Day 16 of the Old Legs Tour of New Zealand -from Masterton to Lower Hutt

Day 16 stats
Distance – 136 km
Time – 9 hrs 51 min
Climb – 833 meters.
Average heart rate -131 bpm
Highest heart rate- 180 bpm
Apologies in advance but I have run out of superlatives to describe New Zealand and will be flogging beautiful, prettier and the best to death going forward.
We started at sea level when we rode Cape Reinga’s 90 Mile Beach a lifetime ago. We’ve climbed non-stop since then, 18945 meters according to Rob’s Garmin, but somehow we’ve ended up back at sea level. I feel slightly ripped off. After climbing Mt Everest twice in the last 2 weeks and with no discernible downhills, I was expecting to pop out on to some sort of a plateau, with forever views and people walking around falling over with vertigo. But we’re back down to bloody seagulls and beach sand instead. Alas.
NB disclaimer alert. I typed alas with tongue in cheek. And also the bit about no discernible downhills could be a slight exaggeration. And there is some debate around the elevation gain. Howard’s Wahoo has us climbing only 16085 meters. Because my Garmin is still in the bottom of my kitbag, I’ve given my legs the casting vote and they’ve declared for Rob’s device.
For a small country, New Zealand has huge vistas and big sky.
We rode through the Wairarapa, with brown hills stretching away as far as the distant horizon, instead of the usual non-stop green ones. Although they are in the middle of a dry spell, New Zealand speak for drought, I am told the brown hills are normal for this time of year. I saw vineyards and groves of olive trees, and eucalyptus trees. I don’t know if the eucalyptus are indigenous or exotics.
I saw my first center pivot today, apparently there are 2 million hectares under pivot on the South Island. I saw flocks of sheep on pasture crops of turnips, spinach, rape and brassicas. Those are people crops back home, even though turnips and spinach taste crap. I also saw a magpie eating a dead sheep’s eyeballs, like in Game of Thrones.
We enjoyed breakfast in Martinborough, my newest coolest town ever. I don’t have many regrets in life but one of them is not drinking beer in the bar in the Martinborough hotel. Alas.
The Rimutaka range loomed large and smack in front of us all morning. Rather than have us ride over them, I prayed that God would lay on a gorge for us like he did in the Manawatū, but He didn’t.
We were joined on the ride by Iain Shephard who gave us a guided tour. We rode through Featherston which is infamous for a prison camp riot in World War Two in which 43 Japanese soldiers were shot dead after refusing to carry out hard labour duties.
We rode the 14 kilometer Rimutaka Rail Trail through beautiful pine forests cut and pasted from toilet spray labels, and over rushing streams, crystal clear enough to drink. Not that you’d need to because you can drink water straight from the tap, just like we used to in Zimbabwe 50 years ago.
After my porridge day the day before, I was dreading the hard slog up to the summit, but as compared to the mountains behind us, it was easy peasy. We’ve all found our climbing legs.
Less easy though were the tunnels. There were four of them. They were scary dark with zero light, as in to not be able to see your hand in front of your face, and long. The longest one had to be at least a hundred meters long, which is a whole bunch of pitch black on a bike without a light. I had to resort to using my bike like a Zimmer frame. Which was rather unfortunate. Up until then, Iain had been impressed by our riding prowess.
Very cool. We hugged it up with fellow Zimbabweans Dorcas and Bothwell when we bumped into them on a suspension bridge after Howard fell off his bike in front of them. They got goosebumps when we told them we were riding New Zealand to raise money for the pensioners back home. Bothwell and Mavis have lived in New Zealand for 16 years. They love their new home, but miss their old home hugely. We damned Mugabe for having scattered us to the corners of the earth.
We are riding New Zealand to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. The extent of their plight was hammered home hard like a smack in the face with a shovel when I was given the opportunity to present the Old Legs story to the residents of a retirement village in Lower Hutt. As compared to the conditions back home, the retirement home was like a 6 star luxury resort, with every conceivable high care option imaginable. I was saddened and angered by the no comparison. Old folk in New Zealand are so blessed. Please help us help our pensioners back home by following the donate prompts below-
In New Zealand – .
In Australia –
In South Africa please direct donations to Mdala Trust Standard bank 374230927 Fishhoek 036009 SBZAZAJJ
And every else in the big wide world –
Until my next blog from the South Island, Have Fun, Do Good and Do Epic if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong

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