Our jury-rigged drying room has done the trick, all our stuff is mostly dry and deliciously toasty-warm in the morning. There is only a smattering of cloud that promises to lift as soon as the sun hauls itself up, today is going to be great, we tell ourselves. The helipad across the road is starting to sound like something from the set of "Apocalypse Now" as the tourist choppers get going, I have the strains of "The Ride of the Valkyries" running through my head.
Packed and on the road by our customary 9.00am we ride the short distance to the carpark for the Franz Josef Glacier, just a 10 minute walk up to the viewing platform. Doesn't sound much but it is a damn goat-track and steeply uphill all the way. By the time we'd got to the top I was sounding like a wheezy set of bellows, the chilly mountain air doing me no end of good I'm sure. The view was certainly worth it though, tall snow-clad peaks with the white running down to the glacier at the bottom. Some mediocre photos are attached, I am not worthy!
We stop a short distance down the road at Fox Glacier township for some breakfast, more French Toast & bacon for me, a huge muffin type thing for Doug. Whilst we were waiting for our order about 20 riders on Harley tourers go past. We saw these guys yesterday too with a minibus following carrying their luggage, middle aged folk with pillions on the back, obviously an organised ride they had vests embroidered up with what looked like "New Zealand Tour March 2014" and other writing. The artwork was fashioned into a back patch with rockers (writing in banners above/below the main artwork). This can get the wearer into all sorts of bother with genuine outlaw motorcycle groups, which these guys clearly weren't. Their "leader" kept riding up and down the main street, rounding up the rest of the "gang" before heading off for the day. I'd waved to them yesterday as we past them, with no response.
A short run up the road has us the Fox Glacier. Doug has his tour guide mojo on, and pulls us into a small clearing part way down the access road. From here we can see the glacier in all its glory, apparently the end of the road is a carpark with a lengthy walk before you can see anything, onya Doug! Quick photo and off again.
The day is turning into a cracker, clear blue skies and little wind. Damn cool though, I'd better just test those heated grips again to be sure they are working. Nice wide road and good surface, we are making good time, really enjoying the sweeping curves, when I notice Doug glancing down at his rear wheel. Soon enough he is pulling over and inspecting the back tyre. It seems to be feeling a bit odd when he tips into a corner & he's concerned it is going flat. I suggest he stands on the rim to see if it is soft and all appears OK. Closer examination shows it is squaring off in the centre of the tread, leaving a flat area in the centre instead of a curved piece. Motorcycle tyres are rounded in profile, unlike car tyres, so that when you lean into a corner you get a smooth transition from upright to leaned over, so in this case there is a point where the tyre has to go over a "hump" each time you lean for a corner, a bit unnerving. Doug is happy to live with it for the time-being until he can get a new one fitted, once you know what is causing the issue you just deal with it.
As we pull out onto the road my low fuel light comes on (at 271km), hmm wasn't expecting that for another 30km or so. We have been riding in a "spirited" fashion, as you do when the road is so inviting, so maybe I've been less than economical with my fuel consumption. By my reckoning we have about 30km to go to the next town, so I dial the fun factor back a little.
A quick refuel at Haast (13.5 litres to fill a 16 litre tank) proves that with the light on there is at least 30 odd km left, probably 45 if careful, handy to know.
From Haast we turn inland and follow the Haast River up into the Southern Alps, more fun roads. Stopping at a bridge labelled the Gates of Haast has the river tumbling between huge boulders, the photo just doesn't do it justice, someone with far more photographic Kung Fu than I would make it look very special. Believe me it is a special place.
A bit further up the road we stop again for some more photos of the river and snow capped peaks when the support bus for the Harley group pulls in for photos too. Judging by the scent of clove cigarettes and the red/white shoulder patch on their tour shirts they appear to hail from Indonesia. They return our waves & nods as we leave. We pass them again later in the day & they all wave at our friendly honking as we pass.
A quick stop for a soft drink at a tiny town called Makarora and a chat with a bunch of guys heading in the opposite direction. While stopped there was a loud "thunk" as a campervan drives straight into the sign strung across underneath the roofing that says "campervans do not drive under the roof". An Asian guy quickly reverses his hire van and goes the other side, no damage done to roof or van thankfully, but there was certainly some animated discussion between him and his passengers.
Onwards toward Wanaka and we stop for quick pic of the lake that gives the town its' name, about 100 metres up the road and over a ridge we stop again for pics of Lake Hawea, both large bodies of water and very picturesque, gee the Kiwis are certainly blessed with beaut scenery. A tour bus pulls over and disgorges most of its passengers to fight over the best photo spots, a couple of gents "of a certain age" stand admiring the bikes wistfully. We have seen this before, mostly they are guys that once rode and yearn for past times. Nice blokes, one has a son with the same model VFR as Dougs'.
Into Wanaka around 3.00 we find a comfy motel and after a freshen up head out for a beer and feed. This is a very pretty little town, quite touristy but modern and with fabulous views across the lake. We wander along the street until we find a pub that has the sounds of Eric Clapton wafting outwards, this'll do just fine. Sitting on a barstool with a frothy amber ale, overlooking the lake and listening to CCR, Beatles, Eagles and other stuff that we both grew up with makes for a mighty fine finish to a great days touring. Oh yeah the Bangers & Mash were grouse too.
Tomorrow is a relatively short one, a look at the Wanaka aviation museum and then onto Queenstown. Today was a pearler, may there be more of these.