So it is done. I am home. 29,511km, 471 days, 25 countries, 2 special administrative regions, twice my weight in Snickers bars, too much dodgy Russian vodka and cheap Chinese beer, and I don’t know how many punctures when running Chinese tyres. Thankfully no serious crashes along the way, so I have made it pretty much safe and sound. Of course there is a possibility that I am carrying some obscure parasite or bacteria – perhaps a trip to the Travel Doctor is required – but I am feeling remarkably well. Plenty of exercise and fresh air must do the trick.
The last leg wasn’t the easiest I’ve ever done, but it was one of the most beautiful. I was in no real hurry, and so split it up over three days. I started out with an easy leg up to Waiwera, via Auckland’s North Shore. On the ferry to Devonport, I met a couple going out for a morning ride. 30 years ago they had travelled extensively, and talked about the problems they had found when they tried to settle down in New Zealand again. I think it must have been much harder then, when fewer people travelled, and it was difficult/expensive to keep in touch with people around the world. That’s not to say that things have changed that much though – the front page of Friday’s New Zealand Herald had a large article and photo about someone being assaulted by a hedgehog. There’s something reassuring about that being seen as the biggest story of the day in New Zealand.
Traffic wasn’t too bad along the East Coast Road, at least until Silverdale. Auckland is sometimes under-rated, but it was looking rather spectacular under a cool, clear late autumn sky. You can look out across the Hauraki Gulf, while riding through some of the greenest suburbs I’ve seen for a long time. No sign of drought here. I did really feel I was back in NZ when I ate my lunch sitting under a pohutakawa tree, beside a long sandy beach. Up and over the hill to Waiwera, where I spent several hours soaking in the hot pools. I went on all the slides and tubes, but it’s just not quite so much fun when you’re by yourself. No matter though.
Being Queen’s Birthday weekend, the road was pretty busy the next day, and slow going up a few tough climbs, with narrow/non-existent shoulders and too many cars. My parents met me at Wellsford, to provide some vehicle support. Pulling in to a nice river-side picnic area, and having picnic baskets full of food presented does take away from my hard man image a bit, I must admit. It did make life pretty easy, which was good since I had two punctures, within 15 km – one in each tyre! Considering I didn’t have any external punctures in all of Australia, this was a bit odd, and annoying. South of Wellsford, I turned off towards Mangawhai, and the riding improved dramatically. This is more like it, riding through green fields, with little traffic, on good roads. Much easier going to Mangawhai Heads, my last stop. I stayed at one of the most expensive places I’ve stayed in, and ate one of the most expensive meals of the trip, but it was all worth it. It was a little bit strange to think about it being my last night on the road, last time to find a hotel, last time to unpack the bags, last time to find food and a beer, last time…but we know that’s only for a while.
I had an extended support crew for my last day. My parents met me, and so did Suzie and her sister. Suzie was there the day I left London, so she saw me both start and finish. I was taking it fairly easy, with only around 60 km to cover. Dad joined me for the last leg into town, but we weren’t able to go straight home. After starting at a major landmark, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, I had to finish at another – the Kensington Tavern. Soon after that we were rolling up the driveway, and home, to…I’m not sure…the next stage in my life anyway.
For now it’s just a matter of trying to get myself organised, and go through what’s left of my gear, and see what I left behind here. I probably won’t even want half the stuff I left here, although it was nice to pull on a pair of denim jeans, for the first time in over a year. I’m going to have to get a job sooner or later too, although for now I’m just enjoying taking it easy, and catching up with friends and relatives. And yes, I will get my photos sorted out shortly. Working on dialup at home makes it tough though!
In some ways it’s a little difficult to describe my feelings on completing this trip. Perhaps I need to think about it a bit over the next few weeks, to gain a little perspective. I shall post more over the coming weeks, a few summary posts, that sort of thing. For now, I just want to say thanks to all those who’ve supported me in some way along the road. Those who I met, and in some way enlivened the trip, and those who’ve been in touch, read the blog, and sent messages of encouragement – it really does mean a lot to me. Thank you.