Waikato trio succeed despite big setbacks
Cycling across Australia is a challenge in itself.
Add in a fire and a collision with a kangaroo before the pedalling starts and it becomes a true mission.
But three University of Waikato students didn't let it dissuade them from the challenge they'd set.
Tim Chittock, 24, girlfriend Maddie Hansen, 19, and brother Hugh Chittock, 20, cycled 5150km across Australia, from Denham to Byron Bay.
Despite setbacks, they spent 26 days cycling about 10 hours a day to arrive at Australia's most eastern point on February 26.
They are still waiting to hear from the Guinness Book of World Records whether they set a new record for cycling across the widest part of Australia.
But there were points when they wondered if they'd ever start their ride.
"Everyone was just really 'Should we do it, should we not? Because it seems like we've had a few bad omens'," Hansen said.
The first came in a crash near Eneabba in Western Australia, when a new friend they'd enlisted as a driver took the wheel on the way up to the start point at Denham.
"The [caravan] trailer got a wobble on, so it started swaying backwards and forwards . . . She slammed on her brakes so the trailer jack-knifed and spun around off the road, taking the car with it," she said.
"The trailer flipped off and was upside down and then the car exhaust set the grass on fire."
They salvaged most of their possessions from the caravan but both it and the car were engulfed after flames reached an LPG bottle in the caravan.
After time back in Perth the trio tried again - with a financial boost from a mine-owning sponsor.
But within 45 minutes of their start point they hit a kangaroo, wrecking the radiator.
"We had to keep filling it up with water. We thought in a place as hot as Australia you don't want to have to keep filling it up," she said.
Funds were tight after repairs so they had to find further sponsorship to keep the trip going.
The start in late January was the hardest for the group of casual road cyclists, Hansen said.
"The first three days or so we really felt it," she said.
"We cycle to rowing practice and buzz around, but none of us have been really intense cyclists."
However Tim Chittock had previously cycled from the top of New Zealand to the bottom, so he had set his sights on Australia for the next challenge.
The trip also gave them a way to raise awareness for Epilepsy Australia.
And the trio had a simple philosophy - "as long as we just ride it, not race it, we'll be able to keep going."
They finished the trip with a sprint up to the Cape Byron lighthouse then watched the sunset.
"We were so happy to just be able to get off the bikes and not have to get on them for a little bit longer," Hansen said.
But there was little time to rest, with just over a day before they flew out.
- Waikato Times