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Ride day 12: Motueka to Fairwell Spit

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Champagne for the victors!

Well done! The epic New Zealand cycling adventure draws to a close. We arrived at Fairwell Spit, the northernmost point on the South Island, after yet another amazing experience on the roads.

Today had a little of everything: The 3rd of New Zealand’s iconic climbs, a free-fall descent, more beautiful countryside, and finally a celebration on the beach at the end of the road.

Our rollout from Matueka took us past some of the flood damage. Fortunately the river had receeded some. Most of the damage was pretty minor. Here is a local apple orchard with the crops underwater.

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Flooding from the storms

Soon enough we started the ascent up the Takaka Pass, rated as the #3 most scenic road in New Zealand. It’s not a torturous climb, but it is pretty relentless with grades in the 5-8% range most of the way and a couple of steep pitches thrown in. The views get increasingly nice the higher you climb.

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Enjoying the climb
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The Tasman Bay down below where we started

After a couple of photo opportunities along the way we found ourselves at the summit. Jos’s wife Lynn just happened to be coming by as we were at the summit so we talked her into taking a group photo for us. We were sweating like crazy here and decided to add some layers for the descent.

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Summiting the last of our 3 iconic climbs

The descent was a screamer affair, with very few curves and mostly excellent pavement. You could just let the wheels fly. Our destination was the valley below, reached in the matter of a few kilometers.

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Looking forward to descending into the valley below!

After regrouping at the bottom of the climb the hard work for the day was essentially done. We had about 60 km left, with a few rollers and a couple of steep pitches, but for the most part we just enjoyed our last few hours on the bikes.

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A roadside shoe collection

About 10 km from the finish we rounded a corner and caught our first sight of the sea. Fairwell Spit is created by the tides and wind reaching the top of the island. The sand essentially wrapps itself like a finger over the top of the island, providing a natural harbor for Golden Bay.  There was a lovely symmetry to the start and end of the ride, with ocean smells and breezes providing the sensory environment.

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First sight of the sea

We reached the end of the paved road, but that wasn’t quite the end of the story. We rode another km up a bumpy gravel bit, reaching a restaurant on the top of a little hill. We took some photos, declared victory, and then decided we had to go down to the beach after all.

More photos and a bottle of champagne later we had officially declared victory this time!

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It always seems a little strange packing the bikes at the end of an adventure like this. It never quite seems real that we’re actually finished. We did decide to do a little more celebrating though.

We headed to the Mussel Inn on the way into town. This place has a beer crafted using a recipe from Captain Cook himself. One of the local plants adds the spice to this beer. Very refreshing!

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Enjoying a well-deserved beer

A well-earned rest day followed, with a leisurely breakfast, some gift shopping, a long nap, and a wonderful celebratory dinner to share some war stories from the trip and just revel in our excellent adventure.

I’ve used the word “epic” a lot while describing our adventures, but only because it’s the most fitting word. The scenery, the environment, the friendship, the support from our gals, and Jos’s unbelievable organizational skills and attention detail led to an experience that we will all treasure for the rest of our days.

Ride day 11: The Penultimate ride, Murcheson to Motueka

Yesterday’s rains continued all night and into the morning. The forecast called for mid-morning clearing, so once again we suited up and headed out into the rain. We wouldn’t find out until after the ride just how severe the storms had been.

Five inches of rain fell in 4 hours. Franz Josef, our destination five days ago (with the space-age public toilet), is in a state of emergency. The river flooded its banks, the city’s water supply is cut off, and one of the motels had to be evacuated. Motueka, our current rest stop, flooded overnight. They received about 5 inches of rain in a few hours and the Motueka River (pictures later) overflowed its banks.

Given all that, we’ve been extraordinarily lucky. We changed the routes on a couple of days, and yesterday we cut the ride short. Other than that the only ill effects we’ve had have been from riding in wet cycling shorts. If our schedule had changed a day here or there things could have been very different.

So we headed out this morning, ignorant of all that was going on around us, and grumbled / joked about another soggy day. About 20 km in the rain stopped, the sun shone magnificently, and we had beautiful weather for the rest of the day.

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We headed up a long, pretty mellow climb, and then hit the grunting portion of the day – a 3 km goat hill with a beautiful panoramic view. This was the lunch spot for the day and we just hung out talking to a Canadian couple, enjoying the views, and drying completely out.

Today is the day before Easter weekend so there was a fair amount of truck traffic on the road. One logging truck in particular, followed by a convoy of cars, came rolling through on a tight section of road so I intentionally rode into a ditch just to avoid a possible incident. No harm, no foul…

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We had a coffee stop further up the road and Jos ran into a cousin he hadn’t seen in a couple of years. It’s a small world down here. Yesterday Terry bumped into a cyclist he had ridden with on a trip from Paris to Istanbul.

 

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From here all the way in to town we rode on lightly traveled bucolic roads. At one point I decided to just ride by myself for a while, watching the river rush by, listening to the sounds, and having a Zen-like moment on the bicycle. These kinds of moments are magical, and while they don’t happen very often, when happenstance presents them I try to take full advantage. No pictures here, I just lived in the moment.

We regrouped and rode in the rest of the way on a road described by a friend of Jos and Terry’s and being the nicest road in New Zealand. I have no way of assessing the validity of that opinion, but it really was nice.

 

Click me — Video of the tree tunnel

The river really was raging along. Here are a couple of pictures along the way.

 

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Tomorrow wraps up the cycling adventure!