The Build Up.
You plan and tinker, pack and repack, map and reroute but at the end, all you have to do, is get on the bike and go. Take that first pedal stroke and turn that first corner. As soon as the ride begins all bets are off. It’s all down to you, to adapt and rise to the challenge. The road is filled with pot holes, both metaphorically and physically. You must ride it as best you can.
Many people asked along the way,
‘What do you do when it rains?’
‘I get wet.’
This kinda sums up my approach to touring, things happen to you, deal with it, it’s what you trained for.
I made some ambitious claims before the ride (‘6.5 weeks/ 100 km a day’for example). Three weeks before I was set to leave I rode to Glenorchy and back. 111 km and 1723m elevation. It was a practise run of an ‘average’ day on the bike. This is what I should be doing, according to my plans, almost everyday for the next 6.5 weeks.
I got back from the ride exhausted. Both knees were hurting and I wasn’t even carrying the full weight.It was so bad I had to book into the physio for a massage and some dry needling. My cardio was good but the knees were still giving me issues.
I had set my mind on finishing this ride so I downplayed it to everyone. If I needed to go slower I would. I had everyone behind me from friends and colleagues to sponsors and charities. So I made a little pact with myself. I would only quit if I completely ruined myself. Worse or equal to Canada (dislocated knee) was my self imposed bench mark, anything less and I would push on. So there I was, mentally prepared for the worst.
The final two weeks were a nightmare. I was so busy, organising a last-minute fundraiser for Mental Health Foundation and packing up my life to move back to the UK. There wasn’t time for a single ride. Two weeks wouldn’t change much physiologically but it would definitely have calmed my nerves. I assured myself that I had done all I could.
The Adventure Begins.
It was time, I sat in my flat and half-watched TV, anxiously glancing at the clock and back at the weather forecast. Cyclone Bart has hit the North Island. Creating some very serious weather as well as landslips over many major roads. This trip was already looking like a disaster movie and I hadn’t even started yet!
I flew up to Auckland and stayed with my friends Carly and Jono for a nervous sleepless night before catching the bus to Kaitaia. Carly gave me a lift to the bus stop in Auckland Central, I would be back within a fortnight but that seemed so far away. It was dark still but very humid, easily 5C warmer than down in Queenstown. I napped briefly on the bus, I jerked awake to a vivid maroon sky, dark clouds slashing across the sunrise. To the North they rolled together into a seething mass of deep purple. Red sky at dawn shepherd’s warn.
Crossing the Auckland Bridge I stared down upon Auckland Harbour. The forest of white masts bucked and swayed like grass in a gale. The florid sky reflected in the sea, I realised this is the first time I had seen the sea in over a year. A smile crept through my worry about the weather. I would see plenty of that sea over the next few weeks.
The bus up to Kaitaia took 2 hours longer than it should. The whole bus rocked as wind forced the rain sideways into the glass. The torrents of rain filled the air. Roads were closed due to landslips, we had to take a huge detour through the central farmlands.
I looked out of the lee ward side window, a deep mist surrounded us and sky and ground become indistinguishable. Every bridge we crossed, the river was too close and splaying up and out of the banks, trespassing into nearby fields. The water was a pale, churning brown, filled with soil and debris. Trees were looking precarious, half submerged in the torrent. It was the heaviest rain I had ever seen, though perhaps the idea of having to ride in it the next day caused me to be superlative.
Arriving in Kaitaia in the late afternoon the weather started to clear, from screaming tantrum to loud rumblings of discontent. The sky was grey as far as the eye could see and thick with moisture. It was even warmer than Auckland. Erin came and picked me up and I got my supplies for the ride up to Cape Reinga and back. The first leg of the journey.
She also filled me in on the tide times for riding the 90 Mile Beach (an actual Highway that is on the beach) the sand hardens as the tide goes out to almost solid concrete. With the timing right you can ride the whole section in one go, just pray you don’t have a headwind, as there is absolutely no cover!
After an enormous dinner of fish and chips I built my bike and packed it ready for the morning. Being in transit for the last two days I had been at the mercy of other people, now it’s all down to me. From this point on I was on my own.
Anxiety disappeared it was just reckless excitement. 8 months of planning had come to this point! The planning was over now it’s time for adventure!