The Tour Aotearoa – Day 18 – 24
Geoff Gabites’s Diary
In the lower Braeburn I broke a spoke – with almost catastrophic consequences, Mark did the same later that day.
From Murchison, I had a lovely climb over Mariua Saddle and onto Springs Junction – followed by a short sharp grind to Rahu Saddle. From here there is some 40kms of the theoretical downhill to Reefton and the end of a 150km riding day. Dinner never lasted better!
The state of our spokes as well as a decision not to walk our bikes through Big River/Waiuta Track meant we had a roadie day from Reefton to Greymouth. A quick visit to our proposed new depot gave us an insight into a lack of progress From there came the delight of familiarity with the West Coast Wilderness Trail as we rode to Kumara and the hospitality of the Theatre Royal.
Away by 8:00am, we rode via Kawaka Pass over the weirs and down to Cowboy Paradise. With so many Tour Aotearoa riders, things looked hectic for staff, but with amazing views and scenery, it was hard to leave.
The Kaniere waterway track was such a gem and the trail lived up to the high rankings of the 2018 TA riders. The catch up with Cycle Journeys staff at Hokitika was a great reminder of the reality of life as we moved through to the Ross Top 10 and the amazing container accommodation. The hospitality and food at the Empire Hotel was a great end to the day.
An endless roadie ride as we headed south with Paringa and Bruce Bay notable highlights. A grind over Knights Point and eventually into Haast to make ready for the remaining 3 long climbs ahead.
A 6am start highlighted how dark the mornings were and how cold it was. Cycling in our own world, surrounded by nothing, road kms quickly slipped by. By 8:30am I was at the bottom of Haast Pass and to my surprise, the challenge of this was quickly behind me.
An ability to grind away in my lowest gear bought the summit, followed by the long downhills into the headwaters of the Otago Valleys. Makarora for food, and then onto Hawea for hospitality of friends.
The Hawea riverside track provided a great 20km interlude and then the grind up the Cardrona Valley and challenge number 2 – The Crown Range. Helped by Mark’s summary, even this passed easier than thought and with it the excitement of the view of Queenstown and the beginning of the last leg. The freewheel to Arrowtown was unbelievable and suddenly the end is in sight. Just 2 days away! :)
Having booked the last two places with bikes on the Earnslaw, it was just a matter of being there by 9:30am. On board the boat, we sailed effortlessly to Walter Peak – and into the sad reality of a very tough day, as well as challenge number 3 – the Von Valley Hill. Suffice to say, my herdal day. With a stiff cold southerly blowing in every direction, the 105kms took forever – or until 6:30pm, where the hospitality of the Mossburn Hotel took over. Nothing changes the view of the world like food and drink.
So on the eve of our last day it is now clear that barring the unforeseen, we will complete this ride by late afternoon. At the finish line there will be no adoring crowds, bands or certificates. This ride is a personal challenge, undertaken by many this year. For me, it’s not clear of the meaning for me personally, but I do allow a feeling of pride to wash over me.