Days 17 to 19

Days 17 to 19 of the Old Legs Tour of New Zealand – from Wellington to Wakefield to Murchison.

Apologies for the delay in getting this blog out. There are large swathes of no csignal in New Zealand.

Day 17 stats
Distance – 51 km
Time – 3 hrs 25 min
Climb – 428 meters.
Average heart rate -136 bpm
Highest heart rate- 180 bpm recorded in traffic
Rain – 3 inches.

Day 18 stats
Distance – 94 km
Time – 9 hrs 14 min
Climb – 1395 meters.
Average heart rate -122 bpm
Highest heart rate- 166 bpm

Day 19 stats
Distance – 136 km
Time – 9 hrs 46 min
Climb – 1344 meters.
Average heart rate -130 bpm
Highest heart rate- 184 bpm

There was some debate as to whether we should ride New Zealand from top to bottom, or vice versa. But absolutely top to bottom is the way to do it. No disrespect to the North Island but to do it the other way would be anticlimactic. We’ve been riding the South Island for 2 and a half days and already it has delivered up epic in bucket loads.

Our last ride on the North Island was short, from Lower Hutt to catch the ferry but it was frenetically helter skelter. We got caught up in a herd of commuters rushing to work on their road bikes, e-bikes and electric scooters. Riding in between the highway and the trains with raucous seagulls cheering us on from above, it was exhilarating, more a sprint finish than a rat race. I much enjoyed. I wish I worked in Wellington just for the commute.

Wellington is a very cool big city with just half a million people. Our Wellington was bathed in warm sunshine. Apparently it is less cool when the rain is lashing down at 45 degrees.

We were booked on the noon ferry so we had plenty of time to shop for essential South Island equipment; thermal gloves, thermal leggings, and a decent headlight. Apparently we have more bloody tunnels to come.

Pit Stop

Wellington to Picton is 4 hours on the ferry. The Cook Strait was lumpy and bumpy, even on a ship eight storeys tall, but calmed as we sailed into the Marlborough Sounds. Ancient glacial fjords, the Sounds are beyond beautiful.

I spent most of the time Orca spotting on the deck. I didn’t spot any, but I did see dolphins. They were giving their mom grey hairs, playing silly buggers porpoising in the bow waves of the ferry.

At first glimpse the South Island looked ominous, with dark clouds above menacing mountains. And sure enough, it started raining as soon as we rolled off the ferry. We had 37 kilometers and 400 meters of climb to our night stop at Havelock. It was gentle rain, enough to keep the dust down. The South Island is one of the least dusty places on earth, receiving as much as 3 meters of rain on the west coast.

We arrived soaked and freezing but that was quickly fixed by the best hot shower since my life. Also hugely heart warming, ex-Zimbos Alastair and Lindsey Keay drove 45 minutes to greet us and to wish us well, but failed to mention Maungatapu

The phrase ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ was coined by a man on a bicycle riding up a mountain called Maungatapu. He died near the top of the mountain.We rode the exact same mountain yesterday.

Day 18 was all about Maungatapu.

There were bits of the ride before and after, bits that would normally headline in a blog, but all I can remember is Maungatapu.

Maungatapu is Māori for Sacred Mountain. Howard said it can also translate as Forbidden Mountain, but he was careful to tell us that only after we’d ridden the mountain. It is easily the most brutal mountain I’ve ever ridden, or more to the point, walked. Walking is so pedestrian and it is why bicycles were invented.

Mountain Stream

The gradients were 20 percent in places harsh, and with boulders and , loose shale underfoot, and strewn with wash aways a meter deep, the mountain was unrideable, even for Tom Pidcock and Mathieu van der Poel .

So we walked, more like trudged, for the best part of 3 hours, using our bikes as Zimmer frames. And going down was even worse. Howard normally loves downhills, the steeper and twitchier, the better, but even he was wide-eyed and white-knuckled. He had to stop and drop his saddle 2 minutes into the descent.

I hated every minute of Maungatapu, but I also loved it. It was next level epic.

Dave and Caroline Younghusband, ex-Karoi, now living in Nelson, came to hug it up with us at the Wakefield Hotel. Zimbabwe remains a village, even though we’ve been scattered to the far corners of the Earth.

If Day 18 was the bitch that made you sell your bike, Day 19 made you rush out and buy a new one. We rode 138 kilometers from Havelock to Murchison. It was like riding through the lyrics of a John Denver song, easily the prettiest countryside I have ever pedalled through.

We rode false flats all morning and climbed a thousand meters without noticing. But then the last 400 meter climb out of Lake Rotoroa clubbed us like baby seals with gradients of 17 percent.

We rode through a 1.3 kilometer bloody tunnel today. Turns out my new headlight is bright like a glow worm. Hate is a strong word. I hate tunnels more than I hate suspension bridges which I hate more than broccoli.

Day 19

Day 19 was a good day to be alive and on a bike. I looked for trout in every crystal clear stream I crossed but didn’t see any. I heard the beautiful Bell bird, but didn’t see him either. I saw a herd of red deer, big like waterbuck.

We are riding New Zealand to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help our pensioners back home by following the donate prompts below-

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In South Africa please direct donations to Mdala Trust Standard bank 374230927 Fishhoek 036009 SBZAZAJJ
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Until my next blog from Reefton ,

Have Fun, Do Good and Do Epic if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

* Names and images may have been changed for privacy reasons

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