The Gathering 2016

On Queen’s Birthday we headed down to Mangakino – our first foray into this tiny little town. With Andrew’s route planning and navigational skills up front, we had 2 fabulous short days of riding. On Saturday we waited as long as we could for the fog to clear then set off anyway. A few kms down the road and we were out of the fog and into a brilliant, sunny, clear day. Foggy SaturdayBrilliant Sunday

During the weekend, we found a few roads that can’t have previously existed as I think everyone did a new bit of road at some stage. Great company, great roads, great weather.. love our mid winter rides!

The Colouring In Tour 2016

The Colouring In Tour was born when we were looking at the GPS tracks we had of some of our rides. There are a number of roads that we have ridden but not tracked, and a few roads that we hadn’t yet ridden. Using this as a guide, we plotted a route from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island via as many roads that we hadn’t tracked as possible.  NZ Map 2015

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Day 1: Paihia, Bay of Islands to Warkworth via Matauri Bay and the Rawene Forest

Collecting bikes, ready to set off

 

 

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Day 2: Warkworth to Taupo via Sh16, Highway 22, Pirongia

Some comedy running repairs on the old BMW (see the augmented centrestand?)

 

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Day 3: Taupo to Wellington via Napier and an extended lap of the Wairarapa

(a minor navigational error put us in Pongaroa when we should be much further south by then)

 

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Day 4: Picton to Punakaiki via Motueka and the Moutere Highway

We were glad to get into our motel early and enjoy the storm from a dry vantage point!

 

Day 5: Punakaiki to Wanaka
A couple of flooded roads to navigate, but otherwise a fabulous scenic run on dry roads. Love that run alongside Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea!

 

20160325_140235Day 6: Wanaka to Tuatapere

We planned this as a short day, but the weather was fine, we were all in good spirits and Milford Sound was calling!

The Gathering 2015

A bit of a belated update for The Gathering on Queen’s Birthday 2015. We based the weekend out of Taihape as there are a lot of amazing rides in the area and we heard a rumour the hotel was pretty good. Well the hotel was pretty average actually and the food wasn’t quite that good, but with a good bunch of people turning up for the weekend, we were happy to drink their beer and to overflow into the limited restaurants that Taihape has to offer (including Cafe Telephonique – see glowing review elsewhere on the site).

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With short days and lots of narrow sheltered gorges, the roads were bound to be icy so we planned for a 10am start. As it was, the frost hung around a bit longer so we got on the road around 10.30 and had a steady run through some back roads beyond Rangiwahia and Pahiatua. 20150531_122016

Sunday we did it all again, but this time had a great run through the Wanganui River Road, weaving around live landslides and locals with their own interpretation of the road rules… It was well worth it for the views!

Round the Block 2015

Styled on a ride we have done for many years, we decided to head off to the four corners of NZ. We put the word out, but still weren’t sure how many people might come out with us. But, you can’t plan for what you don’t know so we packed our bags and decided to get out there and take it as it came. We had a couple of dozen nice folk join us along the way, some for the full run, some for the parts they could scratch time of work for…

Cape Egmont (Kinda sorta New Plymouth)
The weather laid it on – thick and wet to get started. We got the heck out of there and things cheered up immediately!
Cape Egmont

A clear run through the Rotorua Lakes and up to the Masonic Hotel in Opotiki – fantastic food as ever and great to have the bikes all locked up for the night

Opotiki food

Opotiki sm

Love, love, love the East Cape…. and yes that is a Harley!
Harley east cape

A long run up to Warkworth that night and just sneaked in before they closed the restaurant. Sorry – too hungry to take photos!

Cape Reinga run in the drizzle. What can I say, except watch out for the wet, raised rail lines that cross SH1 in Kawakawa. Still, a good opportunity to visit the Hunterwassern toilets en route…
Kawakawa

A magical overnight location at Lake Hawea…
Lake Hawea

And onwards to Bluff – Stirling Point is still a magical spot with a very photogenic signpost….
Bluff sign in

the crew

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Christmas 2014 NI Back Country Tour

This Christmas we decided to head for a few roads we hadn’t previously ridden – or roads which had changed since we last visited them. After a busy year at our desks, we opted for days of about 350-400kms

Starting with a night spent under the stars courtesy of Rob in Kaikoura on Christmas day night, we headed to the North Island where we ate, drank and chatted our way around. Boxing day got us across the Cook Straight and as far as Otaki for our overnight stop.
** Note – don’t plan an overnight stay in Otaki….**

Day 2 was a cracker day: Otaki, Apiti, Taihape (hello to new friends Chris and Sandra met over lunch!) then a grinning trip over the Gentle Annie to Napier.

Day 3 – I had been looking forward to this for a long time – we went through Lake Waikaremoana from Wairoa to Murupara and on to an overnight stop in Taupo. We were expecting 30-40kms of gravel, we got about 100kms of VERY rough going – definitely not recommended for anyone without an adventure bike (or an over sized adventurous spirit!).

Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished!

Day 4 – We left Taupo and headed through Whakamaru (hello to new friends Vicki and Aaron), Te Kuiti then Marokopa for lunch, then down through to Awakino and on to Stratford.

Picton sunrise as we docked at 6am

Day 5 – a day off staying with friends Alistair and Leonie – thanks guys, was great to catch up!

Day 6 – through the Forgotten Highway, coffee with Bob and Annie, and onward to New Year’s Eve in Ohakune.

New Year’s day and we revisited the Whanganui River Road – a little busier now it has been fully sealed but still incredibly pretty. Fordell, Vinegar Hill and onwards to a big and bountiful family BBQ courtesy of Alasdair and Fred before catching the overnight Bluebridge Ferry to Picton.

Breakfast at the Beach House café in Kaikoura which never disappoints, and home before the traffic on SH 1 got too busy.

A VERY Happy New Year!!

…and if you’d like to follow in our footsteps…. 

Southern Cross 2013

The Southern Cross has become a biennial event on our calendar. Checking in at Cape Reinga (Far North), Cape Egmont (Taranaki), East Cape, and Bluff (Deep South) within the week, we normally cover about 5500kms from home to home. The scheduling of this year’s trip couldn’t have been better for me as I already had to be in Hamilton for a work event at the end of the week prior. For Andrew, having just shattered his elbow in an unfortunate event involving stubbing a toe walking across a car park 8 weeks previously, it was his first time back on the bike. So what better way to test the newly healed arm, than in a non stop leg from Christchurch to Hamilton – 960km + 4hour ferry ?

Whilst idly kicking my bike at the trade show, I realised my tyres were far more worn that they should have been for the up coming trip. A quick call into Hamilton Motorcycle Centre on Te Rapa road for excellent service and a good price on an Avon Storm front tyre, I caught sight of this poster – a good mindset to start the trip:

Sorry about the quality – it was quite high up, and I’m pretty short…

So with new shoes on the bike and Andrew’s arm seemingly OK, we headed north for the start of the trip. We had a plan to stay at Mangawhai heads on Sat pm but a stray wasp sting put paid to that idea. Damn that allergy to stings… So an unusual night spent in Wellsford sleeping that off, and a brilliant breakfast in Mangawhai heads instead:

The weather was really fantastic, and it stayed that way for the whole trip. We got to Waitiki Landing where we had arranged to meet a bunch of the other riders and stay overnight at the campground. A bit of a disorganised arrival where our room had already been onsold, we were offered another room, but as Alistair’s name was against that one, and as he was stood right next to me that didn’t come off. Finally they found a spare room to put us in…. The other Alasdair had more fun – his room was available, but they had no key to unlock it… About 10pm one was found. A few swappa crate bottles had been duly swigged by then…

At 12pm the following day – a Monday – we could all be found in various states of undress walking down to the lighthouse in the heat for the pre trip briefing. A big crew this year – well over 100, and a good mix of new people amongst the familiar faces. At the start of the run, we were 1650kms from home.

Leaving Cape Reinga at around 1pm puts us slap bang into Auckland rush hour – not for the faint hearted, but we weathered it OK – UK motorway’s do rather prepare you for that. 518 kms later, we pulled into Te Awamutu for the night. After a tour of the town, we finally found a bar still doing food and settled in for a refreshing beer and the biggest slices of pizza’s we have seen for ages.

Tuesday morning was another cracker and we set out early for the Cape Egmont checkpoint. A quick stop off in New Plymouth for a new bottle of Scottoil – the ZX10 is either consuming a bottle  of chain oil per day, or not working at all at the moment… In Oakura we stopped for a much overdue breakfast and a natter with Ray and Ray and Tony before heading off to find the elusive sign for the Cape Egmont lighthouse. 780kms from Cape Reinga.

A quick scribble in the book when it arrived at 12pm to prove we had made it, and we were off to retrace our steps up SH3, across to Benneydale and cross country to Opotiki. An incredibly hot day meant any hold ups had me off the bike and hiding in the shade…

The night in the Opotiki Masonic Hotel was fantastic. Most of the tour were either staying or eating here and the pub was packed out. We were staying and had the luxury of having the bikes locked away off the street overnight. The food was great, the staff didn’t bat an eyelid at the sudden influx of tired and hungry bikers having ridden 700 kms that day. A good place!

The East cape must be one of the most picturesque places to ride. It is a firm favourite so we extracted our bikes and were on the road at 8am. A quick fuel stop at Omaio bay to make sure we could make it round the Cape and we pulled into the cafe next to the campground in Te Kaha for the best coffee on the cape and a great breakfast – better then the instant coffee and fried chicken now on sale at the Omaio bay store…

Somehow the gravel out to the East Cape lighthouse didn’t seem too bad, even though we had spent longer than planned over breakfast and were now racing to get to the end of the road before 100 bikes started heading back out towards us. 1410kms since Cape Reinga.

With an extra day in the schedule, we could afford to spend an hour hanging out at the checkpoint catching up with others whilst  most riders headed off. The road is a great playground, but better when not vying for space with 100 others as well as logging trucks and the inevitable road work crews. One thing we really didn’t expect to see on our way out was Fibre being laid. The most remote community – getting super fast broad band internet first??!

Back on the road and we stopped at Te Puia springs for fuel and found their brilliantly named food stand KFC, or “Kai for Coasties”

By the time we pulled into Wairoa for our next fuel stop, I was starting to feel the kms, so a drink, some chocolate and a natter break got us back on the road. The last leg of the day from Napier to Dannevirke seemed almost endless… a reminder that splitting a riding day up with lots of breaks, just makes the day seem longer than it actually needs to. We pulled into Dannevirke to stay at the newly renovated Valhallez hotel. They were still sorting out the final upgrades, but well worth stopping here if you are passing through, and hopefully they’ll have upgraded the beer selection to match the top quality food next time too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day was our most cruisy day on the bikes ever – we had a total of 200 kms to ride. We filled the bikes up (again! – oh for a 400km tank range instead of the 240 range of our bikes) and stopped for breakfast on the high street of Dannevirke. Spotting a R1200GS we introduced ourselves and found we had rediscovered a chap we had briefly shared a coffee with in Christchurch 3 years earlier. Next for a quiet run down to the Wellington ferry, a flat crossing, and a quiet night in Picton.

Heading out through Renwick, and a fab breakfast at the 3 bears cafe, we stopped at Murchison for fuel, and a coffee with Cheryl – wife of our sometime riding partner who is currently holed up overseas. Onwards down the sunny and dry west coast roads weaving in and out and revelling in the (world’s greatest?) road between Makarora and Lake Hawea, to stay at Wanaka 800 kms later.

From there it was an easy run into Bluff 260kms south. Stopping for Breakfast at Lazybones in Athol, we shared our coffee with the Blydes and John M and cruised in for the final book signing 4838kms from home…. just as the rain started..

A quick bit of re-organising and we were rewarded back at the New Eagle Tavern with the best feed ever seen in Bluff laid on by a few hastily scrambled bikers / wives and Rusty’s – credit to them, we were all very full, and I’m not sure how much business our usual dinner stop at the Anchorage actually got. Another great run, thanks to everyone who came and enjoyed it… and thanks to Luke for reminding me to get my blog up to date.

The Gathering

Queens Birthday Weekend and we are planning to head north to Taupo. We sneaked an extra day off work and headed out to Martinbororugh for a quiet night before the festivities in Taupo began.

Martinborough Hotel The weather was awesomely sunny and warmer than we had expected as we sat in the sun eating breakfast in full thermals!

We decided to avoid the main roads and head up through the back roads, ducking through Mauriceville, Alfredton, Ekatahuna, Pahiatua track and Vinegar Hill to get to Taupo and apart from a few shaded/wet/algae/slidy corners we had a ball. We checked into Blackcurrant Backpackers and found Brian and Evan had already arrived. Andrew B wasn’t far behind and a few average beers in the Irish Bar preceded a meal in @Siam where many tall tales were told by us all.

The following day we headed out following Brian – the master of all routes – and ended up along the Forgotten highway at Backcountry Accomodation for a coffee with Bob and Annie

Forgotten Highway coffee stop at Backcountry Accomodation

The Aucklanders had mostly arrived by the time we got back into Taupo so a quiet night on the town preceded a couple of rides out the following day. With the weather closing in, we headed for Wellington taking a detour south of Waiouru when the threatening rain lifted. We soon discovered the road through Mataroa and Rongoiti has 15kms of slidy mud alternating with deep gravel. The Street Triple and ZX10R coped remarkably well…. it might have been a better ride on a drier day but probably even better on adventure bikes…

Iconic NZ

March 2012 and we are heading to Russell in the bay of Islands for another lap of the country.

Work has been crazy for us both and despite remembering to get both bikes serviced a week in advance, mine needs brakepads but can we get brakepads into town in time…? apparently not – better hope the estimated life is conservative and keep an eye on them as we pass through the major centres… More worrying is that the night before we are due to leave, I give the bikes a quick check over and top up the scottoilers to find that the coolant level ain’t quite where it should be on the Kawasaki, sinking feeling remembering it had also dropped before its last trip…. fast forward 20 hours and instead of heading straight from work to Picton for the morning ferry, we are heading home to dump the leaky coolant bike, repack into different luggage and check tyre pressures on the ZZR, cursing ourselves for putting off replacing the tyres for so long.

The Ferry trip looked innocent enough as we left Picton, but turned into one of the roughest we have experienced. We put a call into Wellington Motorcycles to arrange for a new rear tyre. Desperately trying to remember when it last had an oil change, we realised that might be a wise idea at the same time. Lucky they had such a big range of tyre sizes as the ZZR runs an odd size, in trying to match a new rear to the front tyre it was suddenly obvious a new front tyre was needed too. Hoping for a fast turnaround we were disaapointed to find it was going to be a 2.5 hour wait to get the bike through the workshop queue (we’re from Christchurch, we should be used to slow service at bike shops) at least they got it done that afternoon. Knowing I wasn’t going to function well on a long day with a lot of hanging around in the middle of it, I set off for Taupo to get booked into our accomodation. After a shower and a chat with the receptionist, I was looking forward to a slow evening in the pub killing time whilst Andrew caught up, wandering into Taupo I found most places closing down for the night, a quick check of GPS said Andrew was still a couple of hours away so I traded a pub meal for a Thai takeaway and a 6 pack of beer from the supermarket. Yippee for microwaves so we could still have a hot dinner when Andrew got there.

Friday morning dawned lovely weather, easy breakfast (Friends cafe) on Taupo waterfront, a cruisy run up the backroads to talk about a new fairing for a project bike in Hamilton, a slight miscalculation of fuel range on the ZZR lead to emergency fumbling for the old fashioned fuel tap to reserve on SH1 but we arrived in Wellsford unscathed and took ourselves out to the pub to celebrate a day where nothing went wrong.

The forecast for Saturday was a sever weather warning – gales and flooding – but we had a great run up the back road to Russell, stopping for a late brunch 30 seconds before the rain started, then getting through to Russell in the next break.

The Junction Cafe - old Russell

The Junction Cafe - old Russell

 

Heading south to the sun

At the risk of sounding a bit irish, when the north of the country is closest to the equator and the south is the closest land to Antarctica, heading north for warmth, and south for freshening breezes and grass greening weather makes most sense, but this Christmas, the North Island and the entire Nelson region (aka the cantabrian’s Christmas destination of choice) was underwater and we had already planned to head South.

We had a great clear (weather and traffic) ride through Arthurs Pass, a welcome celebratory “phew escaped the city” cup of coffee at Jacksons then a good run down to Fox Glacier. A late afternoon refresher at Cafe Neve and a short amble round the block set us up for dinner at The Cook Saddle cafe and saloon. Go here, it’s fab, huge food, really friendly staff. Cafe Neve queued out of the door because it looks nicer. Our last trip we tried it for dinner and the Cook Saddle beats it hands down.

Breakfast at the Lake Matheson cafe was upmarket food in stunning surroundings – not a bad way to start the day. After a game of musical pumps at Fox BP – it was the 3rd of Jan and peak holiday season, 95 petrol was off and everyone wanted to check for themselves before busting into a 91 pump….. this set the scene for the day with traffic chaos all the way through to Wanaka. The bigest challenge was the hire cars cutting across all the winding corners, and there is plenty of them to go at round there, most of them in series of blind corners. At Makarora we stopped to rip the thermal linings out of our jackets as the temperature was up around 30 degrees. Stopping for gas then beer shopping in Wanaka was a melting experience. Over the Cardrona road to Arrowtown then Arturs Point to get to a friend’s house for the evening restored our faith in open roads and fun riding, even if I did miss a turning and had to do a 15 point turn uphill on gravel on the Triumph which has a steering lock similar a person in a neckbrace and hence the turning circle of a supertanker, not ideal with a travelling pack on the back and a short leg on either side to paddle with.

After a beautiful evening spent sipping cold beer on a warm evening in the shady glade of Arthurs Point, Des had to start back at work the next morning but Erin dragged her bike out at the first hint of a ride and we headed out through Glenorchy to the Dart River to get a morning intake of big fresh vistas, then back to Glenorchy for breakfast. It was all far too lovely and we completely lost track of time and only just gave ourselves enough time to get back to the house to collect our bags (via a typical Queenstown central traffic jam, argh!!) and get down to Bluff to catch the boat to Stewart Island.

For the last few years we have spent our Christmas / New year break in Karamea and not travelled anywhere except to get there and back. The calibre of the driving between Fox Glacier and Wanaka, then again between Frankton and Five Rivers made me realise what we hadn’t been missing out on. Both are normally among the top rides in the country but wow, it was a day for sitting back and taking it easy, trying to avoid the tourists.