The odyssey begins……
After 35 hours of travelling, 48 hours without sleep of any sort, I stepped off the final flight on the tiny airstrip of Kaitaia, the nearest to Cape Reinga, and the start of my end-to-end of New Zealand. Getting off a 19 seat de Haviland is like getting off a bus or train, and the terminal building is little more than a pre-fabricated shelter. An hour later, the bike was re-assembled, the airport manager helpfully discarded the empty box, and a fellow passenger chats and watches me complete the task.
The sign I will be carrying on the back of the bike, advertising the purpose of the ride, has already attracted attention, and the readiness of Kiwis to donate to the cause I find both endearing and uplifting. I read somewhere that New Zealanders are the world’s most generous donors to charitable causes. My first few hours in the country are testament to that.
My task was to get out to Cape Reinga, 124 km from the hostel I stayed in on my first night. Lack of sleep, irregular eating patterns, the inactivity of flying and the humidity of the northern NZ climate all prove to be inauspicious. No local bus company could take me and my bike out to the starting point, so it was up to me. After more than 100 km (about 65 miles), just 21 km short of my target, I called it a day, camped in Waitiki Landing, was driven out of my tent by a swarm of mosquitoes, continued sleeping on a couch in a TV room, then tackled the final kms the next day. And was I glad I didn’t tackle them the day before……steep hills and a stiff head wind coming off the Pacific, made the approach to the Cape very challenging. But at the end of this narrow peninsula was the lighthouse, a feature drawing coachloads of visitors and convoys of 4×4 safari
drivers to a spot that is venerated by the Maori as the departure point of the spirits of the dead, heading off for there final place of rest. Such is the veneration that you won’t find a shop, cafe or information kiosk, and people are asked not to eat or drink in the vicinity.
With this stage of the ride completed, albeit in reverse, I was very happy to accept a lift from three young German engineers, driving an elderly campervan which they had rented in Christchurch and were touring both islands. Jasmine, Robert and Lars were fascinated by my venture, and waved me off with a donation of NZ$20 to the cause. In all, I reckon I have collected over 50 GBP from passers-by who see my sign and are moved to put a hand in their pocket and make a spontaneous donation.
I am so glad the Kiwis are amongst the most generous people in the world!
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