Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas - a time of giving.

We have just finished our Christmas Appeal mail out for the Stewart Island Project which has gone out with the Hostelling Horizon magazine to over 8000 YHA members. This is our second mailout this year to our members and this time we are asking our members to sign up to our regular giving programme called the Tokoeka Group (named after The Stewart Island Brown Kiwi).Tokoeka Group members will be kept up to date through our mini e-zine reporting on progress and project events. Also at the end of each financial year we will send an annual receipt for the total donations made for the entire year, which can be used to claim back 1/3 of the total donation.

Having regular donors giving either a weekly,fortnightly or monthly donation will help us tremendously to reach our fundraising goal.Often when we receive donations the donors say they wish they could give more. Giving affordable amounts over a regular period of time is an affordable way of making that happen. The target date for opening the facility is 1 November 2012, and ongoing regular donations through until that date will make a significant contribution to our fundraising goal.

We are also offering the option of giving to our Christmas Appeal if becoming a regular donor isn't an option.This year we are seeking donations towards the foundations of the actual buildings. A gift of $75 will buy and dig in one timber pile for this facility.. and we need about 500 piles. If you do make a donation I can personally guarantee that every cent and every dollar we receive for the Stewart Island Project goes straight into the project fund.

Well that's it from me for 2009. Thank you if you have supported the Stewart Island Project this year, it's been a tough year for fundraising, with many trusts and funding bodies declining any applications due to the lack of available funds. For us it's been the generosity of our members who have helped us continue on our fundraising drive and we appreciate your support. Have a great Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

If you would like to make a donation to the Stewart Island Project click on the donate link
or email us for information about joining the Tokoeka Group.

Thank you! Best Wishes and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fundraising update

The Riding for Rakiura bike ride was a huge success. All of our brave riders made it to Rotorua completing the ride and making it to Rotorua in time for the YHA Annual General Meeting. They were greeted by the YHA Rotorua Branch who put on a fabulous high afternoon tea as a fundraiser and welcome for all the arriving members.

In terms of our fundraising goals we have done extremely well surpassing our original targets to break through to the final figure of $56,713-35.We are expecting a few more donations to come in over the next couple of weeks which could easily take our final figure to $60,000-00!!

Thanks again to everyone who contributed and to all our sponsors.Click on the link to see who supported us- Ride for Rakiura Sponsors

We couldn't have done this with out you.

If you would like to make a donation and help us to reach $60,000 please click on Give A Little and follow the easy instructions.

Thank you!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Rotorua, here we are!

After an cruisy 80-odd km ride from Taupo, the Rakiura riders have arrived at their final destination, Rotorua!
Well, it wasn't so cruisy leaving Taupo during morning rush hour. Our attempt at riding in a peloton for our final day didn't quite go as planned. But we managed to stay fairly close together compared out how spread out we'd been (as much as 30 kms between the lead bikes to the tail-end Charlies on the long days).
Once we passed the bottleneck outside the high school and got out onto the open road, ride conditions were positively delightful: gentle rolling hills (mostly downward sloping), pastoral land on either side, quiet roads with little traffic, a tailwind, and blue skies with the occasional cotton ball cloud. There was the whole matter of road construction about 20 kms out of Taupo which managed to temporarily capsize one rider. But even muddy unpaved roads couldn't slow our progress.
The plan had been to meet several local dignitaries near Waiotapu at 1:45 so they could usher us into town. But we had so much forward momentum all morning that we arrived at our appointed meeting spot 25 kms outside Rotorua 3 hours early! Delaying tactics like an extra pit-stop, an extra-long pie-stop just 10 kms later, and a tour of the Waiotapu mud pools did not stop us from itching to get going again by 12:30.
The locals, several Rotorua city councillors, were gracious and flexible however, and we met them 14 kms out from the hostel for a leisurely downhill jaunt in through town. Rounds of applause from at least one passing trucker, as well as cheers from a number of members assembled at the hostel for the Annual General Meeting this weekend, made us feel even more welcome.
Speaking of the AGM, Alex compiled some photos and video from the last six days for a presentation tonight to the members. We thought you'd enjoy seeing it, too. (Besides, hopefully it makes up for the few photos posted over the last couple of days.) Be sure to have your speakers on as you watch. Enjoy!

Many thanks to each one of your for your support. Riding for Rakiura has raised more than $50,000 for YHA NZ's Stewart Island Project. Whether your role was making a donation to a rider's Givealittle page, providing in-kind sponsorship, or even just sending good wishes and moral support, we couldn't have done this without you. So thanks!
One more thought before the Rakiura Riders sign off. While Rotorua marks our final destination for this ride, it's just the beginning of the Stewart Island Project. The six days of riding and countless hours spent preparing for them mark but a one leg of the several-year-long Stewart Island Project. But I think I speak for all when I say it's been an action-packed journey of blood, sweat, and laughs. Here's to more of the same as fundraising continues and construction begins on the new eco-hostel and learning centre.
On to the next leg of the Stewart Island Project journey!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Four seasons in one day

(Ed. note: Today's post is from our resident Senior Customer Services Consultant, Nicola.)

We woke up to a cold rainy day in Mountain Valley. It was a big contrast to what the sky looked like during our al fresco dinner on the deck last night.

Given the morning conditions, we were expecting another cold, wet day but it didn’t last long. We did ride through snow flurries and hail as we passed the local cafe, Oscaz at the Summit, but the sun came out at 10:30. Even with all that, would you believe that this was my best riding day ever? It really was!

The first half of our day was full of hills – mostly long gradual inclines but there was one short steep one to get us going. I told a few people that I loved the hills, and they looked at me a bit strangely. But it was true!

Thoroughly soggy by this point, a few of us stopped at a cafe ¾ of the way to Taupo to warm our feet in front of a gas heater and a fire. We had a good rest there with plenty of hot drinks all around. The others stopped a few kilometres back at a truck stop that I’m told had the best coffee. Some even said it was the best coffee in the North Island!

The second half of our day had us riding over rolling hills into Taupo. After four-and-a-half-days of this trip, I finally discovered that my bike has a third gear! I topped out at 50km/h down a hill, my personal best although definitely not the fastest of the group. (Sean and Yoko on the tandem road bike hold that record, with their 92.4 km/h (!!) speed down the big hill just before the Mountain Valley turn-off yesterday.)

As we neared Taupo, I heard a lot of “This must be the last hill!” comments, only to find another one looming. But after the big ones we had already done, these ones were easy!

Fighting headwinds through the outskirts of Taupo, we rode our way through town to the Taupo YHA. The very wise hostel staff had the outside spa all ready for us – great motivation to get us there. I can’t tell you how great it felt to soak in the hot water after all of the hills and weather conditions today!

Just one more day of riding after a good sleep tonight. Thanks for the spa and the comfy beds, guys!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A day of contrasts for the Rakiura riders

(Ed. note: Last night we stayed in the Central North Island equivalent of the far side of the moon. Te Pohue had no internet and very limited cell phone coverage. (It was kind of blissful!) Better late than never, here's yesterday's Riding for Rakiura report. Photos will hopefully be added later. Tonight's report, from Taupo, should be online by bedtime.)

In keeping with Larry’s pub-quote-of-the-day theme, today’s quote came from a rugby poster seen through the window of the Te Pohue Hotel: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

It was the easiest day distance-wise, but just about the most difficult effort-wise. The 50-odd kilometres we rode packed a deceptive punch; the first 20 kms out of Napier bore no resemblance to the 20+ kms of big hills into Te Pohue. In fact, the first half was a veritable walk in the park. The mounties leisurely rolled out of Napier along the waterfront bike trail, while the roadies had a great tour guide in Brian, who pointed out places like Bay View, a neighbourhood which didn’t exist before the great Napier earthquake in the 1900s pushed the land up out of the ocean.

A stop at a delightful garden cafe – our last coffee stop until Taupo – allowed us to continue basking in the denial glow. But it wasn’t long before that glow turned into a breathless, hill-busting grunt.

Having been briefed that tonight’s accommodation was in Te Pohue and that we’d have one heck of a climb out of Napier, you can imagine our joy upon arrival at the Te Pohue pub after ascending (and descending) a rather steep Dillons Hill and a few lesser stumps. We’d made it! Out came the sandwiches, off came the layers.

And you can imagine our shock when the support crew saw us pulled over on the side of the road and politely informed us we still had a 720-metre peak and 10 kms to go. “But a fantastic downhill,” Harry – our overnight addition to the support crew – reassured us. Great.

A couple of riders threatened to throw in the towel there and load their bikes on the trailer when the support van came back from an emergency run to Napier to buy more inner tubes. (In case we haven’t said it enough already, our three support crew are doing a yeoman’s job!)

Cooler heads prevailed after the potential-mutineers patronised the pub, and I’m pleased to report that everyone arrived at Mountain Valley, our stop for the night, under their own wheels.*
Nevertheless, that last hill climb reminded me there’s a reason Kiwis call them push-bikes. A few of us did push our bikes up the last peak. Those who didn’t must have been channelling Sir Ed when he “knocked the bastard off”.

All today's effort was the price to pay for the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. (No, I haven't yet been to Stewart Island, which I'm told would make today's vistas pale by comparison.)

Regardless, the Sound of Music movie sets had nothing on today. The last remnants of the snow storm two weeks ago (the biggest in 50 years, I’m told) lingered on distant mountain tops. Between us and them were kilometres of green hills, patches of forest, and streams and rivers. (And heaps of logging and cement trucks trying to run us off the road. But I digress.) Even our location tonight, while remote, is stunning for the running river below us and the stillness in the air. It’s incredibly peaceful.

After dinner (Mexican night on the menu) and our nightly awards ceremony, a group are off to the natural hot pools down the road for a well-deserved soak.

* Full disclosure: a few of us on road bikes got a lift from the SH5 turn-off over the last 6 kms of shingle, hilly road from a kind local farmer in a ute. But we all did the full highway mileage, which is where Riding for Rakiura's 556-km route stopped for the day. Or so we claim.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Riding on for Rakiura

(Ed. note: Tonight's post comes courtesy of the YHA Auckland Hostel Operations Manager.)

Riding for Rakiura – Day Three and our biggest challenge yet! 123 kms from Dannevirke to Napier - the Art Deco City. The rain came as promised along with a steady southerly wind that helped our team of riders move up the North Island.

There was a lot of personal achievement during Riding for Rakiura today, and I congratulate each of my fellow riders having pushed through the rain and the pain and arriving into Napier a better person for it.

Heavy rain and two flat tires attempted to damage my spirit 10 kms out of Dannevirke. But a thought for the day posted outside of the Sawyer Arms Pub 35 kms later provided all the motivation needed to push through the rain and the pain.

“It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen!”

The good people at the Sawyer Arms remind all of us that Rome was not built in a day, you don’t cycle from Dannevirke to Napier in an hour, and it takes more than one person to complete an important and lasting project like The Stewart Island Project. Ten years from now not one person will ask how long it took us to complete the Stewart Island Project, but I suspect that every person who visits Stewart Island in ten years will know that we did complete it. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did happen!

Day Four tomorrow starts with a 6am wake-up call! 45 kilometers of steep climbing. Today tested our stamina, tomorrow will test our strength, and having cycled with this team for three days now I know them hills will be conquered.

Thanks to all that continue to support, us and for those who are concerned for your loved ones – worry not, they have 14 other teammates looking out for them.

We’re Riding On for Rakiura!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Labouring Labour Day

(Sorry for the delay - due to technical difficulties we have had to submit this post a day late)

Amy here taking on blogging duties tonight.

After an early wake-up call, we were on the road at 8 a.m., heading to Dannevirke 107 kms away.

Despite the weather forecast the sun was out and the sky was clear. Our first stop of the day was at Mt Bruce's NZ national wildlife centre, a stunning spot to check in with each other and get some refreshments (the best coffees so far).

Making our way to lunch in Woodville alongside heavy traffic returning from holiday was no simple task. In our path were nasty magpies who had a swoop at us, cattle trucks who gave unexpected mud masks, and our ever-present support vehicle.

Not to outdo the fantastic job the support crew did yesterday getting stuck for 4 hours, today they managed to really get stuck - pulling over on the side of the road to help a rider, but ending up with half the van and trailer in a bog on the side of the road. Luckily several riders were there to help them get out.

Lunch was both enlightening and mortifying for me upon discovering that I am the only person wearing underwear when we ride. Not that we are all naturists, but apparently underwear is not the done thing when wearing cycle shorts. The padding built-in to our shorts is supposed to be all that is required, eliminating the chance for chafing due to rubbing seams. The shorts get washed every day, I'm told in protest! Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not willing to follow the pack. I don't suffer from chafing and I'm going too fast for anyone to see my VPL.

"Leader of the Pack" Mark, who doesn't let the fact that he's on a mountain bike slow him down, led the rest of the way to Dannevirke.

The good news tonight is that we are each in single rooms due to the unique configuration of this accommodation building. (It used to be a nurses' home.) We had curry for dinner, and individual rooms will be appreciated, as it may be tail winds tonight, in addition to the tail wind forecast for tomorrow!

Each night we also hold a series of riders awards - King/Queen of the hills (gifted to best effort, best grimace or anything else our support crew decided made that person the best) Best quote of the day, Hazard of the day, Sorest bum of the day, Pimp my bike award (goes to the first person to get off their bike and walk)

Tonight Mark and Robyn won King/Queen of the Hills, Maureen won Quote of the Day, the support crew won Hazard of the Day, Brian won Sorest Bum of the Day and I won the Pimp My Ride due to a spectacular accidental horizontal bike dismount. Success all round. Who'll win the awards tomorrow?...