Sunday, March 29, 2009

NZ South Island Motorcycle Roadtrip

Sunday - Hanmer Springs to Lake Tekapo

Got up early to wish the North Islanders a safe trip before they took off for the early ferry and to get an alarm/disc-lock from Grey, and of course, breakfast.
The morning was dull with brooding clouds and looking south, it looked like rain approaching. I gassed up at 9:00 and found Greg and Wendy and 'Bison' ready to go, so it was 3 bikes as far as Amberley, with them carrying on to Christchurch.
The weather was clearing but still the south looked wet. From Amberley I took the inland route 72 through Geraldine and Oxford and then back towards Lake Tekapo. The road was wet in places but the day was starting to clear - until on arrival at Tekapo it was a beautiful cloud-less day.
Coming into Tekapo is amazing - you sweep around a big bend and the lake and mountains is right there - but no stopping allowed - must have been a few incidents with people stopping for the view and then pulling out into traffic. Instead of sand on the beach there is builders-mix - perfect for that chippy on holiday.
I found the Holiday Park and wireless Internet and settled in to my one room cabin - no loo, and no way I was even contemplating going out to the amenities - it was clear and getting very cold - just the rabbits outside.
A good days ride, a comfortable bed, a cold Guinness - and the heater on all night.

Monday - Lake Tekapo to Pounawea

The morning was frosty and I delayed start to let the roads dry out and warm up before heading off at 9:30.
There were a few bikers in the camp and some from the Boulevard Rally. I hooked up with 3 bikes from Dunedin who were taking the long way home. The road was great and after gassing up in Omarama we breakfasted in Twizel. I took off and saw them again a couple of times along the road.
Had lunch in Alexandra. I had hoped to walk in on Ian Mac but it was a was a local anniversary holiday and the shop was shut. Better luck next time.
Lunch done and holiday 15% loading paid (I had the 'Trendy Lunch') it was down the road towards Milton, hanging a right at Beaumont and heading along the Clutha river to Balclutha. This is one of the rides in the Peter Mitchell NZ Motorcycling Atlas, and it is an excellent choice with no traffic, a good surface, and easy left-right combos all along the river.
I had intended to stay at Owaka (pronounced o-wacka by the locals - I was corrected every time I said O-waka) but decided to head for the coast, ending up at Pounawea in a campground cabin looking out at the sea. I can hear the surf crashing outside now and untold Tuis singing. Dinner at the pub in Owaka and on the way back encountered a campervan coming at me on the wrong side of the road - and not correcting - I slammed on the anchors and stayed in my lane. The young driver slewed across to the left, smiled and waved. I hope that is the last I see.
One thing about Owaka - no Vodafone coverage, and so I bought a phonecard for the local public phone box - which you guessed it, was out of order. I haven't phoned home. An early start might be in order and a call from Invercargill to allay fears and to set up my bed for Tuesday in Queenstown.

Checked tyres - definitely need updating when I get back to Auckland.

Tuesday - Pounawea, Bluff, Queenstown

Is it really 7:00 o'clock? Cold, and I have to walk across to the showers - I think I will go for a bed plus ensuite next time.
Got away early, heading for some phone coverage as soon as possible to let Viv know I am alright, and to try to make contact with Nick in Queenstown.
The sun was up and I headed out for the ride through the Catlins - and Pink Floyd Echoes playing on the iPod:

Overhead the albatross
Hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
An echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine.

The road was dry and in the sunny bits cold, but in the bushy glades freezing - luckily enough variation to keep things reasonably comfortable. Lovely swoops down to the coast and then back through the bush to rolling farmland where I could open up a little. Cow shit to dodge.
Invercargill - gas, coffee and poached egg on toast - then off to take the obligatory photo at Bluff. Just after I took the pic a seagull came and sat right on the bike, with me just a metre away - so I took another shot before thinking of that it might leave me as a calling card - shit happens, but not this time.

And being in Bluff... oysters! I picked up 2 doz in the hope that I would be sharing them with Nick, Robyn and Miro by the end of the day. They were fantastic BTW.
A good ride up the main road to Queenstown, a bit of cruising around and managed to find Nick and at very short notice got to stay with them. Thanks guys.

Wednesday - Queenstown - the Crown Range, Wanaka to Franz Josef

A household with a young boy off to school and Nick peddling off to work meant that I was on the road at 8:30 for the Crown Range.
Wow - what a great stretch of road! And while possibly a little tiresome in a car - a joy on the bike. And running down - just beautiful. I was taking a video but it didn't come out: error - really annoying. Wanaka was good for a toilet stop, gas and coffee. Then off on the next amazing piece of road to Haast.
I would say that the road between Wanaka and Haast was THE best from a riders point of view, and the scenery just fantastic. Then up the coast, over the swing bridges and passed the little rock 'sculptures' - travellers offerings to the gods - you have to stop there and make a little stack of rocks - I bucked the trend however, maybe next time.
Arrived at Franz Josef and ended up staying with two big busloads of young Kiwi Experience 18 to 20 somethings, mostly European, who partied very late. While I was there I did my laundry - wow $7 later... they must put a lot of money through those machines!
After sampling my first Monteiths on the West Coast (or two) I was only worried about the safety of the bike with so many people around.

Thursday - Franz Josef to Sumner

Needing to get away before the buses hit the road I went for breakfast early - only to find 12 other bikers (from Wellington) who were on a road trip - with all sorts of bikes - street, dual, cruiser - so much for trying to start early. After a long chat I was off into the foggy morning.
There were two big things for the day - seeing 6 police cars (I was innocent, true) and traversing the Arthur's Pass. Absolutely amazing - awesome. Lots of pics taken and a couple of movies. Just another world... and the sky was blue and the day crisp and clear. I would love to see it in the snow.
Gas getting low and no end of awesome riding and scenery - I was hoping to find a gas station and a toilet... soon. Rewarded at Springfield I set off on the boring ride across the straight roads of the plains - aware that if caught over 140 I was walking home...
... and still I was thinking about that campervan on the wrong side of the road from Monday. As if riding wasn't engaging enough, something new to look out for.
Decided to go through the tunnel to Lyttleton and then around the winding narrow road to Sumner - well worth the effort.

Friday - Sumner to Picton

Up at 7:00 and on the road at 9:30.. eh? Lots of talking to do over breakfast :-)
An uneventful ride to Picton - besides a red van trying to run me off the road. The Kaikoura coast is lovely, but busy. Found a bed and a cold beer, and sampled the famous "Fish and chips in Picton".
The place I am staying at AAA Marlin Motel has covered parking for bikes and also has lockup parking available.

Saturday - Picton to Auckland

I was on the 10:00am ferry, so no need to get up early and be queuing at the ferry at 5:00 in the morning. There were about 7 bikes boarding and the put us on before the cars to give us time to tie down the bikes. I used 3 tie-downs: one on each side on the handlebars and one down at the back on the side-stand side. I also tied the front brake on and had the bike in 1st gear. The crossing was very smooth and calm.
Once inside the ferry it was time for breakfast and coffee, and being such a nice clear day, to marvel at the beauty of the sounds. The 4 hour trip went quickly, with the bonus of Bike Rider TV and a large pod of dolphins that came to play around the front of the Aratere.
Once off the ferry and underway I headed straight out of Wellington for my first scheduled gas stop in Bulls - then I just kept going... next fuelstop Turangi, then Matamata and home in the dark around 8:30pm - all the lights were out - was there anyone home?
Oh, Earth Hour. In fact if it comes to Earth anything it was Earth Magic South Island Motorcycle Tour for the past 9 days! Just awesome. Still a few roads left for next time...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The 2009 Suzuki Boulevard Rally Hanmer Springs

[Day 1] Thursday - The trip to Wellington

The packing had been done and I had the alarm set for 5:45a for a departure that should see me at the Papkura Autobahn at around 7:30am, the agreed meeting time. The alarm decided that 4:45am would be a better idea, as that was the time that I got up LAST Thursday on my way to Wellington (but traveling by AirNZ that time).
Yeah yeah, I know, how hard can it be...the wonders of early morning alarm setting. So I didn't even notice and when all packed up with bags on bike and riding gear on I checked the time - 5:20am... eh?? I was an hour early for our rendezvous - better than being late, I guess.

The trip for the day had 4 bikes going down to Ngarawahia, through to Otorohonga, and onto Hwy 4, with lunch set for Wanganui.

Wanganui and Nelson share a taste for hanging plants.

We got drenched between Mercer and Whatawhata and in hind-sight, wearing my rain-suit would have been a good idea. Luckily IT stayed dry in the saddle-bags. The rest of the day dried out and the roads got better. Road-works got more frequent on Hwy 4 but all in all a good ride. I stopped briefly in Bulls and profuse apologies to Midnight, two bikes split up and headed off to lodgings in Wellington. A good thing too as the curries had just arrived just before I did. Thanks Graeme, I really appreciated the stop-over - especially your great key finding abilities, without which I would be walking to Hanmer.
Lets just say the night ended quite late.

[Day 2] Friday - Across Cook Strait aka So Many New Friends

Up and dressed and consuming vast quantities of water - quite thirsty for some reason... it was clean-the-bike and get going time. I trundled off to Wellington Motorcycles and once registered found a very nice coffee at Cafe Deluxe next door - and then started meeting people - what a great bunch! We were instant best friends, and by the time we had waited in the sun to board the ferry, and then loaded on and sailed across on the Aratere, we were old mates. And with my best effort to recruit for the Cruiser Group I hope we will be riding with them again in the near future.
The ride from Picton to Nelson was at a good pace, and boded well for the bigger group ride from Nelson to Hanmer.
My riding buddies from the day before had gone over on an earlier ferry, and on arrival at Nelson we all headed off for the Sports Cafe, dinner and a beer or two. The main entertainment was the table of young girls beside us, as the drinking got more serious, so the volume increased and the stories more entertaining - what is sexercise anyway?? In bed before 12:00am - well done.

[Special Mention]

If you are riding through the Nelson area and need a place to stay, then go to the Mid City Motel. It was great, not expensive, and if asked nicely Ajay will organise a lock-up for your bike. He went out of his way to make us comfortable and it was appreciated.

[Day 3] Saturday - Nelson to Hanmer Springs

Up early, breakfast at McDonalds - custom Egg McMuffin and coffee. Pack and assemble for the ride through Murchison to Hanmer Springs.

Some of the assembled Boulevard riders in Nelson.

The morning was sunny and the road through to Murchison dry. Where the sun had not penetrated through the beech canopy though it was quite cold - like when you go into the beer fridge at the wholesalers and can't make up your mind. Gas up at Murchison and time to put on another layer of clothing. Imagine 80 bikes all hitting a small gas station at once - bedlam. On the other hand 80 bikes x $15...
The Lewis Pass is an absolutely great ride, especially around Maruia Hot Springs. And then where you pop back out into the sunshine you are in a grand valley amongst the alps. Its just not the same coming up the other way from Christchurch.

Suzuki Boulevard Rally 2009 bikes assembled. There was no big ride with Northern and Southern riders together, which was a little disappointing.

Drinks and dinner, and a few drinks, and plenty of discussion over tyres and jackets, and the best exhaust etc. I didn't win a prize either :-(

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2009 Westpac Helicopter Ride

After the weather during the week had been from sunny clear days to full on wind and rain, I wondered just what it would be like on Sunday for the 2009 Westpac Helicopter charity ride - fearing the worse. Well it turned out a beautiful day with a good turnout. The day started with the meeting of the group at Caltex in Fanshawe Street at 7:00 am for the first ride of the day to the Karaka Bloodstock sale yards near Papakura.

There were about 1000 bikes, and most had pillion passengers. This is half of them. There was a good turn out from the Cruiser Group too and I met a couple of old friends from the past - Gus from school and Jock from Fletcher days. Hope to see you guys on some more runs.

We rode down the motorway and every overbridge had people waving. This year we had the outside lane only, so there were cars on the motorway at the same time as the cavalcade of bikes. Then off at Wellesley and down Queen Street, along Fanshawe (again) and over the Auckland Harbour Bridge to the Akoranga campus. Through all those traffic lights there was only one colour... green. Police held traffic back so we had a clear run.

After the long queue for coffee and a look through the rescue helicopter we took Hwy 16 and through Woodcocks to lunch in Warkworth. All in all very civilised.