Friday, April 4, 2014

New Zealand-A Quick Look At The South Island- Part 4

Days 7 and 8

Queenstown to Te Anau(and Milford Sound) to Balclutha- 762km(476mi)

After scarfing down the complimentary continental breakfast at Reavers Lodge we mounted up and bade Queenstown farewell. I could have easily spent the rest of the week here but the road was calling.

Crossing the little single lane bridge (like most here on the South Island) over the Kawarau River we were on the open road, passing between the foot of The Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu. The road hugged the shoreline, albeit 100ft up the cliff face. (Note: Lots of photos borrowed from my brother's blog as what photos I could be bothered taking were eaten by my phone/camera.)

This made for more fantastic views out to our right. Steve stopped along here for some photos but I felt in the groove so keep motoring along until we came to the end of the lake and to the tiny township of Kingston.

Chillertek rolling into Kingston
We stopped for a coffee and chatted to a couple of German backpackers who were dressed in traditional Bavarian costume. These girls revealed that they were travelling the world dressed like this, teaching traditional German language, music and tradition as a way of seeing the world. They were staying with anyone who offered food and lodging and being dressed so conspicuously I suspect that they had no issue with striking up conversation with potential landlords.

The rest of the ride to Te Anau was very open with straight road. We had been warned that the highway patrol frequented this section of road and it wasn't long before we passed a radar trap. We were at a very sensible 100km/h so it proved no issue for us.

Rolling into Te Anau we refuelled and decided to head straight out to Milford Sound despite the gloomy looking conditions out to the west. Wayne seemed to be itching to go so he headed off while Steve, Geoff and I grabbed a Subway sandwich to eat out at Milford.

The road to Milford Sound is well made and varies with the terrain it passes through. There are open fields, dense forest and views across grassy plain to soaring mountains that reminded me of Yellowstone National Park in the US.

The road through the forest had a strip of moss running up the centre of both lanes and I did my utmost to keep the tyres off of this slick looking strip. Not long after entering the forest we stopped so that the boys could don their wet weather gear. I zipped the neck protector section onto my suit and felt as ready as I could be to face the impending rain.

Once we were into the rain my visor promptly fogged and so began the crack the visor/close the visor/crack the visor routine. I really should have bought a pinlock system as the visor had the pins ready to go. Oh well.

As we neared the Homer Tunnel it became very windy with gusts pushing me all over the road. The concentration levels were through the roof and it wasn't until we stopped at the one way tunnel, waiting for the green light, that I had a chance to take in the view. To say that it was completely amazing is an understatement! 

Here we were, standing in the rain at 9C(48F), still quite dry thanks to our gear, looking up at an almost 360 degree view of rock face that had water cascading down it in mini waterfalls, capped by remnants of last winter's snowfalls. Magic.

The tunnel was very dark. Yes, seems obvious but with the road being wet the darkness seemed almost complete.

Popping out on the other side and the rain was coming down even harder. We tackled the switchbacks down from the tunnel mouth carefully as water washed across the road. I must say, the tyres on the Trumpy were holding on amazingly well with the ONLY slip I had in these condition being from the rear tyre when I did a less-than-silky downward gear change. I wish I had noted the tyre model to recount here.

Arriving into Milford Sound we passed Wayne coming the other way. We found a park for the bikes and Wayne found us. He seemed to have a bee in his bonnet and muttered something about "fucking rain...fucking sand flies" and that he was heading for Te Anau and a warm motel room. Cool. We were pretty chilled and broke out our Subway, heading across to the local cafe' looking for a coffee to have with them. Now, absolutely dripping with water, we did the considerate thing and stood on the doorstep, just out of the rain so that we didn't flood their cafe' out. Man that Subway tasted good!

There wasn't much point in hanging around as the rain had really set in. Not surprising as Milford Sound gets around 8m (yes,320 inches) of rain per year! Making our way back to Te Anau there was much more traffic on the road and it made for some interesting overtaking, especially through the forested section with it's "moss stripe". Crossing this strip proved to be no issue with grip levels feeling quite normal. I guess the moss was growing in the hollows of the road chip and we still had full contact with the road surface. We passed a couple of other riders heading into town. They probably thought we were crazy, motoring along at a brisk pace in the wet conditions.

We quickly found our motel for the night. The Arran Motel room proved to be a large two bedroom job with full kitchen and a great heater that Wayne already had cranking. It was run by motorcycle friendly people and I will definitely be staying there the next time I visit Te Anau.

My suit had kept me toasty and warm but had let in a little water so that my t-shirt around my stomach six-pack area was wet. Not bad for how much rain had tipped down upon us though.

We quickly downed the last of our duty free Wild Turkey as we set about drying wet boots, gloves, helmets etc. It was a short walk along the foreshore of Lake Te Anau to the main street where we soon found a little restaurant which allowed BYO booze, which we used to wash down some delicious wood fired pizzas. Luckily for us we had to stumble back past the pub to get to our motel. After a vote we proceeded to share the wealth with another local establishment before stumbling on our merry way to Chateau Arran for a great nights sleep.

We had purchased WeetBix and fruit again, so breakfast was a relatively healthy affair and we were on the road to Invercargill quite early. We rode down to Manapouri where the view across Lake Manapouri was again, amazing.

More open farmlands rolled past today, under a grey sky.

This kept the temperature down but my suit and the heated grips on the Trumpy kept me warm.

We stopped at a coastal lookout to gaze across the Tasman Sea.

It was windy today and I am guessing it is windy most days as all of the trees along this coast line were stunted and growing at an angle of about 30 degrees from the constant buffeting of the wind.

We stopped in Riverton for a coffee and snack.

Wayne and I went a little up-market, eating in a proper cafe' while Steve and Geoff ate a pie in the local playground. This piece of artwork hung above us in the cafe' and is a good indication of what the countryside around here looked like.

There were two cycle tourists enjoying a re-fuel in the cafe' and I checked out their rigs which were leaning against the fence behind our motorcycles. This was one of the few times this trip that I was glad I had a motor in the frame. It would NOT be any fun pushing into those gales!

The road across to Invercargill was quite busy and we kept things in check for this bit. Riding into Invercargill we headed straight for E. Hayes store to check out Burt Monroe's motorcycles which are on display in amongst the hardware, china and fine linen! If you have not seen the movie "The World's Fastest Indian" STOP reading this right now, go rent, beg, borrow or steal and watch it NOW! Anthony Hopkins turns in an amazingly touching bit of acting that portrays Bert's first tilt at getting to the Bonneville salt flats in Utah to have a crack at the land speed record for motorcycles. All the more amazing when you stand here in Invercargill, literally the arse end of the planet, and imagine the hurdles that must have been in front of him just to get to the US, let alone be able to race his bike.

Anyway, lots of photos from the store here with the highlight being THE ORIGINAL Indian he built and used.

The REAL deal !

We then decided that we would head down the road to Bluff as it is the most southerly point on the New Zealand mainland. Bluff is a port town and looks like your typical port town, only smaller.

We made our way to the viewing area and took the obligatory photos. Cool.

Dumb and figure it out.....

I had still not perused the road maps much and knew very little about the next section of road to Balclutha. The only thing I did note was a stylised winding road symbol on all of the road signs.

The road took us through the Catlins Forest and proved to be an absolute cracker!

 It had been fairly recently sealed so that the surface was in great nick and it twisted and turned for kilometre on kilometre! I was really enjoying the ride through here and was soon feeling pretty warm from the glorious sunshine and the exertion of spirited riding.

Catlins road in centre-right, views to the left !

Steve peeling off for a look and about to find Geoff covered in Coke.

Eventually we rolled into Balclutha feeling hot and tired. Balclutha seemd to be a very busy little town with truck loads of deer, sheep and milk tearing along it's streets.

Our motel was quiet and clean, if a little way out of town but a short walk each day would not hurt us.

We made our way into the South Otago Hotel for a refreshing drinks and bite to eat. One of the barmaids from the Fox Glacier Inn had told us to go there as it was her dad's pub. We soon saw the resemblance and had a great night chatting with him until it was time to chuck us out. It was cool and crisp for the walk home and we fell into bed well tired.

Tomorrow we head for Twizel and Mt Cook!


  1. Nice. The Milford Road is my favourite ride in the country. The Catlins are good too although can be fairly rough on a crappy day.

    1. And I bet they get plenty of crappy weather down there. I think we were very lucky to strike it on a great day.

  2. Great post. I am enjoying the different posts on the trip between you and Steve. You both have a different perspective which is cool.

    The moss on the roads you mention reminds me of our area and the green looking roads. Sometimes it is moss and sometimes we have grass growing in the asphalt in the center of the roads and on the sides of the roads.

    1. Yeah, Steve is still all keen on moto and as you may be able to tell, I can take it or leave it. I find more challenge elsewhere these days.

  3. That ride through the Catlins was awesome. I was really in the zone there and didn't want to stop and take photo's which shows because we only took about 2 or 3.

    1. Lol, but you took more than me! Thats why I stole yours.


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