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Possum Bourne's super cyclists return

Battered and bruised but still loving the bikes!

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It was certainly a dramatic ending to an epic adventure for Possum Bourne’s super cyclists, Del and Cindy Henley.

Just 490km out from the end of their 6,600km traverse across Australia from Cairns to Perth, Cindy catapaulted over the handlebars and crashed into the tarseal after hitting a pothole on a downhill run.

She was left with a fractured shoulder, broken tooth, cuts to her elbow, chin and forehead, multiple grazes and a broken bike to boot.

“I heard a scream,” says Del, who was about 100m ahead of Cindy when it happened. “By the time I’d thrown my bike off the road and run back up the hill, two women in a ute had stopped, called an ambulance and put a jacket around Cindy. They were just incredible.”

However, he added: “I realised straight away that the cycling stopped now, Cindy was pouring with blood.”

Two expensive ambulance rides later, Cindy was patched up, narrowly avoiding having to have pins in her shoulder.

Now, seven weeks later, she is almost fully recovered and the pair are well settled back into village life with Del back into the bowls already.

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“People have asked us if we’re going to go back and finish the last little bit but we feel like we’ve done Australia now,” says Cindy.

Indeed, they have charted on a map every stop they made on this trip and their previous three marathon rides which effectively means they have ridden right the way around the continent.

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After leaving home at the end of May they went on to complete 79 cycling days, building up from an average of 50km at the start to easily doing 100km a day when they were at their peak.

“One day we did 139km – not bad for two 77-year-olds!” laughs Cindy.

The couple say the Australians they met were so generous and caring and were often ‘speechless’ when they learned what they were doing.

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“They couldn’t believe we were doing it without a support vehicle and it was just the two of us, and we’re no spring chickens!

“Every time we stopped someone would give us a donation for the NZ Neurological Foundation. Often they would say they knew someone with Parkinson’s or dementia or brain cancer,” says Del.

The pair are pleased with the $2,600 they raised, which was simply due to having the sign on the back of their trailers.

But it was the proximity to nature and appreciating the beauty of the environment that remain the true highlights for the Henleys.

Every day the couple would set off before dawn so they could avoid the hottest part of the day. The plan was to reach camp by mid-afternoon, allowing enough time to set up their tent, prepare dinner and get to bed before nightfall around 6pm.

“Our most wonderful moments would be seeing the sun come up,” says Cindy, who updated her blog daily.

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“The bush would be pitch black for about an hour and then suddenly you’d start seeing silhouettes as dawn broke. Then, as the sun rose over the horizon it gradually lit up the prairie. Grey grass would become golden as the light reached out and into the hills.

“It was the most magical experience and every time I would break into song!” she laughs, as Del playfully groans at the memory.

The birdlife made a huge impact too and made a pleasant distraction from the endless kilometres of tarseal.

“We noticed several different sorts of birdsong at night time. Each one would sound like musical Morse code – just a few simple notes repeated incessantly. It was quite fascinating but we never discovered what birds they were.”

The pair also saw wonderful ‘clouds’ of twittering birds flying en masse in incredible formations.

“We found out later that they were budgies. After that I couldn’t stand to see a budgie in a cage. They were so quick and agile and it was just amazing how hundreds of them moved together in such acrobatic, swirling movements.”

Some of their 31 nights camping in the bush posed a few challenges too, although they only ever saw one snake.

“Del would beat a path through the undergrowth, stamping his feet to scare them off, to make a track for the bikes and trailers. His legs often suffered cuts from the thorns and the flies would instantly go straight for the blood – for the moisture – it was horrible!” says Cindy.

And while they made sure to camp well away from the road, the road trains coming through at night would often sound like they were about to run right over them!
It was cattle that posed the biggest threat however.

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The couple recall one occasion when a bull and a herd of cows spotted them and gave chase, only avoiding disaster when a road train came between them and sent the cows off course!

“The road trains gave us so much consideration and would always give a big, wide berth when passing us.”

Then there were the 16 punctures caused by the vicious ramshead thorns, a nasty sharp two-pronged thorn that could even get through a motorbike tyre.
“Once I got three within 100m!” says Del.

Food wise, Del and Cindy would start the day with Weet-bix, snack on nuts and raisins and nutbars on the road then feast on dehydrated foods such as Pot Noodles with tinned salmon for dinner.

“We were hungry and so we enjoyed it!” says Cindy, “Although we haven’t touched it since of course!”

Having notched up around 15,000km on their bikes in Australia over the past seven years, the pair were amazed when a bike dealer offered to buy the bikes and trailers before they left the country.

And their first purchase on returning to New Zealand?

“The moment we got back home we bought electric bikes,” laughs Cindy, who still has a little bit more recovery to go before she tries hers out.
“It’s so hilly round here but that won’t stop us going anywhere now!”

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