Friday, March 28, 2014

Post traumatic kiwi syndrome

I came home from work today and had a couple of beers with some ex work mates at the pub. It just happens that the pub was next to a Dan Murphy's Liquor store. I was some how hankering for some monteiths, couldn't help myself I think I had withdrawal symptoms. It was the best drop we had over there in NZ and it's going down nicely right now. CHEERS. Ride safe everyone.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Zealand Epilogue

Our last day in New Zealand was basically the ride from Methven to Christchurch a distance of some 80kms to hand the bikes back to Wayne from Paradise Motorcycle ToursParadise were excellent and if your looking to hire some bikes for a similar tour then I'd highly recommend them.

It was a cool morning on the ever so flat Canterbury Plains and the whole area was covered in a thick fog which lasted to not far out from Christchurch. We rode back through the Rakaia Gorge which was the one last throw at a bit of a twisty ride before riding the boring plains through Darfield and into Christchurch.

Wayne greeted us at Hampton Motorcycles and was intrigued as to how the bikes went. Other than Wayne's bike not having a full tank on the first day the only other problem was Geoff's bike blew a headlight bulb. The bikes ran superbly otherwise. The panniers fitted all our gear in nicely and were easy to use with soft bags that you could easily unload your stuff at the end of the day. We ended up doing just over 3900km's for the whole trip with dave doing an extra 200km's searching for his gopro.

I wasn't overly impressed with the F800 GS but it was comfortable for touring on which it should be seeing as that was what it was designed to do. I won't be rushing out to buy one anytime soon put it that way. I'm far too young for a touring bike but I could have one as a second bike.

Tour Successfully completed rubber side down 

I'd like to say thanks to Geoff, Wayne and Dave for making the ride that much more enjoyable. Thanks for your company guys. Special thanks to Dave for bringing this back up after so long it finally actually came to fruition. If you dare to dream sometimes dreams do come true. I'd also like to thank my wife for her patience and understanding of my one and only hobby and letting me do something like this. Thanks babe your the greatest.

This has been the best motorcycle holiday ever by a long shot, the only way I think I would have made it better was to ride my own bike around. I'd wanted something to remember the tour with after we had finished it so I decided to get 4 T shirts made up for the other guys. I'd asked their shirt size early on and they forgot up until day 2 and asked why I had asked them, geoff thought that Paradise Motorcycle tours was giving us t shirts but little did they know I used a design your own t shirt web site and bought them some. You should have seen the smiles on their faces when I gave them the shirts, It made it all worth while.

Being the middle of summer it wasn't very cold, I think 8°C was the lowest I saw and I didn't even have thermals on, I took them but didn't wear them because it wasn't needed. The hottest I saw was 29.5°C. I pretty much wore just my leathers with a t shirt underneath for all of the tour. Petrol prices were pretty steep at anywhere between $2.24 - $2.48 per litre for premium unleaded which was a bit xxx'y. We'd pretty much booked all our accommodation in advance except the last night, which was lucky as a lot of places had no vacancies when we got in around 6pm or later. It probably wouldn't be too much of a problem if you get in earlier.

The last thing I can say is if that you've ever thought of doing an Middle Earth(NZ) tour, just do it, you won't regret it. It is some of the most spectacular riding ever with scenery to die for. What are you waiting for get over there and do it.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

New Zealand - Day 10

Twizel to Methven - Feb 20

Wow I can't believe that this is our last day of riding through Middle Earth, it has come around so fast. We awoke this morning to beautiful clear blue sky's thankfully as the ride up to Mt Cook wouldn't have been the same in the rain as it was yesterday. The views along here were breathtaking to say the least with the beautiful Lake Pukaki along the right hand side with massive mountains to the left with sweeping roads all the way along. We couldn't have asked for anything better than this and it is the middle of summer and there is still lots of snow. The perfect send off for our last day. Mt Cook is New Zealand's tallest mountain at 3,753m(12,313 ft). It's a striking feature of the mountainous sky line that stands out above all else around it making it truly remarkable.

Mt Cook

The road along here has a lot of straights with big long sweeping bends. Initially I was hoping it would be a bit tighter but realised that if it was then there would be far to many accidents as people would go sailing off into the scenery because you just can't help but constantly look at the scenery.

Lake Pukaki & Mt Cook

We couldn't help stopping every few kilometres to take in the views and get some photo's. It seemed to be that the closer we got to it the more we stopped to get out the cameras. It felt like we were on a photo shoot!

Dave & Me with Mt Sefton at back
Here is a short video that I have put together from the entire ride to Mt Cook that I've cut down to 4½ minutes.

We stopped in at the Cafe at the Hermitage for some morning tea and soak up the atmosphere of this place. Dave had an excellent suggestion of a aussie meat pie smothered in tomato sauce and a cappuccino. What a place, we just sat there and soaked up the atmosphere. Ah this is heaven. The pie was fantastic and the coffee was great too.

Pie Face
Wayne and Roosty had gotten separated from us on the ride in, so we didn't know where they went. I was sure Wayne would be getting a coffee but we didn't see them there so, we decided that they must have set off so we too got on the move again and took off back towards twizel. We turned off then towards Lake Tekapo, the road skirted around the bottom of Lake Pukaki. The water here is this stunning turquoise blue colour. I think Dave was just about photo'd out as he couldn't be arsed getting his camera out. Stop stealing my photo's you bastard!

Lake Pukaki

Mt Cook at back, Davo giving up on taking anymore photos front

It wasn't long before we were riding into Lake Tekapo but before we actually got into the town I wanted to ride up to the top of Mt John which is right next to the lake and town. The ride up was pretty good as it was a steep narrow winding road with astounding views again. At the top is an observatory with several telescopes. I'd love to come up here at night and view the stars from these babies, with virtually no light around the star gazing must be nearly unmatched anywhere else in the world.

Mt John Observatory

Again the views from Mt John over the lake and the town were fantastic. Whilst we were up on the mountain we got a text from Wayne & Geoff saying they were in Lake Tekapo and where were we? Dave's text back was good, 'look up to your left on top of the mountain'

Lake Tekapo Town

Me @ Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo
We refueled in town and replenished our fluids and also caught up to Wayne & Geoff. It was getting warm out today, I saw it get up to 29°C at one point on the road between Twizel and here. There were quite a few bikes coming and going through the servo we were at, I was wondering if they were doing the TT2000 tomorrow.

I stopped in at the Church of the good shepherd for a photo, also one of New Zealands most photographed churches I'd have to say. But it was too warm to stand around in the sun in my leathers so I continued on. We headed for Fairlie then on into Geraldine. There is a fantastic little set of twisties in between these two towns with a coffee shop at the top of the hill. I bet its popular with bikers.

After leaving Geraldine we got out onto the Canterbury plains. This is some of the most boring riding that I can recall anywhere as the roads along here go for miles and are dead straight. There is the odd curve in the road with another huge straight. The only redeeming factor is that there are lots of big mountains out on the left hand side heading to Methven, like Mt Somers. 

At Easter they have some post classic style racing through the streets. That would be great to watch as the town is blocked off and you can sit right along the roads edge, Isle of Mann style.

Methven is a little country town about 80kms from Christchurch. There's not a lot here and there are two pubs in town. The brown pub and the blue pub across the road. These kiwi's are original with their naming aren't they? 

The Blue Pub
The Brown Pub

Cheers to a successful tour

We got in early about 3pm and we decided to head down to have a few beers. Dave was thinking about his gopro that he lost. It was a 100km ride to castle hill rocks where he lost it so he decided he was going to go look for it. We all thought he would never find it, such a small device in such a big landscape. After 2 hours of searching he finally found it on the side of the road, with the mount smashed and it had come out of the case and was sitting in the grass exposed to the weather. Surprisingly it still worked when he turned it on. He returned 4 hours after leaving, 2 hours of riding and 2 hours of searching and another tank of fuel. Davo looked pretty exhausted by the time he got back, looked every bit of his 53 years.

Meanwhile back in Methven Geoff, Wayne and myself had some beers and congratulated each other on a successful tour of keeping the shiny side up and the rubber side down. We scoped out a nice pizza joint for diner and Dave just managed to join us for diner. We were all surprised as hell to find that he found his gopro.

We ended up leaving the brown pub and drinking the rest of the night at the blue pub and celebrated the end of the tour. Tomorrow was just the short ride back to Christchurch to hand the bikes back. I was a little sad at the fact the tour was at an end but also relieved as 10 days in the saddle of some hard riding and even harder drinking to all hours was taking its toll, I was mentally pretty drained. A day or so of no bike riding is needed I think for a recharge.

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Friday, March 14, 2014

New Zealand - Day 9

Balclutha to Twizel - Feb 19

This morning when we left Balclutha I was undecided whether or not we would cross the river and ride on the west side of the clutha river or as originally planned the eastern side and ride up to Lawrence. I went past the turn off to the western side unbeknownst to me so the decision was made for us. I am glad that we ended up riding the road on the east side up to Lawrence as this was a fantastic set of sweepers and twisties over the hills. This was very hilly with sometimes spectacular views of lush green farming land.

It was also along this section that just after one of the photo stops we came across some unsign posted gravel for 8-10 bends. If we had of been going full till we could have been in real trouble. Everyone loved this section of road it's one of those great little back roads with no traffic you can just get into the zone on. And we were all in the zone.

Left and Below: Boys having fun in the hills.

How about those views

After we turned off from the Teupeka West Road we followed the main highway towards Alexandra. This road felt like it was constantly climbing up and up into the highlands again. I noticed that there were lots of orchards everywhere along this section of road. Funny that, when I looked up the name of the road on google maps it was called Fruitlands-Roxburgh Rd. Clever kiwi's to think up something original like that.

The road also followed along the clutha river, which there were some great views of the river from along the road. The river was really big due to the fact that there were several dams along the way.

Clutha River
As we approached Alexandra the landscape began to change drastically from lush green farming land to barren rocky terrain. The town itself is overshadowed by these huge rugged rocky hillsides which remind me a little of Queenstown in Tasmania with its barren hills and the scenes of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings. It's a bit eerie and unlike anything I've seen thus far in NZ. Just when you thought you've seen everything, you see something new and completely different. We stopped here to refuel ourselves with coffee's and a bite to eat.

Looking at the map we saw that there was a lookout over town which I wanted to go have a look at and it was right near some pushbike track Dave wanted to look at, I think it was the central Otago rail trail. Looks like it would be fun. Below is the views we saw from the look out, stunning scenery of Alexandra, and you could just see the top of the peaks of the remarkables mountain range from here.


Steve & Dave 
The lookout was 276m(905ft) high and in the picture above we were standing on the edge of a drop of about 400ft. The picture below shows a bit of perspective on how big we are in the grand scheme of things. The hills here are big that's for sure and makes us and the bikes look so small and insignificant.

We then continued on through Clyde out towards Cromwell on main highway 8. We briefly stopped in at Clyde dam for a look and continued on. The road here continued to follow the Clutha river. Boy this is a long river as we'd been following it since we left Balclutha this morning about 190kms ago.

We stopped briefly in Cromwell to fuel up and then kept going on towards Omarama. This road was to be the last of the 4 iconic passes that we would ride namely the Lindis Pass. Lindis seemed to be the lowest pass and least winding of the 4 passes. It reminded me of riding in the Australian alps as the mountains here were not as steep as any of the other passes, more hilly like than mountainous and it was covered with grass land and shrubbery, very Australian like it made me feel like I was at home again.

Rocky outcrops on Lindis Pass

Boys on Lindis Pass

Lindis Pass

We'd reached Omarama and it was still early afternoon and it was only about another 30kms to Twizel. The weather had started to cloud over the further north we rode and we were unsure if we would ride up to Mt Cook today or in the morning. A bus driver that we spoke to that had just driven down from Mt Cook had said it was raining with low visibility up there so that helped us make up our minds that we would ride out to Benmore Dam and look at that instead then come back to Twizel for the night. Hopefully we might have better weather for Mt Cook tomorrow. Dave decided that he would ride into Twizel as the ride to the dam wasn't his cup of tea. I think he was becoming the equivalent of jet lagged but on the motorcycle, maybe motolagged.

It was only a short 30km ride out to Benmore dam which is supposed to be the biggest earth wall dam in the southern hemisphere. I wasn't overly impressed as most of the lake was behind the hills and the dam wasn't really that big. It still had nice views and it was a great ride around the lake but you would expect that riding around a dam.

Benmore Dam

Lake Benmore
The ride around from Lake Benmore to Lake Aviemore was a narrow but a fun little ride that was about 25kms long. There was another dam at the end of lake Aviemore with more power generators. This area is part of the major power generation in NZ

Lake Aviemore
It wasn't long before we had arrived in Twizel and we easily found our motel for the night. It was time for a quick shower and down to the Twizo (pub) for more beers. It was pretty busy little pub mostly full of tradies by the look of it. Another great day of riding done and dusted with only one day to go, it seems like the trip has been a whirlwind tour, where did all that time go.

We were awaken in the middle of the night by this very loud what sounded like an air raid siren, Everyone was standing out the front of the motel looking dumbfounded as to what it meant. We didn't know if it was something for an earthquake warning or what so we went back to bed.

Here's day 9's map.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

New Zealand - Day 8

Te Anau to Balclutha - Feb 18

Day 8 of our trip had dawned and we were heading for Invercargill and the worlds fastest Indian. The ride out of Te Anau followed the southern scenic route and boy did it live up to its name. The southern scenic route went all the way from Te Anau through Invercargill and across to Balclutha our destination for tonight.

So it was easy we just had to follow this sign everywhere. It couldn't have been easier.

Geoff thought it was going to rain so we pulled over to put on our wet weather gear, which pretty much made it stay dry all day from that point on. Good work Roosty.

After the road had left the mountains we rode through many km's of farming land until it came out upon the coast. It was a little windy along here but not to bad and we stopped to have a look at one of the ocean views. It must get very windy along the coast here as there were quite a few trees that were growing on a sideways angle. We rolled into Riverton for another coffee and homemade pie. My pie was excellent on a cool morning. The scenery along here reminded me of the coastline along Phillip Island.

Te Waewae Bay

Davo having some fun

After we left Riverton we headed into Invercargill which was only a short ride. We found the E Hayes hardware shop in the main street pretty easily and put some coins in the parking meters and wandered on in to have a look. I tell you it was one of the weirdest things I think I've seen. It's like your typical hardware store with tools, chainsaws, etc with classic cars and bike displays in between the rows of goods. They have a couple of rows of motorcycles on display with a mock up of the Indian that you can actually hop inside, if you can fit that is.

Below is a photo of me with the genuine article, the actual bike that Burt Munro rode. It's funny that this ancient bike is faster than my R1. I know which one I'd feel safer on at 285kmh and I wouldn't be in danger of burning my knackers on the exhaust pipes on the R1.

Not much room in there
In the photo above those are the exhaust pipes on either side of the seat, anyone for roasted nuts?

Old Triumphs

Old chevys

Wayne and Geoff decided to try out the mock up Indian that you could get in. They were very squashed trying to get in there so I didn't bother to have a go because I knew I wouldn't fit. The best part of all was that it was free to go and look at all of these cars, and motorcycles. How good is that?

After we left the museum the others had suggested that we ride down to bluff, the southern most point on the south island. I didn't care either way and hadn't planned on it but we had plenty of time to spare so why not. There wasn't much really in Bluff itself so we rode up to the big hill that overlooks the town and looked at the views and took some more photo's.

Me at Bluff
Beaches at Bluff


Lands End
We rode down to the famous lands end landmark sign that was at the very bottom end of bluff. Next stop after here is Antarctica. Davo and I had to get the obligatory picture by the sign just so we could say we've been here. This is the southernmost point on the mainland that you can drive to.

There wasn't much at all in bluff really and it was an unattractive industrial town, not unlike Newcastle or Wollongong although there were some beautiful beaches around the area and I noticed that all of them were empty, not a sole on them.
Flyboy & Chillertek
So it was back into to Invercargill to fuel up for the run across to Balclutha through the Catlin's. I hadn't heard much about the Catlin's except it was a good motorcycle ride so that was good enough for me to plan my route with this road. I'm so glad we did it as it turned out to be one of the best roads of the whole trip.

Geoff and I had pulled over into this scenic lookout over the ocean to have a look at the scenery. It was here that Geoff noticed that his back guard was all wet. Looking into his top box the bottle of coke Dave gave him to carry had exploded covering his clothes and leaking out the bottom over the bike and onto the rear tyre. Lucky we pulled over and found it fairly early on. The views from the lookout were of beautiful beaches and ocean.
Tautuku Bay

Catlin's Road

The road flows through the Catlin's Conservation Park. This is one great motorcycle road, there was very little traffic on it at all, just a few tourists and the road and it wound its way through beautiful forests, hillsides and coastline. I knew we would be in for a treat when we passed a sign that said 56km winding road. For any Aussies wondering what this road is like I'd probably compare it with the Oxley highway back home. It really is that good, probably better.

It wasn't long into this road and I was constantly scraping out the centre stand in both directions. I remember one particularly nasty corner that I threw it into a left hander grinding the stand, I started to run wide and tried to turn it in tighter, to which I heard even more louder scraping noises and thinking shit. Geoff was watching all this behind probably laughing. Looks like when we got into Balclutha that the side stand had started to scrap away. That was getting to close for comfort for me.

Catlin's southern scenic route

Balclutha is only a small country town with not much there. We were staying at the Helensborough Motor inn here which was very cheap and clean. It was on the main highway but we had a unit at the back so we didn't really hear any traffic noise. We headed into town to the local pub to have some grub and few beers. Yet another fantastic day's riding and still with the shiny side up, just.

Just when you think it can't get any better, "POW" somehow it does just that, smacking you up the face and saying hey look how good this shit is! The Catlin's is an awesome bit of road!

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