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Daily Diary (Day 50 to Day 54)

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Stewart Island

It was a rough day out on the strait and Xaver readied himself for an unpleasant ride - arms stretched wide and eyes fixed straight ahead. Meanwhile Ollie enjoyed the rolling, wild view out the window and watched the muttonbirds get lost behind the wave crests - confident that his time spent on boats growing up would put him in good stead. It was to be an hour and the captain was warning those who don't travel well to find a place further back in the boat, where there is less movement. The fog ensured there wouldn't be a good view of the islands along the way so no-one bothered to look.

Time passed and the rolling motion started to make itself known. Xaver moved to the back of the boat in the fresh air and sat down looking slightly shocked. Ollie was still trying to convince himself that he was enjoying himself as he felt the colour wash from his face and his stomach squirm in discomfort. Soon Ollie was at the back of the boat, too, now convincing himself that he was only there to check on Xaver, while Xaver resolved to fly home even though it would cost more that $200 - at that moment he didn't care.

We arrived in Halfmoon Bay after an hour of what felt like torture and lethargically collected our bags and headed into the pub/hotel where we were staying. We were extremely grateful to Real Journeys for again supporting us by giving us the crossing free of charge but it was certainly a bitter-sweet gift to receive and one that we weren't looking forward to repeating the next day. We had a quick lie down and went down to the restaurant to have dinner in celebration of what we had achieved.

The waitresses were very interested in what we had just finished and made for a very pleasant evening complimented by some great food - blue cod for Ollie and a slightly more manageable pasta for Xaver. The large tour group sitting next to us had, unfortunately, ordered just before us so we sat hungry while all their meals were brought out. Thankfully we had generated enough interest from surrounding patrons and waitresses with our cycling jackets and filled the time explaining why polio is still an issue that deserves our attention. One German couple was very interested that the New Zealand government has made polio and other vaccinations free for babies. What is perhaps more surprising is that many people choose not to have them - or rather their parents do.

It was exciting to hear that the workers in the hotel recognized us from the Southland Times and that our article hung on an otherwise empty pin-board in the pub, resulting in many conversations with (and even a $50 donation from) other guests. With no time to sample the amazing desserts that kept going by we quickly dressed up warm and headed back to the dock. Having only just recovered from our last stint on the ocean we were back on another boat to head out to a "remote area" to see if we could find some kiwi in the wild. This was something that Xaver in particular wanted to do before the trip was out and like many kiwis, Ollie had only seen them in Kiwi houses himself. Despite this Ollie still felt like a bit of a tourist paying all that money to go and walk through the bush for a few hours with an unknown chance of spotting some flightless yet iconic birds. He forced himself to suspend expectation but was starting to wonder why he had agreed to this.

We were treated to a fact-file of information on the way against a backdrop of Stewart Island at dusk. The Stewart Island brown kiwi, what we would be looking for, is nearly as large as the largest bread of kiwi in New Zealand and unlike its mainland cousins both the male and female share the incubation period, allowing for one to fead without leaving the egg unguarded. Add to this the fact that babies will stick with their parents for up to two years, helping out with incubation of new eggs and the fact that Stewart Island has a commitment to managing pests on this isolated sanctuary and you can see why 20,000 of the 80,000 estimated kiwis in New Zealand can be found right here on the Island. It is a sweet image to think of these big extended families of kiwis foraging about and looking after each other.

We got off the boat with torches and made our way slowly through the bush, staying close and keeping an eye out for movement from a small, brown, fluffy creature. As we walked we heard the (nearly) melodious call of a male kiwi followed by the decidedly discordant screech of the female. Excitement was starting to build for both of us and even Ollie was starting to gain hope that this would be an experience worth remembering. We came out the other side of the bush to a dark beach facing out towards the big ocean and aptly named Ocean Beach.

The tide that supplies nutrients to the famous oysters of Foveaux Strait also brings with it kelp, which then gets dumped on that beach. As the kelp begins to rot it attracts millions of sand-hoppers and, in the relative safety offered by Stewart Island's isolation, this attracts kiwi right down onto the beach to feed. Being poor-sighted but keen-nosed (or beaked) the kiwi hunt using smell and can smell the creatures up to three or four inches below the surface. When the bury their long beaks into the sand they leave a whole and, given such high concentrations of sand-hoppers, the little crustaceans fall into the freshly dug hole, ready for the little kiwi to snaffle three or four more that got trapped. We hadn't been walking far before we came upon an adult male doing exactly that.

It was absolutely fascinating to watch him stalk about in the loom - burying his nostrils into the seaweed and snapping up his catch, then bobbing his head as he stalked some more. Occasionally he would jump and run to a new place with apparently no reason, and equally inexplicably he was stop at his new yet identical location and fossic again. They can run with surprising speed but we were still skeptical about the skipper's claim that they could outrun "you or I". Perhaps he was not referring to a sprinting human but rather literally the people on the trip whose average age would have to have been over 60.

We watched the little fella for so long that the group started to get restless. Surprised that we got to see so much of the kiwi that we actually were getting bored we moved on down the beach. Shortly after we found an even larger adult female doing much the same as the first. With new enthusiasm we watched this one until the first decided to come over and test his luck hunting next to the female. We had been informed earlier that it was very rare to see them feeding with others, preferring to search alone but here they were doing exactly that. Cameras quietly but excitedly clicked away trying to capture this rare moment but with the added difficulty of low light and a ban on using a flash. The female allowed her male companion to join her for a short while before getting aggressive and clearly telling him where to go. This noisy altercation that looked like people fighting with their hands tied behind their backs didn't last long before the smaller male conceded and retreated to feed further away, considerably more agitated than before.

Eventually we made our way back to the boat and cruised back to the harbor - knackered but very pleased with what we had managed to see. We fell into bed exhausted and woke up shortly before checkout time.

We had cereal on the beach, enjoying the sunshine and ecstatic that the sea was so much calmer than the day before. It was a bit strange not to be on the bikes and there was definitely a feeling of something missing that morning. Luckily we weren't quite finished and happily got into our cycling clothes once more - surprised at how comfortable they now felt. We loaded up the bikes, not because we needed to but because that's what we always do, and we set off to ride as far south as we could. It turned out that wasn't very far and after about 4kms we stood at the Deep Bay, on a corner of the road that seemed to be the southern-most piece of public road in New Zealand. We took some photos and talked to a couple of locals who didn't realise the significance of the road. It seemed that the road itself didn't know it either.

We carried on to Acker's point to the east and walked a km or so to the end of the track, stopping for a swim in the cold but crystal clear water of Harrold Bay, then we passed back through town and past idyllic, eucalyptus-lined coves to the northern-most point of Lee Bay, where the large chain anchors the stone or puka to the canoe of Maui. It was close to check-in time for our ferry so we race back over the very steep hills to the ferry building and after checking in we settled down to a meagre lunch on the wharf. As we pulled away from Stewart Island we could see it clearly in the sunshine and looked forward to a much smoother sail back to the mainland. It was a very short but very nice time in Stewart Island and both of us will return as soon as we have the chance.

Xaver and Ollie

Day 54

16 January 2011

Invercargill to Bluff!

Stats for the day…
Kms travelled: 41.14
Metres climbed: 480

We dragged ourselves out of bed, excited but tired and ready for our final day. We had some breakfast and packed up, rolling out onto the road just in time to meet Kieran, who along with Trish's husband Simon, would ride with us the final miles to Land's End. The wind was blowing even harder than yesterday and this time there was no chance of it turning favorable as it came to us from the south. This meant cold and unhelpful and we mused that it would be too easy to finish this epic ride with sunshine and a warm tail-wind. No, we were treated to more overcast with the threat of rain and cold winds from Foveaux Strait.

Our valiant co-riders took the brunt of it, riding in a diamond formation so that we could both draught behind them and be protected slightly from the side-wind. There was no whooping or speeding, just slow and steady spinning of the pedals, with heads down as so often before. This was about getting there and completing what we have worked on for the last two months - not to mention the weeks and months of organisation before that. There was that little spark of anticipation and relief building as we approached the moment that we had, at times, wondered whether we would ever experience. It had taken changes to the schedule, doctors visits, money spent on bike set-ups, stomach churning drugs and grim determination. More importantly it had taken a crazy idea 6 years ago that only 16 and 17 year olds can dream up, a strong friendship that has only strengthened with the experience and a hell of a lot of kindness and support from the people we have met along the way.

Many have been Rotarians and many were not, many were family and friends but most wouldn't have known us from a couple of cheeky Kea on the side of the road. One of the biggest lessons from this is that when you work for the good of others, people are so keen to help you and make your life easier. We can see this is one of the greatest strengths of Rotary. At times we have been overwhelmed by people's hospitality and most of the time felt we didn't deserve it, but it has been crucial to our success and to getting us here. Those last few metres were the easiest and were carried by that momentum of those who supported us. As we completed the great arc that is the road to Bluff we even got that wind behind us and cruised side-by-side to the end of the South Island.

Rotarians, parents and Hunter from Cue-TV were there to welcome us. Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt even turned up a short while later to shake our hands and to stand with as the the point where it all comes to an end. Well, almost.



As everyone trickled away leaving just Cilla, Brett, DG Trish and daughter Louise we loaded our saddle-bags into the car, finally able to accept someone's offer to carry them for us. We have taken all our things the whole way - tent, cooker, sleeping bags, food and clothes - in an unbroken route from Cape Reinga to Bluff. Now feeling weird again on our eerily light bikes we made a slow beeline to the bottom of Bluff Hill. Everywhere we go the locals warn us of their local hill that is sure to beat us and have us walking. So far none of these premonitions has come true, but the warnings were never as frequent and serious as those made about Bluff Hill. Apparently two thirds of the Tour of Southland cyclists get off and walk (possibly drying tears of frustration) and although we couldn't verify whether the author of this story had actually sat on the side of the road and counted, it sounded serious.

We have learnt on this trip that if you train for 8 weeks with 33kg underneath you as resistance, and then you take off that weight and ride unencumbered, you can climb Bluff Hill. It was definitely the steepest public road we have seen on this trip but we got there and we had knocked off another bugger.

We had paninis and coffees at the local cafe with Cilla and Brett and enjoyed the chance to relax and spend some time with them before they left us at the ferry building and got in the car to drive to Queenstown for their flight back to Auckland. It was very special for us that they were able to be there for our final few days and it was sad to see them go. As we sit here in the ferry terminal reflecting on what we have experienced and catching up on the blog, we look forward to our time on Stewart Island and making our way back up to Wellington and Auckland. Tonight we join a night cruise to see if we can spot some kiwi in the wild. No guarantees but if we can it will a magical end to a huge adventure.

Ollie and Xaver

Day 53

15 January 2011

Tuatapere to Invercargill

Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 92.37
Metres climbed: 528

Brett and Mum got us going with bacon and eggs and cereal and we set off in the direction of Riverton, where we would be meeting Rotarians for lunch and perhaps even enlisting some to cycle with us the rest of the way. The wind was still at first and as we neared the coast we realised we were quite lucky to have calm weather, if a little overcast. The trees on the coast are bent sideways by a life of one strong wind. When the sea opened out before us it hit us that we had reached the South Coast and the bottom of the country, although we still had a while to go before we were done.

We rode with the aim of being at Riverton at a set time but at the same time we weren't in a hurry. We stopped a few times for a bite to eat and just enjoyed the silence - partly due to the road having no traffic on it and partly in anticipation of a people-filled few days. It would be a while before we were on our own time and free to just be with our own thoughts. We always love meeting people along the road but it sometimes takes a few minutes to adjust from journey-mode to people-mode.

We passed over the bridge into Riverton and found Rotarians Lindsey and Dave with their spouses Graham and Margaret. We had talked on the phone in the lead-up so it was nice to finally meet Lindsey, who had done so much to coordinate our time in Invercargill and even Stewart Island. She had taken our story to Real Journey's, who again gave us our ferry tickets to and from Stewart Island free of charge, and she had personally paid for our accommodation in Stewart Island. As if this extremely generous and unexpected gesture wasn't enough, Lindsey is physiotherapist and had offered to give us a torture/massage when we arrive in Invercargill. Lindsey is the coordinator for this southern-most districts polio efforts, hence her involvement but she went to enormous lengths to make sure that we were looked after personally as well. Like so many people we have met along the way we just can't thank her enough.

We had mussel fritters and paninis at a local cafe and set off with our new companions. There was Lindsey and Dave, back on road bikes after some time off them, and keen cyclist Martin to lead the pack (very quickly at times).

Also along for her first big ride was 12-year-old Megan, the daughter of one of the Rotarians, and thus we rode - now hampered by a strong north-westerly, which was just too far off to the side to be of assistance. Megan looked like she might blow away in the wind and it was decided that it wasn't the best day for a first big ride, but only after she had already covered an impressive 10kms while fighting hard not to be blown over.

We carried on, always promised by Dave that the next corner would bring us into a more favorable direction with the wind, but each corner failed to deliver until finally we came around to the right yet again and felt the wind pick us up from behind and guide us into town.

We arrived through Queen's Park with its long straight roads through lines of oak trees - a grand setting for arrival to Invercargill - and at the end District Governor Trish Boyle was waiting for us with her DG medals around her neck and Rotary PolioPlus banners strung up on the stately entrance-gates.


This was another happy meeting as we had been in contact with Trish very early on and not only had she immediately offered to host us but also made sure that her district made the most of this event and that we were looked after along the way. Many people along the way had fondly recalled what a lovely person Trish is so we were certainly looking forward to meeting her. Those people were right and Trish made us so welcome and even organised a welcome bbq dinner for us, inviting several Rotarians including those who had cycled with us and others. She enlisted the help of her daughter Louise, who is home for the summer. This made for an awesome evening and meant that, after blogging and photos, we didn't get to bed till around 1am with the alarms set for 7 - just enough sleep for a short ride to Bluff in the morning.

Xaver and Ollie


Day 52

14 January 2011

Manapouri to Tuatapere

Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 83.39
Metres climbed: 531

We woke up to bacon and eggs to prepare us for a big day and bade Roger farewell before stocking up with some snacks. We knew that food would be scarce on the road and that Ollie's mother Cilla and her partner Brett would be meeting us around lunch time - hopefully with some food in the chilly-bin.

It was a perfect morning and we got distracted chatting and looking out across the lake so we didn't see the turnoff to Tuatapere. After taking a "scenic" route past the launching point for trips to Doubtful Sound and wondering whether we were lost for the first time on this trip, we re-emerged onto the main road and carried on once more.

The sun wasn't too hot even though there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the grass waved ever so slightly in the wind, but thankfully in our direction, cheering us on as we entered the home-straight. There were slight up and downhills with occasional larger ones but nothing to write home about (well, I guess we just did) so we cruised at a comfortable but fast 23 km/h, taking turns to lead and stopping only to ward off hunger with our strategically thought out snacks. We knew that Cilla and Brett had left Queenstown at 11 and assumed they would catch us up shortly after 2 and we were very excited about seeing them. It seemed strange then that we were cycling so quickly in the wrong direction.

At exactly twenty past two, our agreed cut-off time for calling them to find out where they were, we pulled off the road under a tree and pulled out the phone. We had already cycled over 60 kms and were starting to wonder where they were. Just as they picked up, they pulled up next to us in their rental car. It was a very happy reunion and we sat down to enjoy our hoped-for lunch of filled rolls, not quite enjoying the strong wind that had turned and built up over the last 10kms and threatened to spoil our lunch - not to mention make it difficult to get to Tuatepere.

It wasn't so much difficult as a bit boring and a bit wearing. We knew we didn't have far to go, but the prospect of sitting down for a hot drink and a chat with Cilla and Brett at the motel was inviting and it was frustrating to be slowed down. We worked away for a bit over an hour, quietly and sometimes noisily battling the wind until we came upon the sausage capital of NZ - Tuatapere. We had that hot drink and showered before looking at some photos from the trip on the computer and heading down to the pub for some blue cod, a must when visiting the south.

It was another great evening with family and we always appreciate it when they are there. We have come back to the motel for some blogging and administration before the exciting end section of our trip in Invercargill and Bluff. We will meet Rotarians along the way tomorrow and have a BBQ with DG Trish Boyle tomorrow and on Sunday we will ride those last few kms into Bluff (via the mighty Bluff Hill) and meet the famous Tim Shadbolt, mayor of Invercargill, at the end in Bluff. What a few days it will be!

Ollie and Xaver

Day 51

13 January 2011

Te Anau to Manapouri

Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 25.95
Metres climbed: 82

Leaving at 6 sounds like a very early start for us but in fact it is a very late start when you consider that we left at 6 pm. It was really a rest day but we were due in Manapouri for dinner, a 20km ride along the lakes.

In the meantime we met up with a photographer for the Southland Times and a reporter for the Fiordland Advocate in the morning. As we were walking to the lake front to take some photos Xaver got a call from our friends Saskia and Aurelia from Heidelberg in Germany, whom we met in Queenstown and who happened to pass us on a bus and by chance noticed our bright white cycling jerseys. We took this chance to catch up with them for coffee and hear about their walk on the nearby Kepler Track. It was great to see them again and very lucky that we did.

We went round to Moff's house for lunch with Lynn, Moff and their daughter Kerryn and we started to get the blog sorted out to keep readers informed about the previous four days. Moff had a better idea, getting the boat out from the garage and parking it in front of the office window. We obligingly left what we were doing and got into some togs to go down to the lake.

After a cruise across Lake Te Anau and around some quiet bays where people go camping and fishing we put the sea biscuit out and Moff attempted to get us off it by going round in circles. He said not to tell District Governor Trish Boyle when we see her in Invercargill about our being hurled around at great speed just three days before we get to the finish line. I won't say anything but Moff had better hope she doesn't read our blog! Ollie had a go at the single water ski but found that despite over 7 weeks of cycling, his legs got tired within a few minutes and he asked to be taken back in, just glad that he got up. It was Xaver's first experience doing the traditional Kiwi thing of getting onto a big round blow-up disc and holding on for his life. He even looked as if he was enjoying it.

We darted back home to finish off the blogging, managing only to get the words up as the computer didn't seem to like our photos. We said goodbye to Lynn and Moff, who seemed to be in all places at once while we were in Te Anau and made our time a success as well as a lot of fun. We set off and put our heads down, racing to Manapouri but stopping to take a photo of the layer upon layer of mountain ranges on the other side of the lake. It's a pretty special road along there and definitely worth the detour. You know us, we never go the short way.

We arrived at Roger's place just in time for dinner. Roger is a Rotarian from Invercargill North and he had invited his friend Chris round from Fiordland Rotary Club as well. We sat on the deck with a beer getting to know each other and enjoying the lovely evening. Roger is an accountant but is mad keen on fishing and hunting, while Chris has had a long and eventful life pioneering the live capture and farming of deer here in Southland. It was a fascinating evening of stories and amazing dinner of venison, marinated and cooked on the BBQ. We were even treated to a DVD of Andre Rieu, the violinist and conductor and we watched the movie Ata Whenua "Shadowland", a photographic masterpiece of Fiordland, taken from a helicopter. The sound-system helped to give the full experience, which was totally awe-inspiring and a perfect way to round off our time in the region before we head off to Tuatapere tomorrow. Tomorrow we meet Ollie's mother and her partner Brett who are coming down from Auckland to join us for the home straight.

Xaver and Ollie

Day 50

12 January 2011

Cascade Creek to Te Anau

Stats for the day...
Kms travelled: 78.26
Metres climbed: 548

When we woke up the sandflies were waiting for us between the tent inner and the fly. They were big buggers and clever too - some finding their way into the tent through the broken seals. We got up to cook porridge and instead of being driven mental we were driven back into the tent, hunched over and eating breakfast in peace. Once we were forced to move again we ran around like loopy weka, packing our things and getting going as quickly as we could.

The sky was grey and dull and a bitter southerly was picking up in the late morning making our ride harder and colder. The road snaked through forest that protected us from the wind but then would open up again onto expansive flats, making us battle again. We were pretty quiet for those 40kms before lunch although still in good spirits. We stopped by the mirror lakes but they weren't putting on a good show on this unspectacular day. The greatest excitement was a large flock of sheep being herded down the road and mixing with the holiday traffic. We pulled over and watched as the weird procession went by.

We had some pasta snacks for lunch but they were just that - snacks. We mused over who on earth would be sated by such a meagre meal and pushed on again into the wind.

16kms out of Te Anau our saviour turned up in shining leather. It was Moff on his motorbike and he'd come to check on our progress, wondering why we hadn't turned up yet. We stopped for a quick chat and were pleasantly surprised to hear that the Rotary Club of Fiordland were shouting us pizza for dinner and that Moff and his wife Lynn were joining us. We rode on with heads lifted - grinning and bearing the pain in our ailing tendons. The bodies are saying they've had just about enough. They can last a couple of hundred kms more and then they can rest all they like.

We got freshened up at the motel (Rennie has kindly let us stay a second night at the Red Tussock Motel) and went out to the pizza restaurant for an enormous and delicious dinner. What we couldn't eat we took away in a doggy-bag and returned to the motel to watch the tennis. When it finally came on we watched the men's final for as long as we could before fatigue took over.

It was a hard day, especially compared to the amazing ride we had up to the Homer Tunnel the night before but it was worth it to have just one great day out of two. When we are riding, the person at the back can see the route drawn on the back of the other one's jersey with the little section tailing off above Te Anau taunting us that we may not be able to ride it. Now we can say that we did it. We knocked the bugger off.

Xaver and Ollie


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