Sunday, 20 March 2016

The wrong side of Haast Pass to Bluff, the final push.

The morning again started in the dark with my alarm going off at 4.45am,  I had very little food on board so I packed up and ate something small on the bike trying to ration it to last as long as I could. I was a little concerned where I would be able to get some more but had to just keep going for now. It wasn’t long before I went through the Gates of Haast and onto the main climb, I felt alright heading up to the Pass and again took a terrible photo due to the darkness and it only being around 6.20am.

 I tried and tried again for a good photo but it was just no good.

From here I was struggling with a real lack of energy due to the lack food, it was seriously hard work mentally and physically across the top to Makarora. I really hoped that the Makarora café would be open and then I thought to myself that Makarora is in the middle of nowhere really. So I really doubted that they would be open at 7am when I was likely to arrive.  I arrived there at 7.10am and I was right, they did not open until 8 but they were inside getting ready for their day ahead. I knocked and knocked on the door but they didn't seem to hear me and I actually wondered they were ignoring me but it turns out they just couldn’t hear me. So I went around the back and entered the kitchen and introduced myself and explained what I was doing and that I really needed some food. They were incredibly friendly and generous and told me to take a seat. I bought two big pieces of homemade carrot cake a big piece of homemade Banana cake (two of my favourite cakes that I also love to bake). A can of Coke as Coffee was not an option at this moment and they made me a fresh sandwich which was delicious. I ate the sandwich, a piece of carrot cake, the banana cake and drank the can of coke. I felt so much better after this and flew around the head of lake Wanaka to the saddle to between  Lake Wanaka and Hawea. It was actually still quite a way to Hawea and I was running out of water now, the one thing I forgot at Makorora. Once at Hawea I was going to go to the petrol station to get some water but thought there would be another option just up the road but there wasn’t as I soon turned onto the Hawea River track. This was a nice track following the river and bit further down I came across the Hawea wave and there was someone surfing on it, cool.
They also have a similar thing in the heart of Munich which I saw a few years back and always thought that this was pretty awesome. Continuing on the trail and over another great NZ cycle trails bridge which soon lead onto the Lake Wanaka Outlet track and then Wanaka. I was looking forward to civilization again and the delights that it offers, first stop was the first café I saw, Relishes Café. After I had ordered eggs benedict with Bacon I went next door to racers edge to get my small bottle of chain oil topped up, just enough to get me to Bluff. They were incredibly unhelpful actually, they would only sell me a complete bottle rather that sell me 20mls for $5 or so. I walked out of there and I thought that this is a shop I will never visit again nor recommend. Mt attitude soon changed as I sat down to a wonderful breakfast, a great coffee and even better service. Next thing a rider from wave one that had already finished Kevin Moginie arrived with his family, I didn’t know if they intentionally came to find me or if it was a random meeting. Either way it was great to meet them  and be part of their enthusiasm, we talk about what lay ahead for me to the finish line at Bluff. From here I am actually blaming Kevin or maybe I should thank Kevin for what happened on my  to Bluff. Kevin told me that it had taken him 4 ½ hours to get to Queenstown  and that it had taken him 21 hours to get to bluff with his 6 hour mandatory break.  I didn’t think about this too much at the time and headed off to the New World for supplies to keep me going to Bluff. I still needed chain oil so I went to Outside sports just across the road and they directed me around the corner to their bike shop. I parked the bike outside and as I entered they instantly knew what that I was a TA rider. Did I really smell and look that bad, it had only been 1 and a half days and 430km since my last shower. One of the guys in the shop said “this man looks like he was in a hurry, how can we help”  I need some chain lube please, He instantly filled it up my small bottle and never asked fo a cent. What difference in customer service and I can’t thank them enough so if you need a bike shop in Wanaka, Outside sports in my pick. Finally on my way after about an hour in Wanaka and I soon I had to stop again to strip down to just my cycle top and shorts as it had really warmed up now. The ride up to the Cardrona Hotel went by pretty quick tail wind and a very mild uphill nature that I didn't really notice. 
It is not until after the Cardrona hotel in the last few kilometres that it kicks up but still not too bad in my eyes. At the top I took in the views and tried to call the Water taxi to arrange a boat to a Walter Peak, no phone service here so down the hill for about 1km and I tried again. This time it worked and I tried to book for 3.15-3.30pm, they said could I make it there for 3pm, I said I would try my best. I actually doubted I could make it there by then so I called the Earnslaw about their 4pm sailing and left my name. The downhill was fast and I was loving it, unfortunately the route was not all the way to the bottom via the main road and I turned off onto Glencoe road which soon turned into a gravel road. Onto Tobins track which was actually part of the Motutapu event that was happening the next day., this was a great little downhill to the Arrow River. Following the river downstream from here and continuing on the Queenstown trail to the Kawerau River where I crossed underneath the main highway and around into Frankton. It was obvious now that I would not make it to Queenstown for the water Taxi and they actually called me as I was about to call them. I instantly called the Earnslaw to confirm that I would be there for their 4pm sailing. I set off and I was now really looking forward to the trip on the historical Earnslaw. After that call I thought that I would be in Queenstown early enough to visit the world famous Ferg Burger and that put  a serious smile on my face that was for sure. The trail seemed to go on and on and it was looking less and less likely that I would make it in time for a Ferg Burger, that soon wiped the smile off my face. Once in Queenstown I was still seriously tempted for a Ferg Burger and took my chance, there wasn’t much of a queue but given I only had about 7 minutes I couldn't risk not getting on the Earnslaw even for a Ferg Burger. The Ferg Bakery next door was the next best thing so another pie (Pork and apple) and a spicy salami baguette. Once at the Earnslaw there were about 5 other TA riders and they were having a discussion with the captain. He was not going to let us on the boat as they do not normally take bikers on the 4pm sailing due to them now being able to get to the first camp site. I guess they don’t want to be responsible for people camping on private farm land? Any was we are not normal bikers and it seemed there had been a prior agreement to let TA riders on the 4pm sailing but the communication may have never made it to this Captain. I quickly paid for my ticket and I was the last on board.
Pie gone, Baguette consumed and now it was time for a coffee and a giant cooking on board. I really enjoyed being on the Historical Earnslaw and sitting with the other riders and talking about our trips so far. The trip seemed shorted than 45 minutes when we arrived at the beautiful Walter Peak High Country Farm.
Straight on to the bike and again I was soon riding solo. I recalled the conversation with Kevin in Wanaka and I had started to think that it might be possible to get to Bluff  by 3am tomorrow. Which is the time that I would have to start my mandatory 6 hour break before 9am. The wind was a reasonably strong Northerly to Norwester and  this made the first section following around the lake in a westerly direction quite hard. But I knew from my GPS that I would soon be heading south, Yeehaa now I was flying with the wind behind me, once over the only really climb it was generally downhill all the way to bluff. This was really fuelling me to make it to Bluff  in one hit from here, I was eating  incessantly both due to hunger but also knowing I was going to need the fuel to make it to bluff. The gravel roads were awesome and you could find a nice smooth spot to ride on, I was constantly on my Aero bars doing close to 40km/h at times. I kept thinking to me self I am going to make it. Onto the Mountains to Sea cycle trail to Mossburn and it was now around 9pm and dark, I filled my water bottles at the public toilets as no shops seemed to be open. Somewhere on this section to Invercargill we had to take a photo of a southland local, I really didn't like my chance now that I had left Mossburn and was in the middle of nowhere really after 9pm. But strangely enough someone pulled up beside me in a car and started talking to me and asked me if I was doing the Tour Aotearoa. He drove beside me for a couple of minutes and I completely forgot about the photo. From here I really had no Idea where I was, it was dark and I was just following the pink line on my GPS. There was at least one climb in here that seemed much longer and hard than I am sure it really was if you were to look at the altitude profile. I still believed that I could make it to Bluff in time but it was going to be tight. About 30km out of Bluff I turned on to the cycle trail that runs through the Estuary and is part of the Te Aroroa Trail. Up until here I really thought I could make it to Bluff by 3am but after turning this way and that on this shingle trail I was starting to doubt it. Finally out onto the main road to Bluff and it was maybe 2.30am, with the wind in my face and time quickly ticking away I soon came to the realization that I would not make it by 3am. But I decided that there was NO WAY I was going to stop now less than 15km away from Bluff for this rule that stated we must stop for 6 hours a day. I thought I  along with others had already broken the "no less than 10 day" rule and that once in Bluff that was it! So on I went and finally arrived at the Sign post at Sterling Point in Bluff around 3.45am on Saturday the 5th of March.
It was a serious anti climax, it was cold, I was knackered and there was no one to share this moment with. But I was incredibly happy with what I had achieved, what I had seen, the people I had met and for being a part of the Tour Aotearoa over the last 10 days, well actually months and months really. I had just cycled about 430km in 22 hours straight to complete the Tour Aotearoa (3010km spanning the length of NZ) completely by myself in 9days, 13hours and 14 minutes or so. I was pretty sure that I was the fasted rider of the Tour Aotearoa even if you add my theoretical 6 hour rest onto my time. I had achieved what I set out to do and I was incredibly satisfied. Right now though I needed to find somewhere to sleep for the night, I thought I passed a camping ground a couple of kilometres back, so I biked back and yes it was. I looked  for place to call home for a while and found another TA rider who was obviously well and truly asleep by now. I started to pitch my tent beside him and I am really sorry for waking you up Andy Beale but it was a pleasure to meet you and share my finishing with you and I believe also for Andy a moment to share his finishing of the Tour Aotearoa with me, as he had finished at 11.30pm the night before. I had a shower and quickly fell asleep in my little tent that had mainly been home for the last 10 days.


  1. That, Jake, is a monumental mental and physical effort. Not just a Tour of Aotearoa but a tour of your own internal fortitude. Your ability to push hard, race when you needed to, maintain humour, use technology and enjoy riding a bike for 10 days but over such a long journey was pretty damn remarkable. Nice touch with Andy there at the end. Important to share the experience with someone who had also been through the same challenge. But Jake... where on that last day was that Almond Magnum?? That old boy could have been the 15 minutes you needed. Cheers

  2. Loved your comments Marty. I agree - more Magnums. I'm sure there is a pie to Magnum ratio that has to be adhered to.

    Awesome effort Jake. Inspiring. Thanks for taking the time to write about it.