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Queenstown

Queenstown

Only a relatively short run today from Wanaka to Queenstown, 100km or so. The plan is to visit the aviation museum and we have since found that there is a National Transport & Toy museum that the proprietor of the motel assures us is worth a look.

I forgot to mention in yesterdays' offering about while we were enjoying the serenity around the Haast River, with the Indonesian Harley support crew, there came the unmistakable angry sound of a big block V8 "on song". Geez whoever is driving is really giving it the berries, around the river bend comes a jet boat, and it is going flat out in water that is so shallow you can see the water boiling over the rocks just below the surface. Damn that looks like fun.

Back to the present. Off to the Aviation Museum, they have a small but interesting collection from early biplanes to jets, also they had a beaut collection of desirable vintage cars and motorcycles. Not as comprehensive as the other museums we have visited but certainly worth a look.

Next door is the Transport & Toy museum. This place is basically the collection of an eccentric that had a bit of a thing for auctions and plowed everything he had into his collection. There is no rhyme or reason to the set-out of the place, basically four big aircraft hangers stuffed with, err, stuff. The guy liked cars, planes and toys. So for example there would be a pristine 1966 Mustang with the back seat occupied by a bunch of Barbie Dolls and a scale replica of a Stuka sitting on the roof. One display of vintage radio sets had a model space shuttle in the middle. Quirky.

The funny thing is that it all worked in an oddball sort of way, we were in fits of laughter at the absurdity of some of the exhibits, dunno if he was smoking industrial strength gear or if he was truly marching to the beat of his own drum. For example there would be a straightforward collection of cars of a certain marque and there would be an aeroplane tucked in amongst them, almost invisible in the clutter. There were shelves of motorcycles up on the walls, everything from vintage Harleys, Vespas with sidecars to all sorts of Japanese bikes. There was even an ex Polish Airforce Mig21 sitting there.
Never could I be accused of hoarding again, this guy raised the bar to an artform.

After a leisurely couple of hours wandering about the museums we again hit the road, down the Cardona Valley Road, which is the "back way" to Queenstown, going over Crown Peak. What a road it is too that gradually climbs to a point where you can just see Queenstown off in the distance far below, with the road winding down the hill in a series of switchbacks, woo hoo. Sadly there were a series of roadworks being done, with the obligatory Stop/Go man in attendance so the run wasn't as free-flowing as it could have been, still huge fun though. At one stage there was a Boeing 737 flying along lower than us as it made its approach to the airport.

At the bottom of the hill Doug decided to see if he could get a set of tyres to replace the squared off rear on the VFR, the front was also staring to look a bit second hand as well. Dropping in on the local Yamaha dealer he indeed did have a set of tyres to suit, so after a bit of negotiating a deal was done and we retired to the attached cafe for a coffee and wait. The sales guy comes out after awhile, the mechanics have noticed that the wheel bearings are a bit grumbly. Doug goes with him for a look and sure enough they are exhibiting wear and need replacing. Luckily the Honda bearings are a common size and they have good quality spares in stock ($12). Doug had asked his regular mechanics to give the bike a thorough check before the trip, guess he may be having a quiet word with them later.

A quick run into town and we find a comfy motel with lovely views over Lake Wakatipu, park our bags, and seeing as it is only early afternoon, head off for a blat out to Glenorchy so that Doug can scrub in his new tyres.

When tyres are produced there is a thin film of "release agent" that allows the tyre to pop out of the mold cleanly. This agent is slippery stuff and needs to be removed before the tyre can reach its full grip potential. The best way is to simply ride the thing, taking corners in both directions a bit tentatively at first and progressively harder until the tyre surface has been roughened up. If you start immediately cornering hard on new tyres, particularly in wet/slippery conditions, there is a fair chance they will suddenly lose grip and dump rider and bike on the road.

The Glenorchy Road follows the shore line of the lake, with all the attendant curves that you'd expect from a riverine valley. There is a photo attached shot up towards the head of the valley with snow covered peaks in the background, it's hard to focus on the road with this sort of scenery all around, New Zealand is really turning it on for us.

What's at Glenorchy? A small town, a couple of cafes, a lady taking her miniature pony for a walk whilst riding a bicycle and that's about it. Oh yeah, that sublime road. So after a quick bite to eat we turned around and did it all again from the other direction. This time without stops for photos, wheee.

Back to the Motel and time for a quick shower, toss some laundry in the washing machine and a short walk into town for a look around and a feed.

Queenstown is a tourist town, built on the edge of the lake. Not that it is a bad thing, a very attractive town it is, quite modern with all the outlets that international guests would expect. Sadly even a damn Casino. Prices in eateries on the waterfront are sky-high but a couple of streets back we found an Irish pub that did good staple fare for a reasonable price. The "Bombay Gangsta" music was a bit different but hey it takes all types.

So, tomorrow we head further South for Te Anau, Manapouri and Milford Sound. A big day too of around 400km or so. Mordor beckons......

Posted by jayar 00:44 Comments (0)

Milford Sound - Manapouri

Milford Sound - Manapouri

Today dawned bright and clear, promising another day of beaut riding and scenery. Pity that last night was the worst night's sleep of the trip. Nice motel but it was situated right on the main road and trucks were rattling past all through the night.

On the road by our customary 9.00am we headed off up the Te Anau road, traffic was mental though with tour buses, camper vans and tourist conveyances of all sorts vying for road space. Thankfully things cleared a bit as we got further out of town, damn cool though better check those heated grips again.

What initially started out as a clear day soon developed into fog, just the odd patch at first then thicker and thicker. My visor was covered in a fine mist, normally rain pretty much blows off with the wind as you ride along but this stuff just sat there. I have little rubber wiper thingies on the forefingers of my gloves, so every couple of minutes I'd wipe the mist off so I could see the road ahead.

At Five Rivers I see a sign advertising a cafe offering hot coffee & food, being a bit over the fog by this time it seemed fortuitous, so in we go. Nice warm cosy little place, just the thing to thaw out and fuel the inner man.

There was another rider in there also making the most of the ambience. Chatting to him he was originally touring with a group, as he so eloquently put it, "well the guys had a bunch of sheilas with them, when we got to Wanaka one of them just had to stop so she could get her nails done, that was when I left". He headed off a little ahead of us, into the mist.

When I was a teenager learning to drive Dad used to say "never drive/ride faster than you can see to stop". Wise words, the fog was about 60kph thick, and a visor wipe every 30 seconds or so, and it was around 10.30. We could see the sun, surely it was going to burn off soon? Nope, even the cop sitting on the side of the road wasn't doing much business this morning.

The fog did eventually lift and we picked up the pace, bright & sunny but cool, might just leave those grips running a bit longer.

Refuelling at Te Anau the guy at the service station asked us where we were off to, on hearing that we were going up to Milford Sound he said "does your bike get more than 240km to a tank"? Basically there is no fuel available at Milford and you need the range to get there and back.

Our acquaintance from Five Rivers was outside crunching numbers, his Harley was supposed to get 240km to a tank but he was tossing up whether to stash a couple of spare litres of fuel in a container on his bike to be sure.

Off up the road we go, following the Eglington River valley with rocky crags in the distance, snow covered peaks and cloud shrouding others. The valley narrows soon enough and the crags get closer & higher, the road starts climbing and we enter the tree-line.

Riding along enjoying the changing scenery I notice that the road has three greenish tinged lines running down its length, between each set of wheel tracks and the centreline. Damn, that is moss the same as on the side of the road. Guess it doesn't see much sunlight here.

As we climb higher the cloud base gets closer and the road gets twistier. There is the occasional glimpse of snowy peaks off to the sides but mostly it is damp grey. A bit of a bummer as Doug tells me the views up here are worth bottling.

We pull over at a lookout spot called "The Chasm", there is a short walk to see where the river has eroded a hole in the riverbed and plunges straight down. Parking the bikes we notice a Kea parrot hopping about checking out vehicles. These birds have a wicked shaped beak and have been known to destroy windscreen wipers, mirrors and other bits of cars that take their fancy.

Whilst checking out the view of the river doing its thing, a girl comes over and says "oh are you the guys with the bikes"? "Umm I think you need to get back there soon". She showed us a photo she had just taken of the bird taking a fancy to Doug's helmet that we had attached to the bikes. The girl told us that the bird was pecking at the helmets and had started on the seat. Time to beat feet.

As we headed back down the track other visitors kept saying, "there is a Kea having fun with your bikes". Oh great.

Arriving back at the bikes there is fortunately no apparent damage apart from both helmets dangling by the security chain we had looped through them. It seems our little mate had knocked them off the seat and flown off. Dunno if he was looking for dinner or a girlfriend.

As I was setting up for the first corner after we left the carpark it sort of occurred to me that the bike has lots of tasty brake lines and things that a mental bird might find to it's liking, hope the brakes still work. They did.

At the top of the road lies the Homer Tunnel, bored through the living rock. At the end there is a view over the valley below leading down into Milford Sound that is spectacular.

Riding through the tunnel it is pitch black, your lights only make a dim impression with the black stone of the walls just soaking up the light, no reflection. As we near the end you can see mist filtering into the tunnel, so as we finally emerge into daylight it is into dense cloud and you can't see more than a few metres ahead. Guess the great view is going to have to wait.

Taking hairpins in cloud is an interesting experience, just stay between the white lines, right? I could hardly see Dougs' tail lights ahead, all the time wiping the mist off the visor. Cornering one-handed is a bit of an experience.

Trundling down into Milford sound the view is a bit restricted, pity as there is plenty to see. Linda & I had visited here on a cruise a few years ago and the scenery is stunning, it would have been nice to see it from the landside but thems the breaks. Time for lunch at the cafe instead.

The run back to Te Anau was pretty much the reverse of the trip in, we sort of hoped that the cloud would lift as the sun projected some warmth into the day but nope it was another case of flying in cloud back up the mountain, at least the run batck down had cleared though.

Tonight we are domiciled at a motel on Lake Manapouri, New Zealand's second deepest lake by the way and site of a large underground hydroelectric power station. Tomorrow we are going to play tourist for a change, have a rest day off the bikes and take the guided tour of the place.
Until tomorrow....

Posted by jayar 01:06 Comments (0)

Manapouri 2

Manapouri 2.

Today we enjoyed the luxury of a bit of a sleep in and late breakfast as our tour didn't leave until 12.30.

A short walk down the road is the waterfront area that serves the lake, the ferry for the power station workers is moored at it's own jetty while the tour boats have a large facility next door. A bit further along are the private jetties for a variety of pleasure boats.

Our tour company is a well organised mob that have obviously been doing this for a while. There are a number of different tours to the other side of the lake, all using the same boat (a modern catamaran with a couple of decks). Some doing our power station tour, others doing an overnight trip, others doing kayak tours.

The trip across the lake takes about 45 minutes and as usual there is a bit of a commentary that is quite informative. We plonked ourselves in a seat up front so being the nerd I am, could get a good view of the helm and the navigation data. The depth readout soon started ticking over as we left the jetty, 70 metres rapidly became 200 metres which then showed 400 metres, damn this lake is indeed deep. The skipper said that the deepest point is around 440 metres, only about 50 metres less than the deepest lake a bit further south.

There were a couple of little kids on board, about 5 or 6 years old, well mannered but full of beans. I remarked to their mum (a young German lady) on their boundless energy, with a tired look she replied "they never stop, even when they sleep, they just keep going". Must be a handful travelling with them, great experience for the family though.

Lake Manapouri was chosen as the site for a hydro power station back in 1904, due to its size, elevation above sea level and proximity to the coast. Basically it meant thy could pipe the lake to the sea to provide the kinetic energy to run turbines. Making the concept a reality of course was more problematic, particularly as the rock is solid granite, with work not commencing until 1964. Eventually it also took a deal with Conzinc who would take 85% of the power to run an aluminium smelter in Bluff, to make the project happen. The station generates enough electricity to power Auckland, still 85% goes to the smelter, with any surplus going into the national grid.

Apparently a while ago the smelter's parent company approached the NZ Government saying that unless they got a better deal they would close up shop. After gaining government "assistance" they posted a huge annual profit. Hmm sounds very similar to some shenanigans being played out by large multinational companies in Australia, particularly in Gove recently (with an aluminium smelter too).

The bus trip to the power station took a bit of a detour to show us the view from the top of the mountain overlooking Doubtful Sound. Well they assured us the view was there, like yesterday it was socked in with solid cloud, so the view was a grey wall of mist. An interesting facet to the place is the existance of ancient Beech trees, some of which are reputed to be up to 800 years old. These trees and the location were featured in the Lord of the Rings movies as the home of the Ents, talking tree-people.

Evetually we arrived at the entrance to the power station access tunnel, 2.5 km of it descending some 200 metres under the mountain in a gentle spiral. This tunnel was constructed by the old method of drill and blast, at a rate of about 20 metres per day. Like the Snowy Mountains hydro project, manpower was predominately post WW2 European, a number of which lost their lives on the project.

At the bottom of the descent we arrived at the turbine hall, a cavern of 111 metres in length 18 metres wide and 39 metres deep. It's big, really big and is quite inspiring when you reflect on the methods used in its construction. They have 7 turbine units down there.

The whole tour is quite informative and well worth it should you venture this way. Pity the weather wasn't a bit kinder on the day but I'm not complaining at all.

Funnily enough while we were walking back to the motel we heard the sound of a raucous Harley, our friend from yesterday. On spotting us he pulled over for a yarn, he'd caught up again with his initial travelling companions but things were still not going well with the ladies of the group insisting on girly indulgences so he'd headed off on his own again. "Been having a ball, put three tanks of fuel through it today alone", he grinned. Looking at the wear patterns on his tyres he had certainly been exploring the limits of the Harleys' cornerning performance envelope. Good on yer mate, enjoy.

Tomorrow we are back on the road, initially heading to our Southern most point of the trip before turning North for our return run up the Eastern side of the Island. Depending upon the weather it could be around a 600km run, so an early night. The skies currently look clear over that way..... fingers crossed.

Posted by jayar 23:43 Comments (0)

Alexandra

Alexandra

An early start this morning, on the road by 8.00am, as we have a long haul ahead of us. A quick cup of instant coffee in the motel, with a view to a more substantial repast up the road someplace.

Funnily enough the quality of the instant coffee in the motels doesn't equate to the cost of the accommodation. Some of the expensive places had crap coffee while the "homely" places had quite passable brews. Manapouri was actually pretty good, considering it was instant.

The day was overcast but crisp, no real threat of rain and the promise of clear skies Eastward.

First stop was a little cafe in Tuatapere, self-proclaimed sausage capital of New Zealand. They had a quite extensive menu for breakfast although we opted for toast & big coffees. There was even one listing for "Hamster Fodder with Yoghurt & Honey". The toast was excellent, freshly baked with a variety of homemade conserves, just the thing to fuel the inner man for the journey ahead.

Our track this morning takes us to the Southernmost point of the South Island before turning Northward for our run back towards home. So we head through Riverton, Invercargill to Bluff. This is where the aluminium smelter lies, a port town where the ore arrives and leaves as ingots courtesy of the big hydro electric power plant back up the road.

We followed the road to the little monument/marker that signifies the Southern Point, took our obligatory photos and left. This place is infested with sandflies the size of buzzards, which immediately set upon us as soon as we were stationary, bloody hell let's get get the heck out of here quick.

Said sandflies then proceeded to self-destruct all over our visors, just as a show of appreciation of our short visit. Indeed at one point I popped up over a hill and my visor was immediately covered by a shotgun blast of bugs.

The road itself is quite varied, at first it was rolling pastureland but as we headed North East it became twistier. The area is known as the Catlins and is quite an attraction of riders, the reason for which we soon found out as we left Balclutha for Clydevale. Woo hoo, twisties here we come.

Dougs' new tyres seem to have been scrubbed in quite well as he disappeared into the distance scraping boots along the tarmac. I contented myself with being "Captain Slow" and pootling along at a conservative 120 or so.

Despite frequent stops to clean our visors it only took a few km before they were again covered with the gooey remains of the suicidal insects. At one stop I hopped off the bike to find a bumblebee the size of a volkswagon lodged on the seat in the position of my, err, " bloke bits". All praise to the wonders of Kevlar armour, the alternative as the insect completed his last rites just doesn't bear contemplating.

Our mate on the Harley from the previous couple of days passed us as we left Bluff, he was heading in as we were on the way out. He said he was planning to overnight in Owaka, as we rolled through the town we hoped he liked his own company a lot. About the only thing of note in the town was the Teapot Museum, a house whose yard was filled with teapots of various shapes and sizes. Enjoy the hospitality buddy.

Pulling into Balclutha we decide it's time for a feed. As we still have another 160km or so to go I reckon something light might be in order so I order a BLT (Bacon Lettuce & Tomato) sandwich. These are usually only at most a couple of slices of bread with a rasher of bacon and a bit of rabbit food. Today's offering is a foot-long crunchy roll stuffed with bacony goodness. Phowar.

Not much else to report about the rest of the run to Alexandra, main highway with traffic and a consistent haul. At least it was quite relaxing.

After checking in to a nice motel, knocking over a bit of washing and generally freshening up, we repaired to the pub for a couple of beers and dinner. Soup of the day was Kumara and bacon. I love this country, you can have bacon with every meal.

So after around 500km and 8 hours on the road it is going to be another early night, to set up for tomorrows' run to Christchurch via Mount Cook.

Posted by jayar 00:18 Comments (0)

Christchurch Revisited

Christchurch - Revisited

Today is a big one, Alexandra to Christchurch via Mt Cook, around 600km.

After another lousy nights sleep thanks to some clown announcing his arrival to the neighboring room at around midnight by slamming doors and talking at the top of his voice, we were up and on the road by 8.00am on the dot.

Mind you our washing was all dry and very warm thanks to the impromptu drying room we had set up in the bathroom by running the small heater all night. Very toasty.

Our first stop was just up the road at Clyde to take a look at the hydro dam. The attraction being the very sheltered waters providing a beaut mirror lake at this time of the morning. Always time to admire beauty.

The next major stop was that vital one of breakfast, Omarama. Although just another small town with a service station and cafe, the beans on toast was excellent as was the huge mug of Moccachino. Just what was required to light the fires. Doug declared his toasty to be "good".

Suitably fortified off up the road we go with Mt Cook in our sights. It was cool and getting cooler the further up the road we travelled. When we set out the temperature was reasonably mild so I had the light gloves on and the jacket vents open. By this stage I'd zipped up the vents and had the grips turned up to "pie warmer". Doug called me a girl, I told him I didn't care. Next stop and the heavy gloves were going on.

Up to now the traffic had been minimal, after 10.00am though the roads rapidly become infested with camper vans. I guess it takes the occupants this long to decide what coloured culottes they are going to wear today.

As we were trundling along Doug pulled over seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Out in a paddock the farmer had constructed this really cool statue of a biker staring off into the distance with his ape-hanger bedecked bike behind him. All constructed out of old farm machinery and bits n pieces, some people have a very lively imagination. A pretty popular spot it is too, there were tracks worn all along the fence-line by people stopping to take photos.

From quite a distance out we could see the mountains on our left getting closer, they had snow on them, lots of snow, no wonder it was getting chilly. Soon enough we reached the Mt Cook turnoff, around 110km round trip, of course we were going to check this out.

The road is is lovely and wide, populated predominately by tourists, one must be wary of these as they tend to just stop or turn without warning. What we didn't expect was animals on the road first sheep wandering all over then a cat flew out of the grass just missing Dougs' front wheel.

The road follows Lake Pukaki, which has a distinctive greenish hue due to the snow runoff. Mt Cook and its attendant peaks stand resplendent at the head of the lake, quite a sight, we stop a few times for photos as the view is really something quite special. By the way, the heavier gloves are working a treat, the grips have been turned off and Doug is no longer calling me names.

A bit anticlimactically there is nothing much at the end of the road, apart from a small village, although the view does certainly more than compensate. A bunch of of photos taken and we turn around and head back to the highway.

We have a way to go to reach Christchurch so apply ourselves to the task at hand, twist the throttle and keep up a steady pace. A quick lunch at a town quaintly named Geraldine and onwards, ever onwards.

More stock on the road, this time a gaggle of supercilious geese making their way to the other side. Nothing fazes these birds, the sight of two bikes bearing down on them only resulted in haughty stares as they carried on waddling across the road. "Yes this is MY road, you shall wait for us".

Just after the Mt Hutt turnoff we approach the bridge over Rakaia Gorge, big illuminated signs warn of bridgeworks ahead and to expect lengthy delays. Rounding the bend there are a dozen vehicles queued up at a checkpoint with the drivers standing about chatting. OK, so we wait, we pulled over ready to take time stretching our legs but no sooner had we got gloves and helmets off and the road was reopened. Luck is with us.

There is not much more to report after this as we soon rejoin the main road and commence our approach to Christchurch. Thankfully it is still before rush-hour so the traffic is reasonably well-behaved, though the cyclists seem to have a different approach to road rules than everyone else, just like home. We arrive at the motel around 4.30pm, some 580km and 7 1/2 hours since we set out (although we did have plenty of stops along the way). Surprisingly we both feel pretty good after the long haul, a quick freshen up under the shower and we repair to the pub for cleansing ale and steak (yep there was bacon too, as is proper).

We are at the final stages of our little South Island adventure, tomorrow we wend our way back to Karins' place at Seddon before catching the ferry to the North Island on Wednesday. Gee that really did go quickly. It's certainly not over yet but home is in our sights.

Posted by jayar 00:22 Comments (0)

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