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 !

Day 2 dawned...........well, it dawned. 

We wandered around Nelson a bit before we found a breakfast establishment that had a good vibe. One was sporting a number of Lambretta scooters and seemed appropriate. Eggs on toast washed down with good coffee made us whole again. 

The plan today was to head up and over Takaka Hill to Takaka. Then back again to head South West to Westport for the night.

I seemed to have some fog inside my head visor this morning, so I tootled along at the back of the group watching some skydivers plummet toward earth and generally taking in the coastal views West of Nelson. Very pretty country indeed !

Rolling through Motueka we were soon climbing Takaka Hill. 

More endless 25 and 35km/h bends on silky smooth tar until we crested the hill and were presented with THAT view! Wow! How good is this?

Courtesey The Road To Nowhere

Stopping for a drink in Takaka, we re-energised for the climb back over that sweet hill. 

Geoff pounded the pavement looking for some "togs" to wear into the hot springs in Hanmer Springs tomorrow. For all of our sakes we wished him happy hunting and enjoyed the street art!

Back up and over Takaka hill with minimal drama (well, Geoff did lose his Contour camera but Steve managed to pick it up) and we refuelled and relaxed in the warm morning sun.

We then headed along what initially looked like a back road but turned out to be the main road. The ride along the Kohatu-Kawatiri Highway was very pleasant and felt a bit like riding through Tasmania. We eventually came to an intersection that had a cafe just begging us to come on in. So we did.

We then motored through some small hamlets that I don't recall the name of before turning off, crossing a narrow bridge and finding ourselves on Buller Gorge Rd. We had been dodging rain for a couple of hours now with the road taking us toward a heavy shower, only to curve away at seemingly the last moment. This saw just a few spots on the screen and visor. It was interesting to see how the water behaved in the turbulence behind the screen though. Droplets were actually being sucked forward and swirled around all over the place. Not like a sports bike at all where the airflow is very predictable.

This Buller River Gorge road was proving to be a hell of a lot of fun with open, high speed sweepers, tight twists in the forest and views over the river to die for. The colour of the water here is something to behold. If you have seen the Lord Of The Rings you may have thought that Peter Jackson photo-shopped the colour of the water in the rivers but no, they are really that amazing Azure Blue in colour. Simply beautiful.

After this stop the rain was looking a bit more ominous to the South West so Wayne and I high-tailed it to Westport. Luckily for me, Steve stopped for a few more photos and I am stealing them now! Cheers Bro!

Courtesy The Road To Nowhere
Courtesy The Road To Nowhere
We made it into Westport with minimal wet stuff falling onto us and found our motel, the Buller Bridge Motel to be fantastic. A modern, two bedroom unit with cooking facilities and plenty of room to spread out. 

We were soon parked up, washed up and heading out to find food. I should note here that we didn't follow the motel owners advice to book ahead. How hard can it be? 

Well, we were to find out when we settled on a feed at the Deniston Dog. After much faffing around by the staff we were finally given a table in the mostly empty restaurant then waited almost an hour for steak that we had to cook ourselves (yes, a hot rock). The food was good for us steak eaters but no so for the bloke who went for fish. Oh well, we were warned.......and now so are you!

The town was pretty much shut down by this time (10ish) so we made our way back to the motel for a quiet night, retelling stories about how frickin' good this ride was.

Thanks for checking in and keep a look out for the next installment.



  1. My solicitor will be in touch regarding the blatant plagiarism of my intellectual property.

    Say I love the photo's from the go pro of us on Takaka Hill.

    1. Solicitor? Bite me ya penniless bum.

      You like that photo? The price just skyrocketed!

  2. I am really enjoy your and Steve's trip reports. Just makes me want to ride in the sun.....if only the damn rain would stop.

    I did have to chuckle when you asked Steve about the seals. We have a buddy who rides an R1 and is always out in front of everyone racing ahead. When he waits for us we ask him if he saw the lake he rode by. He usually jokes and says "what lake? There was a lake?"

    I am also surprised they put you on the Explorer when you wanted an 800. Nothing like adding a 100bs or so, but I hear they are pretty good bikes overall. How did you like it?

  3. I don't know how you put up with your weather Brandy. There are so many drier places to live. ;)
    The Trumpy was ok to ride. It handled okay, the brakes were very good and it had oodles of power. What it didn't have was any character whatsoever. I couldn't feel the road feedback for about a week. As the tyres wore is seemed to develop some "feeling" but I will not be running out to buy one as it used more fuel than my Honda Civic car! I bet they don't sell well.

    1. In other words he thought it was a shit box with plenty of power

  4. Hmmm, more familiar scenery eh?

    But did ya get to try the Triumph on some delicious gravel?

    1. Haha. We had road works on day 4 down near Ross and the Trumpy near ploughed itself Andrew. That little front wheel just wanted to bury itself. I was looking forward to some dirt which is why I wanted the 21" Tiger.
      The Explorer was a bucket of sh1t on the dirt.
      P.S. I hope you don't own one!!

    2. Nope but interested in the 800 too...

      MY 1,352cc Adv bike went ok on some gravel when I was down there!

    3. Well, yes, it does beat walking...but only just.
      I was interested in the 800 but not now. Talking with Wayne from Paradise they said they have nothing but trouble with it, it is cheaply built and it guzzles fuel. I read that in a magazine review 18 months ago as well. I thought it wouldn't be a big deal but after filling the Explorer with 25% more gas each time than the other boys(and they were wringing the necks of the 800Gs a lot harder than I was) I am completely turned off the triumph.


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