December 23, 2012 GMT
New Zealand North Island Part One

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I arrived in New Zealand at the end of November all fired up to buy a motorcycle and some camping equipment and then get out into the countryside as quickly as possible. The day after arriving I walked to the only motorcycle dealership I had found in Auckland. There was an older BMW F650GS, an older Kawasaki 250 and a 2011 Honda CBR250R to choose from. I wanted a smaller bike and the Kawasaki riding position was too much of a racing crouch with very narrow handlebars so I chose the Honda. Had I spent a bit more time in Auckland I may have got a better deal or a more suitable bike but I was keen to get out of the city and back on the road. The single cylinder Honda is a good bike but the riding position isnít perfect for me, I prefer to be more upright. A number of motorcyclists have complimented me on the raucous throaty roar of the aftermarket exhaust. I find it somewhat embarrassing but itís not worth changing as I will only have the bike for a few months. My current plan is to sell the bike when I leave New Zealand.

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Honda CBR250R Fully Loaded, Note The Discreet Tank Top Bag Fixings!

I opted not to fit panniers and make do with my tank top bag from my BMW F650GS that I had abandoned in Argentina and my waterproof Ortlieb bag strapped to the back seat. This seriously curtailed the amount of luggage I can carry but I should avoid extreme weather as I will be touring New Zealand during the summer. I bought a new tent and an expensive Therm-a-Rest inflatable mattress which was the lightest and most compact one I could find. I had left my old tent in Argentina as two of the zips were broken and it was no longer 100% waterproof. My original heavy duty Therm-a-Rest mattress was still fine and un-punctured but too bulky to carry on the Honda without panniers. In the Americas the Ortlieb bag only carried some extra clothing and the things I used every day, now it has to take all my camping equipment, all my clothing, computer etc. The main reduction in luggage is in not carrying spare parts or tools on the assumption that if I need them I wonít have to travel too far to find them.

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Auckland, New Zealand

After five days in Auckland I finally got to collect the bike and headed straight out of the city for the short ride to Piha. A few kilometres of motorway quickly got me out of the city and onto a narrow twisting road through the forest of the Waitakere Ranges before dropping down to the west coast village of Piha. I only wanted to do a short first trip to get used to the bike and to check that carrying the luggage worked ok.

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Lion Rock, Piha Beach

The following day I went for a walk along Piha beach despite the persistent clouds. The rain started when I had almost returned to the campsite and I would have been fine if I had stopped at the camp kitchen where a number of others were taking shelter. However; I decided to continue the short distance to my tent to get teabags so that I could have cups of tea while sitting out the storm. On the way the heavens opened and I was drenched in seconds. Quickly darting in and out of the tent to pick up the teabags left a significant amount of water on the tent floor. Soaking wet but sipping a nice hot cup of tea in the kitchen I watched the storm rage for another two hours. The darkened skies were lit with brilliant flashes of lightning and the windows rattled with the sound of the thunder. The Ďstormí turned out to be a typhoon which tragically killed three people and seriously damaged at least 250 homes in West Auckland 20 miles (32 kilometres) away. Fortunately the Ďstormí; although impressively heavy, wasnít so destructive in Piha. When I headed to my next destination the typhoon had left a number of landslides and a fallen tree on the road, something I thought I had seen the last of when I left South America.

I was planning on doing a loop from Auckland; north to the top of the north island and back before heading south to Wellington then on to the south island. It took a couple of weeks to get back into the routine of bike travel and camping. I could sit on my BMW F650GS all day but with the Honda I was wanting to stop to stretch my legs after less than an hours riding initially. Fortunately the distance between destinations in New Zealand isnít far and I eventually got used the bike, its riding position and its noisy exhaust so that I could travel a bit further without a break.

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Tutukaka Harbour

A South African rider I met in Peru who had ridden from the UK to South Africa then shipped his bike to Argentina described his African trip as an adventure and his South American trip by comparison a holiday. I have the same sentiments comparing my Americas adventure with my New Zealand holiday. Not that Iím complaining, after two years of Latin American roads, weather and officialdom Iím ready for and think I deserve a holiday!

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Pacific Coast Of Tutakaka

Someone once described New Zealand as being a bit like Britain was fifty years ago. As Iím old enough to remember Britain fifty years ago I can see the similarities. The road system is very much like pre motorway Britain; even the main roads are predominantly single carriageway winding through the lush green countryside. There is a wonderful lack of the urban sprawl that has spread out around Britainís villages, towns and cities. Getting from the town to the countryside or vice versa is quick and painless without the slow crawl through miles of suburbia, industrial estates and retail parks. Although I havenít tried it myself yet, travellers often get permission from farmers to camp on their land for free which is something that was done in the UK when I was a boy. I donít think you could do that in the UK now, everyone is too suspicious of strangers these days. Hitchhiking is common here now as it was once in the UK. Again in the UK most drivers donít want to Ďriskí picking up strangers and would be hitchhikers are warned off accepting lifts from anyone they donít know.

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Waitangi. A Controversial Treaty Was Signed Here In 1840 Between The British Government And Maori Chiefs Effectively Giving The Sovereignty Of New Zealand To The British (That's How The British Interpreted It Anyway And They Had The Better Weapons Of Mass Destruction)

I enjoyed a multinational Christmas in Thames, on the Coromandel peninsular with travellers from New Zealand, England, Slovenia, and French Speaking Canada along with our Kiwi hosts, the owners of the Sunkist Hostel. We were due to have lunch at 12:30 but just as we were about to start the town siren went off to summon the volunteer fire brigade. Craig our co-host was a member and ran off to perform his civic duty. He returned an hour later by which time our appetites were well and truly ready to over indulge in the buffet style meal.

Thames Christmas Lunch (Photo by Craig)

I have discovered three types of kiwi so far, an invisible bird, a green fruit and huge, solidly built rugby players sporting Maori tattoos regardless of their ethnic origin. The bird, like otters in Scotland, koalas in Australia and mountain lions in America may not really exist. If they do they are very very good at hiding. Rugby is obviously the national sport. You donít see kids kicking a football (soccer ball) around, they are all chucking rugby balls at each other. A surprisingly large proportion of New Zealanders have that rock solid, slightly scary rugby player build and Maori tattoos seem to be very much in fashion. My first weekend in New Zealand; while still in Auckland I saw a newspaper headline stating that ďAll Blacks Have BugĒ. I thought this was a somewhat sweeping, not to mention racist statement. Of course I later realised that the headline referred to the New Zealand national rugby team and wondered if they always alert the world of a pre-emptive excuse to explain why they lost on the rare occasion when they do lose. After all, it makes their wins all the more impressive as they had to overcome their ailments to snatch a glorious victory! As I walked passed a crowded bar with a giant TV I discovered that the All Blacks were playing England and by some miracle, or maybe the All Blacks really did have a bug, England won; breaking a twenty three game run without a defeat by the All Blacks and it was Englandís first victory over New Zealand since 2003.

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Cape Reinga, The Northernmost Point Of New Zealand

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Cape Reinga Where The Pacific Ocean And The Tasman Sea Meet

Posted by at December 23, 2012 03:31 AM GMT

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