as the kayak company pays the Department of Conservation per kayaker to go there.

The inlet was calm and peaceful and the sounds of the birds calling and the crickets was all encompassing.
Too soon it was time to turn round and go back and we lazily paddled across the lake again in the early evening light. I got talking to one of the guides about the ride. He had heard of the Eastern who are playing at the gig at the end of the ride and was a big fan of them. A climber initially from the UK he had arrived here almost by accident... kept intending to leave but had ended up staying. Though he was 'definately' going back to the UK in a few weeks.

Soon we washed up ashore... climbed out of the kayaks and found ourselves pretty wet. Transfer back and then race on to get food and start drying out clothes to pack up tomorrow.

Having half forgotten about my bike (sorry bike) the next few days started playing on my mind as I was eating. Only 5 days left but all exceedingly tough ones... I had left the best for last! With the Haast Pass to face and several 80+ mile days... my road to Bluff will not be an easy one!

Please help me keep the pedals turning by sponsoring me if you can ..
Thank you for all your support so far... it keeps the peddals going round.

Despite all the activity today... I feel energised. Im made of life!

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Day 20 - Trying to get to the end of the world....

Day 20

....Trying to reach the final third
Whenever I fall down you pick me up
Whenever I fall to pieces
You put me back together

So so very tired... last night I had the spins from sheer exhaustion... never a good thing... not a drop of alcohol in sight. Therefore this morning I was somewhat slow to jump out of bed again. Nonetheless... with my now highly honed packing routine I was still out the door by half seven and round the corner hoping... but expecting dissapointment as it was Sunday... that it would be open this early. Luck was on my side and breakfast of pancakes on the cards.

The weather... dry... altough had rained overnight... still cloudy and a bit chilly. But no rain.. 2 days on the trot... what did I do to deserve that!

The gillet went on but in anticipation... so did the suncream and a herbal fly repellant that may or may not work. What with those... deep heat ... chammy cream and bepanthen... my life is full of lotions and potions... just gotta be careful and not put deep heat where chammy cream goes! And as for order... do I put on suncream then insect repellant or vice versa?? Answers on a postcard!

Apparently the road ahead (which is forever calling) has a few lumps and bumps in it and one climb of note and then flat to Franz Joseph... my destination and home for my rest day tomorrow.  So I set off and braced myself for 67 miles in the saddle. The first 5 miles was relatively flat with not a breath of wind... the roads were extraordinarily quiet and it was looking to be a good day. Then the lumps and bumps appeared. 20 miles of up... down... up ... down... hopping from one scenic reserve to another through the greenest verges of bush I have ever experienced. The crickets were out in force and the birds joined in. I amused myself (it doesnt take much after all these days on the road) by whistling back at them... only to get a reply or two... well it amused me!

The constant up and downing was extremely wearing and it shows what a knifedge Im on in terms of my body packing up. It didnt take long at all (despite the calories I have been shoving in) for the legs to start to blow up on the climbs... the downs not being enough recovery. Grinding out the miles and giving myself a pep talk. Its only 67 miles... 20 done by 10:00... 40 by 12:30 (half hour for lunch) and 67 done by 15:30! Ambitious yes and not allowing any time for photo and snack stops. It was never going to be correct so add on an hour and should be done by 16:30 ... more realustic for sure. These calculations are an ongoing dialogue in my head as I go along... every time I stop.. I recalculate. This takes up a huge amount of thinking time.

I hardly saw a soul on this stretch of road.. I was alone and despite the bad legs was greatly appreciating the solitude... just me and the road. And what a road... winding round and up and down the base of the foothills it was beautiful in its apparent remoteness. The view across the valley was good.

Then came Mount Hercules!! The climb of the day... I hadnt been particularly dreading it... my new mantra being 'it cant be as bad as The Rimutaka Hill'! The first part was pretty steep but then the gradient eased off and I tapped my way up.. not quite in the lowest granny gear. It was a test but not an insummountable one.. or even close and it felt good to get to the top. I did think it ironic that this was 'Mount' and Riutaka was 'hill'... possibly the kiwi sense of humour coming into play. The downhill was fast and flowing and beautiful. I did stop once to let a tour bus through but it was a very pleasant 10 minutes of descending.

 As I emerged from those hills I stopped for more calories and found a perfect spot. The valley stretched out with the river at its heart... To my left and in front of me... the hills were getting more mountainous and stretched out of the ground.. reaching for the blue sky. The clouds had cleared except for those shrouding the hills and the sun was trying to break through. Down in the valley... the cows grazed peacefully. It was pretty perfect.

Couldnt last forever though... i could stand around all day but that wouldnt get me to where I wanted to go. So I continued round. Somewhat annoyingly the road twisted round the valley... i kept thinking how much easier it would have been to cut straight across. The wind had also picked up slightly and as the road meandered round... it was a sidewind then headwind then sidewind... (course not a tailwind ... that would be too nice)

I reached a layby where several cars were stopped. The high peaks of the alps were just visable above the thin white cloud. At ladt... the mountains reveal themselves. I was chatting to one guy who worked for a helicoptwr company and as we were talking .. one took off and lazily spun round and headed for the peaks... graceful in its manoevrability .. the sound of the rotors deadened by space and distance. I spent 5 minutes staring at the peaks and felt like New Zealand was gradually revealling itself to me... as a reward for how hard Id worked to get here.

At one point I crossed the Kakapotahi River.. narrow bridge but no traffic so for once I allowed myself a bridge stop. The water was grey blue in colour and stretched up to the foothills cutting a gash in the hillside. I resisted the urge to just go and sit on the riverbank forevermore but it mesmorised me and once again I found myself fighting back tears... not usually quite so emotional... it had been a hard road to get here... and this little moment ... in this place... had tipped me over the edge (another knifedge). Weariness may have had something to do with it... but also disbelief that I was standing here... having been convinced many times that I wouldnt get past Auckland.
I breathed the air and absorbed the sounds and smells... trying to draw strength from the natural world around me. Letting it soak into my soul.

As I continued on... the headwind became fiercer... making me fight for every inch of ground gained. Another 5 miles or so and Lake Lanthe came into view. A glorious blue and another oasis of calm until I passed the recreation area with  !people!. I continued on.. unwilling to spoil the solitude.  Headwind ... sidewind... headwind!! The legs were giving out. The road was relatively flat now with the odd rise but still going slowly ... Fortunately reasonably soon I came across the town of Whataroa and found a cafe... lunch!

I ordered a cheeseburger... devoured it in seconds and then immediately ordered another one!! As I was about to leave a couple of kitchen sink tourers pitched up but unusually for once.. I didnt feel like swapping road stories. I was having a me and the road day and continued on... eager to get to Franz Joseph.

The headwind had worsened... of course... no easy miles allowed. The cycling gods were making me work hard to get to my rest day but I reasoned that nothing worth having is easily won and the pedals kept turning... just! The last ten miles continued in that fashion. Passing two Lakes... both deep blue and calm... more soul fortification. Then buildings started coming into view... Franz Joseph machinery... Franz Joseph holiday park... and then!!! The town sign. I leaned my bike against it and took my photos. Somewhat in shock! I had made it here. The ride is one thing... my rest day here with helihike was the one thing I had on my 'must do' list. I almost had that pinch yourself feeling! These dreams are coming true...

Sauntering towards the town I had a quick mosey before heading to my two nights of luxury accomodation... The Rainforest Retreat and my tree hut. The girl checking me in was from Tilehurst in Reading which really made me laugh and they had kindly given me a 50% discount. I was shown to my tree hut... huuugggee bed... kitchen... nice shower and a balcony!! Perfect... although to be honest... long as it has a bed and electrical sockets it doesnt actually make much difference.

Then I had a treat in store. Some relatives of a friend of my mum (Thanks Rosie for putting me in touch with them... and you must must come here... its an unbelievable place!!!)  were driving over from near Christchurch... just to visit me. Chuffed to pieces... I went to meet them in reception where we relocated to the bar to get a drink before dinner. Mary and Alec were from the UK but now live here near their grandchildren. And it was wonderful to meet them! Mary presented me with two presents... a bag of sweets... and some chafing cream!!! Wooohhoooo. Yup I was ecstatic... starting to run out of supplies of 'Udderly smooth' .. it was perfect... as I couldnt see where I was going to find some more. Chammy cream sorted. The conversation flowed... Mary had been a nurse and worked in Reading and Oxford so we swopped stories..  hers of Battle Hospital and the adult wards... turns out she knew some people that one of my work mothers remembered... small world! Did I say how lovely it was!! We then went to eat... and I found Pasta!!!!! The day had a perfect ending... fantastic company and good food... what more could a weary cyclist want. Many hours passsed and it was soon time to part company. Despite feeling exhausted I was reluctant to say goodbye to Mary and Alec... a little slice of home...
Thank you so much for coming to meet a strange and slightly crazy cyclist... it was lovely to meet you and you coming all this way to see me is greatly appreciated.

The internet connection wasnt great here and found myself frustrated trying to catch up with facebook and blog... nothing except messenger properly working. I was sitting in bed when I felt a shudder.. the building rocked. Was it??? Could it possibly be??? I had missed the mornings 4.4 earthquake when on the road... but now I excitedly messaged Lorraine.... was there just an earthquake?? 3.7 came the reply!! Woohooooooooooo! Stupidly excited (possibly a bit wrong) to have felt my first earthquake... and I mean really stupidly excited... Lorraine informed me that my Kiwi experience was now complete.

Unable to blog etc I finally crashed out... like lightening... with dreams of tomorrows helihike to the forefront!

I made it here!! And like my blog title says... im trying to get to the end of the world but have got here because of all my friends and family picking me up and putting me back together. I couldnt have got this far without your support for sure.  The mountains still challenge me to do battle in the days to come but today I am at peace in the beauty of my surroundings.