It’s Wednesday morning, the weather’s good, and only a couple of weeks left in NZ, so I’d better get a move on. Not two minutes from the house and on the way to the gas station I met Sean on a 650 Kawasaki just pulling in for gas. He was going over Haast Pass as well so we rode together awhile, got a couple of photos and then exchanged contact info. He lives in Auckland and I may see him soon. Didn’t take any Haast Pass photos. I knew I’d be seeing lots more mountains soon enough and let me say again how nice it is not having any traffic on the road.
Good highway on a motorcycle, no question, and there just isn’t much traffic on the South Island.
Stopped in Wanaka and finalized the back tire plan, Dunedin on Monday (16th) and I’ll do the oil and filter as well. So next plan is how to get there. Tonight’s destination is Queenstown and the Flaming Kiwi Packpackers. Instead of taking the Hwy 6 and going the long way around I went over the Cardrona Valley Road which runs into the Crown Range Road and eventually back to Hwy 6 near the Arrow Junction. Driving along Cardrona Valley Road something caught my eye.
The Crown Range Road was fun to drive, especially behind a guy that obviously knew the road very well. Once in Queenstown I checked into the Flaming Kiwi and headed to Glenorchy. One web site had the Glenorchy road rated as the 4th best for m/c in NZ so it was on my “to do” list. Dropped off some gear and headed out around 17:30. It’s only 45 km away and sunset is well after 20:30 these days so plenty of time. Queenstown appears to be a happening place. So much going on in town that it took almost ten minutes to get through all four blocks. And also saw my first NZ Casino as I was going through town. Now fast forward to 90 km later and in my opinion the Glenorchy road is the BEST motorcycle road that I’ve driven so far on this trip!
And once back in town, I popped into the casino and asked if they had a Texas Holdem table. Yes they did. So I bought some groceries, cooked my dinner at the Flaming Kiwi, and went back to play some poker. Not one other person showed up to play! So by 22:30 I left, and probably saved myself at least $100 NZ.
The plan for today is to drive into Milford Sound and back out to Te Anua for the night. There’s a room waiting for me at Rosies Backpackers Homestay. Left Queenstown going south on Hwy 6 south along Lake Wakatipu to it’s southern edge near Kingston. It was cooling off as the clouds started rolling in and I got a bit of rain as well, but just a bit.
Put on a sweater and the handlebar covers while stopped. No point in getting wet and cold early in the day. As it turned out the rain didn’t amount to much of anything but it did stay cool. There’s no air thermometer on the Buell so sometimes I wonder. Continued south on Hwy 6 to a bypass in Five Rivers that joined up to Hwy 94 again which then took me all the way to Milford Sound. As you may recall, yesterday I put Glenorchy as the #1 m/c road in NZ. Well that was yesterday and today, in my opinion, The Milford Sound Road is the absolute best motorcycling treat in NZ. Just my opinion.
Here’s how the Milford Sound drive went for me. Early afternoon I was in Te Anau and it had warmed up considerably. The sun was shining so it was perfect for Milford Sound. Locals say that anytime it’s not raining out there is a good day. The late start meant most of the traffic was coming out and much less going in. So the 120 km drive in was virtually traffic free. The road in follows the Lake Te Anua as far as Te Anua Downs and then it turns away and follows the Eglinton River awhile. As you drive along there’s several turn offs to various hiking trails and viewing areas. The scenery is quite spectacular as you climb into the mountains. My first stop in the mountains gave me a bit of a surprise. First thing I saw was a, “Do not feed the Kea” sign. What’s a Kea I wondered? Then I saw a bird sitting on the roof of this van. Oh, that must be one.
As I pulled into the turnout, the van started to pull away and I quickly yelled out, “please wait a second, I’d like to get a picture”. So he stopped and I got my photo. Found out later on that Keas are the only type of parrot that live in the Alps. Another first for me.
As I continued up the road there was a plaque mounted on a big rock in a pullout that drew me in to stop and check it out. What I found out was, Graham Robert Brown (Brownie) had worked most of his life keeping this road and the tunnel open and he was killed in an accident when clearing an avalanche at this very spot.
Not much farther up the road was “the tunnel”. When I got to the tunnel the light was green and the traffic moving so I carried on and took video footage. Going from bright sun to a dark tunnel did take a bit for my eyes to adjust. I’ve done a few tunnels in my day, but never one sloping downwards at a 10% grade. It’s different alright, and once you’re through it’s only sixteen km or so to Milford Sound.
On the way back to Te Anua I made a stop at The Chasm Walk parking lot. Saw a few more Kea birds.
No more stops until I got back to Te Anua and bought groceries for dinner. Later on that night I was wondering exactly what my plans would be for tomorrow. When she asked, I told Rosie that I’d let her know in the morning, if that was alright. And it was alright, in fact, Rosie was very laid back and easy going. “No problem” is one of her most often used phrases. After a great nine hour sleep I got out of bed and looked outside to a clear blue sky day. Well it was then real easy. “Rosie, I’d like to stay another night if I could”, I asked. “No problem”, she said.
The Milford Sound road had been my favorite drive so far. With such a nice looking day shaping up I decided to do it again. Why not? Chances are I won’t be back here for awhile so might as well cease the moment. This also gave me an opportunity to get a few more pictures for this story. And specifically, more of the Homer Tunnel. Anna, who I’d met at The Innlet in Golden Bay, was heading out today on a bus to do an overnight cruise in Milford Sound.
As I left Te Anua the sun was shining brightly and it was Friday the 13th, one of my luckier days in the year. Ninety pictures later, it had been a pretty good day alright. As I cruised along the Eglinton River Valley the mountains are always looking down at you. From yesterday’s experience I know that soon I’ll be right beside them and then driving right through the middle of one in the Homer Tunnel. Instead of talking anymore today, I’ll just post some pictures.
As I approached the Homer Tunnel the light was green and traffic already going through so I carried on and figured I could stop on the other side of it for now and get the entrance pictures on the way out. You know that transition zone we go through from the bright daylight to very dark place. The eyes need a bit of time to adjust. There’s lights in there but more like soft mood lighting. Then while the old eyes are trying to see you feel yourself going downhill. There’s been many tunnels in my life so far but never ever one that went downhill AND on a 10% slope! It’s like you’re driving down to the center of the earth. And a very good reason for me to come back today and do it all again! But enough of that.
The MIlford Sound itself wasn’t as good looking as yesterday. The water was quite choppy and it was starting to cloud over a bit so turned around and started back. Stopping at a few turnouts along the way for more pictures. At The Chasm there were more Kea birds hanging around and looking for handouts.
Outside the tunnel entrance was an information sign regarding the Kea, the only alpine parrot. But that’s enough for me today. It had been a ton of fun. Got lots of photos and the ride itself was superb so now it’s just cruise back into town and grab a few groceries for a little dinner. Everything was just going so good that I was in a kind of daydreaming cruise mode and not full on driving mode….
Then I was lucky enough to meet Constable Dwight Grieve for the first time. He’s been living in Te Anau for awhile now and loves to run and hike. The only details I’m prepared to share on this web site are these. Yes, I was ticketed. Yes, Dwight was okay with me taking some photos, as long as his cap was on. And yes, I will pay the fine as I truly loved this visit and will want to come back.
As part of his thorough check over, Dwight had me count to ten into a breathalyzer. Another first for me.
Friday the 13th was memorable alright and a very lucky day for me. This was the last encounter with a policeman on this adventure. Time to move on now. Saturday morning I’m heading south down the west coast, in to Bluff for a picture, then finish up in Dunedin at the Hogwartz Backpackers. Rosie and her husband Alister ran a very good homestay operation and it was a pleasure staying there. Somehow they dodged my camera and I didn’t get them on this trip, but I will be back. I did get a photo of their chickens though.
Saturday morning was another clear sunny beautiful day. Now’s probably a good time to say that in NZ they have the Scenic Southern Route designated T.J. Watt Jersey which runs all the way from Queenstown to Te Anau then straight south to the Pacific Ocean at McCracken’s Rest then west to Invercargill. From there it pops down south to Bluff, southern most tip of NZ, and carries on west through The Catlins, before it finishes up in Dunedin. I’d guess that only a real avid motorcyclist would really appreciate this Saturday morning drive. I’ll paint the picture. The sun’s shining, the road is in great shape, it’s winding through beautiful country farmland, over rolling hills and after driving more than 110 km I only saw two cars going in my direction! I was feeling pretty lucky right about then. Then it got a bit interesting as I got to the coast. Wind is something that the South Island does well and today was no exception. When I got off the Buell and pulled out my camera I could feel strong wind gusts and saw the m/c was on the verge of being blown over so I moved it and parked it pointing into the wind!
Now the driving was a little more work and the wind continued most of the way to Invercargill. The GPS was good at getting me around the city and avoiding all the traffic. Next stop was Bluff. Time to get a photo and a tank of petro.
The rain had held off until now, but as I drove away from the photo shoot it started to rain. A quick stop in town for gas and I was off. Next stop Dunedin. With the rain, cooler temperatures and a balding back tire it was “take me the shortest way possible” instructions to the GPS. Thankfully the rain didn’t last too long and it was a quite enjoyable ride. The part that I am not used to yet….even on “major” highway links there just isn’t any traffic on the South Island. And any road without traffic is already a good road. So as I’m driving along I couldn’t help but notice this. I’ve seen many thousands of sheep so far on the trip, but they’ve all been white. So when I saw a black sheep grazing close to the highway I had to go back for a photo. The noise from the Buell scared him off and as I approached it was already walking away so any picture was from a distance. Oh well.
The Hogwartz Backpackers was my Dunedin lodging and was right downtown. This was a very classy and very old building with lots of history. Maja and Gilbert have been running this place for several years now and were absolutely splendid hosts. I could have stayed in Dunedin for several more days, but, I still hadn’t been to Hobbiton.
Saturday was a “full” day for me. A New Zealand driver would be overwhelmed just with drive alone, going from Te Anau to Dunedin via Bluff. That was the easy part. Once I was checked into Hogwartz it was time to check out town. There were three movie theaters and a casino within a few blocks of each other. Perfect! I do love going to watch movies so did that first. What a surprise when I walked into the theater.
It was tiny! Never seen anything quite like this before, but it did make sense. Watched “99 Homes” because it started in five minutes and the James Bond movie still had huge lines. Once that was over I was ready for the casino. Yes they had a poker table and so I was ready, but there were only two guys at the table. Three handed poker is okay, but not as much fun as a full table. The dealer spends more time shuffling cards than dealing them. The good news was turning $100 NZ into #387 NZ in 2.5 hours of fun! This will help pay for my new tire! Back to Hogwartz and in bed by 01:30. That was a very good day!
Sunday was another relax day and do touristy stuff. After a wonderful sleep and with a little extra cash in my jeans I started off with a downhill walk to town. Today I was going to find somebody else to prepare my breakfast. As it was only 10:30, some of the restaurants weren’t open yet, but eventually I did find one. The Perc Cafe. What a great find! Their food was excellent and the service was even better.
After filling the void it was time to wander around and do some shopping. My opening line for every store I walked in was simple. “Do you have anything in this store that is Made in New Zealand?” This saved a lot of time.
Many of the roads around town leading towards Robert Burns are very steep. This building pictured below gives you an idea of just how steep.
Shopping was very productive. Bought stuff and got some new ideas of what to look for. The Sunday matinee showing of the new James Bond movie, Spectre. had a small line, and it started in ten minutes. Obviously it was meant to happen. Seeing the new Bond movie in a theater was a super way to round out a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Tonight, I thought a fish and chip place for dinner seemed appropriate. Ended up finding a small walk in cafe that had fresh fish so I T.J. Watt Authentic Jersey tried my first piece of blue cod . It was delicious! Now that my stomach is full, I’m happy and I slept like a baby with visions of a new back tire bouncing in my head.
Pt. 3 is now complete.