A month ago I was getting off the plane in Auckland and now I’m sitting on a ferry going back to the North Island for my last week here in New Zealand. Timing is everything and luck is something that just happens. Turned out that both the inter-island ferries were cancelled on Friday because of the fierce winds so going straight to Wellington on Thursday turned out to be a good thing.
And another stroke of luck. Arriving in Picton at 13:13 for the 14:00 boat and being the seventh motorcycle there. They have room on board for eight only. Our trip was a little rough but not outrageous. Just a bit hard to walk around inside and there were a couple a bigger rolls. This probably explains why one of the cars on board rolled into the front fender of another car while we came across.
It was interesting to see all of the logs piled up on the docks to get loaded out on ships for Asia.
Our motorcycles were all good and I was off the boat and pulling into the Dan and Gabrielle’s driveway not long after 18:00. They had a couple of girls from Taiwan, Sylvia and Kelly, staying with them so they had me set up in the living room while I was there.
Got up Friday morning to a major wind storm happening. It was so very ugly outside that it didn’t take long to come up with a plan. We heard later on that both the inter island ferries were cancelled on Friday. I’m going to stay right here for one more night, do my laundry, work on this web site and plan out my last week in NZ. Hobbiton still being at the center of the plans!
Saturday morning I got away before 09:00, but the weather ahead was looking pretty questionable. At least it wasn’t still windy. The plan was to follow the west coast up to Hawera then follow the water around Mount Taranaki to New Plymouth for some lunch. Then south to Stratford where I’d get on the Forgotten World Highway to the Whangamomona Hotel.
It didn’t start raining until after a gas stop in Wanganui. It was easy to figure out that I wasn’t getting away from the rain, so I cut the drive short by two hours and stopped at a nice warm place for some lunch. After a bowl of soup, a bacon/cheese omelette and real coffee I was very pleased.
Because I wanted to be in Gisborne tomorrow night, I picked this Whangamomona Hotel to kind of split the trip into almost equal halves. I’d probably been checked into the hotel for all of 10 minutes when up comes a bunch of motorcycles. Eight all together. I’m sure I’ll see them later. They call themselves the Mild Dogs and are all ex-law enforcement. I’ve got Stu Morgan with the flat, Paul Darney on the Aprilla. Kim Libby, Chris Scullen Bruce Stuart and Tony Attewell makes it six. Lance Potaka and I believe it’s Fred that rounded out the group.
We told lots of stories and had lots of chuckles over drinks and dinner. This group are in various forms of police type work and they get together every year or two and go for a motorcycle ride. The breakfast put out by the hotel was second to nothing I’d had so far. The coffee and orange juice alone was enough to rave about. I had lots! Once I was full it was time to go. I thought it was just a casual cruise to Taumarunui this morning and wasn’t expecting about 16 km of greasy gravel road. Oh well. While i was getting gas and topping up the oil, six of the eight new friends drove by and that was the last time i saw them. One of today’s goals was to drive on the Gentle Annie Highway between Waiouru and Hastings. Then I’d just follow the coast north to Okitu and M&M’s place.
Nothing like driving and driving and never seeing any one. Quite enjoyable. Once I got around Hastings though it did get busy again. And it stayed a bit busier for the drive to Gisborne. I did happen upon a fish and chip place along the way that made me some delicious fish. Karl & Tracy run the Quay Fish & Chips Takeaways abd their food is delicious!.
I was looking forward to seeing Mike & Marla again and a long hot shower was also going to be good fun. I’d be spending one night here and then tomorrow it was off to Rotorua and get ready for Hobbiton on Tuesday, the following day. The weather was going to be sunny and warm on Tuesday, a perfect day to walk in the Shire.
Monday morning turned out to be as nice as expected. Marla had some business to take of today so Mike and I went for a brisk morning walk.
After another hot shower Mike and I dropped Marla off for an appointment at 13:30. She was going to be around three hours so Mike and I started downtown at his favorite Turkish Cafe for some lunch. They made us some a salad with some cooked lamb. The lamb melted in your mouth.
After our lunch we walked around a bit and even tried a bit of shopping….the “anything made in NZ?” question messes people up though so shopping didn’t last long. We went up to the lookout overseeing the Gisborne area.
Mike & I met up with Marla around 16:30. Time to say good-bye and head off. Now Monday’s ride to Rotorua was even better than I had imagined. I was expecting a nice ride from what everyone has said about it, but until you’re actually riding it, do you truly appreciate just how good it really is. Gisborne to Opotiki, or the Waioeka Gorge as it’s called is just as much fun as all the other great roads when there is no traffic on it. As it was so late in the day I virtually had the entire road to myself.
Found the Funky Green Voyager Backpackers in Rotorua without any problem at all. This place was the best $27 value I had on the trip. A very comfortable bed, good facilities, and great owners made for a kick-ass combination. And it got better. When booking the Hobbiton tour through the Funky Green I saved myself another $10. The only thing to figure out now was which tour to pick. It would take about 90 minutes to get there from Rotorua so they booked me on the 11:00 tour. As long as I got away no later than 09:00, I had lots of time.
Once the plans for tomorrow were made and I was all booked into a Hobbiton tour it was time to get some dinner and check the emails. Downtown Rotorua is done up quite nicely for visiting tourists so I just picked out a restaurant with wi-fi and grabbed a salad for dinner. There was a good selection of food types to choose from.
Sleeping was a little tougher on Monday night with visions of Bilbo Baggins bouncing around in my head. This was a big deal. I got away just before 09:00 and was in the parking lot at Hobbiton with a full 40 minutes of relaxation time.
Well when it was all over I certainly thought I got my $80 worth. And on top of it all, it was even more than I was expecting.
So now that Hobbiton is done and it’s not quite 14:00 yet, might as well carry on and ride the Coromandel Loop, as planned. The weather was good and it was still early, so why not? Because this highway follows the ocean shore in many places, it just made sense to ride it in the clock-wise direction so I’d be on the water’s edge when possible. It was an okay ride, but today the traffic was too thick for it to be a fabulous ride.
Once back at Funky Green’s I hadn’t even gone a full 500 km today. Not even two tanks of gas. But good weather all day and I got a couple of things off of the “to-do” list. Now to make plans for tomorrow’s trip to White Island to see an active volcano. This trip has been mostly about “riding” in decent weather and in November! But I have made one exception. Once I’d seen Hobbiton the trip was complete, but there was this little voice in my head that was saying “White Island” has a nice ring to it. Going onto an island that was actually an active volcano had the sound of excitement. I could take one day off and sit on a boat for a few hours.
The White Island tour starts and finishes in Whakatane. Which is also about 1.5 hours from Rotorua. So I’d stay for one more night at the Funky Green and do the White Island tour as well.
We were split into 3 groups for our walk around. An old mill still sits close to the water’s edge, but not much of it is left now.
As we made our way towards the volcano, it was very cool being surrounded by all this cool stuff, and with the idea that at any second, this volcano could erupt. Easy to see now why we all had gas masks with us.
Our tour guide, Nicole, scooped out a bit of this sulfur mix and told us it tasted a bit like sherbet. I did try it, but sherbet it was not. The gas masks were handy though as it was starting to smell pretty bad around here. The only real disappointment on this whole tour was that the volcano crater itself was not visible. Oh well.
Because it was nice on the water today, after out island tour we headed out beyond White Island and drove around the next group of islands. They also fed us a boxed lunch while we were out there. Delicious.
Now on the way back towards Whakatane one of the passengers noticed some orcas on the horizon. Now we were all on a whale watching expedition. As we slowly made our way closer to these whales, we were able to get some decent pictures. This was a big highlight for many of us on board.
It was close to 15:00 when we got back to the dock. Time for a good cup of coffee and maybe find a small knick knack to take home as a souvenir. A couple of bars of sulfur colored soap would have to do. While buying my coffee I couldn’t help but notice a fellow wearing a motorcycle T-shirt which just lead me to believe he was part of the family. He was. Michael and his wife Lene were visiting from Denmark and were keen motorcycle enthusiasts. We visited for awhile, talked about the Isle of Mann race and then it was time to go. Nice way to spend the day.
Well now it’s right down to the short strokes. One more night in New Zealand! Then home I go. Now not be complaining or anything, but it took at least a full two hours to search out and confirm a room for Thursday night in Auckland. Between internet issues, web site issues, and my general impatience, this was a struggle. And after all that work I ended up with a dump! Go figure.
Now it’s Thursday morning and time to pack up and leave the Funky Green Voyager. I really did enjoy this place.
Didn’t have too far to go to get to Auckland. This was a little disappointing though.
Not bad though, only one bad place after 5 weeks on the road. I was really looking forward to getting a shower and putting on some clean clothes at the airport lounge tomorrow.
It’s now Friday morning, last day of this adventure, and I was on the road by 08:30 and heading straight to Red Baron Motorcycles. They were open at 09:00 and I started unloading all my stuff. I’m also glad that I took the time to wash the Buell last night. It looked pretty good right now and they put it right up on display to sell as soon as I had my stuff out of it. I can’t say enough just how pleased I was with the whole “buy-back” program they have at Red Baron. We had agreed on a 30% charge at the start and that’s exactly what it cost me. Whether I had put on 10000 km or not was not part of the conversation and in fact I’m sure the old Buell was actually running much better now than when I first picked it up.
Red Baron would be happy to do a similar deal anytime in the future. Salesmen are Chris and Jon and they are waiting for your call. From Canada call, 011 64 9 360 7700, from New Zealand call, 09 360 7700. They’d love to hear from you.
There was a small issue getting a credit put back on my Mastercard so I took cash instead. They actually drove me to the bank so I could cash a cheque without getting any hassle. Next was to wait for the Airport Shuttle service to pick me up and then get to my shower.
Everything else was on track and worked out just fine. The plane left as planned, only 14 hours and we were back in Vancouver again. It all happened so fast! My dad picked me up at the airport and took me over to his house to get my truck. His wife, Dianne also had a bunch of Christmas stuff for me to deliver while I made my way home. Dad also had an old ladder for me to take home. Dad and I went for a coffee and then I was headed out to Mission for the night. So the other little thing going on in the background is November 27th has been the longest day of my life so far. Almost 46 hours long and the whole time I’m waiting to turn 60 on Nov. 28th. You just can’t make this stuff up. It was fun to be able to say, “I was in New Zealand this morning” but that didn’t last long. Dale and Karin were expecting me and knew I’d be up for a party.
We hit a bottle of rye and swapped stories til almost 02:00. Finally made the big 60! Who would have ever thought I’d make it this far.After some sleep it was time to take off and go see Peter and Sandra. They had just sold their Lyons Bay house and picked one up at Furry Creek, about another 10 km out the Squamish highway. As it was still Nov. 28 and technically still my birthday, they took me out for dinner in Squamish. I was so stuffed that I could hardly move after that. We got back to the house and I showed them NZ pictures before we headed off to bed.
Now that it’s Sunday morning, I had to say good-bye to the Peter and Sandra and head into town. Tonight my daughter Lynn and I were going to see Dweezil Zappa play at the Commodore Ballroom. A very nice way to round out a vacation.
Dweezil was awesome and Lynn had a great time. So there wasn’t too much else to do on this trip. I did get a hold of Miranda on Monday morning and we agreed to meet at my dad’s place. I still had to load all the stuff into my truck and hadn’t seen Brandon yet, Miranda’s new baby. I was lucky enough to find a little toy for him in NZ.
Now it was time to go, the 13:00 ferry to Swartz Bay was the plan. I wanted to spend the night in Victoria and see the kids if possible. Dinner plans were Boston Pizza at 18:00. Jane, Jason, George, Kyla and B would all join me. Things are pretty much the same, although George has been applying for his own store lately. Sounds like Vernon is the next one he’ll be putting in for. I can honestly say that it was nice to be back on my island again. Gold River tomorrow is going to be fun and the best part, probably collecting rent on the way home! I love my job!
Pt. 5 is now complete.
I will publish a short trip summary in a few days. And maybe add a video clip over the Christmas holidays.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this!