The Tour Aotearoa – Final Day
Geoff Gabites’s Diary
At 6am in Mossburn it is dark – very dark, as well as very cold. Without breakfast its going to be 70kms to Winton before we get food so surrounded by the pool of light from our lights we rode the Mossburn straights and then turned south for the last time, chasing the creature comforts of the Winton cafe. Dawn came slowly and the lights of Winton never seemed to get closer – until suddenly we were there. By 9.15am what was to be our last thick shake was demolished along with the comfort food, we get a chance to catch up with Shelley who is on her way to join our end of trip celebration at Bluff, as well as providing the means to get home.
Southland is flat and despite having lived in Invercargill previously, I struggled to locate myself on the internal map. Cycling through the wide streets of the city bought back memories and then the last 30 kms to Bluff. Bluff hill slowly got ever closer and then its the outskirts of Bluff. Nearby Tiwai Point smelter bought back memories of my scaffolding days in the 70’s sufficient to distract, so that the end arrived quicker than I had been able to prepare myself for. I small rise and then last freewheel to the finish. We hijacked the cheers and celebration of the family still waiting for their Dad to arrive as well as the generous applause of the miscellaneous bystanders.
Emotionally it was a bit of overload. No more riding, no more damp clothing to put on in the dark of the early morning. No more coffees, thick shakes, guilt free full breakfasts, and importantly, no more comfortable conversations with Mark across a wide range of topics from past family memories to plans for the future. Instead it was endless questions from people wanting to understand what had been done, how far we had cycled and how did we carry our gear. Our phones beeped with messages of congratulations as we packed up and loaded the car, to finally head north effortless where previously every kilometre required ongoing effort.
Three days later, our lives changed forever as emergency meetings focused on getting Australians home from the A2O and Wilderness Trail and the start of the endless cancellations and re-bookings to next season as New Zealand started its journey into the unknown and our 4 week lock down. Memories of the Tour of Aotearoa may have been temporarily pushed aside but at random moments I am pulled back to the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with this 3000 km odyssey.