A Travellerspoint blog

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Seddon - We Return

Seddon - We Return
On the road again at 8.30, we weave our way through Christchurch's morning traffic. Thankfully we are heading outbound whilst the majority are doing the inbound morning ritual.

We had a discussion last night as to the plan for our route, should we head back inland for more twisty fun or head straight up Highway One, along the East Coast? It is only a relatively short 300 - 400km either way, so which will be the more enjoyable?

Our decision to take the main highway was vindicated, with low cloud enveloping the hills all the way Northwards, the peaks were well hidden so the inland route would probably not have been a whole lot of fun. Traffic wasn't too bad, lots of trucks but they soon spread out the further we travelled. Although overcast and a bit chilly at least there was no rain, just the occasional patches of mist had me doing the one-fingered windscreen wiper thing.

About an hour up the road we pulled over for breakfast at a little place that appeared quite popular judging by the amount of traffic coming and going. Doug opted for a cheese scone and for something different I asked for a bacon sarny, which turned out to be a cheesy scone filled with slices of bacon and an onion relish on the side, yummy. The coffee was pretty good too.

It is a bit of a nice change to be travelling the highway for a change, wider roads, sweeping bends and plentiful overtaking lanes make for "progressing". Although it is not overly challenging we are making good time.

Today is a day of more tourist oddities, endless amusement if taken in the right frame of mind, frustrating otherwise. Some seem to have a fascination with sheep, suddenly pulling over and running across the highway to take photos of a paddock full of sheep. Saw that more than once, stick around guys the place is teeming with them. Another is just plain non-awareness of the traffic around them, small rental car with a line of vehicles behind, blissfully unaware as they refuse to move over at the overtaking lane. Some graphic hand gestures had the desired result, no language barrier here.

The roads people have a pretty neat system of automated warning signs on tricky bends. The usual speed advisory signs are supplemented with these solar powered signs that use radar to check your speed and then start flashing a big "Slow Down" and a curved arrow. Good idea for the obvious high accident areas. For some reason they kept flashing at me quite a bit. Oh yeah there were plenty of Police speed traps around today too, not much interest in us though.

We pulled over in Kaikora for lunch, nice little beach-side town that has reinvented itself as a whale-watching centre. Apparently not too many years ago the town was in serious decline, the city fathers thought outside the square and embraced envrio-tourism. Now there are new buildings going up and the whole place has a really good vibe about it.

Not too far out of town there is a small seal colony come nursery. A few adults trying to sleep with a bunch of pups doing what kids do, chase each other around and generally annoy the oldies. Cute little fellers they are too. Due to the overcast there aren't many photo opportunities today (not really into mobs of sheep), there are a couple of the seals though for your enjoyment.

So after a modest 300km we arrived back at Karin's place, ready for an early start tomorrow to catch the ferry by 7.00am. After that it's a matter of a straight run up the highway to Rotorua, nearly done, sadly.

Posted by jayar 22:11 Comments (0)

Rotorua - Journeys End

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...

Posted by jayar 12:50 Comments (0)

How Was It

How Was It?

So, how was it, what worked, what didn't?

It was huge fun, think Tassie is great? Tassie is an entree, a tasting plate, something to tantalise the touring tastebuds. New Zealand is the Mains, a big juicy steak with all the trimmings (plus bacon).

All up we covered 5,500km, mostly on excellent roads, with scenery that just keeps on giving. Accommodation is plentiful (season dependent) with options to cover all budgets, they do tourism well. The locals might speak with a funny accent but are very friendly and good at humour (they give as good as they get).

For the adventure riders there are a bunch of gravel roads that can take you exploring into some really wild country.

If taking the ferry between the islands, bookings are essential, one of the biggest boats is still not online and the others are consequently pretty full.

Fuel is a bit on the dear side by Australian standards, ULP is $2.15 to $2.30 per litre, Diesel is around $1.47. On a bike though a full tank will set you back around $40.

Be aware though that bike servicing may be scarce in the more remote areas of the South Island, the larger centres can cater for most Japanese brands but if you are on something exotic or need a specialist tyre for example you may have a bit of a wait.

Mobile phone coverage is good in population centres, depending upon which network you are on, out in the boonies it is silent. I carried a dual SIM phone, with my home card set for roaming (without data), NZ Telecom sold me a pre-pay plan for around $30 that gave me 90 minutes of calls back home, heaps of texts home and 500mb of data. Having both cards meant that if there was a mobile tower around one of the cards would access it.

The SPOT Tracker worked a treat, apart from one weekend when the monitoring service had a slow down. My record of the trip has little dots all over the country. It is comforting to know that if everything turned to custard out in the wilderness the SOS feature will get through via satellite and have the monitoring people calling the closest emergency services, with your precise GPS position, plus a message to your nominated contacts.

Having a riding partner along that knows the place is always an asset, Doug knew where to stop for photos, I would say to him "do you know of a spot that looks like ....", "sure, I can put you onto that". However a lot of the scenery is right there beside the road, there are plenty of guide books/websites around, just a bit of research required.

What didn't work? Hmm no real problems at all. There was stuff I carried and didn't subsequently need but that was more through circumstance than anything else. A small rollup backpack or straps would have been handy for some ad-hoc purchases that wouldn't fit into the panniers (beer).

Would I do it again? I'd love to, perhaps I can persuade Linda to join me and we'll do it by car.

To Doug, thanks again mate for your good humour, the use of your bike , super tour guide powers and for patiently talking me into it.

I hope I've provided you the reader a bit of entertainment and a sense of the fun we had on our little expedition.

Until next time.....

Posted by jayar 03:41 Comments (0)

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