For a few years my motorcycling mate Doug, of Postie Challenge & Tassie Tour renown, has been quietly suggesting that his home country of New Zealand (or New Zulund as he says it) is a motorcycle touring nirvana. His emails contained subtle inclusions of photographs of endless winding roads and postcard scenery with references to friendly folk, clean fresh air and little traffic. Indeed at one point whilst we were admiring the scenery near Cradle Mountain on our Tasmania tour he remarked "You know, if you changed the gum trees into pines this would be just like the South Island of home". The other thing he mentioned was that there were no suicidal kangaroos or wombats waiting to sacrifice themselves to the road gods via your front wheel.
Doug makes a regular pilgrimage to the South Island every year or so and has visited all the major scenic areas as well as a number of the less well known ones, it was from these jaunts that he kept sending me tales and photos of motorcycling goodness.
Linda & I had visited New Zealand a few years ago whilst on a cruise, the little that we had seen on shore excursions revealed a picturesque part of the world where pointing your camera in the general direction of the landscape results in a postcard, that did indeed seem to be populated by good-natured folk. So unless Doug was a Photoshop genius, those photos he keeps sending me must be pretty close to the mark.
With Linda's blessing I informed Doug that I was keen & to let the planning commence. He suggested that late March is a great time to visit the South Island as the weather is still mild(ish) and as this is between school holidays & Easter the roads would be relatively quiet but all the tourist infrastructure was still open for business. Cool, sounds like a good plan to me. Doug also owns two bikes, a Honda VFR800 and a BMW 650GS both equipped with hard luggage and heated grips, eminently suited to this sort of touring, which he kindly offered for the trip.
Doug has put together a tour route that takes us from his home in Rotorua down to meet the ferry at Wellington and from there a roughly anti-clockwise circumnavigation of the South Island over around two and a half weeks. He's worked in a good mix of longish days with shorter ones, interesting side trips and general touristy stuff for variety, should be a tour guide!
Now with just a few weeks to go, Doug has booked the ferry passages, hotels in Christchurch and had his bikes serviced ready to roll. I've booked flights, had them summarily changed by Qantas (had me flying out of Sydney before I'd even left Auckland), re-booked the flights, had them changed by Qantas at a whim again and finally re-booked.
Travel insurance is done, interestingly most of the regular travel insurance companies won't offer cover for riding motorcycles over 200cc. Apparently they reckon the risk is too high but they will cover inexperienced tourists riding dodgy rental scooters wearing their best safety gear of a borrowed helmet, singlet & shorts in the madness of Asian traffic. However someone decked out in their own touring gear, licensed and experienced, riding quality motorcycles is deemed to be an unacceptable risk.
I've pulled out my cooler weather touring gear which was packed away after the Tassie trip, surprisingly it was all in pretty good order apart from my jacket being a bit musty, courtesy of the high humidity of our current Monsoon season. Nothing a good airing out in the sun on the clothesline didn't fix. As with most pre-trip preparation, a small pile of "stuff" is accumulating ready to be sorted and packed, lessons learned from previous tours sees the pile being somewhat smaller than last, just the essentials.
So, dear reader, my next transmission should be from the Land of the Long White Cloud. Hopefully I can keep you entertained for a time, check back after the 18th of March.