On the road to adventure

by Gazette Reporter
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IT WAS the biggest adventure of my life – just over a fortnight in New Zealand, where the people dubbed the Kiwis are friendly and down-to-earth.

It was the perfect place for a solo traveller – there’s nothing like the freedom of exploring a new place on your own terms.
Going alone meant I had to make more effort to meet new people and trust my instincts. My itinerary was flexible – last-minute changes were possible.
And I can only say if there’s ever a country you want to see but have no one to go with, just go solo.
You’ll learn so much about yourself and others and return with fond memories and new friendships.
So, however you travel, you can choose to see New Zealand’s North or South Islands. Most travellers flock to the latter, famous for its glaciers and spectacular Southern Alps.
But don’t underestimate the North Island – it too is magnificent. I chose a unique way to experience this stunning terrain – by bike.
A favourite quote from author Ernest Hemingway sums up my trip: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.
“Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”
I was one of 80 competitors who flew into New Zealand to join 220 Kiwi riders at the starting line on April 11 for the North Island stage of the Tour Of New Zealand cycle.
I was offered two direction options – from the top of the North Island to Wellington, or from the bottom of the South Island to Wellington.
The event was about celebrating the country’s great rides, encouraging cyclists to give it a go, and promoting New Zealand’s biking opportunities.
Competitive but social, the tour was spread over seven days, covering 700kms of gruelling climbs and fascinating road trails.
The first three days we spent travelling through Northland, famous for its native forests, as we stopped at Tane Mahuta – a giant 2,300-year-old kauri tree, probably the largest tree I’ll ever lay eyes on.
The route, through the centre of the North Island, comprised one amazing day after another including a stop at the iconic Chateau Hotel with Mt Ruapheu towering behind it.
Some rides started flat and neutral but later turned into rollercoasters. Every day was different and while I struggled on some, finding it hard to latch onto passing peletons, I had a great big grin on my face crossing the finish line each day. The views en route were awesome.
The faster team members were always there to cheer me and fellow riders in on the final laps. The camaraderie among cyclists made it easier each morning to leap bike-wards and feel fully charged up.
As days passed, my strength rose. But undoubtedly the trip’s highlight was the people I shared it with, from the bike mechanic to the crew and riders.
One day, I cycled more than four hours with a 72-year-old. He refused to allow his age to stop him from being physically active and achieving his goals.
The Tour Of New Zealand shows that by bringing together people around a shared interest, age and background dissolve into a very enjoyable event with great spirit.
Tour Of New Zealand also had a charitable focus, with many riders working to raise a total of $250,000 for chosen charities, including The Heart Foundation, St John, Tear Fund, Akina Trust (bikes in schools), and Unicorn Foundation (a trust set up by John Keys cardiologist Malcolm Legget for cancer research).
This third tour was made possible by the commitment, organisation and dedication of event director Peter Yarrell and secretary Coral MacDonald and his teams of volunteers.

Plans for 2017
Plans for 2017 are aready under way – mark April 22-29, 2017 in your diary for this truly amazing event. For further information on this exciting event, see
www.tourofnewzealand.co.nz.
Believe me, New Zealand is not that far away. Some careful planning, a few sacrifices and a lot of saving can make the trip possible. You don’t have to wait till you’ve retired!
But take it from me, don’t forget the padded shorts – I could not have made it without their unstinting support!
And remember, wherever you go, go with all your heart.

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