Thursday, April 3, 2014

Day 11 - Part II. Castlepoint -> Martinborough -> Lake Ferry -> Karaka Bay

300km - 4hrs : 14min.
After breakfast and packing, we ride down to the headland for a walk out to the lighthouse.
Great views up and down the coast and back across the bay.
The lighthouse is perched an some rapidly eroding sandstone full of shell fossils some 2.5 million years old.

And so for our final days ride back to Wellington. Another loop on secondary roads heading for Martinborough. A trendy town with all the usual tourist trappings of wine outlets and upmarket "providores". Plus expensive real estate. Picture postcard village square surrounded by period buildings. Very comfortable!

Still, lunch was good, and the coffee excellent!

After lunch, south to Lake Ferry and a loop around Lake Wairarapa.

Lake Ferry is on the mouth of the Ruamahanga River on a small estuarine lake. Perfect conditions reveal the mountains round Marlborough Sound on the South Island. To the west the Rimutaka Range separates us from Wellington Harbour.

Back round the western side of Lake Wairarapu, with the Rimutaka Range looming to our left, and views to the east across the lake and the flats of the valley to the golden rolling hills of the Wairarapu.

Featherston and the highway up and over the Rimutaka provide more exciting riding, before our descent into the Hutt Valley and the final stretch into Wellington in the late afternoon.

Back in Karaka Bay after an amazing month of motorcycle touring on what have to be the best motorcycling roads in the world. 8,310 km of riding. Perfect weather apart from a couple of days in Blenheim. No problems with bikes. Excellent travel companions. All safe and sound. What more could you ask for?

Tomorrow back to OZ and start planning the next trip!

Day 10 - Part II. Vinegar Hill -> Pahiatura -> Pongaroa -> Masterton -> Castlepoint.

296km - 4hrs : 16min
A foggy start to the day, and a delay while we waited for the sun to clear the hillside and penetrate all the way down to our campsite at the bottom of the valley.

On the road and we start to retrace part of our route out of Wellington 10 days earlier.  Climb up and out of the valley stopping at Stormy Point lookout to admire the view. Fantastic! Clear skies to the north and west allow us to see all the way back to Tongariro. Below us in the river terraces, the morning mist is slowly clearing. The weather gods promise yet another perfect day.

Back through Ashhurst and the Manuwatu Gorge and on to Pahiatua for fuel before heading east for a loop through the Makuri Gorge and Pongaroa. Here we turn south again, heading back to Masterton for lunch, fuel and supplies for our last night out on the road.

We head for Castlepoint on the coast. No free camping, so a night of relative luxury in the local caravan park. Electricity, hot showers and a kitchen with tables. Also a great view out to the rock and the lighthouse.

Tomorrow will be our last day on the road. We're planning another back road loop before the last stretch into Wellington!

Day 9 - Part II. Coromandel -> Tirau -> Taupo -> Waiouro -> Taihape -> Vinegar Hill Campground.

452km - 5hrs : 31min
A day for getting from A to B.
Marco had texted their proposed route & destination, so I punched in "Taihape" into my GPS and set off.
420km and 5 hours later I enter the main street inTaihape from the North on route 1 and encounter M & U having literally just arrived from the east! Perfect timing!

My route took me from Coromandel down to route 27 and onto route 1 at Tirau by midday. I stopped for an early lunch after a great morning of riding. Apart from a police roadblock just outside Thames where they were checking driver licences, the ride had been easy. Light traffic and yet more perfect weather.
After lunch, down route 1 through Taupo and Turangi, past Tongariro which was venting steam from its flanks. Over the so-called "Desert Road" to Waiouro. Yet another incredible road through an amazing landscape. On to Taihape and our timely crossing of paths.
Afternoon coffee at the Brown Sugar Cafe before the final 35km to our free campsite for the night at Vinegar Hill. Quiet spot on a river, winding through a landscape of eroded river terraces.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Day 8 - Part II. Coromandel

A day spent enjoying some of the highlights of Coromandel.
After breakfast a drive to the eastern shore of the peninsula.
1st stop Cathedral Cove. Plenty of tourists, but still an astonishing spot. 30 minute walk down from the car park. A swim and exploration of the spectacular rock formations, then back up to the car park.
Ice cream at Hahei Beach then on to Hot Water Beach where we join the throngs in digging a hole in the sand at low tide and immersing ourselves in HOT water. In places the water is hot enough to cook eggs. A pleasant hour spent alternating between hot water and cold swims in the sea. Aahh!
Back towards Coromandel on the main route, stopping in Whitianga for a very late lunch of "Fush 'n Chups". Yet another scenic drive back to our lodgings. A quiet evening caching up with blogs, email and giving Celeste and Suzanne some tips on how to spend their time up at the Bay of Islands.

Tomorrow South - and the last leg of this most amazing trip around NZ!

Day 7 - Part II. Whangaparaoa -> Orere Point -> Thames -> Coromandel

229km - 3hrs:31min
After a leisurely breakfast with our hosts, we saddle up and head off down the highway and blast our way through Auckland. Leave the motorway at the Botanic Gardens for the back route to the Coromandel Peninsula, round the Firth of Thames.
Morning coffee at Orere Point. More good riding and yet more excellent weather. Thames for lunch and then farewell to M and U who will head south while I spend 2 nights in Coromandel with Celeste and her friend Suzanne. The plan is for me to catch up with  M and U for the last 2 days ride back to Wellington.
Reach Coromandel late afternoon after a fun ride up the coast. Roads relatively quiet despite it being Saturday. Lots of boats out on the Firth of Thames, which is as calm as the proverbial mill pond.
Celeste and Suzanne are staying at the Fern Lodge Treehouse. Cute!
Dinner in Coromandel then bed. Tomorrow a day of tourism!

Day 6 - Part II. Sandy Bay -> Waipu -> Wayby Valley -> Waiwera -> Whangaparaoa

182km - 2hrs : 58min

A pleasant enough night at our free camp. Despite the late arrival of a couple of young German lads who managed to bog their car in the sandy approach. Fortunately we were already ensconced in our tents so some fellow German travelers had to provide the muscle and obligatory cursing and laughter.

A short day! It just happened that way. We knew our destination - Whangaparaoa. Friends of M & U, Sebastian & Barbara who expecting us later today.
Pre departure route planning suggests a couple of coastal loops, avoiding as much of Highway 1 as practical.
The best laid plans etc.
Back out towards Whangarei and Highway 1. A short blat down the highway to Waipu where we turn back to the east coast and head for Mangawhai Heads. More good riding on quiet secondary roads.
The planning session had included a second loop on the coast. Unfortunately a critical turn was missed. Despite the fact I had positioned myself immediately after the left turn in a visible and prominent position, neither M or U saw me, and turned the wrong way. I chased them down Highway 1 until we caught up at Warkworth. To late to turn back so we continue on towards our destination, leaving the highway at Waiwera and stopping at Mahrangi RP for afternoon coffee.
A few more short km through suburbia and we reach our hosts address. I set up camp in the garden, while M & U get the spare room. An afternoon walk down to the beach turns exciting as we come upon a house with its roof belching smoke and visible flames. Call the fire brigade and join with neighbours in trying to convince the female occupant that this was a serious fire & she needed to leave! She seemed a little vague and said it was an oven fire that she had extinguished and that everything was under control. No way....
3 fire engines, 3 cop cars including an unmarked vehicle, a fire brigade car, an ambulance plus a vehicle from the electricity authority - a big turnout!
Out with our hosts for dinner at the Thai Classic Restaurant. Yum! Added bonus of great views across the Hauraki Gulf to the Coromandel Peninsula where Celeste waits my arrival tomorrow.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Day 5 Part II. Ngawha Springs -> Mangamuka Gorge -> Awanui -> Manganui -> Kerikeri -> Kawakawa -> Russell Ferry -> Russell Road -> Matapouri Road -> Sandy Bay

345 km - 5hr : 17min
Another long day! Overcast but no rain predicted. North up Highway 1 through the Mangamuka Gorge. Great riding. At Awanui we turn east on Route 10. We skip the ride out to Cape Reinga. 104km each way but we don't have the time. Save it for another day when we have the bikes to come back down 90 mile beach at low tide!
On to Mongonui for morning coffee. Fantastic coastline - lots of bays and headlands. Great roads on the bike.
Kerikeri for lunch before heading to Kawakawa to view the public toilet designed/built by the artist Hundertwasser. Worth the detour!
Coffee at the Trainspotters cafe before heading back the way we came to Paihai to catch the ferry across to Russell Road. Ferry skipper invites me up on the bridge to take photos. Bonus!
The Russell Road is yet another great coastal ride. Many tight corners!
A brief stint back on Highway 1 before we turn off for another coastal loop on the Matapouri Road.
Camp at Sandy Bay on the beach under clear skies! A swim before supper and a cold beer. Perfect end to another perfect day!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Day 3 Part II. Lake Whakamaru -> Kihikihi -> Pirongia -> Raglan -> Pukekohe -> Auckland.

319km - 4hrs : 29 mins.
Cool calm night, but overcast/low cloud in morning. Our route north will avoid main roads until last haul into Auckland via motorway. We will he spending the night at friends of M & U. Ewin & Charlotte.
I met Erwin once over 30 years ago when he accompanied Marco & I with 3 others on a hike to Federation Peak.
Kihikihi for morning coffee and cake from the local bakery.
More excellent roads and we reach Raglan for lunch on the beach.
A fantastic road north from Raglan, quiet, full of sweeping curves and climbs and descents through the open Waikato countryside.
Afternoon coffee on the banks of the Waikato River before we plunge into the madness of Auckland traffic. Peak hour, even though we are going against most of the traffic. Bad accident ahead causes major disruption. Fortunately on the bikes we can lane split and make our way through with minimal delay.
Good to meet up with Erwin after all this time. We are both a lot older!
A meal out at the nearby Asian food hall, then shower and bed. We make camp in the garden studio.

Day 4 - Part II. Auckland -> Helensville -> Wellsford -> Dargaville -> Waipoua Forest -> Ngawha Springs

Rain overnight, cool and damp with low cloud in the morning. A quick pack up (no wet tents) then off for breakfast at the Atomic Cafe with our hosts. Auckland Hipsterdome. Good breakfast and excellent coffee. Fond farewells made and we hit the motorway north to Helensville.
Up the west coast before rejoining Highway 1 at Wellsford. Morning coffee then a brief stint on route 1 before turning west again and heading for Dargaville and the start of the Kauri Coast. Very windy with a strong southwesterly making riding 'interesting'!
Dargaville for lunch then north to the Waipoua Forest. A remnant of the vast Kauri Forests that once covered this part of New Zealand. Damp, dark green and primordial.
Stop to admire Tane Mahuta. Approximately 2000 years old and the largest living Kauri Tree. Impressive.
More great riding and the sky gets clearer as we continue north before turning inland at Omapere. Supplies at Kaikohe then 10km to our camp  at Ngawha Springs. Thermal pools at 40 degrees plus cold shower, cold beer, dinner and an early night.
Is there no end to the amazing roads in NZ. Apparently not!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 2 - Part II - Kai Iwi -> Stratford -> Forgotten Highway -> Taumarunui -> Kuratau Junction -> Lake Whakamuru

382km - 5hrs : 40 min
Another epic day. Followed coast to Hawera then north and inland to Stratford with Mt Egmont/Taranaki to the west. Unfortunately wreathed in cloud, with only rare glimpses of its peak.
Morning coffee and then on to the Forgotten Highway. Yet another amazing road winding through spectacular landscapes. Included 16km of gravel, but this time anticipated and in much better condition.
A few showers on the way, enough to make us stop and don wet weather gear, but not enough to make life uncomfortable.

Paused in Taumarunui for supplies before pressing on, skirting to the west of Lake Taupo to our campsite on the shores of Lake Whakamura. On the final approach we threaded our way between 2 massive thunderstorms, encountering wet roads, but avoiding any rain.
Another great campsite under pine trees next to the lake with a small peak as backdrop.

Day 1 Part II - Karaka Bay -> Upper Hutt -> Rimutaka Hill -> Carterton -> Eketahuna -> Ashhurst -> Cheltenham -> Vinegar Hill -> Hunterville -> Wanganui -> Kai Iwi Beach.

355 km - 5hrs : 27 min - Whew!
No half measures - straight into it!
A long day to get back into travel mode. 9:30 start on a fine Wellington morning. Calm & mostly clear. Hutt valley is overcast but dry. Slow over the Rimutaka Hill with Sunday traffic. Very pleasant morning coffee at the Wild Oats Cafe in Carterton.
Off the main road and onto numerous secondary roads as we start to weave our way north west towards Wanganui. Little traffic & excellent riding. Sky chaotic with diverse cloud formations. Always threatening to clear and always with pockets of blue on the horizon.
Stop at Cheltenham for late lunch at roadside rest area.
Continue on through various side roads wending our way closer to Wanganui. Miss a turn and end up doing 16 km of unplanned gravel. At least the sky is clearing, sun shining and countryside beautiful - when we have time to look!
Riding is slow and requiring concentration as the gravel is thick in places and covering lots of fine dust!
Finally rejoin sealed road outside Wanganui, where we shop for breakfast then enjoy a felafel roll at "Jabies" Doner Kebab.
Last 20km down to Kai Iwa Beach and our campground for tonight. Spectacular sunset over black beach. Campground is deserted and we have lounge/kitchen area to ourselves.
A beer before bed and time to catch up with the blog. No free WiFi and no mobile coverage.
Tomorrow? North - more or less!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Days 20/21/22/23 - Wellington

So. Four days R&R in Wellington. Time enough to have all the bikes serviced, laundry done - including riding gear. Boots cleaned and waterproof wax applied. Food consumed, coffee drunk, people visited, sites seen and day rides enjoyed.

Only people who could service all 3 bikes in time available were BMW dealer in Lower Hutt. Interesting logistical exercise in getting all three bikes dropped off and collected. 2 dropped off on Thursday afternoon with Ursala following in car to take us further up the Hutt Valley to visit John - partner of Marco's recently deceased mother. 2nd bike dropped off Friday am again with U acting as taxi. 2 bikes picked up Friday afternoon (thanks U for the taxi ride!). Sat am Marco takes me as pillion to pick up BMW (Siegfried) en-route to my Sat am appointment with local audiologist (& fellow motorcyclist) for new fitted earplugs.

A couple of 'wiki' tours around Wellington on the bikes. Including ride to Paraparaumu to visit David Taylor the audiologist for my fitted earplugs. After picking up BMW, onward via the AKATARAWA Road. 40 odd km of single lane blind corner twisting roads. Whew! After we finish it, Marco informs me that many motorcyclists refuse to ride it due to the danger of oncoming cars. We only have 1 close encounter, and with M up front acting as sweep, he is able to warn me via headset about approaching vehicles. David (the audiologist) tells us he only does that route at night, so he can see oncoming headlights!

After having my ears cleaned and moulds for new fitted earplugs taken, its back to Wellington via the Paekakariki Hill Road. 20 more km of winding roads, but this time much more civilised. Full width road, with better views of oncoming traffic. A joy to ride!

Back in Karaka Bay and time to start collecting gear for packing. Tomorrow back on the road and heading North for part II of the tour.
1st though, tonight we are off to a dinner given by the Wellington Iranian community for Nowruz! Iranian New Year. Should be fun!