Monday, November 10, 2014

Molesworth Station ride

A trip that took me 2500KMs on some of New Zealand's most epic roads to be on a motorcycle. This year the November ride was to tackle the Molesworth Station road, French Pass, and the Rainbow Road, with some fantastic sealed roads between them. The South Island sure turns on some great riding!

Getting there

The 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 ditch

I 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 Molesworth

Up 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 Pass

We 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 Return

I 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!

Cheers, JohnHS.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On a Panigale 899

I have been trying to get myself sorted to sell my bikes in order to get a new Ducati Panigale. Now that there are two Panigales to choose from I took the opportunity to test ride the Ducati Panigale 899 that has arrived at Cyclespot.

Ducati Panigale 899 at Westhaven.

First Thoughts

I trundled over to the North Shore to the Cyclespot Ducati showroom where Richard had the 899 ready to go. The demo had just arrived, and had been out 3 times already today. I was curious after all the reading I had done, which suggested that the 899 performed very well and had a more 'usable' power.

Of course it started to rain... and I'll admit I wasn't about to test the traction control right away.

I rode for about an hour, with plenty of time in traffic to get the feel for using the bike everyday - which would be a requirement. I also tried all the modes - but the WET mode was not that different around town anyway.

The Sound is Right

Yes that Ducati sound is there - quite loud in fact, and when you give the throttle a bit of a wind ;-) it sounds awesome. That is with the stock exhaust - I'm sure the Termis would be better still. I captured a bit of video, but being there is much better!

Would I buy one?

Yes, and there is one arriving in a couple of weeks. Need to get on Trademe and sell the other bikes to make space ;-)


Friday, August 8, 2014

Chilli sauce - Sichuan

This chilli sauce is made with Sichuan chillis. I bought them dried.

The one jar that looks different at the right is apple chutney, which is an ingredient of my latest recipes.

Apple Chutney

  • 6 x granny smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 x onions diced
  • 2 x cups raisins
  • 350 g raw sugar
  • 500 ml malt vinegar
  • 1/2t salt, black pepper
  • 2t all spice
  • 2t cloves
  • 2t tumeric

Makes about 5 x 360 ml jars (mmm... peanut butter had to be eaten to produce these jars). I cooked it down for a couple of hours on a slow heat. I actually used whole all spice and cloves, heating them first in a frypan and then grinding them with a mortar/pestle. Down-side is little black dots in the chutney - oh and the furniture smells of spice afterwards - tip: use the range-hood fan :-)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Chlli Sauce - Vietnamese Birdseye

This chilli sauce is made with Vietnamese Birdseye chillis, which are quite hot.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cullen Skink

Last year when over in Scotland I had cullen skink, a smoked fish soup. The one in Edinburgh had a slightly more 'bisque-like' character and the one on Islay, a small island off the coast of Scotland where good whisky comes from, was 'hearty'. So I said 'when I get back to NZ I will learn how to make cullen skink... and I did.

The Ingredients

The recipe is simple:
  • 2x fillets smoked fish
  • 2x Potatoes
  • Onion and Leek
  • 300ml Water, twice
  • 250ml (1x cup) Milk
  • Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper

Putting it together

Of course I made it slightly more complex by smoking the fish myself, so here is the full thing.

Smoked Kahawai
When last in Christchurch I bought a stovetop smoker from Ballantynes. Using the apple sawdust I smoked two fillets of kahawai, gathered from the Hauraki Gulf on a previous fishing expedition. This could be done in any smoker obviously. Basic steps are
  • Defrost kahawai (did also try with travelli - good too).
  • Rub with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup of cooking salt.
  • Put in pan with 300ml cold water, leave 30 mins
  • Pat dry and smoke for 15 minutes at 90-100C
  • Transfer fish to pan with 300ml of new cold water plus a bay leaf.
  • Bring to the boil. Immediately take off heat. SAVE THE LIQUID.
  • Take off skin (if any), pull out bones, break into big chunks.
  • OK, fish is done.

Leeks and Onions
Sweat them down in the pan or pot you are making the soup in.

Clean but leave skin on. I used Agrias.
  • Clean, skin on
  • Cut into chunks
  • Add 1/4 to leeks and onion
  • Cook remaining potato and mash

Putting it all together
Now we put it together and cook it.
  • Add the liquid you boiled the fish in to the leeks/onions/potato
  • Cook until potato is cooked
  • Add milk, mashed potato, fish.
  • Stir and heat together
  • Serve with parsley

I'm not sure if this is exactly how they make it in Cullen, but it is a mighty fine soup, especially in winter.

The traditional fish is smoked haddock. The version above has a finely chopped carrot as well. Not sure its part of the recipe or not just yet :-)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hauraki Gulf Easter Fishing 2014

Breakfast of champions - tiller in one hand, weet-bix in the other! [Go the Badgers]
Time again for a week of fishing on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, where the wind blows, the fish bite and the beer is cold!


Man-o-war Bay was our first destination, with a light breeze pushing us East down Tamaki Strait. As per usual we trailed a lure behind us and as per usual (in the harbour) we caught nothing but seaweed. Then we spotted the birds working, and not for the last time as the Gulf is abundant with life at this time of year. A couple of kahawai in the fridge meant that we would be having fish for dinner. We arrived at Man-o-war Bay and found a city of launches and yachts enjoying the Easter weekend. That was Saturday - we stayed on until favourable winds on Monday, working hard to catch our dinner - with lots of under-sized fish in the catch.

Kawau Island bound

Monday we headed for Kawau Island, about 30 nautical miles from where we were, with a rising wind of 20-30 knots and a moderate sea, we put a reef in the main, and furled the headsail to a No.2 size. A fantastic sail, with a couple of monster kahawai on the way. Going at 6-7 knots we arrived in Mansion House Bay absolutely exhausted. Once relaxed I decided to take the dinghy out to the channel and drift - 3 nice snapper later...

Mansion House Bay, Kawau Island anchorage.
We spent Tuesday and Wednesday around the island and the bay, with a day spent around Burgess Bay area.

Heading for Motutapu

Thursday dawned and we were up early, with the thought of a nice sail with a fish along the way, heading back closer to the city so we could be home Friday at a decent hour. Sailing across Kawau Bay we saw the fish finder go nuts and decided to drop sails and drift fish. As we started to catch fish we decided to drop anchor and spend the rest of the morning fishing. By 10 o'clock we had our limit of snapper, with a few travelli thrown in for good measure.

We couldn't believe the condition of these fat fish - there must be a lot of feed for them to be this healthy.
A fine sail back to Motutapu with an occasional downpour on the way we arrived in Home Bay with a bin full of fish and happy smiles.

One for the road - Rakino

Friday morning we got up at 6:30AM, had breakfast and went to our favourite spot between Rakino and Motutapu to use the last of the bait - we made sure we had plenty this year, so there was a bag of pilchards and a couple of boxes of squid left.


The fish were on again, and this time bigger and better, and we ended up filling the fridge with nice sized snapper - enough for Roger to take a few fillets home to Australia with him the next day.

Spider (the cat) can't believe his eyes!
We have quite a few packs of snapper in the freezer now - all good as we eat quite a bit of fish - especially on Sunday nights ;-)

The best trip yet! Cheers JohnHS.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Honda 500X First Ride

A Honda 500X on a ford.

On Friday I picked up my new Honda 500X from Cyclespot in Barry's Point Rd in Takapuna, and so one day later seemed enough of a wait before taking it on a bit of an adventure. Also had the idea of getting some km's on to reach the 1000km first service.

I managed to do around 325km including some gravel up the Kauaeranga Valley.

Kauaeranga Valley Road

The Honda 500X

Well I was very impressed with the Honda. I thought maybe 500cc was going to be a trial-by-gear-change but no... that motor pulls very nicely and runs super smooth. As I am in the first 1000km I was taking it easy, keeping revs under 6K, but it was a great ride! The ride=ing position is upright, but the little screen does a good job of keeping the wind off, and the seat was OK once I figured out how to sit on it. I started out sitting too far back and that made gear changes very difficult. As soon as I relaxed a bit, and came forward it all fell into place. I am looking forward to getting more Ks on it soon.

Thanks Motorcycle Trader magazine and Honda for the great bike.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

And the winner is...

Well someone has to win these things and I guess it was my turn... The Motorcycle Trader magazine was running a subscription draw for a new Honda motorcycle, with three options and all the gear to go with it.

You will no doubt notice that I am actually the one on the left - but that's show business. Can't wait to pick up the prize.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Man Has Shed

Garden Shed Appears In Suburban Backyard

...and in breaking news, a man in Mt Eden, New Zealand, has erected a shed in his back yard! Little did his wife know that he would one day come true with his promise to clear the laundry of tools and manly equipment - like a lawnmower, a rear pit-stand for a Ducati motorcycle, garden tools and many things that might come in handy one day... But yes, it has happened!

A Pinehaven kitset which arrived just before Christmas has been built and furnished with a man-bench and man-shelves.

How did it happen?

The ground was leveled and the staging beams (macrocarpa sleepers) were positioned.

The floor was built and trued square.

The panels were pre-drilled and laid out ready for erection. Sam held in position while I screwed the panels together

Soon all the panels were screwed together. My battery drill lasted the whole weekend on one charge.

Then the trusses went up, with Sam providing the authentic builders crack as he screwed the panels to the floor.

The roof went on including a skylight panel in the same profile as the roof sheets.

At the end of 6 hours the shed was at lock up stage, and on Sunday we finished it with flashings and trim.

The Job Was Done

Yes the shed was complete and it was time for a well earned gingerbeer ;-)