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Daily Diary (Day 22 to Day 28)

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Day 28

21 December 2010

Eastbourne to Wellington

Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 24 km
Metres climbed: 13

We stumbled over to President John Stevenson's place this morning where Tracey had cooked us an enormous breakfast of whitebait fritters, omelets, sausages, bacon, baked beans and even black pudding. It's fair to say that neither of us have had a breakfast quite like that one before and neither of us have had whitebait before either. That's understandable for Xaver, but Ollie the kiwi had to sheepishly admit that it was his first whitebait and then he ate three fritters in an attempt to catch up. We found a computer for blogging and then got set to meet our distinguished companions at the Petone Settlers' Museum.

As we rounded the first bend we realised that the terrible weather was not just unpleasant - it was dangerous. The wind was like a wall that stopped us moving forward but unlike a wall it didn't stay in one place. The unpredictable gusts made it virtually impossible to balance and we were forced to turn around. We assessed our options for getting there. No one we could think of had a car readily available and we had a deadline to make, with one mayor and two MPs cold, wet and waiting for us. We decided to go for it, walking at times when the wind came around the corners but finding the sheltered straights safer and more predictable, even if the wind and rain continued to sting our faces.

We got there to meet our politicians rugged up in tracksuits and looking alive in the crazy weather. There was the Hon. Trevor Mallard again, officially now our toughest celebrity. To join us once over the Rimutakas is one thing, but to join us again in worse weather is a new level of commitment. Wellington's new mayor Celia Wade-Brown, renowned for her cycling, and Hamilton West MP Tim Macindoe, less renowned for being Ollie's uncle, had both caught the train out to meet us.

Jim Greenhough from Execam was there with a small camera crew to make a clip of our wild ride into Wellington. Thankfully for the politicians the wind was now behind us and the rain was easing. Even so, Tim admitted he might not be there if he weren't related to Ollie but he put in a remarkable effort navigating the rough cycle path on a borrowed bike. We had a chance to talk to Celia about that path and thankfully it is something she would really like to see changed.

We rode into civic square to a group of Rotarians, friends and our trusty cycle mechanic James from Dirt Merchants. We had photos and then were invited up to the mayor's office for a cup of tea and to sign the guest book. We made sure our friends came along although they were dressed for rock-climbing and had bare feet. Isn't Wellington great?

The rest of the day was spent doing all those administrative tasks that needed doing before we left on the ferry. Bikes, washing and even landlords needed sorting out! We have had another great day, with lots of surprises and a significant part of the trip complete - the North Island.

As we prepare to get on the ferry in the morning we are looking forward to a slightly slower pace of life down the West Coast and some more rugged adventure. One of the best things about this trip is that every day is so different. We have no idea what the next three and a half weeks will bring, but we'll keep you posted.

Ollie and Xaver


Day 27

20 December 2010

Greytown to Eastbourne

Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 74.4
Metres climbed: 622

After breakfast we rode out to meet the keenest of the keen Wairarapa cyclists who were to ride with us over the looming Rimutakas. 9 o'clock sharp (or was it quarter past?) we left with a motorbike in tow, bearing a purpose written sign for our trip, adding a new level of professionalism to our image. We picked up Nick Griffin, our car-driving escort from RC of Wellington and the Hon. Trevor Mallard - our cycling MP! Car, cyclists and motorbike then set off for the steady incline to the peak.
As we neared the bridge at the bottom we felt surprisingly nervous. This wasn't to be the biggest hill we had climbed, nor did we have a particularly big day's ride ahead of us. The comfortable temperature and light drizzle made for good conditions and we felt safe being lead and followed by signed vehicles. The wee hill ahead of us was a mental barrier - the last one standing between us and home, our half-way point and some very supportive Rotarians waiting to welcome their scholar and his flatmate.

For nearly an hour we climbed steadily. Xaver in the lead followed closely by a very restrained Hutt South MP and then Ollie chasing to catch up after stopping to take a photo. The three remaining Rotarians set varying paces then, each with his own goal and a face of determination. At the top we took photos to capture the achievement and final climb before Wellington (well nearly), then out came the jackets and arm warmers, ready for the other side. Some wisely got in spouses' cars and returned to the warmer, flatter terrain of home.

We had had to deal with the sudden hit of wind as we rounded the sharp bends on the way up but the way down was far scarier. Utmost concentration, stability and a fair amount of braking was required to avoid being knocked off as we battled the unpredictable headwinds. Today's forecast northerly had rather suspiciously lost its way and was hurrying to get back.
At the bottom we had the same distinct feeling of being there, over that last obstacle and home.

We met some more cyclists from Eastern Hutt and rode for what seemed like an age through the back-roads of the Hutt until we reached the Town Hall for a brief chat with the local paper as well as a decent turnout of polio survivors. It was sobering to see how people in New Zealand are still affected by post polio symptoms and how most have been physically disabled in some way since contracting the polio virus as children. They gave us the novel 'Enemy at the Gate' by Philippa Werry, a very well researched take on the social effects of polio in the time of the New Zealand epidemics, written through the perspective of the brother of a girl affected by polio. That will make for very  interesting reading in the South Island.

On to Eastbourne and we met some very excited Pencarrow Rotarians and picked up a police escort, complete with flashing lights and sirens. Xaver has been here this year on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship, with Rotary Club of Pencarrow as his host club. OIlie has had many chances to get to know them over the year so we were both in amongst friends on the main street of Eastbourne. The manager of Gelisimo Icecream Store even gave us free ice creams when she heard what we were doing! We then went back to Guthrie Cottage to have a much needed rest at the beautiful house by the beach. The owners kindly let us stay there for free while we are here in Eastbourne.

The fundraising BBQ at The Beach cafe was a huge success with members coming around from seven different clubs from around the area. It gave us a chance to personally thank clubs for their generous donations to PolioPlus and say a few words about our trip. There was a cover charge on the door, four different raffles going around and an auction, which altogether raised $5,132 for PolioPlus. Rotary Pencarrow is challenging other clusters to match that. Certainly a tough act to follow! Words can't describe how blown away we were by last evening's success and the enthusiastic support from everyone who was there. We would like to say a huge heart-felt thank you to you all. The most overwhelming surprise of the evening came at the evening when District Governor Howard Tong awarded us both Paul Harris Fellowships for our contribution to Rotary. What we have achieved so far has really been the achievement of all the Rotarians we have met along the way, not to mention those far from our route who tirelessly work to contribute their bit as well.  
We had quick beer with friends from today's riding and Pencarrow Rotary Club and a walk back to the cottage gave us a chance to wind down from the evening's excitement. It was another huge day.

Xaver and Ollie

Day 26

19 December 2010

Pahiatua to Greytown
Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 93
Metres climbed: 214

We met the Masterton South cycling Rotarians at 9 o'clock (or was it twenty past...?) and started in the direction of Masterton. There were seven cyclists with us, one car ahead and a truck behind bearing the banners of PolioPlus and a golden Rotary wheel. The pack moved in formation, rotating around so that we could get to know our cycling companions better. We are always so impressed by how many Rotarians have taken up cycling, and often in recent years. It is a great way to stay fit and socialise at the same time. It has also been wonderful for us to have so much company on the road lately.
One rider, James, asked if we were sick of answering the same questions everyday. Surprisingly no we don't, in fact it takes the strain off meeting lots of new people to have an idea of what will most likely be interesting to them. We thought we would post some of the most common questions...
Q: How's your bum?
A: We haven't had any trouble because when you are riding properly you don't really sit on your bum at all, mostly on your legs!
Q: Where will you be for Christmas?
A: In Nelson on the 24th having a rest day with Xaver's parents, who are currently travelling around the country in a campervan. On the 25th we will be cycling nearly 100 kms.
Q:  How many punctures?
A: 1 and none more planned.
The rest are related to our inspiration for the trip and for polio, what we are studying and our plans for the future, but these require a little more than a stock answer like the ones above. We always have our questions to fire back and just love getting to know so many locals and hearing what they do. When we are talking to cyclists it is especially easy because we know they understand what we are doing. To cycle is to be on a particular wavelength and it's an addiction.

Once we got to the top of Mt Bruce, our only hill for the day, we were flying again. There is a slight, nearly imperceptIble decline all the way into Masterton, we had a tail wind and our courteous companions made sure we always had someone in front to follow in their slip-stream. The result was a cruising speed of over thirty km per hour and an unexpectedly early arrival into Masterton.
When we got to there we had a very happy reunion with Ollie's uncle Francis Wevers from Rotary Club of Wellington and to our surprise Ollie's Grandmother Prue was with him. After many hugs and photos we jumped back on the bikes because the official meeting place was another 10kms down the road, where we would be able to relax and catch up some more. We flew down a dead-flat, dead-straight side road - the wind right behind us still, willing us to get there faster.

We had a lovely lunch, with the Masterton South cyclists handing us over to the slightly more leisurely Wairarapa South cycling contingent. We were grateful for the slower pace for those final 15 kms to Anne's place in Greytown, most of the new bunch will be joining us over the Rimutakas tomorrow so were wise to rest their legs. The Masterton lot have won the round Taupo event 5 times out of 7 and are just nuts. Apparently they raced home at over 40 kms per hour without the hinderance of our heavy loads. With the oldest a mere 72 years old, they were an inspiration for us to stay fit in the years to come.

With a few hours to rest up before the big BBQ we swam some lengths of the lap pool, chatted with Anne and Shane about matters of all kinds, from corruption in Russia to rebuilding post WWII Jaguar sports cars. Ollie inexplicably drove down the road to collect a dead rabbit for the dogs to enjoy and then returned in time for the guests to arrive.
The 25-or-so group of guests was comprised largely of today's cyclists and their partners, as well as some representatives from Carterton RC who couldn't make it earlier today. President Steve from Wairarapa South pledged $500 for our fundraising and Debbie van Zyl from Masterton South pledged her club's $1000. That all goes to PolioPlus and we are extemely grateful to them.
People slowly trickled out towards the end of the evening, not wanting to keep us up before our ride over the Rimutakas tomorrow and many conscious of the fact that they will be joining us. We were ready for bed but first wanted to share our memories of the day, knowing they're never quite as sharp the next day.
Xaver and Ollie


Day 25

18 December 2010

Waipukurau to Pahiatua

Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 103.7
Metres climbed: 595

Breakfast was cereal followed by bacon and eggs. Like all Rotarians, Ian and Christine really made sure we felt at home and had everything we needed.

Ian then took us down to the local radio station, Central FM, where we had an interview with sports presenter John “Swinney” Swinburne. Ian used to be a host on that station and his ease on air was evident. His radio persona emerged again, reminiscent of last night’s stories told around the dinner table. He and Swinney ribbed each other in between more serious conversation about polio and less serious conversation about our ride and about sport in general.

We raced home to pack up and head back down to town to meet the other riders.

Another impressive turnout from Hawkes Bay cyclists, this time ranging from ex-professional, A-grade younger guys to the self-proclaimed ‘Sunday wobblers’ – a group of Rotarians who have recently discovered the joys of cycling.

All of them are members of the local Central Hawkes Bay Cycling Club, more commonly known as BATS for its origin as a Biathlon and Triathlon Sports club. Once again their local knowledge of the back-roads was invaluable although we struggled to keep up with the “cruising speed” averaging about 4kms more than we would normally do. In a battle of attrition, we lost cyclists along the way until only a few were left to deliver us to the main road short of Dannevirke. Their pace did help us to keep to our busy schedule of interviews and meetings later down the track and those remaining even passed on a few donations to PolioPlus.

In Dannevirke we bumped into the Rotary Club there, which had been collecting money on the street in anticipation of our arrival. When we got there we had a quick lunch with President Chris Southgate and his wife Helen and had a chance to thank them for their work that day. At least $100 was raised in the hour before we got there and we look forward to hearing what the actual figure was for our ‘club activities’ page. We then pushed on to meet Glan Johansen and his team from Rotary Club of Woodville.

The rain that had started when we got to Dannevirke developed into a thunderstorm . Rain drops become rain pellets and hail stones stung our noses as we rode past herds of cattle huddling together for protection. The road was covered in an inch-thick blanket of water and huge stock trucks sent out spray to our small margin of the road. There is a certain excitement in that big weather and we couldn’t help but grin as we stood there soaked through, trying to get Xaver’s troublesome cycling computer to harden up a bit and handle the rain, to no avail. At one point the rain stopped and the air stood still, while the cows remained huddled and lines of trees disappeared off into the fog. The rain and thunder soon returned stronger than before, but eased off as we entered Woodville – our welcome party staunch in the weather and easily identified by their big Rotary banner.

We were introduced to Belinda from Radio Woodville, who was to give her first interview ever and with us as her guinea pigs. She asked us questions about our ride and then Glan stepped in to inform listeners about polio in particular. The radio station is run completely through people volunteering their time and is a great opportunity for younger people like Belinda to develop skills and build confidence speaking on air. Belinda has Turners Syndrome and the Rotary Club of Woodville have made it possible for her to attend a camp in January for people with the same affliction. They were also instrumental in getting her into the radio position and in keeping the station alive.

On to Pahiatua and the sun came out to dry off our jackets and cycling gear just in time to meet President Karen from Pahiatua Rotary Club. She gave us a tour of the clinic where she is a vet and took us home for a dinner of steak, potatoes and salad, containing all the things we need for riding every day.

We look forward to seeing some more Rotary cyclists in the morning and then Ollie’s uncle Francis from Rotary Club of Wellington. Francis is our ground-control and keeps this project going while we cycle. His daily communication and website administration have been instrumental to our success so far. Seeing him again will be great and it marks our imminent approach to Wellington - another milestone.

Xaver and Ollie

Day 24

17 December 2010

Napier to Waipukurau
Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 74.3
Metres climbed: 550

Today we arose to the familiar feeling of being hit by a freight train.

We had breakfast with President Carol and lethargically loaded our bikes up, while Taradale President Selwyn and member Strat arrived and waited for us to get sorted. The two Taradale Rotarians accompanied us in cars through the rain, along the motorway to the Regional Sports Park in Hastings, our bodies slowly unwinding, happy to be back in the saddle.

Rotarians and cyclists involved in the velodrome bid were there waiting for us and MP Craig Foss to turn up and ride the velodrome bikes for a photo for the community paper. The bikes they use are purely built for speed. There are no gears, no brakes and no back-pedalling - a very different feeling to our heavily-laden, multi-geared touring bikes.

Steve from Hastings Karamu then showed us the backroads to Waipukurau. We just love getting off the main roads, away from the traffic and road-works and enjoying the rolling hills and river-views. Once we were soaked through to the bone, the rain stopped and the day turned out to be quite nice.

Following a self-described sprinter on a purpose built racing bike naturally lead us to be at our destination by lunchtime and we had lunch in a cafe with a few Rotarians, including our host for this evening, Ian Sharp. We sat drying off in the sun and then headed up to the house. Ian and his wife Christine own the local pharmacy, which gave him the freedom to take us home and show us around before popping back to work. We quickly found the tennis racquets and spent the next two and a half hours determinedly trying to win. We are very similar in terms of size, strength and coordination, which are great qualities in a cycling partner but make for a very long tennis match. Xaver finally won and Ollie pretended to be a good loser.


It turns out that a half-day cycling is no longer enough for us so we proceeded to go for a swim, play petonque and then finally smack golf-balls off the front lawn before dinner.

Aside from Xaver trying to take out the neighbour's fence it was a brilliant day.
Tomorrow morning we will have a radio interview and then will meet some more Rotarian cyclists who plan to join us to Matamau and show us some more alternate routes and keep us off those busy streets. There will be another radio interview at Woodville before we roll on to Pahiatua.

Xaver and Ollie


Day 23

16 December 2010

Rest Day in Napier


After breakfast with President Carol, Xaver's parents picked us up and took us up to Te Mata Peak where we had views of the whole of Hawkes Bay. The predominantly flat landscape here gives a certain majesty to the sheer peaks of the few hills.

The lookout platform (provided, in part, by Rotary of course) overlooks the bay and the river, and right at the bottom of the curved hillside is the Craggy Range winery. We visited that and tasted a few wines and after lunch near Cape Kidnappers we visited the oldest winery in New Zealand - the Mission Estate. The estate has been owned and run by Marist Priests since 1851 and although still owned by them, it has been run commercially since the 1980s. The beautiful old building, which was moved there in 1910 in 11 pieces from further down the road in Meeanee, overlooks the vineyards. We didn't need to try too many wines here before we found one to buy for a friend in Germany and it's probably a good thing we didn't!
Ollie needed a nap before our meeting with Taradale Rotary Club. It seems that cycling has become the norm and when we stop, we really stop. We perked up in time to meet and greet at the club and fill the spot of the 3 minute speaker. There were a lot of familiar faces from our big day yesterday and a lot of new ones too. Everyone was supportive of our journey and were keen to ask questions about the ride. One member, Graham, even arranged for our bikes to be serviced at 'Dirt Merchants' in Wellington, which will be great for making sure we are fit and ready for the rugged West Coast of the South Island. We will write a bit about that when we get to Wellington.
Taradale member Strat took us to and from the meeting and he and other members, including President Selwyn, will meet us in the morning to bring us to the Regional Sports Park to team up with MP Craig Foss and help Napier in their bid for a cycling velodrome, while taking up another opportunity to raise the profile of PolioPlus. The impressive turnout of cyclists yesterday hints at Napier's support for cycling and we wish them the best of luck.
We were in local paper 'Hawkes Bay Today' today, with a photo and a write-up about our trip. That adds to the trail of local media coverage that we leave behind us, so far spreading the message of polio to the far north and the far east of New Zealand. As we build momentum and interest we hope for some national media soon. Our rendezvous with the Hon Trevor Mallard, MP for Hutt South on Monday and with Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown on Tuesday may just be the ticket. Trevor Mallard will join us in Featherston and will cycle with us over the Rimutakas, and Celia Wade-Brown will join us in Petone and accompany us to Civic Square for the reception that will take place there. We look forward to those and other events over the next few action-packed days.

We are glad we had a chance to relax with family today and now feel fighting fit to start it all again tomorrow.
Xaver and Ollie

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