Gd’day from down under (again)
Yes folks, the intrepid explorers are at it again on 2 wheels and this time it’s on the other side of the world in New Zealand. Not on Tom and the Colonel, they wouldn’t hack the travel – especially the Colonel, he’d want first class all the way. No, on hired bikes via NZ Bike Tours which we picked up at Christchurch and will hand back in Auckland. Tim’s trusty steed is a BRAND NEW Honda Cross Runner 800 cc which is affectionately known as Bruce Lee, and I’m on an old but still relatively beautiful (I’d like to think I could refer to myself in the same way) Honda NC750 not so affectionately known as the Bos (Bag of Spanners) or Rattler which best describes it when it’s a) hot and bothered after a long ride and finds itself in traffic and b) when you need to accelerate without prior written notice and haven’t dropped down at least 2 gears even if the road is flat and straight. Anyway, it’s very comfortable and I’m actually becoming quite fond of him. We’ve both got panniers this time which I thought would be a nuisance but actually they’re quite useful. Good make (Givi) and quite straightforward to fit/take off, although I have only once nearly cleared one completely off the side exiting a petrol station and Tim nearly did the same taking the ‘race line’ on a corner which had roadside marker posts. Now THAT would have been amusing (until, of course it flew into my path).
Bruce Lee and BOS without paniers
Anyway, bikes collected and when we had become acquainted, off we set.
All good so far
We started our Antipodean adventure by motorhome with Will and Nicky – which was amazing and which will feature in a separate blog. We focussed our RV trip on South Island and the bike trip also starts in South Island but then goes up into North Island. It’s a 15 day tour which has been mapped out by NZ Bike Tours but which we are doing completely independently. It seemed sense to make the most of their experience and we are able to review their itinerary and the map to ensure it gives us what we want. So far it has and we have enjoyed some really lovely roads (more about some of those later) and, although busier than we had expected in places, mostly traffic free and open which is absolutely amazing. Fuel is more easy to come by than in Australia too as our distances, averaging around 300KM per day, are less intimindating, but you do need to watch the gauge. We have also hired a couple of Tom Tom satnavs which are working well and which are pre-loaded with each day’s route – again, something we check and can amend if we wish. A very useful feature is that it gives the mileage to the next fuel station so you can keep a check on things that way.
As in our previous Oz trip and, before that, the bike trip around Europe, I never cease to be amazed by how friendly people are and how easy it is to break into conversations. We are all more connected than we think and we should work very hard to ensure we don’t lose sight of that. I would say that Kiwis are less open than Aussies, but if you make the effort they are really lovely and chatty and are genuinely pleased to hear about your travels around their beautiful country – of which they are justifiably proud. As in Australia, we continue to be humbled by memorials to men that went across the world to fight with us in the two wars and there are regularly photos of the Queen still displayed in bars, hotels etc.
What has been quite an eye opener, though, is the number of Asian tourists here. Mostly Chinese and Korean, they are literally everywhere and are voracious photographers as we already know – but to a point that is almost obsessive. Now, I like a photo so don’t get me wrong, I understand the need, but how they ever review or keep them all I really don’t know. From what we’ve learned it seems that it is in part due to the expansive landscapes compared to what they are used to and they take every opportunity to be seen within it. Can’t blame them but it does sometimes detract from the solitary nature of the places themselves when there are so many people vying for the perfect shot. Anyway, that’s not the best bit to tell you…
I haven’t corroborated this, so apologies if it’s wrong, (but it has been said on more than one occasion) but it seems that there is no requirement for a legal test of ability for driving in their home countries. We have been warned on more than one occasion to be careful of their driving skills or lack thereof. And, it has to be said, that we have witnessed said ‘interesting’ driving on more than one occasion. They stop suddenly (for photo opportunities), pull out without warning (after photo oppourtunities), wander across onto the wrong side of the road (whilst seeking out other photo opportunities) and corners can often pose a bit of a challenge. What should be a smooth, steady, operation is often best described as like negotiating the sides of a 50 pence piece. That said, they are clearly happily loaned cars and RVs (but who knows at what price) and, regardless of the speed limits, they make their way merrily around the place with a smile on their face most of the time (except when faced with Tim on a ‘racing line’)
Doing the Burt
Now, when we reviewed the itinerary, we were keen to ensure it took in Invercargill. For those that don’t know, this is the home of legendary Burt Munro and the story of the Fastest Indian. He set 3 world records, and for his latest, in 1967, he returned to Utah and the Bonneville Salt Flats with his modified Indian motorcycle and set an under 1000 cc class record of 183 mph. Unnoficially he also broke the 200mph record. The 1000cc record was achieved when he was 68 and the bike a staggering 47 years old! There is an excellent film staring Anthony Hopkins if you haven’t heard of it. Well Invercargill is where his world record breaking machine is kept and is housed within Hayes and Sons hardware shop (yes, amongst the nuts, bolts, spanners, tools, etc etc) along with other eye watering classic machines.
The World’s Fastest Indian in amongst the spanners
Invercargill is also the home to a very impressive classic bike museum filled to the gunnels with fabulous bikes of all types. For me, though, I was made up when seeing not one, but two Triumph Tiger 80s (like my dad had) plus a Tiger 90 and Tiger 100. There aren’t that many about and I’d yet to see one in the flesh in the UK or IOM, and so this was a treat indeed.
I digress, anyway, on our route from Dunedin to Invercargill we were often hailed at traffic lights and askd ‘are you doing the Bert’. Assuming they meant the museum we replied in the affirmative and felt warmed by the affection and keen interest for the man and the machine. Only when we arrived, did we realise that there was, in fact, a whole weekend’s activities/races on – only happens once a year and we were smack in the middle of it. Bikes everywhere! We had gone through a police road block (not stopped though) and later found out they were waiting on several big bike gangs also en route to the Bert. Us on our Honda’s clearly posed no threat at all!
Anyway, although we couldn’t take in much of what was on offer, it was great to be amongst it and share a beer with many like-minded (not the gang members you understand) bikers who were on a once a year bike extravaganza including a race entrant Rob Antonovich. He had a couple of hansome machines with him – have a look att him on Youtube – Rob Anton. Happy days.
Before headin off the next day, we headed down the most southerly point in NZ – Bluff – and to a very different Lands End.
No rest for the wicked
Now, unlike our Europe bike trip and the Aussie Dieter trip, we haven’t got laze-around day offs so it’s full on action and at the end of a day of riding and being blown away by the most beautiful scenery, we are both pretty knackered. Suffice to say, these blogs will be fewer and far between (hurrah some of you might say) as beer is calling at the end of the day too. However, it would be remiss to not try and share some of the most amazing roads and scenery with you in the following photos. There are not enough adjectives to do justice to New Zealand in my opinion -awesome, stunning, amazing, breathtaking, etc etc – are all completely justified and we are so lucky to be experiencing it and so delighted that we have done some of it with the kids and the rest on motorbikes – very blessed indeed. Anyway, photos, as promised and next will be more about the different places and some reminiscences of our action packed adventure with Will and Nicky – I tell you they are human dynamos and we just clung on as best we could!
The East Coast highway between Dunedin and Invercargill
Road between Te Anau and Milford Sound