It’s been over six weeks since the Three Flags Classic and I was ready for another ride! I’d been planning this New Zealand (NZ) trip for months now. The plan was to leave Vancouver on Oct.21st and return on Nov. 27th, just in time for my 60th birthday on the 28th and a Dweezil Zappa concert at the Commodore Ballroom on the 29th. I landed in Auckland on October 23, their time, and picked up a 2005 Buell Ulysses XB12X motorcycle to ride while I was there. I have about five weeks to explore both islands.
So the day has come, I left Victoria on the 11:00 am ferry and headed to dad’s place in Richmond. I’ll be leaving my truck there while I’m gone. After a quick Starbucks coffee across the street he drove me out to the airport which is only 10 minutes from his house. Checking in with Air New Zealand was painless and I got to kill a couple of hours in the comfort of the lounge while watching the Toronto Blue Jays win their second game in the Kansas City series. This direct flight to Auckland from Vancouver was just under 14 hours in the air. Painless! Not only was the service great but I also got to watch the first Hobbit movie again for a little refresher. Touring the film set in Hobbiton, where parts of these movies were made is on the list of things to do in NZ.
One of the little oddities of flying that far away as well as towards the International dateline is that dates sometimes get lost in the shuffle. This flight was a good example of what I’m talking about. We left Vancouver in the evening of Oct. 21st and only 14 hours later we arrived in Auckland, NZ in the very early morning of Oct. 23rd. So while sleeping on the plane, Oct. 22nd was basically skipped over. Now the adventure is really underway. After landing safely, it was just a matter of grabbing my luggage and taking the Super Shuttle from the airport right to the front door of Verandahs Backpackers Lodge. This was my first little blip and it was a small one. NZ is very particular about anyone bringing in “random dirt” you might say so I was sent over to an inspection area where they could check my tent. Not a big deal, but it was close to two full hours between walking off the plane and looking for the shuttle. The shuttle service was exactly as I’d been told, and for only $35 NZ. Now things got a bit interesting.
The sign on Verandahs front door said the office didn’t open until 08:00 so I had 30 minutes to kill. Lorraine, the office manager, arrived just before 8 and it didn’t take too long to figure out there was no reservation for me and they were booked solid for the next few nights. So of course this set me back for a minute. Lorraine then called the owner and found out that for some reason he had booked me in on the 20th and had charged my VISA for that night because I didn’t show up. In the end she refunded my money and was able to find me another place that wasn’t too far away. Off I walked to the Haka Lodge, about six blocks away, and all was now good.
The room at Haka’s Lodge wouldn’t be ready until 14:00 but they did have a locked storage room that I could use until then so I grabbed my big hockey bag on wheels that had all my motorcycle gear and started walking to Red Baron Motorcycles where I had to pick up the Buell. Along the way I grabbed some brunch at an internet café place and tried to get my email working. It didn’t work at the Haka Lodge and still no luck here so that was setting me back bit. It was the only way that family had to get in touch with me. Oh well, I’ll worry about that later, now it’s time to get my ride. Red Baron was easy to find and over the next couple of hours we did paperwork, I got a ride to a licencing office to pick up a NZ plate, and last but certainly not least, I had to give my guy (another Chris) some money. As the tool kit on this m/c had almost nothing in it, they did let me use part of their service area and their tools to get the Buell ready to go. I had to mount some electronics that were going to be very useful on this adventure. The Zumo 590 LM was a must to bring along and my “Valentine” always likes to keep me company. Already mounted on my helmet was the Sena 10C I bought last summer. The Seno has Bluetooth technology and communicates directly with the Zumo. The added bonus of the 10C model is its camera, which does both stills or movies, and it an FM radio as well. FM won’t be needed here, but it is part of the package. The NZ maps were loaded into the Zumo before leaving Canada. So around 15:30 on Friday afternoon, at the start of the NZ Labour Day weekend, in the Biggest city in NZ, on a strange motorcycle, where everyone is driving on the left side of the road, this Canadian headed out on his New Zealand adventure!
Somehow when I was leaving the shop and with the left hand side thing going on I got turned around when I was trying to turn around and ended up driving almost sixteen kilometers on a drive that should have been less than two. So it was almost ironic that on the sides of the saddlebags (or panniers as they say) are the labels saying, LONG WAY ROUND. Got the m/c parked right outside the window of the room I shared with three other people and it was locked inside a construction area fence. The guys told me they’d be back around 08:00 to unlock it, which was perfect, I needed a good night sleep anyway.
So it’s Saturday now and I’m off to Tauranga. I’ve got some family living there (Mike & Marla, M&M for short) and on the way I was going to do the “Coromandel loop” which is one of the feature m/c rides in NZ. Leaving Auckland in a light drizzle wasn’t too bad. Ten minutes later it turned to a downpour, which wouldn’t have been too bad if my riding suit wasn’t leaking so bad. The waterproofing job turned out to be not so good combined with the short wind screen which just meant the water was being driven right through me. Then there was the accident that had traffic going at a snails pace….
The Coromandel will have to wait for another day. The weather was so foil that by the time I rolled into Tauranga it was time for a hot shower and some dry clothes. No pictures or stops today.
Sunday morning now, the sun is shining and the NZ rugby team won a very close semi-final match at the Rugby World Cup. Therefore everyone around Tauranga had a little extra bounce in their step this morning. Mike, Marla and I went for a walk around Mount Maunganui this morning.
After a bite to eat back at the apartment Mike and I went to deal with the laundry mat business. Hopefully my Aerostitch riding suit could get waterproof again. T.J. Watt Youth Jersey Afterwards Mike grabbed Marla and some soup she’d made, I grabbed my m/c and we then headed up to their summer place on Lake Tarawera for supper. It was a splendid ride up there and on the way back I took the Pyes Pa Road which some have rated as one of the top 10 motorcycling roads in New Zealand. It’s just so delightful having all of these brilliantly engineered curvy roads…EVERYWHERE.
Monday morning we were on the move again. This time M&M were going back home to Gisborne and I’d be going there as well, the “long way round”. The Eastern Cape drive follows the coast all the way from Tauranga to Gisborne and since it was the Labor Day holiday Monday there was virtually zero traffic today. This is noteworthy as they do a lot of logging in these parts of NZ and on a week day you normally have a fair bit of logging truck traffic. Things were buzzing along so nicely. Even stopped to take a few photos and then just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it got a whole lot worse. Up ahead I saw a police car with a customer and as I got close to him he waved me over to stop and asked to see my licence. Oh oh. Not that I’ve ever broken the law or anything but now I’m thinking that maybe I had crept over their 100 kph limit just a tad somewhere along the way and just how did he know that. So without skipping a beat, I ask him immediately, “What’s up?”. “This is a Checkpoint”, he said. Phew…is what I’m thinking, but like something I may have done once or twice in the past I just start blabbering. “Oh a checkpoint eh, well this is only my second day in NZ and I’ve never been stopped at a Checkpoint before. Do you mind if I take a couple of pictures?” Got a couple of pics, we exchanged cards, and he asked me to send him copies of them. “Of course” I said. We were at the Te Araroa junction and he asked me if I was going out to see the East Cape Lighthouse, NZ’s easternmost point. Fuel for the Buell was more important at this point and Constable Mike said the gas station that usually would have been opened today was closed for the holiday but there was one another one 30 km up the road in Ruatoria.
So a quick stop for petrol in Ruatoria and then I was off to the Tolaga Bay Wharf in Eastland, NZ.
It was interesting to find out that Tolaga Bay was one of Captain Cook’s earlier stops in his career.
So my final destination today was in Okitu, just north of Gisborne at M&M’s house. From the front deck you can watch the surfers playing across the street at the Wainui Beach.
Mike and Marla spoiled me much more than I ever deserved, starting with a feast of plenty with some of their closest friends as well as their daughter Joy, her husband Matt had their new born daughter, Olive. Olive was only three weeks old now and beautiful of course. Stayed there for two nights and got some laundry done as well while working on this story and planning the next part of the trip.
So it’s now Wednesday and after some lunch and some little chores I got away around 13:30.
Once through Gisborne it was west on Hwy 38 towards Murupara. This road had about 110 km of loose gravel on a very twisty road. The first 20 km or so was freshly graded and felt like driving on marbles. Once past the grader and after letting some air out of the tires it was much better.
This type of driving was exactly why I’d asked for Continental TKC 80 tires on the Buell.
So back to the pavement again and thru Murupara now it was getting close to 19:00 it was time to figure out a plan for a place to sleep. Looking at the GPS there was a Golden Springs Motel that wasn’t too far away and nothing else even close to it. No harm in trying I thought but as I got within a few km their sign out on the highway looked very old and in disrepair. Oh well, maybe they weren’t even in business anymore. Then when I found it they appeared to be open. So picture this, as I pulled up to the office a couple of Asian fellows came out and they were going gaga over the Buell. In fact they asked me to start it up again because they loved how it sounded. So to myself I’m thinking, these guys really don’t get out much. The shorter one was from Beijing and spoke good English and his partner was from a different part of China and spoke no English at all. Check out my “deluxe” cabin.
After an unusual night of sleeping fully clothed it was now Thursday. Had one of Steve’s mandarin oranges and a granola bar for a snack and it was off to Taupo for some gas and some breakfast. Found the Lazy Trout Café right on the lake and stopped to eat. It was very fine sitting upstairs and looking out over the LakeTaupo while sipping on some decent coffee and getting caught up on the emails. Start to finish was close to 150 minutes.
Now it was time to head west again on Hwy 5 towards the coast, Napier, and my final destination just outside of Hastings on Hwy 50.This was the home of Jon and Chris Moffett which are good friends of Al Perrett and his first wife, Shirley. Jon and Chris run a bit of an orchard in Hastings…. producing thirty million apples per annum as well as being the largest melon producers in New Zealand. A bit of an orchard all right. This lucky Canadian also just happened to arrive on the night of their annual party for the crew. Lots of beer and even more food. A good time was had by all.
Jon’s youngest son Sean was the master chef. He pumped out more lamb chops and hamburgers that I’d seen in one place at one time in a long long time. After dinner Jon also had a game of bocce going for anybody that wanted to play. Playing on the gravel parking lot was Alejandro Villanueva Jersey very interesting! My partner, Tiny, and I got to the semi final but lost out in a close one to the eventual winners.
After all the fun and now back at the house Jon fired up the fireplace. It was incredible sitting in front of this huge and very warm fire. Jon & Chris certainly made me feel right at home.
So it’s now Friday and Jon had a few chores to do this morning. After he heated us up some great stew for lunch the two of us went on a tour of the Moffett Orchard operations. They have close to 500 acres in total spread out in several different lots. Apple production is thirty million per year and they’re the largest melon producers in New Zealand, and do a variety of them. Beans are the newest crop to be added to the business.
After the orchard tour Jon took me up to the Te Mata Peak. From up there you get a superb view of the surrounding area.
On the way back to the house we drove up Ormond Road, which is referred to by the locals as “Oak Avenue“. There’s a little mix of trees, mostly oaks and all planted in the 1860’s.
So all I knew for sure on today’s ride was that I was hoping to get to Wellington. The South Island ferry is there and I’ve got family there as well so Wellington it was. There were three different opinions on which way to get there so I just hit the end of the Moffett driveway, which is on Hwy 50, and headed south. It ended at Hwy 2 just outside of Takapau as I continued in a southerly direction. By the time I got to Woodville it was time for some petrol and a bit of lunch. When I asked where all the locals eat the gals at the gas station sent me to Café 88. It was a good call. Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on their freshly made toasted bread and a cup of real coffee made it an excellent choice for a lunch stop.
While waiting for lunch it was time to get the map and make a plan. So I was going to take a Pahiatua Pongaroa Road thru Makuri to Rte52 and then head south towards Alfredton and wind back to Hwy 2 near Eketahuna. Looked good on the map, but not even 5 km up Pahiatua Pongaroa they had the road completely blocked off for “an event”. Oh well. Back to Hwy 2 and south again until I saw a random road on the GPS and I just turned off and followed it. Ended up being the Kaitawa Road which became a Mangaone Valley Road then a right on Hamua Rangomai Road and back to Hwy 2 again. Shortly afterwards it was time for a pit stop at rest stop. It was a bit odd to see a random rooster just walking around the picnic area.
Now I’m driving south again and just cruising when I hear the sound of a motorcycle go by. Well he was the first one on this trip actually going in the same direction and at a reasonable pace. Now I had a “rabbit” and could comfortably pick it up a notch. After several kilometers he turned towards Masterton and that’s where I pulled up to him, did the signal thing, and got him to pull over. So not only was this guy riding a Buell, but his personalized plate was MUELL. Wild to say the least. You just can’t make this stuff up! So we would stop in Carterton for a coffee…. and the rest is history.
After the coffee Shaun lead me right to the street where I’d be staying for the next couple of nights. One last picture of the MUELL and he was off.
Mike and Marla’s daughter, Gabrielle, her husband Dan and their three year old son Austin have been living in Wellington for awhile now. And it just so happened that tonight it was Halloween. New Zealand is fairly new to the Halloween thing and I certainly haven’t seen any of the Halloween advertising selling candy, costumes and other assorted stuff. Austin was all decked out in his costume but … he wasn’t going door to door this year.
Now for any of you that don’t follow rugby, the entire country of New Zealand has been going crazy over the last week over the World Cup rugby final. It was New Zealand’s “All Blacks” vs Australia’s “Wallabies” for the championship and that’s all everyone was talking about. The game was being played in Great Britain on Saturday so in NZ it was a 05:00 Sunday start. I got up out of bed to watch the last half. Second half was very exciting but in the end you could hear a sigh of relief from all corners of NZ. Final score was 34 to 17 for the All Blacks and it was also the first time in World Cup history that the same team won back to back championships. Afterwards I went out to see the sites on a beautiful sunny Wellington day. Gabrielle gave me the short list of “must see” tourist things. First stop was the Weta Cave. This New Zealand special effects company did all the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies for director Peter Jackson.
After seeing the tour and the movie about the company it was off to the second attraction. Te Papa is a big museum downtown that has a lot of different exhibits. From WW1 and the battle of Gallipoli to the formation of the New Zealand islands and all its volcano history. It’s six stories high and offers a great view of the city from a viewing deck up top. Last and certainly not least was a drive up to the top of Mt. Victoria. Spectacular view from up there and I saw my first NZ motorcycle policeman. Apparently there are not too many of them around.
Once home again we went for a short walk to pick up Chinese food at a neighborhood shop. Now by the time we were done dinner the weather started to change…in a big way. Very strong winds and even stronger gusts as I was making plans to get on the ferry south tomorrow. Then looking at the weather forecasts for the next ten days all I saw was cool, windy and rainy days. And as I slept that night anytime I woke all I could hear were very strong winds. Now it’s the morning of November 2nd and the first thing I noticed in the morning was an open closet and cupboard door in my bedroom. When I asked Gabrielle about it she said they’d had a small earthquake last night. And the wind as still howling so it was one more day in Wellington and I was going to pick up a couple of things. Long johns and a balaclava for sure and some rope for tying the motorcycle securely on the ferry tomorrow morning. Gabrielle gave me the info on where to shop and off I went. The local Hunting & Fishing store was the first stop. Found some “under armour” and a camouflage balaclava. And just a few doors down was a little Espresso coffee shop so I popped in for a snack. The yogurt and berries were delicious so I bought two.
Found a hardware store after that and took a drive around the water, then back to the house and packed.
So I’m now all set for the ferry ride in the morning. Must be at the boat by 07:00 so set the alarm for 06:30 as it’s only about a 10 minute ride to their dock. This ends the first part of the adventure and now for Pt. 2, the South Island. All the way along people have been telling me that the South Island is much better than the North Island. Now to find out for myself. And you can be sure that I will certainly let you all know!
Pt. 1 is now complete.