By Jack Biddle
In issue 1041 - 14 February the Informer published a story about local Hahei resident Fintan Rooney’s plans to cycle the length of New Zealand with three close overseas friends and fellow keen cyclists.
The roughly 2500 kilometre ride was a long-held bucket list item waiting to be ticked off for Fintan and one which was placed into some serious doubt before even one pedal stroke was ever turned.
As part of a routine health check prior to starting his ride, he was diagnosed with leukaemia. While coming as a complete shock at the time, the 69 year old Irishman decided to turn his condition into a positive and after getting the OK from his doctor, continue on with his cycle adventure and use it to help raise awareness and funds for leukaemia and blood cancer research.
Once the commitment was made, it was all about getting to Invercargill by air and then heading to the small township of Bluff to finally throw the leg over the bar and start peddling in earnest.
When asked why he decided to do the ride in a South to North direction instead of the more traditional North to South direction the majority of bike packing cyclists take, he laughed and said,”it is simply the Irish coming out in me.” (The Irish like to do things a little bit different at times.)
“It’s just the way things worked out really but regardless of the direction, soaking in the scenery, taking our time and meeting as many locals as possible as we pass through the various towns and communities, are the goals on this journey in addition to raising money along the way for a good cause. That’s the added bonus,” says Fintan.
At the time of writing, Fintan and his cycling buddies had progressed to Greymouth via many well-known tourist spots and towns including Queenstown, Arrowtown, Wanaka, Lake Hawea, Franz Joseph and Fox Glacier. They have been averaging around 100 kilometres a day and totally enjoying every minute of their journey to date.
“It’s totally exceeded our expectations,” said Fintan. “While there seems to be at least one big hill to conquer on a daily basis in this part of the world, the scenery once reaching a peak, is absolutely stunning and worth every pedal stroke.” One of those hills was the Crown Range which is the highest main road in New Zealand at an altitude of some 1121 metres and to make it even harder, they took a part rough gravel option from Arrowtown which they wouldn’t really recommend in hindsight. “But hey, we all made it to the top in good spirits and the sore legs were soon forgotten once we set eyes on that beautiful surrounding vista,”smiled Fintan.
Kevin’s highlight to date was to take in Lake Matheson, famous for its mirror views of Aoraki/Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. “I will wake up every morning from now on with wonderful memories of the lake’s reflections. “In my opinion, it is one of the true wonders of the world”.
As well as the scenery, it’s the people they have met along the way that has also left a lasting positive impression on the group. “The locals and fellow tourists are so friendly and have gone out of their way to make us feel very welcome and to offer support where they can. The unexpected offer of a free cup of tea and biscuit at times is so much appreciated. We have also tried to learn as much as we can about the rich history of each place we visit and the local bar is always a good place to strike up a friendly conversation as well as wet the thirst,” adds Fintan.
Fintan spoke about this southern hospitality. “A Greymouth based courier company, Grey Valley Couriers, offered to take some unwanted and heavy luggage onto Greymouth from the township of Harihari free of charge. It certainly lightened our load at the time and because we were doing the ride as a fund raiser, they refused to accept any payment which was very humbling. It seems every town in this neck of the woods has a unique and often sobering story to tell and we love the opportunity to be part of it all even if it’s only for a short time. Being Irish I can tell a yarn or two as well which seems to go down well with the locals”.
To date Fintan’s goal is to raise the grand total of 10K.
To donate go to https://fundraise.leukaemia.org.nz/fintan-rooney
There will be a further update on Fintan and his group’s cycle journey.
Caption: The group have enjoyed some beautiful weather on their travels - lucky things!