South Island

LaharNot in the South Island but still no traffic to speak of.  Started with a run down to Raglan on the West side of the Waikato, bit out of the way but it's a terrific road. The bike ran sweetly for the day apart from a minor cock up about how much fuel was in it to start with, luckily there was a gas station just out of Raglan.

Lunch at Pirongia and a look at the forecast  at gave some cause for concern. Nasty weather topmorrow and a late start today seem to have put off tomorrows planned trip around Mount Egmont. Heavy rain coming in from the Tasman made decided me to head down the centre of the Island rather than the west coast so I turned off at Te Kuiti and went down to Tangawai to see the outcome of Mt Ruapehu's lahar, most impressive (see photo), glad it stayed where it was supposed to be.

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Read more: Getting There

Gravity CanyonOk, So Taihape is on the Main Trunk Line, it's out the back of the hotel and the main road is on the other side. The trucks and trains do not entirely stop and once awake at 5:30am that was pretty much it for sleep.

Unexpectedly for Taihape the breakfast was as good as the previous nights dinner, this time "Eggs Florentine". Seems Cafe Exchange is in the old Phone Exchange. I was even able to use my newly acquired toothbrush and toothpaste in their very clean toilet (yes I'd forgotten mine)

With my early start I had plenty of time  to work out a plan for the day. First Gravity Canyon (Gravity Canon as Garmin call it) sounded interesting. I'd also seen in the local rag over breakfast that the Airforce Museum at Ohakea is to close. I'd seen it with my parents when the came out in 1976 (ish?) so it had to be on the agenda.

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Read more: RNZAF Museum to Close

TurbineThe problem with the central city, any central city, is the noise. If it's not traffic it's dustbins being thrown around either by drunks or dustmen  in the early hours. Quest on the Terrace backs onto some sort of overpass and the traffic builds up at  5am. I can vouch for this.

5:30am but wait, I have the most expensive earplugs money can buy, what if I put them in my ears?

BLISS! Up around 8:30, something of a sleep in.

Wet this morning in Wellington so no rush, a quite day with some email and a coffee in town seemed to be in order rather than dicing with greasy roads. Took a little tour up Mt Victoria and a lady recommended the view from the Turbine (picture). She was right.

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Read more: On the Boat

Empty CountryThis time it was quite as, until the man next doors alarm went off at 5:30. What is going on? Anyway they turned it off but then the shower. They could have been in my room, might have been more interesting. Seems all the plumbing at the Bella Vista (yes really) goes through room 2; my room; bugger!

Decided to pass on the aviation museum while the weather was good and made for Murcheson and the Lewis Pass. The roads are empty and enough turns and stuff to keep them really interesting. Much of the countryside is very reminiscent of Scotland, even the climate is similar. Today went from too hot in just the jacket and trowser shells to linings in, scarf on and heated grips on. Then back again.

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Read more: The Serious Stuff

QualifyingGlorious weather and very warm here in Christchurch. A couple of days off with friends not seen for some time and rather more red wine drunk than was perhaps sensible, by way of a change.

Onward on Monday looking at the East coast

Picture of Bruce Baylis qualifying in his Formula Ford in the South Island championship Add a comment
Yellow Eyed penguinIt's a weird island. The temperature today dropped at least 15 degrees centigrade. Moved from outer shells only yesterday and this morning to thermals, liners and full on heated grips. Ears cold inside the helmet and needed the neck thing pulled up inside to keep some of the chill out. Amazing.

Our mate in in the photo is a rare yellow eyed penguin, presumably hoping to avoid being eaten by one of the seals around the corner or a dog. He seemed somewhat dejected, I on the other hand was delighted to see him and his seal mates at Shag Point, a location obviously named by a settler with little or no imagination, the place is full of shags, seals, penguins and shear-waters (I read the sign).

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Read more: Bluff Oysters, Yum!

Otago Penninsular Bit of trouble down under this morning, not too serious and it's hard to imagine it could have been the oysters but you never know. Anyway it was even colder than yesterday. Despite being well prepared with thermal, merino sweater and jacket with liner it was only just enough. Joan warns that "the riding rules for snow are...lock the bike and walk." Hope I won't need them!

Second impression of Dunedin was a step up from the first. The centre is rather nice with some very interesting buildings and nice cafes. Good job too, the bit I stayed in was no better in daylight.

First up was a run out on the Otago Peninsular from Dunedin, this was hugely scenic (picture) and a bit twisty but no barriers on the road/waters edge. Larnach Castles owners are looking for $20 for butchers at their 19th century folly so I gave that a swerve, I really only wanted the cafe and the bog (see above). Out to the end and Tairoa Head then back again. Very nice and recommended.

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Read more: The Southern Scenic Route

Road goes on foreverThe last day of the outward journey has to make Wanaka which should be an easy day's run compared with some I've done. The rain starts quite heavily in Invecargill just as I gear up after breakfast, this puts paid to my trip to see the world's fastest Indian as I can see blue sky away to the north.

I'd taken a bit of time to plan the route with Doreen this time and turn off the main road just after Winton. The roads from here to Old Mandeville are just fantastic as is the collection of antique, working De Haviland aircraft! This is a must see and the coffee is pretty good too. No idea how they make money out of this.

Pressing on Doreen takes the back way to Hinton and Roxburgh by way of fabulous, empty open roads, whow! It's something of a disappointment to get back on the main road to Alexandria. Lunch in Alex which is a nice little town and then on to Cromwell and over the Crown Range to Wanaka. This would rate as the best motorcycling day ever. Add a comment
Milford SoundReady for something different? Well a trip to Milford Sound is in order! This is a most remarkable fiord with huge granite walls and fantastic waterfalls, plant life and well just no words to describe it.

The weather was virtually cloudless, warm and sunny. Better yet no sandflies (a curse apon the West Coast, you may think you've seen sandflies but these suckers are really the business).
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Read more: Something Different

Little Valley RoadAs forecast there was some rain overnight and it started in earnest just as I was getting ready to leave. The West Coast was a non starter as it looks like solid rain on that side of the island, not an unusual occurance.

Undeterred the first 20 minutes was very wet but the weather cleared up to dry roads the further East. By the time I reached Alexandria it was back to sunny albeit a bit cool, and ready for a coffee and muffin at the cafe I stopped at on the way in.

From Alex a wrong turn down Little Valley Road, something of moonscape but very scenic and quite a solid dirt road. It was a dead end so all the way back and this time the correct turn taking the back way to Oturehua. Another great ride.

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Read more: Adventurous or Just Plain Stupid?

Mt CookI'd forgotten the dubious pleasure of damp gloves and so had forgotten to put them in front of the heater. Amazing how quickly this all comes back to you.

Anyway a fantastic cloudless day with a very cold southerly. Hard to believe that less than two weeks ago the temperature was 15-20 C warmer. All day three layers of merino icebreakers under the DriRider and heated grips full on!

Second impressions of Oamaru were much better than the first. They still do nothing with he waterfront but the towns cafes and restaurants that I tried were very nice and the people friendly, smiles and chat were readily forthcoming. There is a penguin colony at the harbour but the penguins are only at home late in the day

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Read more: Damp Gloves

The mountains get nearerEventually I must run out of superlatives to describe this experience but by now I'm sure you get the idea.

Last night, after a close look at the weather map, I decided to make the full excursion as originally hoped for and head for the West Coast over Arthur's Pass. On the Canterbury Plains I rather began to have second thoughts as the gale force winds were pushing the bike around more than slightly.

But what a good idea it was as the passes were somewhat sheltered from the worst of the wind and the weather held for 98% of the time only drawback was the bitter cold the higher up in the mountains I got. Stopped for an excellent home made venison pie lunch at Jacksons (a pub just west of the Pass itself).

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Read more: More Passes

Into an Area of Uncertain VisibiltyNot the best motel in the world but very friendly at the Palm Court. Slept very well until 6am then that was it, the sound of the rain was to say the least a bit off putting.

Packed up and loaded the machine and set off in search of fuel for the beast and breakfast for me. We'll say no more of breakfast, it was a little basic. The machine seemed happy on it's diet and today turned 6,000km old, two months worth, I suspect I'll slow down shortly.

The rain lasted on and off through the Buller Gorge giving a serious new emotion to the ride. Fear. The wet and greasy roads were deserted but not user friendly. Anyway by Murcheson and a morning coffee stop things had mostly dried out although there were still areas of wet to contend with.

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Read more: Into the Sounds

Catching the ferry takes up quite a bit of the day but it left time for a trip to Blenhiem's Aviation Heritage Museum in the morning. The nice lady gave me a senior discount but I'm not that old!!!!

No matter it's one of the best displays on vintage aircraft that I've seen anywhere ever. The money and care that have been put into it are just staggering. A definite must see on anyones itinerary.

The seas of the past few days had eased so an easy crossing and a pleasant night with friends in Wellington

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A pleasant night with friends in Wellington but I just could not face packing my stuff into the panniers in a motel again so I set off early to make the journey home in one.  Took the road via Wanganui that the GPS said was shortest and rrived home around 5pm. Lovely roads but not like the South Island.

Seems hard to believe it's over.
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