Rotorua - Journeys End
Yesterday Karin asked us if we could pick up some cold refreshments to have with dinner, so we called into a little supermarket in Seddon for a six pack. Where do you store such a commodity when the bikes are already loaded, why shuffle stuff around in one of the panniers, she'll be right.
Karin's place is located down a couple of gravel roads and then you need to negotiate a steep dirt track to get to the house up on the hill. We took it pretty easy but on our arrival one of Dougs' panniers had developed a leak. "Ooer, that doesn't look good", says Karin. "Oh it's probably just condensation" says Doug hopefully. Umm, nope, one of the stubbies has had a "whoopsie" and emptied most of itself through his gear. It seems the cap wasn't on very securely and all the bouncing about had done it no good at all. A quick mop up and out on the clothes line soon had the clothing sorted, bikers are supposed to smell a bit like a brewery, right?
After a beaut nights sleep, (there is something to be said for rural living), we were up at 5.30am in order to get to the ferry at Picton by 7.00am. A cup of coffee under our belts and we bid the delightful Karin farewell. Thanks for the hospitality Karin, you are good people, all the best of Karma to you and your family.
Locked and loaded we hit the road by 6.15, in the dark. There is something about negotiating dirt tracks at night with lights on low-beam, it's a very delicate dance. The other fun thing is that every bug within cooee want's to self-destruct on your visor, leaving a blurry mess, great when you get oncoming headlights in your face, blargh.
Just to make things interesting there are roadworks on the main highway, gravel, deep gravel, in the dark with damn big trucks oncoming. "Keep it loose, don't tense up, let the bike wiggle about, gahh how deep is this stuff, oh great dust too". Things were a bit busy there for a while, but it's all part of the experience.
We arrive at the Ferry Terminal by 7.00am and are soon mustered aboard to secure the bikes for the voyage. Getting much more adept at this now, big wheel chock up against the front wheel, use the ship supplied ties at the rear and tension the whole thing down with two ratchet straps at the front. Here's a tip, unless you are particularly adept at tying "truckies hitches/knots", carry at least two ratchet strap ties. The ship provides ropes suited to tying off on the deck cleats/eyes (sometimes with hooks attached), but you need to be able to get everything snugged down tight so that the bike won't shift when the ship is underway.
Time for breakfast and settle in for the 4 hour crossing. Cheese and tomato toastie and a large coffee.
Not much to report about the crossing except that it was calm and the recliner seats are pretty comfy. Movies were shown and naps were taken, a bit like flying but much more relaxing.
Docking at Wellington was completed with efficiency and we were all set to roll as soon as the ramp was lowered. As before, bikes on our deck were among the first to be ushered off. Down the ramp (a very steep and wet/slippery ramp) and onto the dock, we follow the line of vehicles in front and are soon onto Wellingtons' streets.
I'd had a chat with Doug prior to get a plan in my head should we become separated by traffic, "simple", he says, "follow the signs for Highway One, they will take you all the way to Taupo". How easy is that? As it transpired, the midday traffic was very light and without much ado we had cleared the city limits within 15 minutes, we were on the final run home.
The difference between the two islands' road networks is glaringly obvious as soon as you leave the Motorway, potholes, patches, narrow sections, uneven surfaces, this all just outside Wellington. Mind you the scenery is nice as the road follows the coast for a time. On the way down we had done this in the dark and my recollection of it was a lot of rock/concrete flying past very close, trying to keep Dougs' lights in sight whilst avoiding getting turned into jam by commuters. Much more pleasant this time around.
Once out of suburbia the pace picks up and we settle into the rhythm of banging out kilometers. We are only stopping for tank and tummy on this leg, a long haul and we want to be home before dark. Lunch was one of the best chicken salads I've every had at a nice little cafe just before our ascent onto the Desert Road. Sitting under a shady tree out in the courtyard was most pleasant and a great way to recharge the mental batteries.
Up to now the weather had been quite clear, cool but fine. As we hit the Desert Road there were big black clouds gathering over on our left, right down over the surrounding peaks (we'd hoped to grab a "postcard" photo but nothing to see except cloud), with a haze developing ahead and to the right. Hmm, doesn't look too bad, fingers crossed we will skirt the main part & be OK.
Nope, the road was showing signs of having had recent rain and the skies were getting darker. Oh yeah, there are big orange signs all along warning the road is slippery when wet too. We were still "on pace" so my cornering lines consisted of picking the non-shiny patches on the surface, sure keeps you alert.
By way of explanation regarding the non-shiny patches, when the roads people lay down a new or repaired surface, they apparently use an asphalt mixture that has a high emulsifier agent (kerosene). This is great to get the stuff down and smooth quickly (and it is cheaper than the good gear) but when it bakes in the hot sun for a time the mix begins to separate with the aggregate (stone/gravel) sinking and the sticky stuff rising. The result is a shiny surface that has does not provide much grip and can be horrid when wet or icy. When you only have two small patches of rubber keeping you shiny-side up you want to avoid crossing anything shiny unless you are dead upright and in a straight line, hence seeing this stuff mid-corner can be perturbing.
We ran through a couple of showers that were enough to get us damp but not soggy, on the plus side though it washed the accumulation of bug-guts off our gear. Every cloud, and all that. A quick refuel at the same service station we had used on the way down a couple of weeks ago (has it really been that long?) and we were away again.
Finally we start seeing road signs with "Rotorua" on them, not long to go, the shadows on the road are getting longer and the sun is dead-ahead, only 30km to go. Doug pulls over & asks if I'd like a quick break before the final run in. "Nah, I'm on a roll, lets keep moving". 20km to go.
Then we are passing the "Welcome to Rotorua" sign and turning up suburban streets into Dougs' driveway, home. Shutting down the bike for the final time feels a bit strange, our adventure is done and the memories start here. Wow, that was fun though.
So the day was around 12 hours total. 4 hours on a boat & 8 hours riding, around 600km, not bad for a day's travelling.
Bikes unloaded, gear in the corner to be sorted and packed tomorrow, time for a beer and to send a text to Linda to let her know we are home safely.
So, there you have it. Two mates on bikes belting around the lovely South Island of New Zealand for a couple of weeks. Sound like fun? It sure was.
I'll put a bit of a postscript up later to summarise the numbers, what worked, what might be helpful etc. Until then...