Sunday, March 26, 2017

New Zealand - North Island Epilogue

The dust had barely settled from the NZ trip and we had landed back in Aus but the trip continued to follow us, after dropping Geoff off at home and a short stop at Stu's place the car refused to start sounding just like the Pearl, the curse of the Pearl had been temporarily passed on. I also received a phone call from the dodgy motel we stayed at in Auckland on the last night telling me we had broken a wall in the room that I was actually in. Total bullshit and they were trying to get more money out of us obviously, the placed looked dodgy as soon as we walked into it. The Allenby Park motel, don't stay there.

Anyway 3 weeks on from the epic trip and even more epic blog postings which took longer than the trip I got a call from Geoff during the week. I have to drop in and see him. Ok so I did and this is what he's gone and done.

Yep I guess the Black pearl did piss him off that much that he traded in his Triumph and went out and bought a brand spanking new Yamaha MT-10. Looks like this New Zealand tour has cost Geoff in excess of $20K now hahahaha.

I'm sure that bike is a decepticon.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

New Zealand - Day 9 Paihia to Auckland

DAY 9 - Saturday 25th

Todays ride was really just the short 300km ride back to Auckland and Maraetai to drop off the bike's so no one was getting up early today so we all slept in. We walked down into Paihia for a lazy cooked breakfast and a coffee. Everyone was looking a little tired after 8 days of riding.

Breakfast in Paihia
 Getting on the bike this morning I went to take off and let out the clutch and reved then nothing. I looked down and the clutch lever wouldn't come back out, it was stuck in unless I pulled it back out. Uh really? Do I need this shit? I can't ride this bike through Auckland traffic like this I thought. As I pushed the clutch out and I took off with an almighty jerk. Wow this isn't real good riding it like this. I found a mechanics shop on the way out of town and got a can of CRC and sprayed it down the clutch cable and worked it in. After a couple of minutes it had free'd up and was working again, at least I can ride it through city traffic. Lets hope the clutch cable doesn't snap. I could also hear the chain clanking again and looking at it, it was badly in need of oiling, nothing I can do about that.

We headed off down highway 1 and we encountered lots of traffic all the way to Wellsford where we were yesterday. We stopped in at the bakery for a bit of lunch. When we went to leave the Black Pearl refused to start and again required a push start. Instead of following the highway down to Auckland we decided to back track our steps along the west coast down to Helensville and on into Auckland that way. It had a lot less traffic on it and was had a few twisty sections along it so it was a much better choice.

Near Helensville

Turning off the freeway into Auckland's suburbs we found a petrol station to fill up the bikes. There was a police car parked on the corner of the petrol station as the traffic lights were not working. I saw a kid on a 50cc motorbike ride past and the cops didn't bat an eye lid. Then a kid on a pushbike wheelied his bike past the police car with no helmet on. Again nothing. The Aussie cops would have nabbed them both for that. NZ cops seem pretty bloody relaxed. We were going to leave and the Black Pearl refused to start again and we had to bump it yet again, this time it took 2 attempts it was getting worse. The chain on the Tracer was now really loud. I thought it might break it was making horrible noises.

We took the road out to Maraetai and to the bike hire where we dropped the bikes off, tour successfully completed. Looking at the chain it was a orangy colour, I've never seen a chain look like that before but I guess that's what happens when you don't oil it for 1500kms.

We had to wait for Randle to get back from dropping someone to the airport so we got some beers to celebrate the end of the tour. A few beers and chatting about the last 9 days and actually how fast it went by was a good way to unwind. Randle arrived with a case of Heineken and we chatted to him about the bikes and the trip in general. We pointed out to him all the problems we encountered with the bikes which was starting to rack up now. Showing him the Black Pearls non starting problem, even an hour and a half after we stopped here the bike refused to start just before we got on the bus to our accommodation. I think it was finally broken. Check out Geoff's expression at the end of this short video, I think it says it all really. We just had to laugh.

Geoff and the Black Pearl - not impressed

Chill & the Tracer

The Tracer was an excellent choice as a touring bike much better than the BMW F800GS that we hired for the south island tour we went on 3 years ago. The tracer had a much gruntier engine and accelerated much faster than the 800 which made overtaking cars an easier task. It was pretty quick steering as well but not as quick as the Street Triple or the R1 for that matter but it was good for a touring bike. It wasn't until you got into some tight twisty bends that you felt that the steering was slow and not up to it, taking a lot of effort to change direction quickly but for most of the tour it was pretty good. This might be a little biased coming from me being a sportsbike rider and used to a quick steering bike.

The suspension was also the major thing lacking on this bike being way too soft and not adjustable. If I bought one of these bikes I would buy some ohlins suspension and put on it. I think it would transform the handling of the bike. It handled quite well until you hit any big bumps in the middle of a bend which would bottom the bike out and it would start to run wide. I did this far too many times as I didn't learn after the first few times. The panniers were ok but may have been a bit on the small side but served their purpose. They probably weren't as good as the ones on the BMW which had bags to pack your gear into then you put the bags into the panniers, these one's didn't have that. I had my clothes packed into garbage bags which I then put into the panniers. The screen made a lot of wind buffeting around my helmet which made a lot of noise, if I ducked my head down an inch or so the noise would go away. Randle told us that the screen is adjustable, we didn't check unfortunately.

The engine on this bike was quite good pulling from down low with steady power throughout the rev range, it got quite the induction roar going when you got into some spirited riding and the rasp from the exhaust of the crossplane triple was pleasing to the ears. The brakes on the Tracer are quite good with a lot of stopping power and a nice progressive feel to them.

Even with the above little niggling things with the bike I really enjoyed riding the tracer it was a fun bike to ride and was very comfortable. By the time I got off on day 9 my ass felt like I had been riding the R1 for a day. I had R1 butt even riding a touring bike but it took 8-9 days before that actually happened. You could move around a bit on the seat which made it a lot more comfortable. Would I buy one? Yes I probably would and if I did I would fix the soft suspension and it would be a very capable touring bike. Plenty of power handles ok can tour well and is comfy can't ask for much more than that.

MT09 Tracer

I'm glad I'm not washing this off

From start to finish we travelled 3728.9kms in 9 days so the Tracer dash indicated, with Stu and Rick doing about 200km more on the East Cape road. The roads on the north island are much more like the one's we have here in Australia, many of them being rough, pot hole ridden, gravel on bends, etc but at the same time some were in excellent condition. The roads on the south island of New Zealand are far superior in quality of build being much smoother, better sign posted and just better maintained. I think the north island roads are much more technical but it doesn't have the magnificent views of the south island. If you had to pick only one of these islands to tour it would have to be the south island. Both are different and both have their good points and bad and both are a riders paradise. The kiwi riders are so spoilt for choice in riding roads, point a bike in any direction and you will find a winding road within a few minutes. That said the north island has a much higher population and that shows on the roads with more cars on the road. You can travel for miles on the south island without seeing anyone.

Fuel for the trip was around $1.92 for 91 and going up to around $2.15 for 98 so was a little on the expensive side, not as bad as at Fox Glacier on the west coast of the south island back in 2014 at $2.49 per litre. The Tracer was averaging around 4.5L/100km so it was actually really good on fuel.

The weather was a bit of a mixed bag and I knew we would hit rain, we picked February as it was the end of summer and supposedly the driest time of the year to ride around here with the least likely chance of rain but it didn't work out as planned(does it ever?). Temperatures were good being anywhere between 18°C and about 27-28°C, I didn't take any thermals and if you're going at this time of year you shouldn't need them. I didn't even take a jumper just T shirts.

I must also say thanks to the guys - Geoff, Rick and Stu for making the trip a memorable one, it was a pleasure to be riding with you guys again and look forward to our next trip. Spain anyone? Also a big shout out for the friendly welcome from Geoff James and Andrew Tompson, two of New Zealand's biggest and best Moto bloggers. Make sure you check out their blogs if you haven't already.
Also a big thanks to my lovely wife and family for allowing me out on a trip like this, love you guys.

Another sleep in before getting up in the morning and heading to the airport. Once through customs we saw this large Hobbit prop piece on the way to the terminals. It was on loan from the actual movie set. Pretty cool. I love the JRR Tolkien books and have read them for years since I first read them in school.

It was very quiet sitting at the airport waiting for our flights. Everyone was exhausted from the tour. We were all happy but tired and there wasn't much said by anyone. But what a fantastic tour despite the problems, we over came them and made it something to remember.

Waiting for our flight back to our exciting boring lives

Finally here is a short video of some bits and pieces of the trip, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the video.

Today's Map Reference

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Zealand - Day 8 Pukekohe to Paihia

DAY 8 - Thursday 23rd

I was concerned that today's ride that was going to take us through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city was going to get us lost yet again. I checked our exit number on the motorway via my smart phone and as it turned out we had nothing to worry about, it was quite easy to get through Auckland without any dramas as signage was good here. We stopped at a little place called Waimauku for some breakfast. I had to stop and clean my visor at the petrol station as I couldn't see out of half of it. After breakfast we were on some back roads again and we checked the map. There were a few turns to take just out of town so we all agreed to take it easy till we get to those turns.

I saw 2 bikes in front wizz straight past the first turn less than 5 minutes after we spoke about it, so I pulled over and told Stu to wait and I chased them down and we turned around and went back. All this after yesterday's events too. Sweet baby Cheeses.

The riding up to Wellsford along here was quite good but the road was more open and sweeping than tight and we were making good progress, much more like riding at home in Australia. As we got back onto the highway I could see the weather ahead turning bad and it looked like we might be going to get wet again. It just started to sprinkle with rain just as we turned left at Maungaturoto and headed towards the coast and blue skies we just managed to doge the rain luckily. We were following the Twin Coast Discovery route which was a good ride. We stopped in Dargaville and got fuel and then kept riding. The roads around Dargaville were flat land riding with big open views ahead.

After Dargaville the road started to get a lot more hilly again as we approached the Waipoua Forest. I thought I'd stop and take a photo of this sign as I'm not likely to see one of these again. It's not everyday that you see a kiwi sign, err unless you live in kiwi land that is.

We continued on riding as the road went from flowing open hilly roads to a tighter twister forest lined road.

The tree's and forest along this section of road were right up to the edge of the road, if you run off here you would be ploughing straight through into the forest. This road was very twisty with about 20kms of 35-55km bends winding it way through the forest. None of the bends are sign posted with the occasional rough patches but most of the road was in good condition. It was a lot of fun riding this section. It was also very hard to stop and take photos as all you could see was the next bend and forest. I was having an absolute ball along this section of road and didn't want to stop but I had to force myself to stop for a photo otherwise I wouldn't have any photos to remember this place and it was very beautiful in its own right.

Some of these tree's along the road verge are absolutely huge in size and there were thousands of them. I've never seen tree's like these before very unusual. I could have quite easily turned around at the end and went back down to do these twisties again but we had a big day of riding planned for today at around 543km so we pressed on.

Coming out of the forest again we came in to hilly farm land again, but it was still a lot of fun riding along here. The weather was starting to look foreboding with storm clouds in the distance.

Cresting a winding hill we came over the rise to be met with this spectacular coastal view with a huge bay and large sand bank on the other side. Beautiful scenery which took our breath away. Geoff managed to stall the Black Pearl in the gravel in the car park but we easily got it going again as we were on a large hill.

The road followed the coast around the bay and as we rode along we could see we were headed for rain, but we were turning off the road and crossing the bay on the Rawene ferry. We were in luck too as the ferry only crosses every hour we rode straight onto the ferry as they just opened the gates, no waiting whatsoever. We couldn't have planned that even if we tried. So we actually didn't see anything at Rawene because we zipped straight aboard the ferry.

Rawene from the Ferry

Straight on the Ferry, how good was that?

From the ferry we looked out towards Paihia and it was raining along that section of road. I'm glad we were not going that direction. We crossed to the other side and continued along the Twin Coast Discovery route towards Herekino which just happened to be 2 houses as you never know what they will be like from the map, as we continued along here. The roads were wet in patches from the rain showers that had passed over before we got here but the road was a lot of fun and virtually empty as well. I was having too much fun to stop for photos along this road and didn't get any photos until Paihia.

We continued to follow the road as it crested the top of the Island and started to then head down along the Eastern side of the coast and towards Paihia. Some of the coastal countryside along here was very beautiful but sadly I didn't take any photos. We rolled into Paihia along the beach front late in the afternoon. There were a lot of people still around out on the beaches soaking up the rays.

We made a beeline to our motel and then headed down to the waterfront for beers and some food.

Paihia Waterfront

Paihia Main Street

We chose to sit right on the water front which had some excellent views over the water and the prices reflected this, but we didn't care it was really the last proper night of the tour as tomorrow was really just the run back into Auckland to hand the bikes back. There was live music here as well and we had a few jugs of beer and ordered dinner.

Come 10pm and we were struggling to find anything still open. One thing I noticed in each of the places we've been to is that come 10pm most things have closed and there's no one around, its got that small country town feel to it. We were staying in the Tanoa Paihia Hotel which had decent and cheap accommodation and only a couple of minutes walk from the centre of town.

Today's Map Reference

Sunday, March 19, 2017

New Zealand - Day 7 New Plymouth to Pukekohe

Day 7 - Thursday 23rd

Today's ride had us travelling on some out of the way back roads and I said to the guys first up in the morning, we are going to get ourselves lost today, make no mistake. I was ready to go before everyone so I told Geoff I was going to try and get a picture of the volcano if it's not covered in clouds this morning. So off I headed and I was only two minutes away from the motel before the mountain came into view with no cloud. You beauty. It was impressive this time of the morning and the mountain can be seen from miles away in every direction.

Mt Taranaki

I got back to the room and the guys were just about ready to get going 20 minutes after I had already been riding. We rolled out of town along highway 3. There was a fair bit of traffic along here and there were a couple of really good twisty mountain sections that ended up going through a couple of one way tunnels. It was a lot of fun along this section until we came into Te Kuiti for a spot of brunch.

Lads at Awakino Gorge

If anything New Zealand has an abundance of one way bridges and tunnels and all on major highways as well as little back roads. We continued on into Te Kuiti for brunch, it wasn't quite lunch yet and I got a coffee from the coffee shop and a pie from the bakery. We sat in the park across from the the main street next to the railway line under the shade of some tree's. Not a bad little spot for a break and spot of lunch.

After lunch Rick asked me if I'd like to ride the Striple. 'Would I ever' was my response as I knew there were some winding roads coming up I thought this would be a great place to try this little bike.

We headed off and and were soon turning off the main highway and down the road that goes past the Waitomo caves. The caves looked to be very busy today and it was only thursday. After the caves the road winds its way along for about 30kms of 35 - 55km bends, which reminded me of the Oxley Highway back home. The striple was an absolute blast along here and it didn't take long for the others to disappear in my mirrors as I was having a cracker of a run through here. So good I needed to stop to take some pictures. But it's very hard to take a photo of this road as you can only see as far ahead as the next bend.

Natural Bridge

Soon after we had a quick turn to the right, lucky for me at this intersection I had the striple as it had the tank bag on it and the map was on top so I got to keep glancing at the map as we progressed along otherwise I think we would have missed this turn too. There were 2 or 3 more like this one that only had small sign and is easily missed as these were all relatively back roads, but they were oh so much fun as they had little traffic and had so many bends on them. One little section down here was being resurfaced for a couple of km so we had fresh tar seal with gravel to traverse but wasn't much of a problem really. They seem to do an awful lot of road works here in february in NZ.

Coming down out of the hills the road now skirted around some of the coastline with beautiful views and twisting roads now with water frontage.

The striple was so much fun to ride on these winding roads, it turned in very quickly, much more so than the Tracer and had plenty of go but you had to wind it out, it got this great induction roar around 10,000rpm. It was a great little bike almost perfect in fact, I could have one of these as a second bike, except it's a triumph. It had good brakes, super smooth engine great handling, it's a bike that you sit down inside instead of on top. If it had the ohlins suspension then it would have been perfect.

The road continued to swap between the coastline and then into the hills before returning to the coast line. Lots of fun through here before we finally came out at Kawhia which is just a small coastal village.

Sitting in Kawhia at the general store we got an ice cream and sat along the water front on a park bench. The tide was out a long way, but must be really nice when it is in. I noticed a motel across the road and mentioned we should cancel our accomodation and stay here instead. However we continued on and towards Raglan which the next section ahead had a posted 11kms of dirt. Heading out of Kawhia we turned down the road to Raglan. As I was on the sportiest bike the others soon overtook me and disappeared into the distance. After about 15kms I came down a hill and could see a t intersection ahead and a bike going left at it. A couple of minutes later I was there and looked at the sign which again was inconclusive. Why the would they take either direction when none of them actually know where they are going anyway just astounds me completely but anyways it is what it is. I thought we should go right checking the map(which was correct) but looks like the others went left so I followed them it is better to stick together. The road then got very gravelly and narrow and even more winding. I nearly binned the bike in the gravel a couple of times and wasn't enjoying it, there were huge rocks and no wheel tracks to ride in with thick gravel everywhere. We are lost make no mistake this can't be the way we've done 25km of gravel and the map showed 11km with no end in sight.

Soon the other bikes appeared around a corner waiting for me. I said to the guys we should have gone right instead of left, but they wanted to continue on. Stu rolled out and left as Bushpig went to take off I saw his sidestand was down, needless to say he stalled the 'Pearl. I yelled yet more profanities at him, as now who knows how long we are going to be stuck here. Yep the bike wouldn't start and we were on a gravel road with stuff all chance of bump starting it. Just what we need in the middle of nowhere. Good going Geoff you idiot. There was much more cursing going on as we thought of setting fire to the bike.

Gravelly goodness or sportsbike hell?

Argh the Pearl, she be cursed I tells ya

A bus driver came along and I flagged him down and asked where the hell are we. He laughed as I showed him the map and he showed me where we were. Yep we went the wrong way. Those that have no idea where they are going should not lead the ride. So Stu was off in the distance somewhere and we waited. About 45 minutes went past before the Pearl would fire into life again. We got going and there was about another 8-10kms of dirt before it turned into tar seal, i'd never been so happy to get off the dirt. We came to another T intersection after about 20 minutes, left to Raglan(7km) or right to our destination and guess what no Stu anywhere. This really irked me. He had no phone, no internet and no route plan because he forgot it and didn't know where we were going for the night. As we had been following the Raglan signs for the last hour I assumed he would go there so I sent Rick left into Raglan to look for him and we went right and waited for him.

About 15minutes went by before Rick came back and said no sign of Stu in Raglan. Some more cussing ensued and then the Pearl wouldn't start again. More cussing but at least there was 3 of us and we could bump start it down a hill. We got going again, I said to the others that we should be turning left within the next 12kms towards Pukekohe and guess what, yep you guessed it no F*CKING sign, I saw a road to the left as we passed the road I looked down it and saw a sign that said Pukekohe on the bottom of the sign. Well fuck me how about having that sign before the turn off not after it. I must reiterate that signage here in NZ north island is pretty abysmal to say the least. As everyone was riding at highway speed and trying to stop a group when your not 100% sure that, that was the correct road is not an easy thing. We kept going and after another 5 minutes with no other turns or signs I knew that was the road we should have taken. We were on the road to Hamilton, but this wasn't the way we wanted so we turned off at the first town we could Whatawhata and headed up towards Ngaruawahia(I got no idea how to say that). We stopped along the motorway for fuel as I'd been on reserve light for the last 50kms. Still no sign of Stu and it was just Rick, me and Geoff. We assumed Stu headed to Pukekohe.

Arriving at our accommodation for the night there was no sign of Stu anywhere which wasn't unexpected, going to reception the lady said there's a phone call for you. Well that was totally unexpected I thought. I answered it, and it was Randle from Auckland Motorcycle hire. I was quite surprised. He said "Are you missing someone?"
"Why yes we are, how do you know" was the response.
"He is on his way, he got lost and went to Hamilton but will be there soon" "He rang me and I found his route plan in his bag so he is now on his way"

So we waited in the bar at the hotel and had a few beers with a couple of local kiwi bike riders and chatted. After an hour Stu came in, if looks could kill we'd all be dead. He was about to rip into us but it was all his own doing so we gave it straight back to him and pissed ourselves laughing at his stupidity and all was forgotten,  Stu went into Hamilton and waited for us, but unfortunately for him Hamilton was never on the route plan, I guess none of the guys really paid much attention to the route plan as none of them seemed to know where we were going on any given day. We headed into town for a feed again it was late around 9:30 by the time we had dinner.

Bushpig making fun of Stu's misadventures

Today's map reference