844kms south to Queenstown

Photos and words by Caitlin O’Grady 

In January 2017, I cycled 844kms south from Nelson to Queenstown on the West Coast of New Zealand.

With help from a support team, I rode to raise money for the Conor Foley Neuroblastoma Cancer Research Foundation. The non-profit was started in honour of my cousin who battled with Neuroblastoma and passed away when he was 17. Only a month after I purchased my bike and began seriously training, I set off on my journey with my analogue camera at hand. Ironically, this occurred two years exactly after breaking my back, hit by a skier in an accident on the other side of the world, so I was pretty uncertain how my body was going to cope.

I felt compelled to ride because it’s far too easy to jump in a car and drive down a freeway at 100kms an hour. Cycling wasn’t my forte. It wasn’t until I put my tunes in and began to relate it to snowboarding, my number one love in life, that I really began to appreciate it. I had to find a way, seeing as I was on the bike for 6-8 hours a day, for 12 days straight.

I learnt to meditate through the pain. Many people ask if I had achieved what I wanted, but in a more important way, I gained more.  Of course, completing the ride was the number one thing. I’d never rode for more than one day in a row, so that was an accomplishment in itself. I had two goals: to get to Queenstown in the time frame that I had set, and raise $10,000. I wanted to create awareness, and I wanted to travel the slow way and truly appreciate the journey for what it’s worth. And I really did. It’s one thing to be in a place where you can stop and vibe off a certain location. When you cycle it though, you can really feel it—every rock, every climb, every smell. You have more time to think about the place, and how much you’re struggling (especially on the hills) to be a part of it.

844km’s South The Nook Gallery, Mornington. Opens Saturday 24th June, 6-9pm and runs until Sunday 2nd July.

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