A few weeks ago, we told you about Anka Martin, a WBR-supporter who was about to embark on a massive journey across New Zealand, with a broken hand at that. Anka has finished the Tour Aotearoa with a barely-healed hand but a lot of incredible memories and experiences. Read Anka’s story below!
Photo credit: Sven Martin
It was in May 2015 when I first got wind of and decided that I wanted to ride this crazy inaugural event called Tour Aotearoa. We would start at the tip top of the North Island at Cape Reinga and ride completely self supported to the very bottom of the South Island to Bluff, 3046 kilometers away on a mixture of fire roads, single track, bike paths, cycle routes and road. I also immediately thought that this was the perfect event to use as a fundraising platform for World Bicycle Relief. It had been a few years since I last worked with this charity group back in 2011 at the Cape Epic Race in South Africa with Tracy Moseley. I have been looking for a way to raise awareness and funds since then, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. Of course New Zealand is also my new adopted home country, and I couldn’t think of a better way to explore all of its beautiful nooks and crannies than by bike.
This was something completely new to me, this bike packing business, and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into, which, in hindsight was probably better. I didn’t train specifically for it, I just kept riding my mountain bike on mountain bike tracks and doing what I usually do to prepare for my enduro racing season. I don’t own a road bike and this touring bike was to be my first ever hard tail that I’ve owned and ridden. Of course, February 2016 came around pretty quickly and I didn’t get the time or chance to prepare as well as I would have liked to, but oh well, how hard could this be anyway?
Ten days before the start of my wave in Cape Reinga, I was racing in Chile at the Multi Day Andes Pacifico Endure Stage race, where I had a massive crash halfway through the event and broke my hand. I had surgery the very next day, three screws inserted and sent home with a very sore, swollen right hand. Not once did I think that I wasn’t going to be able to continue with the Tour though. I was adamant, as so many people have been involved and have supported this, I had to at least give it a try. The hand therapy clinic in Nelson made me a custom cast that I could take on and off and that would support my hand for the ride. One doctor said I’m crazy to do anything, but another said I could give it a go if I rode smart and listened to my body.
Fast forward eight days, and there I was riding around in the parking lot of Cape Reinga, seeing if I could hold onto my bars. We got some aero bars and bar ends and wrapped them up with loads of foam, padding and tape and hoped for the best. A blurry 17 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes later I rolled into Bluff. I did it. I rode the length of New Zealand with a broken hand. It was hard, I wanted to give up so many times due to sore knees, sore achilles heels, and a very sore bum. Mentally, I’ve never had to dig this deep before, and I’ve done some challenging things over the years. At least the pain from my other body parts distracted me from my hand. The weather made this already tough event even harder, with torrential downpours and massive head winds, but knowing that I was riding for a reason, for a cause, always kept me going, kept me from quitting and giving up, it just was not an option to stop peddling, I had to get to Bluff. I had to keep raising funds. Even during all these tough moments, I absolutely loved riding my bike during the sunrises and sunsets, a surreal feeling that I will never forget and I felt free, free from everything, just my bike and I and what was happening at that moment.
“I did it. I rode the length of New Zealand with a broken hand.”
We saw some amazing scenery and landscapes, endured pretty crazy weather, from one extreme to the next, were transported by some really great water taxis, ferries and boats and met some wonderful people along the way. I learned so much about the country and about myself, I grew so much and that is what I love about a new challenge. Cycling felt new to me again, and it taught me a few lessons, but most of all it opened my eyes to new places, to new people and to fresh experiences. A bike really can change your life and open up so many doors. I loved the fact that I was riding for bikes, and that those bikes that I was fundraising for will most likely make their new owners feel like how I felt during this new journey that I was on.
It’s been a week since my arrival in Bluff and I’m already starting to forget all the hard times, with all the great memories outshining everything else. What a wonderful thing that is. I’ve had my follow up x-ray and started with physiotherapy for my hand. Everything seems on track. I did set back the healing time by about two weeks, but it’s not a big deal in the grand scale of things and most definitely worthwhile for the cause. I am so incredibly happy that I decided to continue with this ride as it was a fundraising journey, but also a right of passage journey for myself through my new home country.
Thank you to each and everyone who supported this ride and this cause.
Well done, Anka! Such an incredible feat and we are so proud of you for accomplishing it for the Power of Bicycles!