Days Twenty Nine and Thirty

The Old Legs Tour of New Zealand – the last blog. From Queenstown to Lumsden to Signal Point, Bluff.

Apologies for the delay in getting this blog out but I have been fatigued, mostly from sitting in the car for 3 days on our long drive back to Auckland to catch the plane home. The drive north was real good and I saw Mt Cook, and also a pod of Māui dolphin, which are smaller than the dolphins we see in South Africa, and more acrobatic, leaping right out of the water. They sort of made up for not seeing any Orcas. I am happy and sad to be going home. I have grown very fond of New Zealand and her people over the last month.

Day 29 stats
Distance – 139 km
Time – 9 hrs 40 min
Climb – 865 meters.
Average heart rate -125 bpm
Highest heart rate- 174 bpm.

Day 30 stats
Distance – 111 km
Time – 6 hrs 10 min
Climb – 363 meters.
Average heart rate -127 bpm
Highest heart rate- 175 bpm

New Zealand has passed in a blur. I am not sure how that is possible at 20 k.p.h. but it did.

We rode out of Cape Reinga a lifetime ago on March 01, and arrived in Bluff 30 days and 2894 km later. We climbed an incredible 31807 meters and rode through every vegetation type and vista imaginable. Despite the blur, I’ll go remember the fern forests of the Timber Trail forever, and the terror of the tunnels and suspension bridges, and my first glimpse of the Southern Alps, and the Remarkables, and, and, and …

The list of stuff I’ll never forget is thirty days long. On our last day but one, we caught the ferry across Lake Wakatipu, from Queenstown to Walter Peak. Walter Peak is one building big, and I think they lay the ferry on just for the hikers and cyclists.

We rode from Walter Peak to Lumsden on a gravel road that dragged on and up forever, through stark scenery that was Heathcliffe bleak. It sort of reminded me of the deserts in Namibia, but with less flat, less sand, more mountains, more snow, and no elephants or meerkats, just dead possums. The farms were that remote, even the cows looked lonely. Some farmhouses looked to have no electricity and long drops.

Walter Peak

Lumsden is your quintessential small New Zealand town, with an old fashioned hotel with floral carpets and wallpaper that should clash, but don’t, and an old fashioned pub complete with old fashioned barmaid, stoic but quietly good humoured. NB My favourite New Zealand beer is Speight’s Old Dark with Panhead Ratrod a close second.

We rode out of Lumsden in the half light of a full moon that was strongly suggesting I should still be in bed. We had to start riding in the dark because we had 130 km in front of us, and we needed to be finished by 14.30 latest, so we could get back to Queenstown, our end of Tour night stop in time to drink a lot of celebratory beers.

I was dreading a last day with rain, headwinds and freezing cold, but the universe was kind and delivered up a balmy summer day, with a high of 12 and a low of 8. It was a perfect day for riding and we fairly flew along at 26 k.p.h.

We rode on the cycle trail from Invercargill to the Bluff, through wetlands that were home to every black swan in creation. I have become quite adept at New Zealand bird spotting, and can spot black swans a mile off.

We were cheered over our finish line by a small crowd of family and friends, including ex-Zimbabweans Richard and Sue Johnson and their daughter Lucy and grandson Oliver. Our faces started leaking as soon we crested the hill to the finish line, overcome by the support, and also by the enormity of our achievement.

Riding New Zealand from top to bottom on a bicycle in a month is a very big thing to do. Bar just 2 rest days, we’ve spent on average between 7 and 10 hours in the saddle every day. Small wonder my bottom was wounded in the process. But you will be happy to know I have pampered it Manuka honey balm and pawpaw ointment and restored it to showroom condition.

Beautiful Countryside

We burnt +/- 4000 calories daily. Had we bumped into a swarm of ravenous locusts, we’d have eaten them no problem. The other riders lost between 3 and 5 kilos each , but I have managed to put on a kilo. I’ve eaten that many jelly babies, I expect my sugar high to last until next November.

We have been heart-warmed by the support we’ve received from ex-Zimbabweans now living in New Zealand. Zimbabwe remains a village, even though we have been scattered to the corners of the world.

We pedalled New Zealand from top to bottom to raise money for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. The generation that built our country have been beggared by 40 years of economic stupid, leaving them dependent on the charity they are too proud to ask for.

Please help us help them by following the links below –
In New Zealand – .
In Australia –
In South Africa please direct donations to Mdala Trust Standard bank 374230927 Fishhoek 036009 SBZAZAJJ
And everywhere else in the big wide world -

In closing, I would like to acknowledge and thank my New Zealand Tour teammates- Howie, Rob, Macca and Jonno on the bikes, and Mango, Angie and Jenny in Big Blue. I can think of no one else I would rather have shared this best ever adventure with.

I am not sure when next I will blog, but until then, 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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Please donate to support pensioners struggling to survive in Zimbabwe

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