Thursday, March 27, 2014

New Zealand- A Quick Look At The South Island- Part 3

Days 5 and 6

Fox Glacier to Queenstown - 430km(269mi)

After a restful sleep, where my new room mate (Wayne) said there was no snoring, unlike when he shared with "Geoff the chainsaw" the previous night, we wandered down the main drag of Fox for some breakfast. There was a hustle of tourists getting onto buses for tours, being picked up for chopper flights and the odd long distance cyclist getting ready for another day of pedalling in paradise.

We were soon on the road, leaving the Fox Glacier Inn and it's great hospitality behind. While not the most aesthetically pleasing of pubs, the friendliness and service make it a "must visit". Steve produced the following  photo hoping to embarrass me, but I present it here as a testament to west coast hospitality! ;-) (even if the young lass was from Austria) You just have to get a photo with the bar staff when you ride your bike INTO the pub!

Friday, March 7, 2014

New Zealand-A Quick Look AT The South Island Part 2

Days 3 and 4

Westport To Hanmer Springs To Fox Glacier- 830km(518mi)

Waking to grey skies and rain, I jumped on the Trumpy and ducked down to New World and picked up some bacon and eggs, plus some bread rolls. Having spied a bbq in the garden of the motel I thought that cooking our own breakfast using the utensils in the well stocked motel room would be a far cheaper alternative to buying four bacon and egg rolls at a cafe. New Zealand is actually quite expensive! As it turned out we had enough for two each with some bacon left over. We were soon as full as a public school !

I haven't mentioned my riding gear yet. I had purchased an RST all season 2 piece suit for the trip and had only taken the tags off of it as we were loading our bikes in Christchurch. This was supposed to guarantee no rain....Anyway, you could say that it was untried. Today, it would get a baptism of

Sorry for the crappy
photos, but the suit is awesome!

The other unknown was how would the bikes handle in the wet? Wayne from Paradise had mentioned to me that the tyres on the Trumpy were just as good in the wet as in the dry. Now I wasn't sure if he meant they were rubbish in the dry and hence no worse in the wet or if he was just planting a seed in my head. Riding in the rain is all about confidence. Either way, I would be taking it pretty easy until I got a feel for them.

We made our way out to Cape Foulwind to check out the seal colony but finding it quite a walk from the bike park, we decided to simply press on in case it rained all day. We had accommodation booked in Hanmer Springs for the night and there was a bit of riding in between. This didn't stop some horsing around at the Cape though.

Courtesey The Road To Nowhere

On a positive note, my gear seemed to be be watertight and warm.....unlike my boot which had trickled water in from somewhere.

We beetled along for a while, before seeing an amazing photo opportunity that was worth risking wet cameras. The weather really was pretty crap but being warm and (mostly) dry I was quite enjoying the ride with the wet coast's spectacular vistas.

Not long after we stopped at Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks, an unusual geological phenomena. Basically the rocks look like stacks of pancakes. There are a few blow holes that were pumping but there was so much water flying around the place anyway that I wasn't overly impressed. It was late morning and we were STILL looking for good coffee though.

The road straightened out a bit now and began to dry so that we had a pleasant ride into Greymouth. Here we stopped for a bite to eat and to get a decent coffee. This done we were back out the road headed toward Reefton and eventually Lewis Pass. It looked to be dairying and livestock farming along here with views off to rain capped hills in the distance. Very nice.

Stopping to take a photo while on a group ride can be frustrating for the non-photographers. As I saw some opportunities and pulled over, a few minutes later Wayne would come riding back to see if I was ok. "Yep, just taking a photo" was my slightly embarrased response. They soon came to ignore me when I disappeared off the back, which was fine with me.

We stopped for fuel in Reefton, which looked like a pleasant town that could do with an explore. That wasn't to happen as this was a tear-arsed tour of the South Island with no time to look at anything. I had a slight moment at the service station when moving my bike from the bowsers. As I moved the bike, my helmet was on the mirror. Just as I stopped it decided to jump ship! I managed to get my foot under it to break it's fall but then it rolled about 5 metres across the forecourt. Of course this scratched nothing but the visor! D'oh!!

As we rode out of Reefton, the heavens began to open again making for a cool, wet ride. As we climbed the mountain the temperature began to drop. It got down to about 10C (50F) at its lowest but I simply activated the heated grips and was toasty. My tyres really did seem to be quite good in the wet as we were motoring along and this was a very heavy bike, what with my kitchen sink in the panniers! The only real issue was with visor fogging, making for some exciting corners! Have a laugh at me a I go from visor closed, to open, to closed, to open, get the idea, in this montage.

To be honest, I was concentrating so hard on being smooth I didn't even notice the "Pass" bit of this road. It just felt like we were riding through a winding forest road, with no discernable climbing or descending. However, the scenery very quickly changed to open vistas across azure rivers to distant mountains. BAM! We were back in Middle Earth!

The rain had eased somewhere around here and the road was now dry. Combine this with jaw dropping views and that last 50km(32mi) into Hanmer Springs took a few hours to complete!

Bye Bye Rain!

Geoff and Steve

 Chillertek motoring by.

Looking back up the Walau River valley.

We were staying at a backpackers tonight in Hanmer Springs. It turned out to be a normal house in a residential street and I was a bit dubious. Jack In The Green was actually a very clean, well run backpackers. We had our own separate unit and hey, what was that on the lawn? Another BBQ! Once we had offended the locals and tourists alike by exposing our lilly white skin at the hot springs we shopped up a storm then cooked ourselves a decent meat and one veg meal, all washed down by some DB Lager, all for bugger all $. Well, 3 of us did. Steve apparently doesn't eat peas.......the little girl.

Jack in the Green' BBQ at far right.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

New Zealand- A Quick Look At The South Island - Part 1

Days 1 And 2

Christchurch To Nelson To Westport- 856km(535mi)

Launching out of Brisbane late in the afternoon, I arrived into Christchurch at 12:30am. As I emerged from customs I saw my brother waiting for me. What the? He had arrived an hour before and clearly had not received the text message I hastily sent containing the amended pickup details for our motel. He went on to explain how he had followed a prompt to update an app on his phone while he was still in Sydney Airport and well, his phone hadn't worked since! It was to remain in a vegetative state for the whole trip.

After a quick nightcap and a meagre 6 hours sleep we were bundling our luggage into Paradise Motorcycle Tours courtesy van under grey skies. Geoff and Wayne (Chillertek's crazy skydiving mates from Sydney) were already in the van and gave us some cheek as we piled in. Wayne (the driver from Paradise) must have been an ex-taxi driver, as he took us on a big looping detour to go just a few kilometres down the road. Maybe he was just messing with our heads and trying to disorient us while the sun was hidden......

We arrived at Hampton Motorcycles where our steeds for the week were undergoing some last minute checks. The other three guys had chosen BMW800GS bikes and my choice was the Triumph Tiger 800. I chose the Tiger as I was thinking of buying one and thought a 10 day test ride would give me a great insight into it's characteristics. 

Wayne from Paradise wheeled out a Triumph Explorer 1200 though. "The Tiger's starter motor died yesterday in Willingtin, so we have upgraded you" was his explanation. I can live with the fact that sometimes shit happens, things break, but I wasn't seeing this as an upgrade just yet.

Anyway, bikes checked over, forms filled out and gear tipped into the cavernous panniers, we huddled into a group selfie. Then it was time to ride.

This was about where I realised that I hadn't really paid much attention to the navigational side of our preparations......Steve had done ALL of the planning and had been poring over maps for months. Me? Well I had been mountainbiking in the Snowy Mountains with the kids, working and generally letting life get in the way of any meaningful planning. 

And, I was fine with that. I actually found it pretty liberating not to be the one worrying about where the hell we were going! Just sitting back and following the boys proved to be very relaxing in a way.

Christchurch is very much like Adelaide in it's layout. Because it is so flat, a basic grid pattern is the design so we were on the correct road out of town in about 30 seconds flat. Take that Wayne and your magical mystery pick-up ride! ;)

We motored up the main highway to the North for a while. Geoff has this problem where he has to overtake ANYTHING that is in front of him. This morning, that included Steve (yes, the one who knew where we were going) with predictable results. The first turn we had to make, towards Hanmer Springs, and Geoff motored straight past. the rest of us took the opportunity to get off the bikes and soak in the fact that we were actually doing this!! Riding around the South Island after all these years!!

Here is Geoffrey shortly after realising the error of his ways. "WTF were you going?" and other such pleasantries were being exchanged.

We cruised along for an hour or so, getting a feel for the bikes, taking in the scenery and FOLLOWING Steve.

Somewhere, here in the middle of nowhere, Wayne noticed that his bike was on reserve. WTF? The other Beemers were showing heaps of fuel. So, we tootled into Kaikora a bit gingerly just to ensure that Wayne didn't have to push his bike. He put about 6 litres more than the other two Beemers into his tank. Somewhat short changed I think and words would need be said to Paradise.

We rolled straight into the fuel station at Kaikora where we then made plans to go back into Kaikora for a bite to eat. So we parked up in the main street and waited for Wayne. And waited.....and waited. When it became clear that he wasn't coming enquiries unearthed that Geoff hadn't actually mentioned our plan to poor old Wayne. He would be 50km up the road by now, so we drowned our sorrows with a cold Macs and nibbled on a sandwich.

We still had quite a few kilometres to go before we reached our first overnight location of Nelson. It was time to don the lid and keep the power on. The coastline around Kaikora is nothing short of stunning as was the road so it was a challenge to try to take in the scenery while keeping the sinuous ribbon of tar under the Trumpys wheels. Steve and Geoff seemed to be in a massive hurry along here and soon dropped me. I was content to sit in my comfort zone, taking in the view AND enjoying the ride. So, how amazing were those seals, Steve???

Coming into Blenheim we took a slight detour to have a look at the Omaka Aviation Museum. It looked amazing from it's website and rolling into the car park which was flanked by a Hawker Hurricane and a Junkers JU-87 Stuka the anticipation level was peaking!

We de-kitted and sauntered over to the entrance. Then BAM! Sorry losers, we close at 4pm! Yup, it was 4:30 and we had to content ourselves with a distant peer into some open aircraft hangers. Oh well, this gives me an excuse to go back for a look another time.

Courtesy of The Road To Nowhere

We pushed on to Picton for a ride along the Queen Charlotte Drive. Steve assured us that this would be a nice ride. While stopped in the car park overlooking the port to fit some cameras to the bikes, several other riders rode past or joined us in the car park. A good omen! 

We cracked on and enjoyed some really twisty, if a little narrow, road. I have no idea how long this section was. It seemed to go on forever and that was fine with me.

There was the odd stop for photos.

Courtesy of The Road to Nowhere

From here on we pushed for Nelson as it was getting a little late in the afternoon and we were operating on not a lot of sleep.

Courtesy of Road to Nowhere

State Highway 6 climbed across a range of hills and was a super smooth, twisty section of sealed bliss that really rated a fresh head on ones shoulders to get the most out of it. I made do with what I had and enjoyed it immensely.

We found our hotel in Nelson very easily and were reunited with Wayne. We all had an excellent route guide that Steve had put together with the route, our accommodation details and points of interest for each day so that should we become separated during the day, we would be able to link up again each night. Good one Chiller !

The rooms were typical cheap pub rooms but this was all we were expecting for a couple of shekels. We wandered around a bit, downed some nice beers then scoffed some wood fired pizzas from the hotel across the road, while bantering with the hotelier. After a bit of a wander around Nelson we enjoyed a Wild Turkey or two on the balcony of the hotel before falling into unconsciousness. Day one done and dusted !