Getting thereThe ride started from Hanmer Springs on Friday, and I live in Auckland, so Wednesday after work I hit the road and headed for Taupo as my first stop on the way to the South Island.
I knew it would rain, so I put on my rainsuit over my riding gear (which is waterproof already) and headed south, through Matamata where I stopped for gas. Once clear of Matamata the rain really started - I found out my new helmet is NOT waterproof - you can't close all the vents... and the visor also leaked, so I had water running on the outside and the inside of the visor. The rain was so heavy at one point, the traffic slowed to around 10 km/hr, because nobody could see the road. The new Avon Distanzia tyres I had fitted held on in the wet and I was comfortable enough. Lucky that people are water-proof too. My room in Taupo had a bath, so it was me in the hot bath with a nice craft beer and some Kapiti blue cheese. Holiday off to a very good start.
Across the ditchI got cracking on Thursday morning and headed off to catch the 1:30 Bluebridge ferry across from Wellington to Picton.
The rain was just a drizzle as I headed through Turangi and on towards the Desert Road. I was suited up but started to feel a bit cold, with wet gloves. Next thing its starting to snow - now I really am cold, but I did not fear for ice as there were a few trucks on the road already, and they are easy enough to pass - even in these wintery conditions - the faster I went the colder I got. Coming back down towards Waiouru I could feel the air warming up as I descended from the mountains. In Wellington in good time and a ferry that was running late. This would mean I had to 'try harder' once on the road again on the other side. I made Hanmer just after 9:00 which incidentally was the time the kitchen closed at the pub in Hanmer Springs - bar food did the trick including a well earning beer.
The MolesworthUp bright and early for breakfast back in town, and the beginning of my off-road ride. I haven't really done any off-road or gravel, so this would be an adventure.
The first part of the ride is Jollies Pass, which was a bit muddy and climbs up to the Molesworth, crossing a couple of small streams on the way.
There were 17 of us in the group, from all over New Zealand, with a range of riding abilities from full-on motorcross riders to occasional road riders.
It was truly stunning. We stopped for lunch at the DOC Ranger station where you can camp if you like - it had recently snowed up there, but now it was a very warm bluesky day.
The Honda ran beautifully, and the Avon Distanzia tyres worked well on the very easy and groomed gravel on the road.
At the end of the road, and about to tackle the Taylor Dam road before heading to a Pub in Blenheim to revive 17 blokes with a cold beer or two.
French PassWe stayed the night in Picton. Breakfast at Havelock after a spirited ride around the Queen Charlotte Drive. Then French Pass.
From the road to Nelson you take a right turn sign-posted to French Pass. The sealed road is a real treat for the bike, and I have not been on such a winding road as this anywhere else - its amazing! You can get a coffee at Okiwi Bay and after that and a bit more seal, you hit the gravel that takes you to French Pass. What a beautiful sight it is. This treacherous piece of water separates the mainland with D'Urville Island and flows up to 8 knots when running strongly. I could see a standing wave going across, and swirling water that looked more like a river than the sea.
Saturday night we were in Nelson, visited a wonderful classic motorcycle museum and found a great craft beer place called "The Freehouse", tag line "Craft Beer Heaven".
The ReturnI decided I would head back to Picton on Sunday instead of doing the Rainbow Road, as I would have a big day Monday riding from Picton home to Auckland.
Thanks everyone for making this a fantastic couple of days, with great company, great weather (eventually) and great riding. Bring on the next one!