Day Nine of the Old Legs Tour of New Zealand – From Te Aroha to Mangakino, instead of Whakamaru.

Day 9 stats
Distance – 132 km
Time – 10 hr 51 min
Climb – 1209 meters.
Average heart rate -130 bpm
Highest heart rate- 187 bpm
Calories burnt – 4269 a.k.a. 26 cheeseburgers
The day got off to the planned gentle start from Te Ahora to Matamara but thereafter denigrated into hills, single track, and my longest day on the bike.
NB Matamara is where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. It was like riding in England with oak trees and park benches but with dead possums on the road. I worry about New Zealand’s possum population.
We were joined on the road by guest riders and ex-Zimbos Garth Wolton and Richard and Sarah Fraser McKenzie. We impressed them by our ability to use cutting edge satellite technology to blunder off course spectacularly, adding an extra 15 kilometers onto an already long day, plus the most incredible bonus views of the Waikato basin, and some breathtaking descents down to the Waikato River, so it all worked out good. But I do think they worry about us finding our way to the bottom of the South Island.
Previously, I thought Waikato was just the name of a rugby club, but it is also the name of the river and the basin..The Waikato, New Zealand’s largest river, drops from Laka Taupo to the Firth of Thames, wide and fast running, with an impressive 16 hydro power stations along its length. If only Zimbabwe could count that high.
The Waikato also boasts a single track bike trail of the same name. Despite attending a technical school, I am officially crap at riding technical single track. I am blind like half a bat and struggle with depth perception. My view is very two dimensional. I see rocks, tree stumps and deep crevices clearly, and then I hit them.
The Waikato River Trail was 15 kilometers of gnarly single track, with short punchy impossibly steep climbs and even more impossible switchback descents, complete with rocks, tree stumps and deep crevices, and an even deeper gorge to our right. I could hear the river rushing 50 meters below, but didn’t dare look.
Suffice to say, I did not cover myself in glory. Which got Howard worrying about how I would cope with the 100 kilometers of Timber Trail on Day 10, if I survived the rest of Day 9.
There are an obscene number of hills in New Zealand. To squeeze them all in, they’ve had to jam them one on top of the other. We climbed 1200 meters straight up and there was still no sign of the top. We did find a lake however, which was rather disconcerting. In Zimbabwe, lakes are generally found at the bottom of hills.
Luckily Rob’s chain broke near the top of the hill and we were forced to stop. Unluckily, Garth was able to quickly fix the chain, allowing us to push on to Whakamaru.
Māori is a very phonetic language, full of vowels and quirky rules. For instance, the letters WH are pronounced as the letter F. Whakamaru is sounded as Fakamaru instead. Because Whakamaru is on top of the harshest hill I’ve ever climbed on a bicycle, the F sound was more in keeping with my mood at the time. In New Zealand the hills have no names. In Zimbabwe we name our hills, so we can remember them and avoid them. I have named the Whakamaru hill Mount Whucker.
As it happened we ran out of legs 14 kilometers before reaching Whakamaru and we overnighted in Mangakino instead. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Follow our adventure on Facebook but be warned, we ride slow like paint dries. Please also follow the donate prompts on
Until my next blog from the Timber Trail, have fun, do good and do epic if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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