Today's plan is to work our way over to the North West coast so that we can then commence our trek Southward on Sunday.
The motel at Motueka was quite comfy, large room, little deck and most importantly right down the back away from the main road, quiet. Nice spot and only $100 for the night.
On the road by 9.00 we point the bikes towards the hills, following a small river that is tumbling over stony outcrops, very fishy looking water it is too, crystal clear, I suspect there would be nice trout hiding here. Our first stop is Murchison, a small town on the Matakitaki River, to have some breakfast. The cafe we pull into is pretty popular, tour buses, camper vans, push bike, motorbikes. A great spread they put on too, my pancakes with maple syrup, fruit salad and bacon (mmmm everything is better with bacon) is huge, as is Dougs' bacon & eggs. We do all right for ourselves, gotta fuel the inner engine you know.
After brekky it's back on the road to attack the Bulla Gorge. If yesterday was fun, this is quicker fun, nice wide road (initially) and a good surface. However the road does narrow and there are single lane bridges aplenty. At one point we come around a bend and the road dives through a semi circular groove cut in the sheer rock face, the Hawkes Crag (see the photo), definitely a single vehicle at a time. Just as Doug is about to commit to the crossing a small car coming the other way decides that they are in far more of a hurry than us and forces the issue. I think the driver was more than surprised to realise she had two bikes facing her as she came around the corner, wide eyes and an apologetic look.
As we roll into our destination of Westport at around 1.00 it is a bit early to call it a day. There is a run from here out to a place called Karamea, I think it sounds a bit like a term of endearment that Gomez Addams used to say to Morticia on the TV show The Addams Family, but apparently it's named after the Karamea Bight and is reputedly one of the "must do" rides in NZ. "Wanna have a crack at it?", asks Doug, "Sure, let's go".
Initially the road follows the coast and is very pretty with the sea on the left and towering rocky crags off to the right, more single lane bridges with one occupied by a tractor that only just squeezed through. A short wait with another two guys on bikes (BMW GS1200 and a "Katoom" 950 Adventurer). They rapidly disappeared into the distance as soon as the road was clear, we followed at a more refined pace.
The was known as a "must do" previously however it appears the maintenance has been badly neglected. Lots or poorly patched holes and dips, the worst though is the dodgy reseals they have done. Basically they fill the area and throw a loose (very loose) seal over the top. The result is a wide area of loose gravel over the top, usually mid-corner. The frequency of these patches is such that any slight change in road surface colour has you eyeing the area suspiciously and backing off the throttle. This gravel is treacherous stuff, hit it with your front wheel turned or leaned over and things get very exciting very quickly, oh yeah it is a sheer rock face on one side and an awful long way down to the valley floor the other, ride like a Nana. It is still fun though, just a bit more technical, there are even some corners reminiscent of the "corkscrew" of the Laguna Seca racetrack, downhill left-right combinations, whee.
About 80km later we arrive at "Little Wanganui", which is a small collection of weatherboard cottages and a pub. Time for a quick soft drink and a plate of hot chips before saddling up again to head back to Westport to find a motel for the night.
You see some weird stuff out on the road, two guys riding a tandem bicycle might not sound that strange until you see said bike is a recline style with one "pilot" facing forward and the other facing backwards (back to back) with a cute fringed canopy over the top. They seemed to be doing OK, perhaps the rear guy was acting as a rear-vision mirror.
Part way up the Takaka Hill there was a couple of youngsters getting long skateboards out of a van, that was an adventure that certainly had the potential to end painfully.
Mental cyclists all over the place, in the middle of nowhere on steep hills as its getting late, more power to them but not my cup of tea. On one set of hills a cyclist was tailgating a car on the way down, going hell for leather. Hmm gravel, skinny tyres, lycra body armour, ouch!
So after a couple of the best T-Bone steaks and trimmings that I've had at a pub/restaurant for a good while (plus beers of course), I reckon Morpheous will be calling pretty early tonight.