Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Zealand - A Quick Look At The South Island - Part 5

Days 9, 10 and 11

Balclutha to Twizel to Methven and Christchurch - 796km(498mi)

The beauty of Kiwi motel rooms is they all seem to have a great little kitchenette in them. Either us Aussies are too lazy (quite possible) or too corrupt (make you buy something from the motel,quite possible also) to include some basic eating facilities in our motel rooms. It will be buried in "a regulation" as to why we can't but we were pleased that the Kiwis retain this freedom as it allowed another cost effective, semi-healthy breakfast before we rolled on toward Twizel today.

We had some discussions over beers the previous evening as to which way to leave Balclutha. There was an East of the Clutha River option and a West side option. 

In the end I think we missed the turn off for the West option so rode the East side along the Clutha Valley Rd and Tuapeka West Rd to the edge of the little town of Lawrence.

Either way, we had stumbled onto a great little piece of tarmac that twisted and turned across open hill tops through grazing land. While narrow, the Tuapeka West rd was well sealed as usual with tight corners being placed on top of a hill, with a short straight down into a hollow followed by a zoom up to the next hill top and tight bend. This section cleared our heads and I enjoyed the blat across to Lawrence immensely.

A pic of Steve taking the pic below.

Thanks to Steve for taking a lot of photos. I think I was suffering photo fatigue as I didn't take many these last few days and what few I did my camera/phone ate them for some inexplicable reason.

We followed the main road up to Alexandra where we stopped for some coffee and a mid morning snack.

 The road had opened out into a majorish thoroughfare and it was pretty uninteresting riding as we passed through orchard country, not dissimilar to places at home in Oz.

Alexandra is a pretty little town set amongst dry, rocky. barren hillsides. This really stood out to us after a week of greenery. 

Alexandra is also one of the towns on the Central Otago Rail Trail. This trail runs from Clyde in the West to Middlemarch in the East, a distance of about 140km(88mi) and is on my list of bicycle rides to do. I wanted to have a look at the trailhead but when I asked the young lass in the cafe' about it she just shrugged her shoulders and had to go ask someone else! She was a local and had not heard of this MAJOR tourist attraction that 10s of thousands of people come from all over the world to ride! Anyway, I grabbed a tourist map and found it for myself. We decided to go for a ride up to a peak that overlooked town to get a view of the land and everyone seemed to be in on the plan....except Wayne....again. He sailed off into the distance while we stopped at the old railway station (like we had discussed). After a short wait, we climbed the hill to the lookout. It was well worth the effort, with the views up the Clutha River valley to the back of the Remarkables near Queenstown.

Notice no Road to Nowhere watermark? Thats because its my photo and he stole it with no credit........

The rail trail stood out distinctly as a gravel scar through the countryside. 

At only 140km(88mi) long, it isn't a big ride and the grades are shallow as those old steam engines didn't like uppity country much. Despite this I think a bikepacking ride through here, maybe taking in some of the Great Southern Brevete course is on the cards.......yeeeaahh!!

Geoff and I exploring the Alexandra hillsides.

As the view was like that from a light plane, we stood and looked for Wayne on the roads below us, but to no avail. He was gone again. Bloody highly-strung-Ducati-owners......

Passing through Clyde the road climbed up a hillside with the expanse of the now dammed Clutha River and Lake Dunstan on our left. 

I was following Steve here with Geoff close behind. Steve slammed on the brakes to turn into a viewing point and I thought this isn't going to be pretty as I glanced into my mirror and saw that Geoff was looking at the river. If I braked he would either run up the back of me or slam on his brakes and probably crash so I elected not to brake and sailed past the turn-off. No probs, I figured Wayne was up the road somewhere so kept riding to try to catch him at Cromwell services.

As I rode into Cromwell, Wayne was riding out. He turned around and we all re-grouped here 15 minutes later. It was heating up and the mercury was probably as close to 30C as it had been all trip. We all peeled our Balclutha-wear off and got into summer riding mode. I must admit, the vents on my jacket were not quite up to the task in this sort of heat but then I would rather be warm and dry when it counted.

Geoff and I were tailed out of Cromwell by the highway patrol for some time until he found a victim and spun around after them. This then allowed for some very pleasant cruising with the cruise-control set and me taking in the countryside along the east side of Lake Dunstan. Here is my Bro's video of that section....seeing as he hadn't skittered his Go-Pro down the road at 130km/h.......

Steve was keen to do the last "Pass" on our trip, the Lindis Pass. I couldn't really remember it from my last drive through the area 5 years ago and there was a reason for this. As far as passes go, it felt like a stretch of road in our Snowy Mountains. Just a bunch of bumpy, oily looking bends set in amongst grassy hillsides. We stopped at the "top" for the obligatory photos but when a bus load of Asian tourists spewed out of their bus to take photos I saw the mediocrity of our location. Hey, in defense of my scenery-snobbery, NZ has some SPECTACULAR scenery and Lindis Pass was pretty underwhelming in that context.

Left to Right-Wayne, Geoff and Flyboy. Thanks Chiller.

Descending off Lindis Pass toward Omarama there were some nice bends but it was mainly flat, open road. Omarama is a great place to go Soaring, as in with sailplanes/gliders. You can attain STUPID heights here without an engine. By using the uplift from the southern alps which soar to 14 000ft with Mt Cook, a glider can surf this "lift" up to a bit over 30 000ft!! That is serious height in anyones books. As I started on my aviation journey by learning how to glide and I hadn't been in a glider since 1990, I thought I might check it out. Back in the mid 80s I paid $20 for an aerotow to 2000ft and $30/hr for the glider hire. Here in 2014 they wanted $430 for 30 minutes that idea!

We took a break nonetheless in Omarama and checked out the mindblowing collection of Hobbit accessories. It appears that part of the Hobbit was filmed around here so Omarama was Ca-Chinging in on it.

The boys were keen to check out Benmore Dam, an attraction that the pub owner in Balclutha had told us about. "Mate, it is the biggest earth-mound-dam-wall in the southern hemisphere and the lake is huge but you can't see it all as it is behind the hills". Well........a huge mound of dirt and a dam that you can't see were not getting me all moist and excited so I opted to head the last few kilometres into Twizel to have a shower and post the postcards that I had bought waaay back in Invercargill, to the kids. I knew I would beat the cards home by this point but that isn't the point with kids.

Lake Ruataniwah at Twizel

So, the boys went for a ride and I went shopping, having an icy cold box of DB Bitter in the fridge for when they rolled up...and I can just steal er reproduce with full permission, Steve's photos of that imposing....dirt...mound. Enjoy.

Twizel is a little hydroelectric scheme town that felt not unlike Cabramurra back home in that it was a small, planned township that housed the workers. We had a good feed and a few drinks in the Twizel Pub, forever dubbed "The Twizo" by Geoff (he was missing his pub at home, The Pendo)

Our motel, the Aspen Court Motel was a great little motel, with very clean modern units that suited our snorer/non-snorer compliment well. At about 2am there was an ear shattering siren that woke the whole town. The boys jumped up thinking it was an earthquake warning and could not believe that Geoff and I slept through the whole thing! Ahh, the beauty of earplugs!

The next morning we headed up to Mt Cook. The previous day had been a bit wet and overcast by late afternoon so we took the punt to do Mt Cook today. And it paid off big time! We had a bluebird(as you Yanks say) clear day that made Mt Cook seem MASSIVE, even from a distance.

Me and Mt Cook.
 We must have stopped 57, 683 times (and I am going to post every f@rking photo now) along the road into Mt Cook to take photos as every bend we went around, the view seemed to be more and more breathtaking.

Mt Cook in the centre, on it's own.

That is, until I put my ugly mug into the photo. ;)

Dumb and Dumber again.
The little village at the end of the road is called The Hermitage and Steve and I stopped in for a meat pie and coffee, under the snow clad slopes of the southern alps. It really does not get any better than this! This simple morning tea was one of the highlights of my trip and made me think of the almost 20 years-in-the-planning behind our ride. It was great to be here with my little Bro, enjoying the moment on such a beautiful day.

We lost Wayne and Geoff again here somewhere. Not sure how as it was a dead end road, but we managed it! They had the route sheet though and it would be just a matter of time before we found them again.

Nope, not here....

That time was when we were standing on the observatory hill, Mt John, above Lake Tekapo. My phone beeped. It was Wayne saying they were in Tekapo, about to refuel and head on. I said "look up to your left, we are on top of that hill!"

Yeah, my phone trashed all of my photos from here on in. ;(  Thanks Chiller.

We met up with Wayne and Geoff in Tekapo, near the bottom right of that photo. We wound our way through some nice, if busy roads to Geraldine then set about tackling the straight roads of the western Canterbury Plains. This was pretty boring riding but at least it was a great day. I can just imagine how miserable the ride would have been with a howling wind across these open plains.

We arrived in our last overnight destination of Methven at about 3pm. We were winging our accomodation tonight, not having anything pre-booked. We were soon in luck with a local backpackers giving us a whole house to ourselves. All for $30 kiwi each. Choice!

The boys were keen to drink beer and chill as it was a hot day but I was keen to ride back across to the Arthur's Pass rd and have a look for my Go Pro that I had lost 7 days before. It proved to be a 100km(62mi) ride across to the location where I KNEW it had fallen off. 

Not far out of Methven I crossed Rakaia River Gorge and it looked amazing in the late afternoon sunlight. BOO-YAH! It was worth this wild goose chase already!

Once I arrived at the search site I locked everything into the panniers, put a cap on and began to walk the 2-3km section of road that I knew the camera had to have fallen off along. There was nice level verge on the road and some 20-30ft drops off the corner into farmers paddocks. I thought if it had gone into that long grass from a drop-off, it was gone forever. There were road works going on and the workers had been walking much of the road that I was searching so I chatted with them, asking if they had seen my Go Pro. But no, nothing. I had basically given up and was walking back to my bike when i spied the hard outer case lying in the grass. WOO HOO! A quick search located the camera about 50cm away from the case. The much sought after memory card was still in the camera-just! It was actually un-mounted, but still sitting in the slot! I found the suction cup mount and arm seperately about 50m(50 yards) up the road. The camera had been on the right side of the bike and despite the slight left bend that I thought would shoot it to the right, the camber of the road had obviously skittered the camera to the left side of the road. In another plus, I got to ride this section again.

I arrived back into Methven hot and tired at about 6pm. I refuelled ($22.00 for 200km), had a shower then went to find the boys. They were in a pizza shop that had a fridge full of beer that they would not sell to us (long story) so I ordered a pizza then ran across the street to the Brown Pub to down a victory Monteith's. Ahh, that beer tasted sooo sweet!

After a huge pizza that the boys could not believe I could finish, we adjourned to the Blue Pub for some more refreshments. Imaginative naming convention with the pubs here in Methven. There must be a story behind it?

A highlight of Methven would be the Easter Bike Races. That is the Brown Pub on the left and the Blue Pub on the right in the video.
Street racing past the two pubs? I could just imagine the atmosphere.

Tonight was our last night on the road and there was only about 90km(56mi) to ride in the morning to get the bikes back to Christchurch. Wayne (Ducati owner) was getting antsy about getting the bikes back but I managed to convince them to go via a slightly less direct road for a look at the Rakaia Gorge. Unfortunatley it was foggy this morning so the view was nothing like I had the previous afternoon (photo above) but the guys enjoyed the ride notheless.

Last morning in Methven

We arrived back in Christchurch in plenty of time to drop the bikes off. It went without a hitch as we had done no damage to them at all. The only gripe we had, apart from the thirst of my bike, was that Geoff's BMW had blown a light bulb. We had ridden 4200km(2625mi) in 11 days according to the bike odometer, but my gps says 3898km (2436mi). Here is the actual route we rode from my Garmin eTrex30.

Overall, I was a bit peeved at not having the bike I had booked 6 months earlier. I then had salt rubbed into that wound with the high fuel consumption of the Triumph Explorer 1200, but I do understand that shit happens sometimes.

With that in mind, I can recommend dealing with Paradise Motorcycle Tours if you have a similar trip in mind.

Thanks to the boys for your company on the road and in the pub (yes, even the Ductai owning Wayno). It was an awesome 11 days that was a long time in the making. You know you've had a good trip when you have to turf your boots in the bin at the end of it....!?!

This little 5 part series has taken me about 18 hours to piece together and write up.... 2 months after returning. I hope you have enjoyed the write up and it hasn't been too long coming or too light on information. If anyone wants more information on anything in these 5 posts on riding New Zealand just fire Steve or I an email under our contact tabs.

A special thanks must go to Steve/Chillertek/little Bro for all of his hard work in planning this trip. He put a massive amount of effort into the route planning and knew the plan so well that he could remember roads,  turns, towns and attractions from memory which saved us much time on the road.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V 

Hats off and good job Bro.


  1. An awesome conclusion to your ride reports.

    Thanks for taking the time to post so those of us across the pond could play along.

    1. No worries Brandy. Glad you enjoyed both write-ups. Looking forward to your riding season kicking off (as are you no doubt!)


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