"We will have a
lolly at the light house Dad?"
"At Cape Ringa Dad?"
"I like lollies Dad."
"I know you do sweetheart"
"Yes. And I like Cape Ringa and the lighthouse too."
"It's actually Cape Reinga not Cape Ringa isn't it."
"And we've cycled all the way from Stewart Island and
South Island and we're nearly right at the top of North
Island at Cape Reinga aren't we."
"That's right. All that way in your buggy. It's amazing
"Hmmm…. Do you know there's only a lighthouse and a sign
at Cape Reinga Dad?"
"There's not even a café or playground or Top 10 or a
dairy or M place or Warehouse."
"No, nothing else."
"So why are we going there Dad?"
"To see the lighthouse and the sign."
"Hmmmm …… Can I have a lolly when we get there?"
"Yes, we'll all have a lolly."
An ordinary looking
little red and white sign marked the end of State Highway
One and the beginning of the end of our amazing cycling
journey from one end of New Zealand to the other. The
kids were looking forward to a lolly party; we were looking
forward to snapping a photo to match one we took almost
four thousand kilometres and a hundred and sixty days
earlier at the start of the Highway in Bluff.
end of State Highway One means only one thing to the kids....
lollies but we
needed a photo to match this one taken in Bluff
We took our time
on this final leg of the journey; making time to play,
reflect on our travels, and absorb the wild, unpredictable,
and sandy extremes of the Far North. The country here
has an empty feel, reminiscent of our early travels in
the Far South; wild horses roam a deserted landscape that
really feels like the end of the world. And as we pedalled
beyond the limits of cell phone coverage, we were happy
to be out of touch and back in the wilderness.
The last 21km of
the journey to the Cape is along a traditional North Island
hilly, corrugated gravel road that rises and falls, rises
and falls, falls and rises again along the narrowing peninsular.
The end of the road lies beyond a final gritty 200m climb
leading to a dramatic ridge that heads straight out to
sea; on your left the Tasman Sea, on your right the vast
Pacific Ocean, straight ahead the lighthouse. Right to
the very end, North Island continued to serve up the blend
of dreams and nightmares we had grown so accustomed to.
When the grey roof and weathervane of the lighthouse eventually
came into view, Kirstie and her bike finally lost their
grip; her bike collapsing in an embarrassing heap at her
feet. "This bloody gravel," she sighed in a mixture of
frustration and joy. I threw my bike down in support and
the crowds from the tourist buses just stared.
Kirstie makes it to the end but loses her grip
Cape Reinga is at
the end of the highway, a headland where land, sea and
sky meet, beyond which the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean
collide in a foaming swell of competing currents. It is
the most spiritually significant area in New Zealand for
Maori, the place where spirits of the departed begin their
final journey into the underworld. While we cycled to
the lighthouse, spirits make their way by any available
means to a single Pokutukawa tree on the headland, from
where are said to slide down a root into the sea below.
From there they make their way to Three Kings Islands
where they climb out and up to the highest point to say
one last farewell before returning to the land of their
ancestors, Hawaiiki a Nui.
Cameron jumped up
and down in his buggy straining at his straps to get out.
"Look Daddy, the lighthouse, the lighthouse, it's lolly
time, lolly time," he sang excitedly. But it was not so
simple; Cape Reinga is a sacred space where eating and
drinking are forbidden. There was no question of not having
lollies so before we made our final approach we retreated
a respectful distance for the long awaited lolly party.
"Why not lollies at the lighthouse Daddy?" asked Cameron.
"It's a special place and it's rude to eat there," I explained
as simply as I could. "Do lighthouse people not like lollies?"
asked Cameron incredulously.
Our first view of our final
destination... and the kids went wild... for lollies
With sticky lips
and fingers we finally made our way to join throngs of
day trippers happily snapping the lighthouse, meeting
of the oceans and famous roadsign. Somehow we blended
into the crowd and attracted relatively little attention
other than from a lycra clad old cyclist who sped down
the hill a short time after us.
"Hi there," he said stroking his beard, "I've just come
from Christchurch. How about you?"
"Oh, we've done the full tour… from end to end," said
"Five and half months and almost four thousand kilometres,"
He eyed up our bikes, buggies, boys and baggage. "That's
an impressive rig… and quite a load… Yeh…. twenty six
inch wheels, stainless spokes, semi slicks, twenty seven
speed… nice. What weight are you pulling?"
"Between seventy and a hundred kilos including the kids"
said Kirstie sounding knowledgeable and hoping the questions
wouldn't get any more technical.
"Awesome, that must have been tough on the gravel. I wiped
out a couple of times," he continued pointing to some
large bleeding scratches down his left leg."
Kirstie sympathised, "That looks nasty, perhaps you should
clean it up and put a bandage on?"
"No, it's OK. I'll sort it out when I stop. Besides, I've
got no bandage, I travel light, with just a change of
clothes, less than seven kilos." He pointed to a small
daysack strapped tightly to his back. Kirstie offered
him a bandage from our first aid kit but the offer was
refused; the idea seemed to violate one of his principles
of cycle touring. He had covered almost two thousand kilometres
in just twelve days riding, wearing one pair of clothes
and carrying another, eating food on the go and stopping
to sleep only when he'd exceeded his daily one hundred
and fifty kilometre target. Our touring styles were polar
opposites but equal in their madness. We congratulated
each other on our achievements, each perhaps wondering
why the other would do something so hard. Then, after
taking the obligatory photos by the lighthouse, the old
guy departed. He had another one hundred and twenty kilometres
to do that day; we were ready to set up camp, dismantle
our bikes and await transport back to civilization.
An iconic image for Family
on a Bike
While spirits end
things at the Cape, the Pokutukawa tree for our tour was
to be nearby Tapotupotu beach. From here we planned to
slide into a bus and begin our final journey to say farewell
to New Zealand from Auckland. On the way Kirstie lost
her grip one final time, "I give up. I give up. I hate
this road. I hate cycling. I hate this bike. I hate gravel.
I never want to ride on it ever again. I want it to be
over now," she sobbed from the gravel as she tended grit
filled cuts on her hands. "I HATE IT." Kirstie was about
to despatch her bike to the underworld when our bearded
and bleeding cycling friend appeared on the road up from
the beach. He'd made a ten kilometre detour to see the
beach and keep his daily total up. "Oh dear, fallen again?"
he said as he stopped for a moment. "Yes" whined Kirstie
showing off her cuts and looking for a little return sympathy.
He looked at them for a moment but saw nothing that might
prevent cycling. "Bad luck…. eh? But it's not far down
now," he chirped encouragingly before parting with a final
unappreciated tip, "you know if you wear cycling gloves
it keeps the grit out of your hands when you fall so you
can keep riding more easily. Good luck." We bid our gloved
friend goodbye and walked, slid and rode our bikes gingerly
down the final few kilometres. We had had enough; it felt
like time to put the bikes away and do something else
Finally at the beach,
we put the bikes down for the last time, made a cup of
coffee and shared a family size pack of multi-coloured
popcorn. We bathed in the cool autumn sea, set up the
tent and tried to enjoy a celebratory meal of corned beef
hash followed by tinned pears. When the dishes were done,
we dragged the sleeping bags outside the tent, slipped
inside them and lay as a family looking up at the full
moon and Southern stars. "Is the moon really made of cheese?"
asked Matthew. "Why are those pears soft?" asked Cameron.
We were too tired for questions so gave both boys a lolly
silencer. We all lay quietly and savoured the moment until
lollies ran out and it was time for boys to go to bed.
The moon and
stars are best viewed from a sleeping bag with a lolly
In the tent it was my turn
to deliver the bedtime story. "Can we have one about mousies,
a lighthouse, cheese, the moon and some lollies Daddy?"
asked Cameron. And so began a long and involved tale of
four mice who travelled the length and breadth of New
Zealand in search of a moon made of cheese and a lolly
at the lighthouse. By the time the mice reached the middle
of North Island, Matthew stopped me mid-flow. "Dad, can
you stop please. I've had enough of this story now. I'm
absolutely tired and I really really want to go to sleep."
And so the Family on a Bike closed their eyes and went
to sleep, the story incomplete but the cycling well and