Day 19: Riding Thames to Auckland (cyclist version)

This ride was a bit of a mixed bag, parts of it were silky smooth, rainy and of course hilly. Nonetheless it was a long day, I left Thames at 7.30 and arrived in Auckland at 5.30, fun times.

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The first 60km was easy, there were no hills and only drizzly bits of rain so far. I even saw my first double rainbow. There wasn’t much to do except think about my time in NZ and visualise my next bike tour.

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I reached Pokeno and I exited the main road to take Great South Road, which avoids State Highway altogether. But there was a catch, I had to cross Razorback Ridge, which is absurdly steep. It was rough, but the road was completely empty, so at least I was safe. For 20km it rained a fair amount and I just kept rolling along.

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After the 85km mark I finally saw a café, well a coffee roaster at least. They only had sweets, so the gingerbread man was the most savoury thing I could find. I was completely soaked, so I took the chance to dry my clothes and absorb some warmth before getting back out there. According to Google, I was two hours away, so I was on the home stretch.

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To start with, the road was really smooth, and the cycle lanes were really good too. I only had to stay on Great South Road, so it was unlikely that I’d get lost. But then the cycle lanes ended and the 1.5m gap between cars and cyclists disappeared. I wasn’t game enough to stay on the road, so I went on the pavement. Here I began to notice things: a toothless woman laughing in my face when I stopped at an intersection, a cat without ears bolting past and just waves of frowns all around me. All the things I heard about Auckland were running through my mind. Phrases like “stay as long as you need to, then get out ASAP” started to make sense.

I tried to muster some positive energy, I looked around hoping to lift my spirits. I managed to find two things; an even better rainbow and a weirdly athletic silhouette to represent a pedestrian pathway. This last leg didn’t take two hours, it was more like three hours. I was at the eight hour mark and feeling hungry, so far I’d only eaten: two crumpets, two bananas, two coffees, a muesli bar, an energy gel and a gingerbread man. I just wanted to get it over with, stopping wasn’t an option.

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With only 2km to go, the rain, traffic and sounds of ambulance sirens really psyched me out. I wasn’t worried about heroically gliding into my hostel, I just wanted to make it there in one piece. So I walked it in. I arrived, uploaded my Strava results, took off my raincoat and raised my arms in victorious glory. I handed over my YHA card to the receptionist and said “Check in for Jenny, please”. She looked at the screen, handed my card back and said “You’re at the wrong YHA”. Back into the rain I went… 10 minutes later I made it. Here I am in the Auckland lobby. At first my calves look huge, it’s just an illusion because I’m wearing black leg warmers and they blend in with my front gear and rear tyre.

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It was so great to be off the bike and out of the rain. After my shower I celebrated by doing laundry and demolishing a jumbo macho burrito. I was keen to relax and wind down before bed, but the city atmosphere had me on edge. The rest day tomorrow was going to be ideal.

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