By Stuart Bayne
In 2015 Stuart cycled 1100km across Europe, visiting the national Headquarters of NGK Spark Plugs along the way, and raised a staggering £17,000. Shortly after Stuart completed his European ride, he got in touch with us about his next plan…
He wanted to cycle from Bluff to Cape Reinga in New Zealand. This 2100km+ (1304 miles) route was going to be a tough challenge at the best of times. There were terrifying stories about bad drivers, difficult ascents and dangerous descents and some very unpredictable weather.
The devastating earthquakes that struck New Zealand in November 2016, just weeks before Stuart set off, forced a rethink. While their thoughts were with the families affected by the dreadful disaster, Stuart and his support team wanted to continue with his challenge. Many of the routes and roads he’d planned to use were now un-passable and that he wouldn’t know how badly the route would have to be changed until he arrived.
Stuart wrote a day by day account of his incredible journey…and has kindly allowed us to share some of the highlights below.
We would like to extend a HUGE thank you to him, his incredible friends and family and all at NGK Spark Plugs for helping him to raise a truly staggering £24,000 (over £40,000 in two years!) for the DSA.
Arrived Invercargill after some 32 hours travel gate to gate from Heathrow, with planes getting smaller on each flight. Arrived at Bluff for 2 nights and slept off some of the jet lag in readiness for the off.
Attended a NZDSA get together this afternoon to support the local DSA group. Excellent people and had some photos taken with some of the people present who hopefully will use the detail of the ride in the local press.
4 December – Bluff to Clinton.
Off we go, left Bluff at 8.30 sharp.
Joined on the first part of the journey by Mr Dave Rodgers from the Southland DSA who accompanied me to Invercargill and gave some good tips on how to stay alive on the NZ roads.
Then joined at Invercargill by an amazing chap of 67 years of age Mr Graham Appleby, who cycled with me full pelt for over 100km at a very good pace, amazing fit guy.
For the run in to the night’s accommodation at Clinton we were joined by Mr Glen Jelly who is the president of the Otago DSA. Fantastic day with really interesting people.
5 December – Clinton to Dunedin.
Bitten all over by sand mites on Sunday morning really irritating so first stop chemist for some anti-histamine cream.
All went well out of Clinton and the morning was a great ride, however after lunch a really nasty north wind arrived and made the last 50km a real test of endurance.
This coupled with the steep rises on the entry to Dunedin meant that it was a tiring end to the day.
8 December – Ashburton to Amberley
Rain, rain and more bloody rain. Terrible conditions only assisted by the fact that at 80km and a stopover for lunch at the International Antarctic Centre we were offered complimentary admission by the Centre as they noticed the purpose of our ride. A really nice gesture on their part.
Then it was back to the lovely rain and leaving Christchurch, it was becoming clear the level of traffic was building due to the limited road access due to the earthquake damage.
Signs everywhere indicating various route closure and limitations of travel. It is clear we are entering an area that has been devastated by the quake. Local hotels where we are staying have had cancellations from tourists, replaced by reservations from surveyors, geologists and plant operators.
The need to be mindful and respectful of where you are and what has happened is key.
The quake may upset my bike ride but two people lost their lives and other people’s livelihoods have been dramatically affected.
9 December – Amberley to Murchison.
Due to the earthquake issues today ride was to try and make up the “distance” between Amberley and Picton.
I left Amberley and went past the diversion signs that were in place due to the earthquake.
I Went as far as I could along the SH1 to Cheviot just short of where the road was closed. The part of the route from the diversion to the road closure was deserted only 3 vehicles were seen on 42km of road.
Coffee shops and farms continued their business, but without the tourist traffic, the coffee shop owners will soon be desperate. It was quite spooky riding along this road.
10 December – Murchison to Blenheim.
The detour that was put in place for the earthquake was not passable by cycle, due to the concerns of the authorities of the level of traffic that was on such a tight and winding road.
There were many one lane bridges and the logging trucks and dairy trucks would have made the ride treacherous.
Absolutely horrible conditions, wind and rain meant I finally got on the bike around 11am.
Unfortunately about 45km in, I was forced off the bike as one of the trucks passed a little too close for comfort. No major issues, just a deep cut on my left knee, which did need a good look at, at Blenheim A&E. Back in action tomorrow.
14 December – Taihape to Taupo.
An absolutely disgusting day of rain and wind, when climbing to the peak of the desert road at 1400m it really was a nigh on impossible task. The descents were as difficult as the ascents as the wind blew you to a near standstill or into the path of any incoming trucks that proceeded to throw a torrent of water over you on every pass.
Had to walk across the bridges in fear of being blown into the rivers below and after 2 ½ hours of toiling against the wind for safety and common sense we took a break at the NZ Army Museum at Waioru. I had travelled 24km. Coldest and wettest I have ever been, the closest to jacking it in I have been on the ride.
The rain subsided but the wind continued as did I into the outskirts of Taupo in the afternoon. On arriving at the lake I was greeted by sunshine and warm weather. There is a song by New Zealand’s Crowded House, “4 Seasons in one day” I now know the inspiration for such a song.
15 December – Taupo to Putaruru.
Got up at 6.45 to visit Huka Falls first thing. Stunning place and a top 5 Bayne place to be in this world. All to myself at just after 7am was extremely cool.
Than off to Putaruru with only 112km to cover today a steady ride was taken through some of the back roads of the Waikato district before rejoining SH1 going north. Once again the northerly wind made for a really difficult ride.
18 December – Mangere Bridge to Takapuna.
A very low distance to cover today, but a meet with the Auckland Downs Syndrome association was planned as well as a meet up with my family and getting across Auckland in one piece still meant for a busy day.
An extremely hot day in New Zealand’s biggest and most heavily populated city.
19 December – Takapuna to Wellsford.
Left Takapuna and the suburbs of Auckland in the east coast road and after leaving the big city behind me made good progress north towards Wellsford.
Although only a very low distance to be covered today, the terrain was very challenging. However I would need to get used to this as the rest of the ride contained an extremely undulating road network that would severely test my training pattern. I am certainly glad I trained on hills such as Winnets Pass in Derbyshire, which assisted greatly in understanding the mental approach required coupled with the physical stamina required.
21 December – Paihia to Pukenui.
2 days to go, highlight of the day was travelling along 90 mile beach with my wife running by my side. We covered some 16km together with the ocean to our left. The weather has now changed dramatically to what I had hoped for on leaving the UK. Beautiful sunshine reflecting off the water and cycling a real pleasure.
The number of vehicles that are now on the road as we get towards the north island has dropped dramatically and this is assisting in the enjoyment.
Joined by my family for the evening before the final push to Reinga tomorrow.
22 December – Pukenui to Cape Reinga.
Finally reached the final day of the ride and what a killer the last kilometres were. Worst climbing day towards the end of the ride constantly counting down the kilometres. By now I am very tired and physiologically because I know the end is in sight, all of a sudden the ride is becoming really tough. With 10k’s to go though a renewed energy gets me up the last 3 climbs and the lighthouse at Reinga is in sight.
My wife and family are waiting at the lighthouse to greet me on arrival at the end of 2108km of cycling and over 14,000m of climb.
The most important figures though are £24,000+ raised for DSA and $11,000 raised for NZDSA.
Really proud of my achievement and so very grateful to all who supported me, especially my father in law Barrie Atkins and Alison Osborne who’s tremendous efforts in guiding me through their country, who without their fantastic efforts the ride would not have been possible.