My alarm went off while it was still well and truly dark outside. Today was the last day of the tour - we only had to ride about 70km to Dunedin where Chris and I would pack up and fly to our respective home cities. I crept around the dark hostel drinking a liquid breakfast and putting my panniers on the bike. The forecast said it was going to start raining at about 2pm in Dunedin (NZ forecasts are unusually specific), so I wanted to make a mile and get moving as I was unsure of the terrain that awaited us on the ride. The plan was to follow Highway 1 for an hour or so, before heading down to the coast to follow the beach all the way into Dunedin. The weather was already variable when we got going, switching between drizzle and light rain as we rode across town. Our exit out of Milton was marked by a dead dog on the roadside that somehow had its intestines unravelled their full length across a couple of lanes of the road. It seemed like a good sign to get my head down and get out of Milton as quickly as possible. As soon as we hit the open road, Dunedin seemed to start pulling me in with some kind of tractor beam - Chris dropped back almost immediately as I rode the 20km-ish stretch of Highway 1 to the next town in about 40 minutes.
My old Redline Conquest Classic ready to hit the road one last time to finish this tour off.
Chris gets moving out of Milton through mud puddles from the night before. Conditions were to remain damp all day.
My view for the first 20km of the day. Trucks, rain and traffic as I pedalled east along Highway 1.
The only mildly interesting sight between Milton and Lake Waihola. I could even be bothered stopping to get a photo or check it out - I was on a flyer and wanted to beat the heavier rain forecast for later in the day.
Sign on the outskirts of Lake Waihola. Fortunately that was to be the end of our riding on Highway 1 for this trip - it really is as bad as people say it is.
Stopping for breakfast and some bike adjustments at Lake Waihola. Chris was only about five minutes behind me - despite a bad start to the day with knee some pain, he was now feeling good and riding strong.
From Lake Waihola we headed south towards the coast, on a quiet road away from Highway 1. Here's a picture of Chris listening (and singing along) to Hootie and The Blowfish on his phone. That dude's music collection is truly mystifying / awesome.
The photo doesn't show it, but the climb south out of Lake Waihola is very steep. At least the roads were quiet...
Chris' knee pain of the past few days seemed to completely evaporate, and now he was flying up the climbs - so fast that I really struggled to keep up with him.
There's the town of Lake Waihola below us. It took is an hour to get maybe 8km. Even old ladies in Milton were telling us this road was particularly steep. Turns out they were right!
After a few false summits we eventually crested the range, before a 75km/h blast back down to the sea at Taieri Mouth. Even with the showers and watery sunshine, it was good to see the ocean.
Getting close now...
The road tracked along behind the sand dunes for 15km or so, with occasional glimpses of the ocean and the sun to energise us.
The pull of the Dunedin tractor beam got stronger the closer I got to the city. My average speed over the 16km from Taieri Mouth was 32km/h - I was riding more like a Sunday club racer than a touring cyclist.
Milestone reached. Now all we had to do was get into the city itself, which I knew from a previous visit involved a fair bit of climbing.
During the taking of this photo Chris sustained the worst injury of the tour as he lifted his bike over the grass...
...and there's nothing more uncool than a chainring grease mark. True road riders look away in disgust now!
The road became progressively wetter as we pedalled closer to Dunedin - although we were now riding with a handy tailwind to speed things up even more.
Stopping for a quick bite to eat by the beach.
Beachside riding near Brighton. Despite being so close to the city, this coastal road was surprisingly quiet and remote - definitely gets the full recommend from me for a cycling route into Dunedin.
Stopping at the only shop in the seaside town of Brighton, on the outskirts of Dunedin. From here I knew there'd be hills and bad weather, so we both stocked up on hot chips and chocolate milkshakes for energy.
Our last road meal - huddled under a shelter trying to avoid the steadily increasing rain.
The photo doesn't show the scale of it, but this was one last killer climb up from the coast into Dunedin city.
Suddenly we were in the suburbs of hilly Dunedin, dropping down into the city centre.
Dunedin city centre - certainly a shock to the system after being out in the bush for a week or so.
...and then it was all over. Shortly before 2pm we arrived at our destination in the centre of Dunedin. Within 2 minutes of getting into our room, the rain started to pour down solidly for two hours.
Chris and I decided to spring for a nice big 2 bedroom apartment at the Dunedin Palms Motel, a pretty fancy place right in the middle of the city. We were glad we did - they were super bicycle-friendly, allowing us space in their garage to wash, pack and store our bikes. As the rain poured down outside, we sat in all our riding gear, drinking cups of tea, not saying anything and contemplating the ride we'd just undertaken.
My legs seemed to know the tour was over. As soon as I got up from my hotel room tea drinking session a searing pain shot through my right ankle - sort of like it was sprained or something. The only sensible thing to do was hobble to a Dunedin pub for a few quiet drinks and a feed to mark the end of another great New Zealand bicycle tour.
At the end of our ride in Dunedin, it seemed like it was a lifetime ago that we'd left Christchurch at the start of our tour. The biggest lesson I'd learned from my previous tour in NZ was that I needed to do more riding each day and have less rest days - something that I was pleased I managed to correct on this time around. We'd only had one rest day in ten days of riding, and the distances and terrain each day had mostly been a real challenge. The other thing about this tour that was a real treat was spending time with my mate Chris - we live in different countries and rarely get to spend any time just hanging out. This ride was also Chris' first cycle tour, and I very much enjoyed being a part of that - getting to share in his touring highs and lows that over time I've somehow taken for granted. To sum up the whole experience, a good time was had by all.