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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.