Day 12 and 13 of the Old Legs Tour of New Zealand -from Owhango to Pipiriki to the Bridge to Nowhere to Whanganui.

Day 12 stats
Distance – 85 km
Time – 6 hrs 02 min
Climb – 891 meters.
Average heart rate -123 bpm
Highest heart rate- 170 bpm
Top speed – 61 kph
Day 12 Part 2
Distance – 32 km
Time 30 minutes
Top Speed 61 kph
Highest heart rate 174 bpm.
Howard described Day 12 as a day of 3 halves. Thankfully, each half was better than the previous. NB You can tell Howard is a lawyer, not an accountant.
We froze the first half of the ride from Ōwhango, pop 190, to Ruarimu, pop 70. We rode in light misty drizzle, slogging up some massively long climbs and through Cape Town type fynbos countryside and Arctic conditions. It was very pretty verging on bloody freezing.
Even with long ride gloves on, my fingers were frozen and I worried about losing digits to frostbite. I thought the conditions were reminiscent of the blizzard that killed Captains Oats and Scott, but Howard assured me they were balmy as compared to the weather that awaits us on the South Island. I have decided to upgrade my riding wardrobe in Wellington, especially my gloves.
It was so cool, pardon the pun, to ride past Mount Ruapehu in the flesh, a.k.a Mt Doom, a.k.a. the volcano in Mordor where the One Ring was forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. Not surprisingly, it was cloaked in the first snows of the season. Having pedalled the scenery on a bike, I now know why Frodo and Sam were so knackered towards the end of the book.
Thankfully the second half of the ride was bathed in warmth as we dropped down into Pipiriki pop 22, on the Whanganui River. The descent was stunning, ditto the scenery with massive vistas and rolling forests of tree ferns. Stunning is another word Made In Zealand.
We were chasing the clock on our descent because we had a boat to catch. We fairly flew down the hill, even me, and arrived early enough to enjoy a few rehydrate beers and a snooze in the sun at the end of the second half of the ride, and before the third.
The third half of the ride was the most exciting. To get to our quirky night stop at the epically named Bridge to Nowhere, we rode the Whanganui River by jet boat. I clocked a max speed of 61 kph and a max heart rate of 161 bpm in 4 to 6 inches of water with my eyes closed shut. True story. We would barrel around a corner at full gas, and we’re talking 8.7 liters worth of full gas, with scenery flashing past us at 60 k.p.h., to find the river in front full of rocks and rapids. I fully expected the captain to abandon ship at every turn, but he didn’t. It was white-knuckle rollercoaster exciting.
We were 12 in the boat, 8 of us, plus our nerves of steel driver Murray, plus 3 Māori hunters who were off to hunt feral pigs, deer and goats. I was rooting for the pigs, deer and goats, but did so silently, because the Māori fellows were huge. They all looked like Dwayne Johnson the Rock. I have never seen such massively built men, the Springbok pack included. My calves especially have never felt so inadequate and I wanted to go put long pants on.
But the Māori were nice guys, softly spoken, and very interested in what we were doing and why. I invited one of them to come stay with us when he holidays in Zimbabwe next year. But I haven’t told Jenny yet, so please don’t mention.
The Bridge to Nowhere Lodge was quirky and delightful with breathtaking views looking out over the valley and river far below. It was also fully booked so we had to squeeze 4 to a room, but that was all good because we were beyond knackered. Jenny, Angie and Mango cooked a pasta feast and then we slept like dead people. and then we slept like dead people. It was easily my best night’s sleep on Tour so far.
Day 13 stats excluding the boat ride back to Pipiriki.
Distance – 72 km
Time – 4 hrs 54 min
Climb – 897 meters
Average heart rate -118 bpm
Highest heart rate- 161 bpm
First up we went back down the river in the jet boat. Even though we’d done it before, the boat ride was just as exciting. I want to buy a jet boat when I get home, but don’t think Jenny will let me.
Day 13 was a short day, 72 kilometers but with almost a 1000 meters of climb- from Pipiriki to the port of Whanganui for our 2nd rest day.
Whanganui was once New Zealand busiest port, but that was a hundred years ago when they used to chop the trees down.
Us 5 riders are all so much more fitter and so stronger than the 5 riders who set out from Cape Reinga 2 weeks ago. Even after a fashionably late 10.30 start, and despite the climb, and despite innumerable coffee and scenery stops, the ride was done and dusted by 14.30.
With towering sandstone cliffs and the river rushing far below, the scenery was spectacular. We took time out to enjoy watching a sheepdog work a flock of sheep down the quiet country road. I miss Wallace and worry he will bite me when I get home.
Our rest day in Whanganui was perfect. First up, Howard and Mango laid on a pancake breakfast with all the trimmings, then we went shopping for essential peripherals for the bikes, then we enjoyed best lunch since our lives, our appetites are runaway rampant, followed by an afternoon snooze, followed by pizza for dinner.
It was my first time spending time in a small New Zealand. Main Street Whanganui is like stepping into a time warp,First Street Salisbury a.k.a. Harare circa 1970, back when clean, polite, and less hustle were the norm, back before all the Honda Fitzzes. I much enjoyed.
The Old Legs Tour is now headed to Wellington by way of Feilding. We are riding to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. If you are in the Wellington area and want to hear the Old Legs story and meet the Team, please be invited to join us at the Bob Scott Retirement Village in Lower Hutt at 6.00 p.m. on March 17th
Until my next blog, Have Fun, Do Good, Do Epic – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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