Day Twenty Six

The Old Legs Tour of New Zealand – Day 25 and Day 26 from Franz Joseph Glacier to Hasst to Makarora.

Day 25 stats
Distance – 146 km
Time – 10 hrs 16 min
Climb – 1389 meters.
Average heart rate -131 bpm
Highest heart rate- 171 bpm
Calories burnt -4329 a.k.a. 27 cheeseburgers. Biggest yet.

The South Island of New Zealand measures annual rainfall in meters. Some parts of the west coast enjoy between 3 to 4 meters annually, although the use of the word enjoy is a misnomer, especially when you are riding a bike up a monster mountain in the dark.

Because the sun gets out of bed late this far south, we started riding out of Franz Josef in the dark. And just 5 minutes into the ride, I was officially miserable. New Zealand’s long white cloud burst right on top of our heads. It was hard, driving rain and we were soaked through in minutes. It didn’t help that we had to slog up 3 monstrously steep mountains in the first 20 kilometers. I was able to worry that I was going to drown, freeze to death, and overheat to death, all at the same time.

Thankfully the rain stopped when we reached the tiny town of Fox Glacier. We were soaked like drowned rats. We stopped to swop wet kit for dry, before pushing on.

New Zealand Rivers

I saw my shadow twice the whole day, and then only briefly. My shadow is strictly a fair weather friend. He took one look at conditions and buggered off. He would much rather I played badminton. I also never saw Mount Cook or Mount Hooker or any of the Southern Alps because of the long white cloud, which is a bugger, like not seeing Kilimanjaro after you’ve ridden there on a bike.Alas.

As per in most previous blogs, we climbed our way back down to bloody sea level and seagulls. The coast line in these parts is rugged, with angry waves crashing down on stony beaches, the sort of place where Heathcliffe might have enjoyed his summer beach holidays, but for the sandflies.

Sandflies sting like a bugger but the itchiness of the bites gets worse. Sandfly bites are like bad hangovers and gather momentum. And invariably the bites are on bottom of your leg, unreachable and unscratchable on the bike.


It was Jonno’s birthday today. To celebrate, he enjoyed a back wheel blowout right in the middle of an abbatoir of sand flies. NB We’ve upgraded the collective noun for sandflies from swarm to abbatoir.

Jonno was at the back of the bunch at the time, having stopped to sight see a pretty lake while the rest of us pushed on to meet the support vehicle for a tea break.
As quick as a flash, the abbatoir was on Jonno, sucking on his life blood. Jonno fled on his flat tyre, almost as fast as a sand fly, but not quite.

By the time Jonno and his attendant cloud of sandflies reached us, he was looking panicked and pale from blood loss. But not the sandflies, they were looking well fed. We were able to repel them with repellent before we helped Jonno replace his tyre.

With the driving rain and freezing cold, with 145 kilometers and 1400 meters of climb, Day 25 was a cut and paste straight out of an SAS selection course. And we smashed it with a big stick. I am very proud of all of us.

Day 26

Day 26 stats
Distance – 83 km
Time – 5 hrs 35 min
Climb – 1036 meters.
Average heart rate -129 bpm
Highest heart rate- 188 bpm

I rode at the very back today, not because I am the slowest rider, which I am, but because I was trying to soak up New Zealand. Our best adventure ends in just 4 days, and I don’t want it to finish.


Herewith a very bold statement. The 83 kilometers through the Haast Valley today was our most beautiful ride so far on Tour. It was absolute sensory overload. We rode alongside the Haast River with huge mountains towering above us on either side, impossibly steep, and covered in towering trees, and a thousand waterfalls, literally. The sounds of rushing waters were everywhere. It was like God was crying tears of joy and wonderment at the beauty He’d created.

It was a slow ride through the valley with the other guys stopping to take a million photos. Thankfully, because I take shit photos, mostly of my thumb. It was an especially slow ride over the Haast Pass which was forever long and stupidly steep in places, like 20 percent stupid.

Even with a late start, the slow riding and a thousand meters of climb, we were finished by 13.30. I almost felt like we were cheating. But after Day 25, we deserve an easy day, and we enjoyed the afternoon, m instead of suffering it, drinking beer, rehashing the best and the worst days behind us.

We have another 3 days of easy riding in front of us-from Makarora to Wānaka, then into Queenstown, then on to Lumsden-before the long last day, 130 kilometers to Bluff, New Zealand’s most southerly point. I’ve been weighed down by self doubt for much of the Tour, but now I know I’m going to finish this thing.

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 closing, a big shout out to Charlie, Oliver, Pia, Daisy and Delilah from Grandad Jonno. He loves and misses you guys big lots.
Until my next blog from Queenstown,

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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