“The New Zealand Trip, Pt.2” starts November 3rd aboard a Bluebridge ferry taking me to the South Island. The ferry cost was only $104 NZ and would take us through the Cook Straight to a little town called Picton. The boat left at 08:00 and 3.5 hours later we landed. Even though it had been quite windy last night in Wellington and was still blowing fairly strongly this morning, the ride was painless. In the ferry line up two other bikers were already waiting. “Lucky” was on a Susuki GS1200SS and “Digger” was pulling around a sidecar with his American model Triumph. Lucky was from Poland and had been in NZ several months already. Digger was from the northern end of the Coromandel Peninsula on the North Island. Digger also knew Shaun and his MUELL Buell quite well. Very small world eh?
Lucky and I were planning the next leg of our trips. I had a reservation at “The Innlet” just outside of Collingwood in the Golden Bay District so I’d get there for sure. Manon and Lucky were going to French Pass after they got a few things done in Picton. By the time we were getting off the boat I decided to go to French Pass as well.
So first road off the ferry was Queen Charlotte Drive which just followed the water for several twisty miles. This was so much fun! This eventually ran into Hwy 6 going west towards Nelson and that’s where I turned north at the Ronga Road junction towards French Pass. After driving 10 km the rain started. It wasn’t heavy rain but I was wondering if it’d be raining all the way out there. Rain is okay if you have to do it but when it’s optional you have a choice. My choice was to continue and it didn’t rain long but as I climbed in elevation it get a bit windy again.
Once in French Pass I saw the gas station and I had planned to fill up if possible, but it looked closed. Oh well. So I stopped by the water for a few minutes and read about the history of the Anaru farm, established in 1857. Then as I was heading out I noticed a fellow going into the gas station. Perfect, open after all. Filled up and headed out. Then a quick stop at the view point. Took a couple of photos and found a couple of rocks for my cousin’s rock collection.
Driving out was almost identical to the drive in. Wind gusts and rain in all the same places. Once back at the highway it was pretty smooth sailing until I got to Nelson. It is the biggest city on this end of the South Island and it just happened to be rush hour with some construction and an accident to make it a slow go. Once past the incident scene it was smooth sailing and my next stop was Motueka. Here’s where I picked up some food for dinner and breakfast. Now it was time to head up Takaka Hill on Hwy 60. This is one of New Zealand’s top 10 motorcycle roads.
I had every intention of fuelling up in Takaka but as it was now after 18:00 both gas stations were closed. So without much choice I carried on to Collingwood. The only question in the back of my mind was the quality of the fuel in French Pass, but it all worked out. By the time I rolled up to The Innlet, a backpackers lodge about 8 km beyond Collingwood the m/c hadn’t gone on reserve yet, but it was now raining quite strongly as I pulled up their driveway.
You can imagine my surprise when I see all this wet motorcycle gear and then Lucky comes out of the bedroom. His plans changed and voila, a very small world indeed. The stove made it cozy for the five us staying that night. Just one short period of clear starry skies around midnight, and stormy for the balance. The storm continued until morning and the forecast around Golden Bay was it’d stay like that all day so Lucky decided to stay another night. Farther down coast it looked like it’d improve later so I called ahead to The TripInn in Westport and reserved a bed. When I phoned there Donna told me it had already stopped raining. Had some breakfast and headed out. After fuel in Collingwood it was back over Takaka Hill. A whole new road in the opposite direction, major fun!
There were some back country roads that took me through nice farmland and eventually over the Alexander Bluff bridge and back onto Hwy 6 going west towards Westport. A quick stop at the Kohatu Cafe for some lunch and to remove a layer. The next piece of highway included a drive through the Buller Gorge which some web sites have rated as the No.1 motorcycling road in New Zealand. It was good, but I actually enjoyed Takaka Hill more…..so far.
Once in Westport I found the TripInn and paid a whopping $29 NZ for all the luxuries of home AND a safe place to park the Buell. So tonight as I was sitting beside a big “coal” burning stove, it went boom with a big cloud of dust coming from it. Other than jumping out of my skin with the initial surprise, when I asked Jack, who works there, what had happened he told me it was a little methane explosion. Another first for me.
The next night I’d be staying at Fox Glacier so I booked a room. There were several military people also staying at the TripInn. They had military exercises going on that covered most of the northern part of this island. It was a simulated civil unrest situation in a foreign country. Ended up by myself for the night in my “three share” room.
Now it’s south on the west coast. Oh my, what an incredible ride. The sun was shining and the ocean looked so good. Had to stop along the way for a couple of pictures. Tremendous for a November ride.
This kind of scenery and great driving continued all day long. Sometimes the road would get away from the ocean a bit although it was never far away. When I got to Franz Josef Glacier I took a run up to where the glacier “used to be” and there certainly wasn’t much of it anymore. So headed out and down the road towards Fox Glacier and the backpackers lodge called The Ivory Tower. My favorite so far. The table in the kitchen, matai wood, helped put this place to my number one. Check this out.
When I asked Ann, the gal running this place, what were some of the local sites to see she mentioned Gillespies Beach. It was about 20 km Alejandro Villanueva Womens Jersey away and the beach had black sand. Interesting enough, so off I went and planned to get some sunset pictures while I was there. And while waiting for the sunset I’d get caught up on my journal.
With a zillion sand flies around, the journal writing would wait. The black sand was very interesting though. Also found more interesting rocks for Susan’s collection while waiting for sunset. As I was waiting and had the entire place to myself, up drives a rental van. Out of it came several Chinese tourists with monstrous cameras taking a ton of beach photos. Then slowly they moved in on my space. First it was a few photos of me from a short distance. Then it was some close ups. And before I knew it, all of the women were taking turns getting their pictures taken with me. Too funny. Then as quickly as they came, they were back in the van and gone. Another first for me.
Got back to the Ivory Tower around dark and sat by the wood stove until midnight or so.
Next thing I know it’s Friday morning. All this fresh New Zealand air and I’ve been getting close to nine hours of sleep on most nights. Only three weeks left to go and today’s ride was continuing south to Haast. As I drove by the Fox Glacier turn off I headed up to have a look. There wasn’t much to see from the parking lot and I wasn’t hiking for forty minutes to look at melting ice from a distance, but did stop down the road at a suspension bridge.
As I got within 55 km of Haast I stopped for a quick snack at the Salmon Farm Café. The salmon chowder was tasty, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the bones.
I got to Haast and found Theo’s place. He is a good friend of Dale, my Mission friend, who was kind enough to hook Theo and I up. Theo is one of those special kind of guys that you just don’t meet every day. He has been living off the land since his university days. Hunting and fishing for most of his food, but that is supplemented by his vegetable garden. This quote from Theo says everything about the man and the life he lives. He told me, “Chris, a GOOD hunter can catch a blackbird by hand and can routinely touch a deer.”
Friday morning, while I was driving to Haast, he was out shooting, cleaning, and then packing the 50 kg. of female Red Deer meat back to his truck. It took two trips because of the distance. Red Deer is very similar to and can inter breed with elk, they’re just a bit smaller. Elma, a Cesky Fousek, is a keen hunter and goes with him everywhere.
Friday night was decent weather so Theo showed me the road to Jackson Bay and where the gravel road turned off up the Jackson River.
Once back to Haast our Friday night’s dinner was also venison, similar to the one he caught today. You could literally cut it with a fork and was the best venison I’d ever had. This was another first.
Saturday was a catch up day for me. The weather was going downhill fast so it was laundry and work on this story.
Sunday was even wetter than yesterday so we took Elma for a walk on North Haast Beach instead.
No fresh fish today. We had to force down left over venison, trout and some freshly picked cabbage from the garden. Now is maybe a good time to share a little plan I have been working on since my arrival in NZ. Aside from seeing Hobbiton, driving on the top ten m/c roads, seeing all the family connections in NZ, and exploring both islands, I also was hoping to complete a SaddleSore 1000 while in NZ. To qualify, you simply drive a 1000 miles (1600 km) within 24 hours and have the supporting witnesses and documentation. As it’s been in the back of my mind since arriving in NZ I’ve been scoping out potential routes. The first big issue has been access to gasoline. Gas stations are few and far between down here. Ones open 24 hours a day are rarer than hen’s teeth (I’ve only seen one so far and it was in Auckland). There are a few that have 24 hour access with a card only, but many of those ones it’s a specific card such as Mobile or BP for Alejandro Villanueva Youth Jersey example. Then the stars aligned in Haast.
When arriving Friday afternoon I stopped for gas at Johnston Motors and asked the gal working there, Dayna, about 24 hour access to fuel. When they’re open you must buy from her inside but once closed at 18:30, 24 hour card access with MasterCard or VISA works and the machine will print a receipt, which is a documentation must. So on the way back from my Jackson Bay drive I gave the VISA card a try. Card worked, receipt printed, and all the necessary information was correct and printed on the receipt. Excellent! Made a plan to bang the SS1000 off on Monday. The weather forecast was good and if I left between 04:00 and 05:00 I was hoping to finish in sixteen hours or so.
Monday morning, got up a bit early (pre-ride excitement I’m sure) and had a good breakfast. Got to Johnston Motors for the first receipt just before 05:00 and took off north towards Fox Glacier which is about 120 km away. I’d then turn around and head back to Haast, but before fuelling I’d run out towards Jackson Bay and back to drain the tank. No point in stopping until the tank’s empty. Then repeat, six times! On the seventh tank I headed up towards the Haast Pass first, then out towards Fox and then one last run towards Jackson Bay before finishing just before 01:00. Nineteen hours and 1643 km later, my SS1000 in NZ was complete. Another first for me.
Tuesday was a rest and check the motorcycle day. Oil and tire air pressure were good, although the back tire was looking fairly well worn. Plan was to leave on Wednesday and head to Queenstown. My stay here in Haast was a good one, that’s for sure. And a special thanks to Dale, my friend living near Mission BC, for hooking me up with Theo. He was my witness for the SS1000 and a wonderful host, feeding me better than I deserve. Theo is a GOOD hunter. Another first for me.
The sun was shining brightly and off I went.
Pt. 2 is now complete.