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Mar 01 2008

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New Zealand – 2008 – Diary

Monday 18 February

Caught the 10.30 ferry from Wellington alongside about 30 Harley riders who had been on a convention. Lots of Softails but not a lot of customisation. Ferry was smooth and we met Richard in Picton. Rode towards Murchison down some lovely scenic routes. Some really bendy ones and some nice sweeping curves. The moment of the day was when a daft dog ran towards us down the road and it was a miracle that we missed him.

Typical Road

A typical road

Tuesday 19 February

The aim today was to get to Christchurch to go to the bike shop to get Richard’s front tyre and chain replaced and sort out our various luggage bags that keep falling off. Got there through some more spectacular mountains. Leaving Christchurch for Arthur’s pass was a bit interesting as Richard took us on a circular route round Christchurch (oh no, he wasn’t lost!!!). Didn’t quite make it to Arthurs pass as we got to a lodge in the middle of the mountains and decided to call it a night. Staying in Backpacker accommodation – well some things just have to be done at least once!

Backpackers

Kevin and Richard at our ‘backpackers’ accommodation

Wednesday 20 February

Early start and it was glorious sunshine at the lodge. As we rode along the road the weather alternated between clouds and sunshine.

Eventually the sun won and we enjoyed our were riding through the pass. We were going slowly to enjoy the views but had to speed up on occasion to avoid being overtaken by huge lorries! Not much other traffic, one other lodge and no cafes to speak of. We did finally come to a nice cafe, the Junction Art Cafe at Kumara Junction, where we spent a very pleasant hour or so having one of their famous Kiwi breakfasts (well, we did, Richard had a very good omelette). The Junction has just changed hands and has a new chef and waitress (Mandy Jones) who also sells Nectar Ease – Manuka honey products. I bought a jar of this to see if it would help my foot which has been giving me problems. A wasp stung Kevin in the throat just before we got to the Junction and nothing seemed to help except ice cubes. It was such a relaxing hour we really struggled to get going again but finally we did and on towards the glaciers.

River and mountain

Early morning riding was very rewarding

We got to Franz Joseph glacier and Richard and Kevin went on the ½ hour hike to view the glacier. I stayed in the car park as it was so hot and I didn’t feel up to a long walk in leathers. Once they came back we moved on to the next one, the Fox glacier (mints anyone?). We stopped to take some pictures then we were on the road again, hoping to find somewhere to stay. It was nearly 100 miles later when we found Haask Beach and, after a bit of a struggle, booked into a unit whilst Richard had to make do with a dormitory shared with 2 others (could be another 4 if it fills up).

Had a nice meal at the local pub/restaurant and Richard was watching the drunks hoping that none of them were his roomies.

Thursday 21st February

Well they weren’t his roomies but they were very close and very loud from about 10 o’clock. Richard’s room mate was a Dutch man who snored and had B.O. We had a very nice evening and got up refreshed ready for the ride towards Queenstown. We had been advised not to stay in Queenstown so opted for a place called Wanaka. We arrived there just before lunchtime and were told at the first Motel we stopped in that they were full and that it was very busy. Luckily we were able to secure two adjoining rooms at the Aspiring Lodge (named after the national park and mountain range, not the owners’ ambitions!).

A quick walk into town later and we were booked on the following day’s flight to Milford Sound (more about that later) and a trip on a Jetboat in Queenstown that afternoon.

Queenstown was about 60 miles away and we rode to it along the shorter but much windier regional road 47 which was plagued by some very rocky road works (we returned along State Highway 6 which was less troubled). Queenstown was boiling hot and the idea of being on the lake at speeds of up to 50 mph appealed. The jet boat is capable of motoring in very shallow water (4 inches) and so the ride along the river, which was low following their driest summer for a while,  was quite exhilarating but not as adrenaline-busting as we’d expected (maybe because we’re on the bike and have been in fast dive boats). Still, we enjoyed it and Richard got the wettest of us so that was OK!

Jetboat

Queuing for the Jet Boat

Friday 22nd February

Had a relaxing morning then rode 5 miles to the local airport to catch our flight. On the way back from Queenstown the day before we saw that they had a Warbirds museum at the airport so decided to get there early to pay it a visit. It was very interesting, highlighting the NZ fighter pilots from both World Wars and later. They also had a few aeroplanes, including a restored (from a pile of junk) Hurricane, and some engines on show (e.g. Rolls Royce Merlin from a Spitfire).

Then we met our pilot for our flight in the 7-seater Cessna. Kevin was put at the front and I was at the back (not sure what they meant!). We flew over all sorts of mountains, many of which were covered in glaciers.

The Glacier

A bird’s eye view of the glacier

We took so many photos but it’s never enough to really show what it was like. Then we landed in ‘black fly central’, or Milford Sound as the locals call it. There were loads of Japanese people waving at us when we landed but our pilot dashed our feelings of grandeur by explaining that they were just waving the flies away. We were then bussed to our cruise which was on a medium sized boat. Only the 6 from our flight and two other couples were on it – no crowding for us!

Kevin and Lynda in Milford Sound

On the boat at Milford Sound

Again, the photos taken just can’t convey the sheer size of the place. There was a waterfall that the pilot told us was 500 feet tall but it looked like a mere trickle in the huge granite wall. We also saw a couple of dolphins that did a quick ‘hello’ to the boat then swam off never to be seen (by us) again.

In the meantime Richard had ridden to Milford Sound (he hadn’t had enough of the bike yet!)

Richard's bike at Milford Sound

Richard rode to Milford Sound

The flight back was via a different route. This time we saw one of the places where the Lord of the Rings was filmed – the Kiwis are very proud of that film! Back to the lodge by bike then off to the town for dinner. The night before we’d seen people looking very interestedly at the pavement and we saw that they had a millennium project to map 2000 years of history in foot-square tiles. It was very interesting to see the mixture of global events, such as the bombing of Hiroshima, alongside the local, such as Mrs X retired from Wanaka primary after 30 years service.

Saturday 23 February

Today’s target was to ride to Invercargill to go to the Hammer Hardware shop where we’d been told we could see the bikes that belonged to Burt Munro, made famous by the Anthony Hopkins film ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’, then to ride the extra 15 miles to ‘Bluff’, the NZ equivalent of Land’s End.

We followed our now usual routine of having an early start (8’ish) and getting breakfast along the way. Still more stunning scenery which, despite the noise of the rumbling tums, seems to be even better with the early morning light.

Mountain and lake

Early morning scenery

We were expecting Invercargill to be quite a small place but it was large and sprawling so we were lucky to find ourselves outside the hardware shop. I was despatched to go and ask and was a bit apprehensive, imagining that they might not be too thrilled to be hassled, but it was exactly the opposite. Yes, this is the right place, it’s at the back. We wandered down to have a look and were amazed at the shop in general – if you could possibly need it it would be there (brushes, buckets, brush cutters, bikes…yes, lots of bikes!) – just like a good old fashioned hardware shop but on steroids. We started to talk to some of the guys in the shop, one still sporting a broad Scottish accent even after 38 years here, and discovered that ‘the boss’ was the owner of Burt’s bikes. His Father had bought them from Burt some years previously. He also owned all the bits and pieces from Burt’s shed (e.g. old fairings, all the experimental pistons etc), which had been bought at the same time.

To cut a long story short (but don’t worry, we’ll no doubt bore you all with it in full detail later) the shop owner, Neville Hayes, offered to take us to his house to show us the rest of his collection, if we’d be interested. After humming and harring for less than a nanosecond, we said yes please! He suggested that we did our ride to Bluff then returned later before the shop closed at 4. That became our plan for the afternoon.

The Munro Special

The ‘Munro Special’

Bluff is a remarkable place for being totally unremarkable. There’s some sort of oil terminal there with houses opposite for sale ‘with scenic view’ (must be a Kiwi thing!). There’s not a lot else except the obligatory AA sign post – this time intact, despite some young yobbo trying to break one of the lower arms off. We stopped for an ice cream then as we were leaving, met another group of Harley owners. These were really well appointed having their own ‘support vehicle’ in tow with chilled beers that they offered to us. They seemed impressed with how far we’d been during our stay here but confirmed that 3 weeks really isn’t enough.

Lynda, Kevin and Richard at Bluff

The Hat was very heavy!

Back to the shop and onto Neville’s house where he opened up his garage (actually a workshop that a medium-sized engineering firm would be proud to call home) and ‘WOW!’…what a sight. The first bike we saw was a bright orange Indian, then is that a Vincent? (it was), then ‘another Indian’, and on and on. I lost count – there were numerous Indians, more than one Vincent (one was in a sorry state having been in a fire), a Velocette LE (or was it 2?), Triumphs, Ariels, oh yes, and more Burt Munro bits than you could imagine. In addition, there were several cars – his son has a liking for American cars – including a rather nice Corvette which was beautifully restored inside, it looked brand new. We were like kids in a candy store.

Then Neville said “I’ve got more in another warehouse if you’d be interested to see it!” so off we went to the other side of town to see the rest of his collection. Two more Velocettes (a Mac and something else), more LE’s, I can’t remember all the other ones but they were all just there waiting to be admired. He also showed us another part of Burt Monro’s collection – a cowl which had been made to go over the top of the record-breaking bike. It was never used because Burt didn’t like the enclosed feeling it produced.

Eventually, and sadly because there was so much to see and not enough time to really appreciate it, and with promises to stay with him in the new house Neville’s building when we return, we moved on and aimed to stop somewhere en-route to Dunedin.

Unfortunately Gore was full, so was Balclutha, and by now it was getting late so we were beginning to down-size our expectations. We were sent to a ‘backpackers’ place called Woodstock Camp and with trepidation we looked at the room that had been allocated. A double bed, two bunk beds and no bathroom. Yikes! Luckily they weren’t full and the rooms next door were perfect – one double and a twin, both with with en suite, so we took those. Best bed so far!

Sunday 24 February

After quite a late night yesterday, we decided to have a short ride today and came to Dunedin – home of the world’s steepest street (1:2.8 in places).

Kevin and Richard Baldwin St

Kevin (on left) and Richard come back down the world’s steepest street

After a couple of “Sorry we’re full’s” we came across the Farrys Motel, which didn’t have a single and a double for us, however, they did have their Executive Terrace Suite. “Would that be OK?”. Would it!!! Double room with en suite for Kevin and me, choice of 2 twin rooms for Richard, fully equipped (including dishwasher and food disposal unit) kitchen, dining room and living room. AND it has broadband so this missive can be delivered and Kevin can catch up on all his emails (over 2500 at the last count). More importantly it has washing facilities so I can get some of our clothes clean. Result!

Oh yes, and the weather’s been terrific. It poured with rain in the night, but that only served to make the falls (Purakanui Falls) that we visited today even more spectacular. It’s been sunny and, if I’m honest, a bit too hot. Richard’s watching the news on the telly and is reporting that it’s p***ing with rain in Auckland. We’re glad that we did our trip the way we did. If we’d done the south island first, then gone north, we’d have had rain all the way round!

Monday 25 February

Bit of a lay in as Richard needed to go to the tyre shop to have his rear tyre looked at. It only had a tiny bit of steel in it so was OK as it happens. Rode out of Dunedin and up to the Albatross Sanctuary, round the bay. Very scenic. We weren’t expecting to see an Albatross as one of the keepers at the shop said they could only be seen nesting by taking a tour. However, we were very lucky that one of the albatrosses didn’t know we hadn’t paid for a tour and did a fly by for us. It was very big and the wings were much slimmer than you’d expect for such a large bird.

Lynda and Kevin Albatross Point

Albatross Point – very scenic

Back then to Dunedin again and on towards our next destination which was Mount Cook. Travelled through some very nice scenery that reminded us more of Derbyshire than anywhere else, and then stopped at the odd round Moeraki Boulders. There was a 2 dollar fee to walk down the path so Richard, unable to negotiate with the honesty box, decided to look at the pictures in his guide book as they were free! Armed with the knowledge he had gleaned he was able to dash my theory that they were actually dinosaur eggs.

Lynda on the Beach

Those giant dinosaur eggs (Malteser anyone?)

Stopped for lunch/breakfast along the way and then continued until we needed to turn off to get onto a ‘more interesting’ road. Unfortunately we missed it and then zig zagged our way back to the route via some very rural scenery – lots of sheep and cows and the odd field of deer. Eventually we stopped at a small one-street town called Kurow where we found accommodation in a 60’s motel. It broke the mould of ‘each night better accommodation’ but at $95 (approx £38) for all three of us we weren’t complaining.

Off to Mount Cook tomorrow.

Tuesday 26 February

Last real biking day today…early start again and it was quite cold to start with. Made our way to the Mount Cook area. There is a long road that goes up to it with fabulous views and the air seemed particularly clean and clear. We could see the mountain from 60 miles away and it got bigger and bigger. At the end of the road is a small car park and hotel. We turned round and came back. Taking it easier due to the tyre wear but Kevin did manage to get a blast in at 200kph which was nothing in the grand scheme but would have meant a stay at Her Majesty’s pleasure if we’d got caught as the Kiwis are quite hot on speeding.

Approaching Mount Cook

Mount Cook looms

Back through the Mt Hutt area – same road as our first day. Due to Richard’s principle of not returning to the pub where the woman told us to take our helmets off the table because people have to eat off them (she doesn’t use plates?). It wasn’t so much what we she was asking us to do although we thought that was ridiculous, it was the rude way in which she did it. We ended up going past several cafe stops and ended up stopping when we were both really stiff and aching. Nice stop though with a good little gift shop.

2 bikes - last view

One last picture before we finish

Finally stopped in Christchurch in a nice motel.

Tomorrow’s plan is to go on a 80 k ride to let Kevin’s bike go over the 100,000k. How sad.

Conclusion of the biking portion of our grand adventure:

  • Best biking
  • Best roads
  • Worst roadworks
  • Nicest people
  • Best scenery per sq mile

Wednesday 27 February

Last day here in NZ. Kevin wanted to get the bike to hit the 100,000 k mark so we did a short ride back along our track from yesterday. It was another beautiful day. Final mileage on bike was 100,009 (started at 93573). We went to Helen and Ron’s to drop our stuff off then walked to the International Antarctic Centre. Had a go in the Hagglund vehicle – very rugged and interesting. Shame about the American woman who insisted on talking very loudly throughout the commentary.

Hagglund

Is that Kawasaki green?

Then we went and had a go in their Antarctic storm room – very cold!

Skidoo

Go Faster!

We looked at their rescued penguins – very cute – before walking back to Ron and Helens then Kevin and Richard took the bikes back.

Packed our bike gear into a box and sent it home (we hope!).

Meal with Helen and Ron this evening.

Tomorrow, off to Australia.

Permanent link to this article: http://thewellers.net/trips/new-zealand-2008-diary

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