Cath's Ice Cream Tour of NZ
CATH’S ICE CREAM TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND
by Dr Catherine Page
On 26th February 2018 I set off on the adventure of a lifetime to cycle the length of New Zealand from Cape Reinga to Bluff. I was taking part in Tour Aotearoa and had to cover a distance of 3000km in 30 days or less. I could eat or sleep wherever I liked but had to carry all the supplies that I would need for my journey, including clothes, toiletries, camping equipment and cycle repair tools, on my bike. Most of the journey was on cycle trails and mountain bike trails linked up with quiet country back roads. I discovered that there’s a lot of gravel out there on the back roads of New Zealand!
I set myself the goal of cycling just over a 100km a day which is the distance from Te Rangimarie Hospice to Patea. On my longest day I cycled 140km which is the distance from Hospice to Piopio. Just think of that next time you stop at the Fat Pigeon in Piopio for coffee and cake. Prior to starting the journey, I had never cycled more than 70km in a day, so I was more than a little anxious that I would be up to the challenge.
Tour Aotearoa is a bike-packing event which was first introduced in 2016 and runs alternate years, so I was taking part in only the second ever event. Cyclists set off from Cape Reinga in 6 waves throughout February. I was in wave 5. In total 524 cyclists started the journey with 67 failing to complete, equating to a 1 in 8 drop out rate. This was for a variety of reasons including saddle sores, injuries, ill health, equipment failure, and some people had just “had enough”.
The journey was extra challenging in that two cyclones (Gita and Hola) hit New Zealand during the 2018 tour. I heard on the news that a storm was coming so took an alternative route on the road from Taumaranui to Pipiriki as I didn’t fancy carrying my bike for 40km through mud. It turned out to be one of the luckiest decisions I made. The original route would have taken me over a mountain bike trail. There were over a thousand land slips on that route on the day I was meant to be there. Cyclists were stranded on the mountain and had to have food dropped by helicopter. Some of them were stranded for up to 4 days until they could eventually be helicoptered out along with their bikes and resume the journey. Meanwhile I was already 400km down the road and thankful every day that I’d taken the diversion.
I can’t sum up in this short piece what a truly amazing time I had on Tour Aotearoa. New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world and I saw it in its full glory from end to end. I met many fantastic people and ate lots of delicious ice-cream (important carbo-loading). Due to wonderful generosity of friends, family and local businesses I raised $7750 for Hospice Taranaki. If anyone is feeling inspired, the dates have just been released for the Tour Aotearoa event in 2020. Just look up their website and book yourself a spot before they’re all gone.