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North Island, New Zealand

Soaked in grime, frazzled and with only an inch of sunlight left in the sky we arrived in Auckland on Thursday 22nd March…and I still can’t quite believe it. We haven’t had time yet to talk about how we feel now that we have finished, so it just seems rather surreal right now. For over two years our thoughts and actions have been almost entirely swallowed up by this goal we set ourselves, and suddenly we are here! WAHOO! I feel like I can finally let out the huge breath I’ve been holding for so long. We actually did it, phew.

I’ve been trying to remember when we decided to attempt such a big cycle ride. Looking back now I realise I didn’t actually have a bike at the time (but I could buy one) and hadn’t actually ridden one in about ten years (pah! no matter) and actually, thinking about it, had I ever ridden further than a 5km radius from school? I clearly went through some sort of thought process, and used some sort of intelligent rationale to decide that, yes, I could ride a bike to New Zealand.

It has been so much more than I could have imagined. I feel like I have fallen in love with the world, and everyone in it. It’s just so bloomin’ beautiful, and filled with extraordinarily generous people. Each country we’ve visited has surprised us with its hospitality towards two crazy cyclists and I feel lucky to have learnt about so many different cultures first hand.

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Our final days were spent cycling up the North Island to Auckland. The road out of Wellington was busy with no hard shoulder so we opted to cycle along the beach instead. The beach was deserted and we made good progress close to the waves where the sand was densely packed.

Approaching Wanganui we had a crazy headwind which made progress painfully slow, but we were staying with a friend’s parents that evening and soon after arriving at their home we were surrounded by food, drinking wine and enjoying a wonderful evening – it made me think of all the days we’ve spent slogging away with nothing but a tent for comfort…life is so much easier with friends around!

The following day we’d scheduled 120km to Ohakune which would normally be tolerable but there was huge amount of climbing to do so when we arrived 10 hours later we were barely able to speak…our hectic schedule in New Zealand was catching up with us hard and fast. We stayed with Bruce and Bev who nursed us back to health with lots of food and rest, but we desperately wanted to have a day off.  Time was running out before our flights though, so once more we hauled ourselves back on the bikes the next morning and kept on going. The roads in this part of the island were beautiful, and the New Zealand sunshine even popped out from time to time.

We had places to stay throughout the North Island which was wonderful, but it also meant that we couldn’t be flexible with our daily distances and when the weather took a turn for the worse we were left battling into strong headwinds and rain on more than one occassion. We were socialising every night and cycling every day so it was a bit difficult to recover and we have both been feeling pretty exhausted.  Fortunately in Cambridge we stayed with a few rowers who go to bed even earlier than us (!!!!) so that helped a little.

We had started to fantasise about the end by this point, with only a few days left to go. Much of the cycling over the last few days went past in a very wet and cold blur. Unable to look up from the hard shoulder and soaked to the core I probably missed out on some good views, but my memories are of the families we stayed with. We’ve been so well looked after over the last few weeks, it would take the world’s longest ever blog to detail every experience but we want to thank the following for their amazing hospitality: Justin & Emma, Allan & Liz, Bruce & Bev, Harriet, Richard & Rosie, Kristin, Emma, Rebecca & Michael, Nancy & Martin, Lorna & Kate. What a list! And that’s just for the North Island!

And so after a few days spent in Auckland, we left New Zealand last Monday. Ryan flew to a wedding in Arizona, while I had one last thing I wanted to do to make the trip complete. For those that have followed us from the start you might remember that I was gutted by a knee injury in Germany, and missed some cycling between Antwerp and Munich. I keep picturing my little tyre track trundling across the world map we carry with us… and there is a little break at the beginning and I HATE it.

I know it seems stupid, but there you go, I’m competitive and like to do things properly. So I made the choice to pedal back home from Munich. My Dad has heroically volunteered to cycle with me from Munich to Dusseldorf, so I’m beyond excited about that (thanks Dad!) – I get to spend some quality time with him AND fill in my missing tracks.

It feels fitting to pedal back home too, rather than flying and being collected from the airport in a car. I’m meeting Ryan in Holland so we can have a few days cycling back to England together. We arrive back at my mum’s house in Cambridge on the 21st April – IT’S PARTY TIME!

More New Zealand photos are here.

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