What is it you want, do you really, really want, to make that wonderful biking day?
What is it you want, do you really, really want, to make that wonderful biking day?
You get up to a lovely breakfast, put on the shades and the summer riding suit, leave the baggage (no not that one) to be transported onward and set out on an empty, winding road with terrific scenery that will probably last 50 miles or to the first coffee stop of the day, whichever comes first. You can then fill up with petrol at 60p per litre, have a tootle or a charge, see the fantastic scenery at variable speeds, meet up with friends for lunch, of perhaps some locally caught fish, whilst overlooking the azure Tasman Sea and then onto another photo shot or afternoon tea, you know how it is!
After scrubbing off the tyres for a couple of hundred miles you arrive at your evening resting place, the suitcases are there before you, you wash and change into your evening finery, tee shirt and shorts and meet up with your quiet, reflecting, suntanned, biking chums! After your delicious meal, which has been washed down with carefully selected superb local vino you head
back to your room, leaving someone else to pay the bill and look forward to a good night’s rest or whatever! Then the next day YOU HAVE TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN!!!
New Zealand Tour 2006
Tour organiser Ian Fitzwater met us during the day of the 9th February from the airport and ferry terminals and transported us to our various B & Bs. Later that evening he and daughter Carly collected us and took us all to Lambrettas restaurant in Nelson for a pre tour dinner. It was all very exciting meeting our friends after the long trip and we were full of anticipation for the twelve days ahead. Next morning, we met up for a briefing at Celia & Richard’s posh digs, where we received instructions from Ian about road conditions, hazards and insurance etc. The bikes were fettled and ready to go, some riders had to change their
hired clothing for something nearer their size and there was nothing else for it but set off on :-
You may be aware that the hard part of starting off is getting out of town on the right road, well with our superb navigational skills, we went straight through Nelson, narrowly avoiding the main road and instead finishing up in a dead end civic centre car park. No matter, onto State Highway 6 to Murchison through fabulous forest scenery and down the winding Buller Gorge, following the Buller river to Tauranga Bay and a superb lunch of fish and chips at the Bay House Café, overlooking the Tasman Sea.
This is it, we are now on holiday! Afterwards we met up with the some of the others at the Cape Foulwind Seal Colony, where we saw the seals with their young sunning themselves.
We have been riding south west but now we turn north to our first stop over at Karamea. The road is very steep and twisty over the bluff, with the Tasman Sea mostly visible on our left side. The N.Z. way of marking the bend speed is very useful, although a little conservative. The first day’s ride was about 195 miles, we had travelled through stunning scenery, and vast areas of unspoilt protected wilderness, to the end of the road and literally, The Last Resort. It is an interesting place, comprising wooden lodges and a main lodge which houses the restaurant and bar. The Last Resort is on the edge of the Kahurangi National Park and next
morning after breakfast we were transported up an unmade road to Heaphy Bluff particularly to view the vast Nikau Palms which are only found here.
Great fun was had by all, some more than others, especially in crossing the rope bridge. This is a great place for walking and it is the start, or end of a path across the mountains back to Nelson. Neville was the only rider to resist the offer of a mini bus ride and brave the loose gravel, dust, heat and sand flies on his V Strom.
The rest of us now pick up our bikes and set off for Blackball, but before we stop for coffee at Ian’s friend’s coffee shop on the beach, we meet Nigel coming towards us, having another stab at the twisties over the bluff, – the mad fool!. Fabulous coffee, but the café isn’t licensed so no sitting down for some reason. Now heading south along the West Coast, which can be wet, and so it turned out, we had a drop of rain, but nothing to shout about.
The West Coast Highway is fabulous, the road, the sea, the views, the lack of vehicles, and the warm sunshine as we head for Punakaiki to visit the Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes. What a day in paradise and then onto The Blackball Hilton or as it should be known, Formerly The Blackball Hilton, after complaints from the super group. Blackball is an old mining town and the Hilton is best described as a sort of wild west saloon, I think that bawdyhouse is going a bit far, but it is different! Ian provided
some pre dinner food and drinks including a crayfish platter, which was downed on the front porch of the hotel, followed by impressive display of members, doing their best at stilt walking.
After our main meal we stumbled up to bed, our rooms were something else, all painted in lurid colours, with no heaters and a notice which reads “If you are cold, put on an extra jumper” The rooms are not en suite so each room has a “designer”
numbered dressing gown so that you can fight over the facilities without embarrassment. Now who was it wearing that No3 dressing gown, creeping around at the crack of dawn – Kay Sera Sera.
According to Ian, who knows most things, the early morning rain wouldn’t last and the sun would soon be out – wrong. We were heading for Arthurs Pass when the heavens really opened and although some of our happy band headed uphill and
into much reduced visibility, we decided to head for the coast and hopefully better weather. The sun did come out and it was quite warm as we tried to dry out in Hokitika, a great place for Jade shopping. We head south towards Fox Glacier, stopping for lunch at a backpacker’s palace, anyone for Bambi burgers?
Rain stops and starts as we arrive at our motel, which was fully equipped to dry out our very wet clothing. No chance of our promised helicopter trip though with the clouds being so low, perhaps tomorrow morning. After an early breakfast, we get the thumbs up, helicopters are flying, they only fly in good weather and have never had an accident. On the way up we view the glacier which according to the pilot is 25 metres thick and 1 km wide, although it impossible to get that into perspective. We actually land on the glacier, get out, wander about and take pictures – truly exhilarating, a dream come true.
Next we head for the Waiatoto Jet Boat Safari, a fabulous ride on the river, our guide frequently stops the boat to inform us about the local eco systems and explains to us the geological fault line which runs through the area.. When we arrive at the point where the river meets the sea, we are engulfed in a mass of tumultuous waves, a truly wondrous sight. On the return trip our guide treats us to some 360-degree turns which Peter tries to capture on film and nearly loses his camera in the process.
About half of the party take the alternative route by bike down to the sea and Jacksons famous chip shop. Neil brought back some chips for Maggie, which were promptly devoured by all the hungry boating passengers, who haven’t eaten for two or three hours. Next stop Wanaka, a super road with wonderful views through Haast Pass. Ian kept saying that there were lovely places to
stop for photos, but we just thought that everywhere we went was just so picturesque, it was difficult to decide.
After narrowly passing a parked car on a mountain bridge, we saw that some of our party were viewing the caves, then there were another group stopped for no apparent reason. We pulled in to find Richard Lowe, face covered in black oil and looking like he was about to give a rendition of “Oh dem golden slippers” It transpired that an oil seal on the Gold Wing’s front forks had failed and was spraying oil all over him. Ian was soon there with his trailer to sort it out.
The day’s run was either over the scenic Pisa range or via highway 8 and fearing a possible lack of concentration, we opted for the more open road down to TeAnau. We followed the Karrarou river, passed through acres of vineyards and alongside Lake Wakitpau to our delightful accommodation at Radfords Lakeview Hotel. Some rooms even had Jacuzzis to sooth the numb bums.
From our two night stay here we travelled to Milford Sound, some by bike and some by mini bus. Being a 30 mile dead end road, there was a good chance it would be free of traffic police and a good job too, for the bikers anyway.
The mini bus party stopped to view the area where Lord of the Rings was filmed and there was a Japanese film crew working there as we passed by. Ian had arranged a smallish boat to carry us out into the Sound with just a couple of parties on board, he also brought along a packed lunch for everyone. The two hour trip was unforgettable, it is difficult to comprehend the scale of the mountains as they rise up to one mile out of the water. After rain the waterfalls are spectacular and this area has around 220
days and 9 metres of rain a year. The Sound is unusual in that the top 3m is fresh water with salt water from the sea underneath. We stopped the boat to view the seal colony at close quarters. Some of the bikers returned to the hotel in fast time, whilst the mini bus passengers stopped to view The Chasm, a waterfall hollowed out by the water driving through different strata making a number of incredible holes in the rock.
We then rode from Dunedin to Queenstown, getting on for another 300kms and on arriving at the lovely new motel overlooking the lake, had to go out and find food and what’s more, pay for it !! The rest of the party had already arrived and had spent the afternoon tasting the delights of this very lively place.
We spent the next day in Queenstown after an early morning ride to Glenorchy, lovely road, wonderful scenery and somewhere we just had to stop and take photos. Whilst shopping in the afternoon, we met David & Davina, the latter feeling a little under the weather after being turned upside during a tandem paraglide jump off the mountain. In the evening we all boarded a steam boat and crossed the lake to watch a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration.
Next morning, headed North towards Mount Cook, stopped at Kawarrow Bridge to watch the bungee jumpers, around £40.00 to throw yourself down a gorge on the end of a piece of rope – No Thanks! We turned off highway 10 and alongside the beautiful Lake Pukaki for around 30miles, stopped at Petes View for our first look at Mount Cook and then onto the Alpine Village. The resort is quite large with abouttwo hundred residencies and a tiny school. We ate in the Panorama Restaurant, super food and wine, silver service and away from themadding crowds, no need for pictures on the wall here, mountains can be seen from all the windows, more than 180 degrees. I think that we all thought that our visit to Mount Cook was quite a moving experience,
certainly Julia did.
We had an early start away from Mount Cook, 7am and well worth it. The sun was coming out over the mountains to our left and reflecting on the lake, which was like a silky swimming pool blue colour, ab fab! We travelled for just over an hour to our breakfast stop and didn’t see another vehicle on our side of the road, and only a few on the other.
We eventually arrived at Ian mum’s B&B in Kaikoura after a full day’s riding, over 300 miles, the last few alongside the ocean, which was very pleasant after some very long straights and more traffic than usual on highway 1.
The penultimate day was a day for sightseeing, whale watching and swimming with dolphins. The day was perfect, only 13 swimmers were allowed in the boat and after 45 minutes, the dolphins were spotted. They were quickly into the water to see a pod of around 200 dusky dolphins, courting and playing with the swimmers in the water. On the way back to shore they spotted an
albatross. Others were equally lucky on their whale watching trip, seeing whales dive at really close quarters and also seeing an
albatross. A truly memorable day for them all! David had been talking about his interest in the stars (not Kylie) and here he was taken out of town by Ian to view the clear night sky.
Final day, breakfast at Nikau Lodge, stopped to watch the seals at yet another colony and then we all went for coffee at The Store. Lots of pictures taken by a biker who thought that he was just passing by checking out our bikes but he was pressed into service with everyone’s camera. Then back to Nelson, through the vast vineyards of Blenheim. Some took the longer road through Picton, but it was no good, no matter how slowly you went, the end of the tour was in sight.
One last meal together at Lambrettas, then goodbye friends, goodbye Ian & Carly and goodbye Honda VFR. 3000kms in 12 days, no problem.
Thanks to Ian for a fantastic trip, thanks everyone for their vibrant, amusing companionship, thanks to N.Z. for being there. And in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger on being asked which of the great composers he would like to play – I’ll be BACH!
Warning – this may not be a completely true account, but after Ian’s wine tasting, it’s as much as we can remember! L.O.L. Maggie & Neil