Cycling the length of New Zealand has "always been on the bucket list" for Rotorua man Ray Hewlett and, at the age of 71, he has ticked it off.
Hewlett and Barry Williams, of Hikutaia, met during a trip to watch the Tour de France and share a passion for cycling. The pair, self-named the CapeBluffers, cycled from Cape Brett to Bluff in less than a month to raise money for Paralympics New Zealand and Waikato Paralympic cyclist Tim Williams, Barry's nephew, who broke his neck playing rugby as a 19-year-old.
Hewlett is no stranger to long-distance exertion. He has completed 12 Ironman events, including the World Championships in Kona, and run 73 marathons, including the Rotorua Marathon 30 times.
"I called Barry with the idea and he said 'yep I'm in', with no hesitation. We discussed raising money as an incentive and got in touch with Paralympics New Zealand. They agreed to give us some publicity and share the proceeds 50/50 with Tim," Hewlett said.
Tim's injury occurred during a scrum and left him with no motor function from the chest down, but almost normal sensation and feeling in his body.
Despite the life-changing injury, Tim, who lives in Kaihere, continued to play sport and took up hand cycling in 2008. He represented New Zealand at the Para-cycling Road World Cup for the first time in 2013.
He has since competed in world para-cycling events and the funds raised by the CapeBluffers will go toward future training, equipment and event registrations.
The pair left Cape Reinga on January 27 and reached Bluff on February 22. Hewlett said it was a distance of about 2200km.
"We took the back roads to try and keep off the main highways. It was no problem, we were basically eating, biking and sleeping for four weeks and we met some really generous and supportive people along the way," he said.
While it was relatively smooth sailing for the pair, some days were harder than others.
"We struck a metal road out the back of Pirongia, which had just been graded by the council, and we both fell off. We had to push our bikes a couple of kilometres through that area.
"We got totally soaked between Nelson and Murchison, that was rather unpleasant, but overall we were very lucky. We managed to get over the Crown Range before the snow came through and struck a bit of wind to get to Bluff."
He said cycling was a great way to see the country and enjoy the scenery. He felt so good after the ride he considered biking back, but he had to return home in time to mow his lawns.
The pair have raised $3270 so far.
• Donations can be made at givealittle.co.nz/cause/capebluffersride.