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!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Day 19 - Onamalutu Campground -> Havelock -> Queen Charlotte Drive -> Picton -> Wellington -> Karaka Bay

80 km - 1hr : 30min (excluding ferry time!)

Early morning drizzle has lifted by the time we crawl out of our tents.
A pleasant night disturbed only by the calls of Mopoke owls and a squabble between some possums!

Weather has lifted by the time we're on the road to Havelock, turning north onto Queen Charlotte Drive. Renowned as one of the more scenic drives in this area. Fantastic winding road and scenery. Always hard on the bike where you need to concentrate on the road and worry about other vehicles with drivers distracted by the view. All part of the fun.

Stop for the compulsory morning coffee before continuing on to Picton.

Ferry departs at 2 so plenty of time for a leisurely lunch followed by a stroll around town. We spot George on his Africa Twin. Last seen at Boundary Creek campground on the way up Haast. A young Englishman from the Channel Islands, he has ridden half way round the world. Having picked up work in Nelson, he has decided to spend some time on the North Island before starting his new job. He joins us on the Ferry and M & U invite him to spend the night with us at their place at Karaka Bay.

Boring ferry trip, apart from the spectacular passage out of the Marlborough Sounds. Fair weather for sailing, and we arrive and dock on time.

A blast through Wellington peak hour traffic brings us back to earth. Dinner at the Basin Noodle house before we continue on to M & U's place at Karaka Bay.

This will be our sanctuary for a few days. Time to clean up, do some laundry, have the bikes serviced etc. Plus do some day rides around Wellington before hopefully heading North on Sunday for part II of the BUM's 2014 Tour.

Day 18. - Blenheim -> St Arnaud -> Nelson -> Havelock -> Onamalutu campground.

300 km - 3 hrs : 56 mins.

More rain and wind overnight. A trip to the toilet at 2am reveals a fullish moon and a clearing sky.
A perfect days riding for our last day on the South Island.
Morning fresh and blustery, but no rain. We take off up the Wairan valley toward St Arnaud, past acre after acre of vineyards. Easy riding on another excellent road that parallels the river and climbs gently. As we approach the pass before descending into St Arnaud, there is a distinct chill in the air.

Refuel at St Arnaud - over $2.40 a litre, the most expensive fuel to date in NZ!

Morning coffee on the shores of Lake Rotoiti - just outside St Arnaud. Lots of ducks, and a group of massive eels loitering under the jetty!

Yet more incredible riding down from the heights of St Arnaud along the Motupiko River back to the NW coast and the city of Nelson.

Air much warmer down here and we enjoy balmy conditions and lunch on the seashore outside Nelson.

More good riding between Nelson and Havelock where we leave the Picton road and turn south back towards Blenheim. Our campsite is in a forest Reserve with some remnant native trees. Onamaluta SR is quiet and off the beaten track. A grassy clearing with basic facilities. A good spot to spend our last night on the South Island!
Tomorrow the ferry to Wellington and part II of the BUM's 2014 Reunion Tour of NZ.

Day 17 - Bunkered down in Blenheim

Fortunately tropical depression 'Lusi' has stayed further west than predicted, resulting in less extreme weather. Nevertheless we are happy to be warm and dry in our Blenheim motel room.

A very sedate Sunday. A wet walk into town with Marco. A visit to the supermarket across the road for supplies. Eating, reading, chatting, watching TV, drying tents and doing laundry.

Fingers crossed that the forecast holds true and Mondays weather is clear and dry! This will allow us one last good day of riding and a final camp out on our last night on the South Island!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 16 - Rakaia Gorge -> Amberly -> Kaikoura -> Blenheim

415 km - 5 hrs: 9 min travel time.

Another long day. With cyclone Lusi sweeping south and promising to unleash havoc, we need to get as far north as possible. Although our ferry is Tuesday afternoon, we want to have time to ride around some of the Marlborough coastline.
Forecast is predicting heavy rain and gale force winds starting Saturday night through Sunday. 

So up early on a misty morning. Packed and on the road in record time.
A circuitous route skirting Christchurch takes us through classic Canterbury Plains farmland. Small hamlets with names like Oxford and Ashley - very English. Mist gives way to broken low cloud with brief splashes of sunlight.

Refuel at Amberly and the weather turns greyer and cooler.

The inland route to Kaikoura provides an interesting challenge. A combination of narrow twisting roads crossing numerous rivers and streams and liberally sprinkled with fresh road repairs - (what the New Zealand road maintenance people laughingly refer to as 'New Seal' - a spray of tar covered with lots of loose gravel.)

Lunch (seafood chowder) in Kaikoura and then a last dash up the coast to Blenheim under lowering skies and freshening winds.

No camping tonight. We are safely ensconced in a motel where we will wait out the aftermath of 'Lusi'.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Day 15 - St Bathans -> Ophir -> Clyde -> Cromwell -> Lindis Pass -> Twizel -> Fairlie -> Rakaia Gorge

463 km! - 5 hrs : 16 min travel time

An epic ride. By far the longest riding day we've had so far. Epic also in the quality of the ride.
Otago - especially the highlands has a wonderful quality to the light and the landscape. As autumn advances, the colours start to appear in the stands of poplars and willows that line the waterways and lake shores. Combined with the still intense green of irrigated pastures and the rolling golden hills and mountains and the big skies and distant horizons - it makes for an intensely visual experience.

The weather was perfect, apart from small pockets of fog as we left St Bathans. Clear blue skies, gentle breeze and relatively warm temperatures. Everything combined to make the ride a total pleasure.

This was the 3rd time we'd done the road from Cromwell through to Rakaia Gorge. But by far the best weather. Having done the route more than once allowed for more time to enjoy the surrounding countryside, rather than concentrating on the road.

The only downer for the day was the loss of a pair of sunglasses. Shortly after we started the day's ride - in perfect sunshine, we encountered a valley full of fog. Stopping to put on an extra layer of cloths, I took off my sunglasses and placed them on top of my rear panniers. Of course I forgot to put them back on and took off down the road. After a few km I realised my mistake, turned back and found them at the side of the road. At first glance the looked intact, but when I put them on I discovered a massive scratch right across the right lens. Bummer! Fortunately I carry a spare pair, and the damaged ones were abandoned at our morning coffee stop!

The campsite at Rakaia Gorge overlooks the river, and we had a pleasant supper with the hot smoked salmon.

An after dinner 'dram' in memory of my father who would have loved doing a tour like this and also a toast to future generations. Plus the bonus of a Skype call with Celeste. Perfect end to the day!