A Travellerspoint blog

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Westport

Westport

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.

Tomorrow, Christchurch.

Posted by jayar 00:10 Comments (0)

Chistchurch 1

Christchurch 1

For those that are following along on my SPOT Tracker, there seems to have been a glitch after breakfast this morning, with the track suddenly ceasing at "Pancake Rocks". I'm pretty sure I had turned it back on after our stop, but sometimes "stuff happens" and I may have neglected to ensure the "breadcrumb" tracking was active. Suffice to say, we have made it safely to Christchurch.

The morning dawned bright & fair and we were on the road by 9.00am with the air temp showing as a bracing 9 degrees. Sure wakes you up better than coffee. Doug offered me a ride of the VFR, of course I required much arm twisting to accept.

The riding position is more sports oriented than the BMW, leaning forward with narrow bars and the pegs set back. A nice ride it is too, for an 800 it has oodles of grunt and has brakes that only require the merest caress to haul the beast down quick smart. Very agile as one would expect for this type of machine. It would take me a bit of time to feel at home on it though, after about 50km my thumbs were starting to give me grief from the weight shift and I was happy to hand the bike back. As I said it would take a while to get used to it, but once acquired it would be a hoot to punt along.

Our first stop this morning was at Punakaiki (or Pancake Rocks). The local limestone here has been laid down over the years in thick slabs that resemble pancake stacks. As the rocks have eroded due to weather and sea they have formed all these cool formations and blowholes, well worth a look. Of course seeing as the rocks look like pancakes one should indulge accordingly for breakfast, including bacon, mmmmm.

We head off down down the coast towards Greymouth, where Doug suggests we take the "B" road following the Grey River up to Reefton, then through the Lewis Pass and on to Christchurch. Sounds a sterling plan to me.

The roads have opened up to river plains, wide grazing land between towering peaks off in the distance either side. Twisty roads are fun but it is nice to run along with nice wide roads, sweeping bends and good visibility for a change.

Not far out of Reefton we are stopped by a herd of dairy cattle (Fresians I believe) moving from one paddock to another. Us and a couple of cars on one side and about 15 bikes on the other. The girls were taking their time crossing but none of us were in any great hurry, except for one bloke that arrived on the other side that just had to get through. So he proceeds to force his way through the herd, fortunately the girls are pretty road-wise and stop to let him through, with the rest of us wondering why. We were back on our way soon enough with a friendly wave from the little kids in the back of the farmers' ute.

After refuelling at Reefton we set off for the Lewis Pass. This road is something else again as it winds through tall conifers on either side, the road mostly in dappled shade and that lovely pine forest scent on the air, makes you glad to be alive and out in it.

At one stage we are overtaken by a rider on a little Honda, he was wringing the things' neck and laying over the tank to get that extra couple of clicks out of it. About 2 km later he was pulled over on the side of the road having his horoscope read by the local plod. Oops. Funnily enough I had only been thinking just prior to this that I hadn't seen a police car all day, another ten km up the road there was another. Doug reckons that in all the times he has been across this road he has never seen one at all.

A quick detour off to the left and we pull into Hamner Springs, a thermal springs resort town, for a bite of lunch before a final push to our destination. Nice spot this is too, all a bit touristy but very popular. The thai beef salad was pretty good too, nice touch serving it with a slice of watermelon & rockmelon.

The final run into Christchurch was pretty uneventful, with us arriving at out motel by around 5.00pm, time enough for a quick shower,do some washing and head out for a quick look at the city before dinner.

Our motel is only a couple of blocks from the city centre, so we go for a walk to check out the status of repairs following the big earthquake in 2011.

The damage was bad, really bad, with old stone buildings such as churches fairing the worst of all. I guess stone doesn't flex as much as steel/timber. Once proud and beautiful buildings like the main cathedral are severely damaged, many are still closed and fenced off, but the city is recovering. One feature that the city has adopted is for small "gap filler" businesses to be constructed on cleared sites. Little coffee shops, even an open-air venue constructed entirely out of wooden shipping pallets, way cool. The idea being to breathe life into the area by keeping people around, instead of just having a huge demolition/construction site. More power to the city fathers for their progressive thinking. There is a vibrant air to the place that you can feel.
Tomorrow we go to explore further.

Posted by jayar 01:28 Comments (0)

Christchurch 2

Christchurch 2

Today is a bit of a rest day to explore the rest of the city and environs at our leisure. Hmm, what to do first? Doug knows I have a love of aircraft and particularly all things connected with military aviation, so he reckons the RNZAF museum is a bit of orright and that I might enjoy their offerings.

On the way we stop for breakfast, as you do, and again partake of bacon goodness (French toast, banana, maple syrup & bacon). A man could get used to this, my doctor may disagree but he aint here....

After negotiating city traffic we eventually arrive at the museum, Doug reckoned he was having trouble finding the turnoff, I suggested the big aeroplane on a stick by the road was a bit of a giveaway....(he didn't see it, too busy negotiating traffic). This is a museum located on an old airforce base to commemorate the history of the RNZ Airforce, holding exhibits from WW1 to the jet age. Free admission too.

They are big on participation in this museum, there are lots of displays where you can not only touch the exhibits but actually sit in and interract with them. There are plenty of volunteer guides to assist with unobtrusive narrative or answere queries, nice.

Climbed into a Vampire cockpit, I doubt I'd be able to get the canopy closed, very squeezy, funnily enough though the controls fell to hand quite naturally with throttle, stick, rudders, instruments all where any pilot would expect them to be.

Wandering around the exhibits there were two aircraft types I'd actually piloted in the day, a Victa Airtourer (aerobatics were great fun in that) and an Auster J5 (hand swing the prop to start, stick & rudder flying at its most basic). Feels a bit odd seeing these as displays.

A bit of a surprise is a Mosquito bomber simulator set up. Ooh I just gotta have a crack at this. Pay my $5 and slide into the left seat, the mission is to attack German warships in fjords with rockets, cool. My score was two destroyed and I crashed into the sea twice, about evens, though I did manage a couple of passable victory rolls after each "kill". There was a German tourist standing behind me of about the same vintage as myself, shouting encouragement, "left, left, down, shoot now, ja good shooting". He'd been flying the sim before me (no kills,a couple of crashes), and was certainly wrapt up in the whole thing. I felt all tingly afterwards, what a cracking buzz that was.

Afterwards as I donned my Japanese helmet and swung my leg over the German motorcycle, it occurred to me that things have moved on a bit since WW2, we are all friends now.

Doug suggested that we could head off to a little village on the coast called Akaroa, a small French settlement that served a nice lunch, okey dokey let's go.

The road is initially through open farmland, nice sweeping bends, a good pace that is relaxing but covers the kilometers. The road starts to narrow into a "B" road and climb upwards, ever upwards, the sweepers turn into hairpins and I start scraping boots and pegs on the surface. Nothing scary just a hoot to tip the bike into the corners and power out the other side to set up for the next one. There is a photo attached showing the curves disappearing into the hills, this sort of captures what puts a silly grin on a motorcyclists' face.

Doug has a couple of moments as the rear wheel steps out on some corners, once again the road maintenance crews have been here and there are odd patches of gravel right on your cornering line. I had a look at some of this stuff up close whilst we stopped for photos, very fine about the size (and roughly the shape) of BB shot. No wonder it is treacherous.

What happens when the road stops going uphill, why it starts going downhill as it winds it's way down into the village, heaps of fun.

Rolling into Akaroa the place is jam-packed with people, there are two big cruise ships anchored in the harbour and their passengers are all over the place. Nice little village that would bear further leisurely exploration (some quality hotel accommodation here too, would make for a great quiet break away), but due to the crowds we find a little cafe on the beach for a refreshment and snack. Tossing chips at the loony seagulls.

Suitably refreshed we head off to do it all over again on the way back to Christchurch, tough gig. Our route takes us through Lyttleon, a port suburb that was particularly hard hit during the 2011 earthquake. The damage is still evident but they are getting on with reconstruction, lots of roadworks, scaffolding and detours/diversions.

Back at the motel by late afternoon, time for a beer & a feed before turning in in preparation for tomorrow's run over Arthurs Pass to Franz Joseph Glacier as we continue our Southward journey.

The SPOT Tracker seems to be working OK now, just taking a while to update. For some reason I can't fathom it is not reporting our track until the next day, instead of "live", no idea.

Thanks too to those that have contacted my about the blog, glad you are enjoying the yarn.

Until tomorrow.....

Posted by jayar 00:28 Comments (0)

Franz Josef Glacier

Franz Josef Glacier

Watching the TV weather forecasts last night it looked like there was to be a cold front travelling through the West Coast of the South Island, followed by sunny skies from then on, fingers crossed.

Looking out the window of the motel in Christchurch first thing in the morning it was all thin overcast but the skies had a reddish tinge. The old mantra "red skies in the morning, sailors take warning" came to mind, but we reckoned it should probably burn off as the sun rose.

Packed up and on the road by 9.00am we headed off through the morning Christchurch traffic. Doug was leading as I had only a rudimentary idea of the route, so I stuck to him like a burr in a blanket, despite several courageous attempts by loony car drivers to cut in on us I was having none of it.

Soon enough we were out on the main road to Arthurs Pass. Although the skies were a bit so so, I'd zipped up all the vents on my jacket and put on the rain overgloves just in case. A bit of light misty rain was no great issue despite being a bit cool and we made good time to arrive at Arthurs Pass for a bite of brunch. No bacon today, big bowl of pumpkin soup & crusty bread, Doug opted for a homemade meat pie & chips, looked good too.

By the time we hit the road again it had started to drizzle and the clouds were settling onto the peaks up ahead. Wasn't long before it started to rain in earnest, when you can hear the rain rattling on your visor through earplugs it is getting heavy.

Thankfully the traffic was fairly light by now, but being stuck in the spray behind a truck is never much fun, just can't see a damn thing. Most of the truckies were quite courteous though, signalling us through when the road was clear, thanks guys.

A short way past Arthurs Pass there is a great example of creative engineering. The road cuts along the face of a steep slope that is prone to rockfall and water runoff. To protect the road they have constructed an overhead "drain" for the runoff and an armoured tunnel so that the rocks bounce off the top and continue down to the valley floor below. See the photo.

The rain has really set in now and despite the promises of my beaut gear my feet are starting to feel a bit soggy and it feels like I'm sitting in a cool bath. Oh well at least the merino stuff I'm wearing is keeping me warm. Doug had already switched on his heated grips before Arthurs pass, so I thought it only fitting that I "test" mine to make sure they were functioning correctly. Mmmm, toasty hands are good.

There were only a few photo opportunities on this section, all the distance vistas were obscured by low cloud and at some stages we were running through the cloud base itself, best to keep on going.

A quick refuel at Hokitika and we decide to press on instead of having a break, only another 130km to go. The rain is hosing down & we are both a bit damp, let's keep rolling.

Crossing a small river all of a sudden the skies cleared and the sun beamed down upon us, Doug starts waving his arms in appreciation of the sky Gods' benevolence and I utter a few choice words of thanks myself.

Soon after we roll into Franz Josef Glacier township and get checked into the motel. Nice place, little cabins quite comfortably appointed. We have a bit of a discussion as to whether to go for a look at the glacier itself, a glance up the road at the clouds sitting on the deck sort of makes our minds up that perhaps tomorrow might be a better day.

After setting up the bathroom as a mini drying room, gear festooned all over and the heater going full blast we retire to the pub up the road for a feed and a celebratory drink. Lamb shanks for me and good old bangers & mash for Doug.

By the time we head back to the room, the peaks around the glacier are clear of cloud and we can see snow. Tomorrow morning we will head up there for a looksee as he head on toward Wanaka. The nightly TV news informs us that the area received 46mm of rain today, I reckon I had most of it in my boots, Doug the rest.

The SPOT tracker seems to have got over its fit of pique, now updating our position fairly quickly.

Time for a quick call home to Linda tonight and an early turn in, another big day tomorrow. Hard to believe we have been on the road for a week, where has the time gone?

Posted by jayar 23:28 Comments (0)

Wanaka

Wanaka

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.

Posted by jayar 23:48 Comments (0)

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