Days 27 and 28

The Old Legs Tour of New Zealand – Day 27 and Day 28 from Makarora to Wānaka to Queenstown

Day 27 stats
Distance – 79 km
Time – 4 hrs 57 min
Climb – 819 meters.
Average heart rate -112 bpm
Highest heart rate- 140 bpm. NB These are Jonno’s heart numbers. My heart stopped working mid-ride.

Day 28 stats
Distance – 111 km
Time – 8 hrs 12 min
Climb – 1316 meters.
Average heart rate -127 bpm
Highest heart rate- 175 bpm

I would like to formally distance myself from my comments in my last blog which inferred that our last days of the New Zealand Tour would be easy riding. What a load of old bollocks. The last 2 days have been as tough as any before them. Going forward I will take whatever I write with a huge pinch of salt.

Knobhead Honda Fit drivers aside, the worst 4- letter expletives in a cyclist’s vocabulary are hill, rain, cold, head and wind. NB Overheating and gale force winds are also 4- letter words. All featured prominently in Days 27 and 28.

The bitter cold snuck up on us overnight like a ninja. I went to bed in Makarora with brown mountains above me. I woke up in the morning and the mountains were white, covered in snow.


I was excited to be riding in snow for my first time. It was too cool, in every sense of the word. Until the first hill, at which point I commenced overheating. The fact that I was wearing 5 layers on top, 3 below, plus thermal leggings, plus thermal gloves, and 2 buffs might have contributed. And I was lucky. I would have gone with more layers on top, but my kit bag has been declared a disaster zone after an energy gel burst inside a few days ago, rendering the bottom of my kitbag a no go zone.

Day 27 had us riding from Makarora to Wānaka. We skirted both Lake Wānaka and Lake Hāwea. It was like riding through the picture on the top of a box of dairy milk chocolates- alpine lakes with the deepest bluest waters ringed by tall mountains covered in snow.

What you can’t see in the picture are the bitterly cold gale-force winds gusting viciously off the pretty mountains straight into your teeth at 40 kph. It was like riding with both brakes jammed on. Oh, what fun we had. But it sure was pretty.

And it got prettier. We rode into the small resort town of Wānaka on the Hāwea River Trail through stands of trees in their yellow, red and golden autumnal glory. Wānaka is such a cool little town. Apparently Shania Twain has a holiday home there. I gawked as we rode through but never saw her.

Rob rode straight to the bike shop in Wānaka. His back wheel was wobbling alarmingly. I thought it was exhaustion setting in but it turns out he cracked the rim on his back wheel somewhere on the Tour. The bike mechanic told Rob he was very lucky that he didn’t suffer a catastrophic back wheel collapse.

Day 28

Day 28 from Wānaka to Queenstown got off to a cold and miserable start in rain. Because we are 1000 kilometers further south than Cape Town, cold is a proper thing in these parts. But my 5 layer strategy worked well, as did my new raincoat, thermal leggings and gloves. I was warm like burnt toast, apart from my nose. I worried I would lose it to frostbite.

Thankfully the rain stopped before we hit our first big climb – the snow covered Crown Range mountains, which are also our highest point on the whole Tour.
Heavily switchbacked impossibly steep, and forever long, I absolutely loved the climb and scampered up like a startled klipspringer. I especially loved the views on top looking out over Queenstown, Lake Wakitipu and the Remarkables, a wall of angry craggy snow-covered mountains which dominate Queenstown’s horizons every which way. The view was easy worth double the slog.

New Zealand

The mountains are called the Remarkables because they are the only range along with the Rockies in North America which run directly due North South. It is a fittingly cool name. If I had any musical ability, I would pinch the name for a rock band.

The descent down the Crown Range was scary shit with winds gusting at 50 k.p.h. I don’t know how many times I was almost blown off my bike.
Then into Arrowtown, a picturesque mining town which dates back to the 1860’s. The autumn colours into Arrowtown were incredible. And more of the same along the Twin Rivers Trail down into Queenstown. I say down, but there was no shortage of stupidly steep up, and more 50 k.p.h. wind gusting every which way. With 1300 meters of climb, it was the hardest easy day I’ve had on a bike.

I am finishing this blog whilst sitting on a ferry across Lake Wakitipu at the start of our penultimate day. We have 130 kilometers on dirt roads in front of us. We have been joined by Patrick Millar who started the Old Legs Tour of New Zealand in the first week of February. Aged 75, Patrick is now the senior man within our peloton. Chapeau Patrick, what a huge achievement.

We are riding to raise money for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. We were able to put a face to our cause when we were visited by Brenda Russell, an ex Zimbo now living in Queenstown. The Old Legs Tour were able to buy Brenda’s mom a pair of brand new hips and Brenda wanted to thank us. Her mom had been trapped in a wheelchair and in pain for years because she couldn’t afford the operation.

Helping people like Brenda’s mom makes our hard yards easy. And if the news from home is to be believed, there will be lots more pensioners needing help. Zimbabwe proudly launched the new $1000 banknote yesterday. And on the same day the black market rate for the USD hit 40,000 to 1. Our largest denomination bank note is worth a quarter of US cent.

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Until my last blog, 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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