Saturday, 26 March 2016

Tour Aotearoa - Done and Dusted!

Well ... the time had finally arrived ... TOUR TIME!

It was with a bit of apprehension and excitement that I left Christchurch for Cape Reinga! To say the least - 3000 kilometres - known! Unknown was the 22 days 1 hour 45 minutes and 30,000 metres of climbing it would take!

This tour was not to dissimilar from other experiences I had completed ... Sea Kayaking in Alaska or Kayaking the Grand Canyon ... they all had a start point and a finish point ... they all had a big unknown in the middle ... How was the body going to hold up? How was the mind going to hold up? Had I made the right equipment choices?

We were about to find out ... things were about to get real!

Helen and I had a few goals for the event ...

Ride during daylight hours to enjoy where we are
Complete at least one 200 km day
Enjoy time with who we meet along the way
Aiming for 21 days but would not be upset with 24 and ecstatic with anything less than 21
Eat well to maintain a healthy body

Low Moments

Gordon, Jill, Emily and Helen on 90 Mile beach
The low points on this journey, were not many fortunately, but the first came early ... three hours into the event on 90 Mile Beach, if the head wind, flat unrelenting pedalling to get anywhere wasn't enough ... my lower back started to lock up ... dam frustrating as we had got ourselves into a nice wee group with some Nelson friends Jill and Gordon, and Emily from Wellington. I was soon reduced to stopping and stretching and Emily shared some Voltaren with me.

Ginny Wood nearing Ahipara
As we were holding up the other three, Helen and I bid them farewell and were reduced to walking, watching other groups go past.  At one point we even waved a car down to see if I could get a ride out of here! Eventually the Voltaren kicked in and I was able to resume some riding ... eventually being picked up in a group of seven and rolling into Ahipara about 7.30 that evening ... one of the toughest days riding I have ever had!

There were times the event was a little frustrating, certainly catching the Jet boat down the Whanganui river, having to wait while the driver shepherd a couple of overweight tourists wearing inappropriate footwear up to the Bridge to Nowhere and back again ... didn't he know we were in an event ... time was kilometres not being ridden!

Catching the Ferry across Cook Strait ... who knew they would be so fully booked ... half a day in Wellington !

That's a serious bike rack powered by 500 cu in of V8 ... this was the better of the two companies to deal with!

These two days felt like they were disjointed and we could not get the flow to happen ... it played with your mind as by this stage you were into the habit of packing, eating, riding, eating, riding, eating, riding, eating and sleeping!

Equipment Failures

Even though I had taken care in choosing and testing my gear ... there are still those moments where shit happens! Riding out of Helensville on Day Four, taking it easy climbing as my back was still tight first thing in the morning and the body is adapting to the levels of fatigue ... I mess up a gear change and drop the chain between the cassette and spokes ... eventually Helen manages to get it unjambed! The problem was it bent the rear derailleur and stretched the chain, these were replaced in Mt Eden by Mt Eden Cycles!

What we hadn't realised was that when the chain had dropped onto the spokes it had damaged them, so while riding into Whanganui the first one went PING! The drive side spokes are the only ones we couldn't replace on the road, so it required a stop in at the bike shop. One spoke replaced and some additional bar tape added to my grips for some additional comfort!

The second one went PING! riding into Masterton. So for peace of mind we called into the bike shop and purchased a new back wheel and had the old one couriered home to be rebuilt at a later date!

How to Navigate on Tour

About half way through the Tour I worked this out ...

You come to an intersection, one road goes up, the other goes down ... you go up!
You come to an intersection, one road is sealed, one is gravel ... you take the gravel one!
You come to an intersection, one road is gravel, one is a 4WD track ... you take the 4WD track!
You come to an intersection, one is a 4WD track, one is a single track ... you take the single track!
You come to an intersection, there is a sign giving two routes to the same town, one is direct, the other is three times longer ... you take the long way!
You come to an intersection one road goes up and is sealed, the other goes down and is gravel ... you take the gravel road down because around the corner you know that it will go up and eventually become a 4WD track, before turning into a muddy single track ,which takes you away from where you are heading!

Simple! Just follow the Pink line on your GPS!


Food was one of the major concerns each day ... the rule of Brevets is ... if you see a place which sells food ... stop and stock up because you don't know where the next place is, whether it will be open or what it will have in stock!
A plate of Asparagas rolls and a pie for morning tea in Winton

Well ... I broke that rule riding from Franz Joseph to Haast, we rode right on past the Salmon Cafe, which Helen wanted to stop at and I said don't worry there is another cafe at Lake Paringa! WRONG ... there is no cafe at Lake Paringa ... lunch was later consumed at 5.30 in Haast at the Hard Antler pub! I am not going to live that one down very quickly!

Trail Angels

These people just really made our day!
Warm scones and Elder Flower Cordial in the middle of nowhere!
Paul cleaning and oiling our chains near Mangakino - Legend!

The whole Tour was one big highlight! It took us into rural New Zealand, along back country roads, allowing us to interact with many locals.  It is helping small communities by hungry riders needing accommodation, stopping and spending money, the economy of some of these places would have trippled overnight!

Broadwood's only store!
Family and Friends ... along the way we stopped to chat, eat or ride with Marty, Tank, Grant, Philip, Gillian, Penny and her two kids, Maria and Campbell, Jo & Crunchie, Sara & Harold, Paul, Max & Margaret & Mel, Jenny (Helen's mum), Helen's Dad, Tom & Paula, Louise, Debbie, Pete, Olwyn, Dillon, Jacqui, Bruce, John, Toni, Mary Jane, Damien, Lucca ... thanks for the support out on the track!

While others stalked us by the Maprogress site, sending messages and the occasional phone call ... thanks too! It was a little spooky at times who knew exactly where we were ... texts which would say ... Welcome to Reefton ... we hadn't even stepped off our bikes!

The tracks, the Kennetts have put together a fantastic route taking you onto some beautiful bike trials and back roads. I will let the photos speak for me ...

Would I do it again? Hell Yeah!


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  2. Wow well done you two. Have been thinking about doing this next year. Any advice??