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.

Day 4

We rolled out of the backpackers pretty well refreshed, well except for Wayne as apparently Geoff snored like a train all night. He he. This was a good thing (for the rest of us) as we had about 520km(325mi) to ride today. Not normally a big ask but on these changeable Kiwi roads it could be a long day.

Out of Hanmer we rode South toward Christchurch. We would actually get within about 40km of the city again before we veered West through Oxford to Arthur's Pass. 

From the Chillertek touring guide, the days route looked like this:

I had swapped bikes with Steve for the ride to Oxford. He got the Triumph and I got to sample a BMW 800GS. The first thing I noticed was the drastic lack of power(compared to the Explorer) but it handled nicely, felt light and once I had those stupid BMW indicators nutted out, I was happy. The only negative was that bloody screen. It rattled the head like nothing else and if you had your visor cracked a fraction the sound of plastic vibrating drove you insane! But then again, maybe it was ok closer to the speed limit? The boys seemed to be in a hurry again this morning and we were lucky not to have words with one of the boys in blue.

This was definitely a transport section. We refuelled and caffeined-up in Oxford, then aimed the bikes at Arthur's Pass. There were some really nice little towns along here, like Springfield. I had to stop just out of Springfield as the view of the mountains, as the early morning cloud cleared, was outstanding.

We stopped again not much further along the road to fit cameras, scratch ourselves, burp a bit and do whatever stuff middle aged blokes on a bike trip do.

We blasted up the first bit of the(a) pass, which was a magic little section of road without too much traffic. I was getting some great photos with the Go Pro mounted on the right pannier.

 We then stopped briefly at Castle Rocks for a photo. You can see the Go Pro on the right side pannier.

About 2 km down the road it wasn't there any more. I knew it was a dodgy place to mount it so it was half expected. I knew the two corners that it fell off between and doubled back to have a quick look for it, with no joy. Not wanting to hold the others up I shrugged my shoulders and said a "c'est la vie". It certainly wasn't going to spoil what was shaping as a great day on the bike.

Go Pro...gone.

360 degree panorama from the same spot.

The view just got better and better. 

There was quite a bit of tourist traffic on the road now and we saw a huge collection of cars, all topped with a mountain bike and a kayak parked in an amazingly beautiful area. They were obviously getting ready for some sort of adventure race and I must say, I felt a pang of jealousy as they were about to "get amongst it" while we were merely "riding past it".

We stopped briefly in Arthur's Pass for a look at the visitor's centre then motored on. We stopped at a lookout to check out a sketchy looking bridge that comprised part of the national highway! I guess you have to get inventive when the ground shakes all of the time.

It was here that, while my back was turned taking the above photo, Steve was rescuing my gloves from some hungry Keas. It was our first encounter with these flying garbage disposal units. Steve, being the responsible-tour-leader type, seemed a bit concerned that one was having a go at my bike but I just thought "would you like fries with that?"

The other two guys had been in full on Sydney mode (overtake everything in front of you-no matter what) and were well ahead by now. We had a good hour or more of uninterrupted riding through some very scenic areas. As we approached the West coast again (yes, this island is very narrow) it proceeded to rain on us in fits and starts. Eventually we pulled over so Steve could get into his big onesie raincoat. I stood and gawked at the hills.

We had been wondering why the Kiwi bloggers don't put many photos on their posts, what with the country so beautiful and all. It was starting to dawn on us that maybe they had photo fatigue. There are just some many photogenic views that we were starting to get a bit tired of getting the camera out ourselves!

Hitting the West coast we turned left to Hokitika. It rained. Bloody West coast.

The only photo from Hokitika is of Geoff, finishing his gourmet lunch. Note the water pouring off the rooves in the background.

It was to be a "heads down, bum up" section from Hokitika to Fox Glacier. Pretty wet, with some exciting roadworks to negotiate the time dragged a bit.......until you looked to your left that is.

The road between Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier was a sweet, twisty, rainforest encased section of blacktop heaven. Unfortunately, it was wet. It is probably wet most of the time if the almost luminous green of the hillsides is anything to go by. We had all been concentrating hard on negotiating the unfamiliar wet roads for quite a while now and I was feeling it. I stopped to take some photos and some of the others had done the same, so we were a bit broken up, as a group, coming into Fox Glacier.

Wayne keeping it rubber side down between Franz Josef and Fox Glacier.

So, I rolled into town on my own. I knew Geoff and Wayne were ahead of me. Steve was somewhere behind. What I didn't know was where the hell we were staying for the night! I hadn't taken a screen shot of (like the one further up this post) tour guide Steve's notes for the day and my Evernote App doesn't work without Wi-Fi 'coz I am a scungy pilot who won't pay for the full version of the app! What to do? I grabbed some fuel and chatted to a young lass who had just ridden from Queenstown, across Haast Pass by herself in the rain. She was loving it! Then I rode around a bit looking for the guys bikes. Then I took a few selfies. man, it had been a long day in the saddle, concentrating on the road and I think I had aged ten years! I was looking all of my 33 years that afternoon....!

Anyway, something clicked in that empty vessel I keep on my shoulders and the Fox Glacier Inn sprang to mind. Riding around to the rear of the pub(public bar) I spied the lad's bikes, Bingo! A quick "hi", a shower, then it was down to said pub for a taste of some lovely Monteith's Original. I'm not on the payroll, perhaps I should be, but this is a great drop. Actually, Monteiths is my favourite Kiwi beer by a mile. Do yourself a favour and try one today.

In the process of doing just that, we began chatting with some locals. One of them turned out to be the owner and was a very nice bloke. He warned us that the Keas were vicious bastards and would devour our bikes whole overnight ("do you want fries with that Trumpy?"). Well, that just would not do. His solution was for us to ride our bikes into the bar for "safety". 

"Great, thanks, that sounds awesome but we've(the royal we) had eleventy-one beers. Is that going to be okay? What about those Japanese tourists sitting by the door eating dinner?" No, he assured us it was fine but asked us not to try to jump through the door like the last guy had. He had crashed and broken his collar bone! Feck! And he was still willing to let us try? I love this guy!

No worries. Now we could sleep in peace......after a few more refreshing beverages.....and a chat to the barmaids.........and a chat with the owner..............and take onboard some more hydration.....

What an unbelievable couple of days it had been, all topped off by great hospitality.

Haast Pass and Queenstown tomorrow, then a rest day in Qtown to recover some strength......

Cheers and thanks for reading.


  1. Another great review. Man, is there much worse on a ride then your boots leaking. To feel that cold seeping down under the arch. My last pair of boots did that, so far the Sidis have been good.

    I liked the visor montage - looked kind of like you were dancing on your seat!!

    1. Dancing? I was trying my best Mick Doohan "cool" there.....

  2. The West Coast is great wet or dry. Didn't really look like proper West Coast rain to me...You Aussies dunno what rain is! ;)

    Enjoying the write-up!

  3. Dave, thoroughly enjoying your perspective in the trip and the great pics.

    Cheers Jules

    1. Thanks Jules. We pinched some of your tips, so cheers.

  4. Lewis Pass did have a peak, it was just hard to tell because you couldn't see much in all that cloud.
    I do eat peas just not half the bloody packet in one meal.

    Mate you look about 63 in that selfy.

    Maybe it was the publicans test that you drink 8 beers first then ride in and they film the hilarity that prevails. Luckily we didn't smash anything, but those tourists took off pretty quick as we took over the pub.

  5. Totally Dig The Time Lapse!!! Keep Them Coming!!! Cheers

  6. Dave you bastard! You and your brother are driving me insane with all the wonderful narrative and photos! I suppose riding a bike into the bar is the modern equivalent of riding your horse in! West Coast hospitality at its best. The north island is about to be hammered by the remains of cyclone Lusi and our place is right in the firing line :-(

    1. Ahhh, that west coast hospitality. (more pics to come)
      Hope your not getting washed away but you guys had a pretty dry year last year so you might need it?
      More to come but I have been too busy with work and stuff getting in the way for now.


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