So this looks like being Mark’s last post (Jutta’s is still to come) from our Tandem Tour Aotearoa of New Zealand, with warm thanks to those who’ve followed our progress these past six and a bit weeks, a most rewarding 2900 kilometres from Cape Reinga in the far North to Bluff in the far South.
We’ve raised more than £1700 for the Rory Peck Trust, to support the important work they do for freelance journalists and their families.
Translated into Kiwi dollars at just over two to the pound sterling (quick accounting trick), that’s nicely over the 3000 mark we set ourselves as a target.
It’s been the most wonderful trip, for both (M&J)/ all four (add Kat and Mela) / five (Daisy inc) of us – hard cycling up a lot of hills (many 10s of thousands of feet in all, still to be checked when we download the routes saved on the Garmin SatNav), much less rain than we had expected (we’ve been truly blessed with the weather, with most of both islands giving us a good tail wind) and the most generous support from Kiwis along the way.
As for Daisy, with just one puncture, one rebuilt back wheel, one new set of gear cables, a new Rohloff gear-plate thing and a new gear-changer twist grip, she’s behaved herself brilliantly.
We’ve also learned a lot about preparing the tiniest details so that most of these breakdowns (not the puncture – that was a whacking great stone on the pathway) won’t need to happen again.
I mentioned earlier in this blog that tandeming will drive a relationship further and faster in the direction it’s already travelling.
I’m happy to report that skipper and stoker have indeed survived and thrived through all the challenges Aotearoa and the TA could throw at us.
It’s been immensely rewarding too to travel these last three days from Wanaka all the way through Queenstown and down to Invercargill and then Bluff with our daughter Kat and her partner Mela, who proudly ended the tour having done the entire 3000km and all the required and difficult off-road, mountain-bikey bits which Daisy couldn’t handle.
Jutta and I have talked a lot as we’ve spun along about climate change (there’s a page elsewhere on this site summarising my own reflections), about the impact of 19th century European settlement on the New Zealand landscape (I don’t think I ever want to see another cow or sheep, or smell their ubiquitous presence), and about psychotherapy and families in all their usual complexities.
Hey ho, stuff to be sorted when we get home – and our TA routines away from all that have also been at the heart of cycling’s reward..
Days are simple.
Get up, enjoy a hearty breakfast of muesli and delicious reconstituted milk, get to work cycling the first 20-50km of the day, then a coffee where there’s one to be had (and in great swathes of NZ, forget it!).
Around one o’clock (or earlier if the hunger hits, which it does, out of the blue), a picnic lunch for 60-90 minutes, then back to work to get the distances for the day up to a minimum 80km, and a lot more as we got towards the end.
And, at the end of the day, glorious honest Kiwi cooking – plus the joy of craft beers down here which are spectacularly improved on my first visit just five years ago.
The kilometres have actually been fun, and once we settled in, much less daunting than they were at the outset.
On our last two days from Queenstown, we did 105km the first day, starting at 1100 after crossing Lake Wakatipu on the 100-year-old steamer the TSS Earnslaw, and then a massive, exhausting but hugely rewardingd 140km the second, from Mossburn all the way to Bluff.
It was our furthest distance travelled on a tandem in a single day since Jutta and I rode the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in 1979 on Daisy1.
Daisy2, by the way – and I did promise to explain this – was originally called Sunshine when she came into my life in 2006, and with my former partner Sue she has travelled the length of France, Germany and Transsylvania.
With a warm, grateful nod to her past, she became Daisy2 when Jutta and I found our way back together in 2013.
So, as we prepare to drive all our bicycles back up the South Island to Kat and Mela’s home town of New Plymouth in the North over the Easter weekend, and beyond that fly back to the UK next week, we know that after two months away we will miss the simple, focused purpose of moving through the landscape under our own steam, the time we have had to talk and reflect, the time just to be in the Moment.
As Faust says to Mephisto in Goethe’s great play – my favourite work of German literature – at the point where he can say to the Moment, “verweile doch, du bist so schoen – tarry a while, you are so lovely”, then the Devil has won the right to claim his soul.
Faust finds that Moment in his love for the sweet, young, innocent Margarethe.
If he had discovered long-distance cycling first, then I think Mephisto would have won his wager earlier.
Gretchen would have been spared the gallows after, in despair at being abandoned by the callous Faust, she kills the child she bore him. But we’d also have missed out on the wisdom and power of Goethe’s play…
But thankfully we have no pact with Mephisto, so this coming July, Kat, Mela, Jutta and I intend to reconstitute team TA on our same three bicycles, and pedal the length of Germany, again from North to South, first along the Baltic coast and then down through Berlin and Dresden to Jutta’s brother’s family in the foothills of the Alps.
We’re very unlikely to be blogging, and certainly not fund-raising, and before that, there’s rewarding work to be picked up again with our lovely psychotherapy clients, whose patience in allowing the pair of us to take these two months off has been warmingly wonderful. Thank you.
So, in anticipation of Jutta’s concluding musings, and with the warmest thanks to Jonathan Kennett and his brothers for organising the Tour Aotearoa, from Mark on the Braynes’ #TandemTA tour of New Zealand/Aotearoa, it’s over and out.