Grant and Susan in New Zealand
After Central America, we worked awhile in Toronto, then toured New Zealand for 3 months on our way to Australia.
We arrived in Auckland by plane on 30 December, 1989, having shipped the bike several months earlier from Canada. Our timing was bad, though, as Auckland was having a dock strike, and it took us some time to extricate the bike and get on the road south.
While we waited, we toured Auckland on foot and bus, enjoyed the views of Waitemata Harbour from Mt. Victoria, strolled the harbour area and Parnell Village tourist area, the main downtown shopping district, Aotea Center, the Auckland City Art Gallery and appreciated the quiet of the Auckland Domain (park to us North Americans).
Once the bike was released, we enjoyed the lush countryside and many scenic views of rolling countryside with the Tasman Sea for background, on the road south from Auckland towards Wellington. We visited the Waitomo Caves along the way, and saw the vast Iron Sand dunes near Kawhia, which are shipped to Japan.
Bike near the Cape Egmont light house, North Island, NZ
We hiked the Konini Dell Trail on the slopes of Mount Egmont, and rested at Dawson Falls. At Ratana Church, we met a Maori minister and watched their weekly religious service.
On 28 January, we finally arrived in Wellington, almost a month after landing in New Zealand. The pouring rain was our only excuse for not camping, and we checked into a hotel for a couple of days to dry out. The rain did stop long enough for us to get some great pictures of Wellington Harbour from the top of the Kelburn Cable Car line, before catching the Interislander erry to Picton on the South Island.We fell in love with Nelson, at the north end of the South Island, and stayed there for several days while we toured the surrounding area.
Grant tried parasailing (jumping off a cliff with a parachute) at Tasman Bay north of Nelson, while I took pictures and marveled at what some people think is fun - Grant just missed a barbed wire fence on landing, managing to land in a bramble bush instead. (This experience would seem tame a few weeks later when we got to Queenstown and Grant discovered the bungy jumping capital of the world).
Grant para-gliding, Nelson, New Zealand, and just missing a very painful crash-landing on a barbed wire fence - the brambles were marginally better...
We took a cruise/ferry boat up the coast in Abel Tasman National Park, and saw our first Weka, a flightless bird which is native to New Zealand.
30 million year old rock formations known as 'Pancake Rocks', north coast of South Island, NZ
Heading south again along the west coast, we stopped at Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks - 30 million year old cliffs of thin limestone layers which resemble pancake stacks. There are blowholes too, which when the sea is running produce at least thunder - and on occasion geyser like spouts of water. The sense of power is awesome, and gives an indication of the force employed in the shaping of the rocks.
On 7 February, we landed up at Franz Josef Glacier, named after the Austrian Emperor by Julius von Haast, the first European to explore the glaciers here. The town is fairly touristy, with many tour operators. We indulged in a helicopter tour of the glacier and ice falls, which was spectacular, including the Franz Josef, Fox and Albert Glaciers, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, as well as landing on the glaciers. Grant shot about 5 rolls of film in as many minutes!
Continuing south on Highway 6 to Haast, we saw the Thunder Creek Falls, and stayed over at Lake Wanaka, a popular recreational holiday lake north of Queenstown before reaching the adrenaline capital of New Zealand itself.
Queenstown really comes alive in the winter as a ski resort, but even in summer there are lots of tourists and lots of activities to occupy them, from white water rafting to bungy jumping at two locations.
On 11 February, 1990, Grant chose the slightly lower (145 feet) Kawerau Bridge site for his 'maiden' leap, while I once again took pictures and marveled at what some people think is fun. He subsequently announced that his adrenaline addiction was temporarily satisfied!
Mitre Peak, one mile high, was the main attraction in Milford Sound, our next destination. Of course we took the tour boat, and hoped the weather would cooperate and provide blue sky for pictures (it almost did). Regardless of the weather, the boat ride is spectacularly scenic.
On the way to Dunedin, we stopped at Balclutha, the prosperous hub of a wealthy sheep farming district. The name is Gaelic, meaning "town of the Clyde". The Clutha river is Scottish in that "Clutha" is the ancient name for the river Clyde, and is the county's largest in volume if not in length.
In Dunedin, settled by Scots, we appreciated the well preserved architecture of buildings such as Otago University, and the tidy layout of the town. The train ride across the Taeiri River Gorge near Dunedin made for an enjoyable excursion.
And who needs to go to Scotland? Dunedin even has bagpipe competitions - the South Island Pipe Band competition was held while we were there, and was great fun.
We also visited Larnach Castle, where Grant suffered the embarrassment of the bike falling over when he executed a tight turn over a bump and was unable to reach the ground for support as we left the parking lot.
A wildlife highlight of the area was the Yellow-Eyed and the Little Blue Penguins (two different kinds of penguins) and the Southern Fur Seals on the nearby Otago Peninsula.
Dunedin was the furthest south town we visited in New Zealand, and we turned north again for Christchurch. This city, settled by the English, is also very pleasant to look at and spend time in, with its own distinct architecture, exemplified by Christchurch Cathedral and Christ's College, dating to 1850. The 'Speaker's Corner' on Cathedral Square attracts outspoken people of various types to lecture/harangue the lunchers. The Avon River in Hagley Park is also a popular locale.
Punting on the Avon, ChristChurch, NZ
Returning once again to Wellington via Blenheim and the ferry, this time the sun was shining and we got some nice pictures of the New Zealand parliament buildings (claimed the second largest wooden building in the world), the downtown area and the harbour.
From Wellington we continued north on the Rangipo Desert Road, passing Mount Ruapehu (2,656 meters), and stopped at Lake Taupo, a very popular tourist destination. Geothermal activity is very strong here, and in the "Craters of the Moon Park" you can see the steam vents and geysers.
This is the warm up for Rotorua, and the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, where you can see (and smell!) Devil's Home Crater, the Rainbow Crater, the Devil's Ink Pots, the Champagne Pool, the Artist's Palette, and many more. Very easy to take lots of photos here.
Returning finally to Auckland, we arranged the bike shipment to Australia and left for Sydney in mid-March, 1990. New Zealand was fabulous for touring by motorcycle - incredibly scenic, lots of twisty roads, safe and excellent infrastructure. Someday we'll definitely return.
Are you an Overland Adventure Traveller?
Does the smell of spices wafting through the air make you think of Zanzibar, a cacophony of honking horns is Cairo, or a swirl of brilliantly patterned clothing Guatemala? Then this is the site for you!
Hosted by Grant and Susan Johnson, RTW 1987-1998
9th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is ending soon! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!