April 09, 2013 GMT
New Zealand South Island Part Two
Arthurís Pass is the main route over New Zealandís Southern Alps between Christchurch on the east coast and Greymouth in the west. The road rises to an altitude of 920 metres (3000 feet) before dropping into Arthurís Pass Village then back to sea level on the west coast. I left Christchurch having plotted a route that took in two gravel road detours and with no particular destination in mind for somewhere to stay that night headed for the hills. Accommodation is easily found, for me that means a campsite or occasionally a hostel. The route out of Christchurch was interrupted by a number of diversions around closed roads that were being repaired following the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The severe structural damage to Christchurch looks like it will take many more years to repair.
I took the Old West Coast Road with long straight sections through an agricultural landscape and virtually no other traffic to share the road with before joining highway seventy three and starting the climb into the Southern Alps. The climb was the first serious hills I had encountered in New Zealand which had me changing down through the gearbox of the Honda CBR 250 to maintain momentum.
Stopping for a warming cup of coffee and a burger at Arthurís Pass Village I was surrounded by snow-capped mountains and considered staying the night to explore the area but decided it would get pretty cold for camping through the night and opted to wind my way down the west side of the alps.
Once more or less back at sea level I took my first planned gravel road detour to Lake Brunner and didnít see another vehicle until I re-joined the main highway. I had to backtrack on myself and travel a short distance east again before picking up another gravel road to the west coast. I ended up camping in Harihari where the first pilot to fly solo across the Tasman Sea from Australia crash landed in 1931. His biplane ended up upside down in a swamp but the pilot, Guy Menzies walked away unhurt.
Gravel Road Detour From Arthurs Pass
There was a strong wind blowing when I headed south towards Franz Josef with the intention of stopping for breakfast somewhere along the road. I pulled up and parked outside a cafť and when the waitress came across to my table with my breakfast order she was commenting on it being a strong wind for motorcycling. As we were discussing the weather and looking at the motorbike through the window the wind slowly blew it over onto its side on the pavement. The clutch lever was bent and had to be replaced later but fortunately there was no other damage.
The short walk to the Franz Josef Glacier was a pleasant stroll along the valley bottom. It is thought that rocks torn from the mountain by the glacier has caused the river bed in the valley to rise over thirty metres (ninety-eight feet) since 1965. I was a bit disappointed not to be allowed to walk closer to the glacier. There was a fence erected several hundred metres from the head of the glacier with a cut out of a park ranger advising of the dangers of venturing any closer.
A Park Ranger Cutout Prevents Getting Closer To Franz Josef Glacier
Crown Range Road On The Way To Cromwell
From my campsite in Te Anau to Milford Sound was a distance of seventy five miles (120 km), a short ride, maybe a couple of hours with plenty of photo stops. There is only one road in and out so I would be heading back to Te Anau on my return from Milford. Rain was forecast for the following few days so I planned to stay in Milford until there was a reasonable chance of riding back without getting wet. It was baking hot as I packed up the tent and loaded the bike so I was only wearing light summer clothing. Had I done my homework I would have known that the road climbs up into the mountains before dropping back down to sea level at Milford. The top of the pass was only 540 metres (1750 feet) above sea level but the snow line wasnít much higher than that and a strong cold wind was blowing. My warm clothing was buried in the middle of my bag so I kept going looking forward to a hot cup of tea in Milford. It was the coldest I had been in New Zealand. Sipping my tea in the cafť I got my second lesson about reading up and planning your trip. I assumed there was a town or at least a village at Milford where I would be able to buy supplies and that there would be plenty of things to do. How wrong I was! There is one cafť, a car park and a ferry terminal building for buying tickets and boarding a boat for a cruise in Milford Sound. There was a campground a few kilometres away but there were also lots of sand-flies and/or midges wanting to drink my blood. Had I realised that there was no town at Milford I would have left the tent up in Te Anau and done the bike ride as a day trip without the luggage. After a short walk to the boat terminal and back I dug my warm clothing out of the bag and headed back towards Te Anau. Being warm on the return journey I enjoyed it much more and was able to appreciate the scenery. Definitely a worthwhile trip but I wish I had left the tent up at Te Anau and travelled on a luggage free bike.
I was on a quest to see wild penguins in New Zealand. I had seen wild penguins years ago in South Australia and as there are numerous penguin colonies in New Zealand I felt confident that I would catch up with some somewhere on my route. They did however prove to be almost as elusive as the kiwi bird which I now believe to be either, a Maori mythical creature or extinct. A number of visits to penguin colonies produced pretty but empty beaches. The Yellow Eyed Penguin colony at Oamaru had a number of seals sprawled out on the beach with others swimming in the surf but no penguins. I took a seat and settled down to watch the seals from the cliff top. You werenít allowed any closer to avoid disturbing the non-existent penguins. Half an hour or so later a solitary penguin came ashore after a dayís fishing, waddled up the beach, stood in the sun, presumably drying itself for ten minutes then disappeared into the bushes behind the beach. It was far too far away to get a photo with my camera but at least I had finally seen a New Zealand penguin. My second and final sighting was at Curio Bay which has the added attraction of having a petrified forest on the beach. Fossilised tree trunks are lying embedded into the rock. There were a couple of penguins on the beach, both looking very fluffy but a bit rough round the edges as they were moulting. Signs said that you werenít to go within ten metres (33 feet) of the penguins but one of them was completely surround by a ring of photographers moving in to form a tighter and tighter circle as they jostled for position. As much as I would have liked a decent photo myself I wasnít going to break the ten metre guideline and definitely wasnít going to be part of the crowd that had a penguin trapped without an escape route.
Moulting Penguin At Curio Bay
I arrived in Oamaru two days after the hundredth anniversary of the announcement of Scottís death in Antarctica. Two expedition members, Harry Pennell and Edward Atkinson came ashore from the Terra Nova in a dingy into Oamaru harbour in the early hours of the 10th February 1913 guided by the light of the nightwatchman. This was the first contact with the outside world on the return of the expedition. The two rested in the home of the harbour master until daylight without revealing the news of the deaths of the leader, Scott and four other members of the expedition who formed the final push to the South Pole. This information was sent in code from Oamaru Post Office when it opened. The pair then continued to Christchurch by train to re-join the Terra Nova which had sailed on to Lyttelton. By the time the ship arrived at Lyttelton the world had already learnt the fate of the expedition.
The nightwatchmanís hut still stands in Oamaru harbour and a plaque had been unveiled to commemorate the 100th anniversary a few days prior to my visit.
Commemorative Plaque Unveiled Just Before I Arrived In Oamaru
By far the most impressive glacier I have seen so far was the Tasman Glacier near Mount Cook. A large lake, the Tasman Glacier Lake has formed at the leading edge of the glacier since the 1990s when a number of smaller pools joined together. The lake had dozens of large icebergs that had broken off the melting glacier. The existence of the lake, the retreating glacier and the icebergs form a picturesque example of global warming in action. It seemed strange on a very hot day to be looking down at so much ice floating in the lake. The icebergs weigh hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of tonnes, the biggest recorded which calved the previous summer weighed 30 million tonne.
Tasman Glacier (The Boat In The Foreground Gives An Idea Of Scale.... IT IS BIG!!)
Burt Monro was probably made a lot more famous than he had been during his lifetime when the film about his exploits, ĎThe Worldís Fastest Indianí starring Sir Anthony Hopkins was released in 2005. He is certainly a huge posthumous star in his home town of Invercargill. Working from a shed on a normally quiet suburban street the neighbours were regularly treated to the roar of his unsilenced vee twin race engine. With limited cash but an ingenious approach to engineering he tuned his 1920 600cc Indian Scout to increase its top speed from around fifty five mph (88 kph) to over 200mph (320 kph) having increased the engine size to 1000cc. He was the holder of numerous New Zealand and world speed records set between 1940 and 1967.
The World's Fastest Indian
Approaching the end of my trip around New Zealand I started looking into selling the Honda CBR 250R motorcycle I had bought in Auckland three months earlier. The first place I tried was the Honda dealer in Invercargill but discovered that there was very little demand for road bikes in the area. The dealer estimated that 90% of their turnover was in motorbikes and quad bikes for farm use, another 6% was for motocross bikes, leaving a mere 4% of bikes sold for the road. The dealer recommended that I tried selling the bike somewhere Ďfurther northí, advice I couldnít help but follow as there was nowhere further south in New Zealand to go!
Burt Munro's Shed Interior With His 'Offerings To The God Of Speed', His Collection Of Blown Engine Parts
Baldwin Street in Dunedin claims to be the steepest residential street in the world. With an average slope of over 1:5 and a scary 1:2.86 on the steepest section it does look pretty awesome. Before I got there I thought I would potter up in first gear but once I saw the hill I wasnít sure the engine would have enough torque so I took a hard run at it in third. The street ends at a tee junction and there isnít much space for braking once you get to the top. I overtook the postman on the way up who was walking up carrying his bag of mail. Does he have to do that every day? If so I guess the round keeps him fit.
The Steepest Residential Street In The World
Safely Returned To The Bottom Of The Steepest Street In The World
Dunedin was the final destination of my trip around New Zealand. I planned to continue riding north with a ĎFor Saleí notice on the bike and to visit any motorcycle shops I passed hoping and expecting to sell it before reaching Auckland. I had a buy back agreement with the dealer in Auckland but didnít want to spend the time or money riding back north. It didnít take long to find a buyer. From Dunedin I travelled to Port Chalmers which was the final port visited by Scott and his ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole. I then returned to Timaru, a town I had visited on my way south. A dealer in Timaru bought the bike enabling me to get a bus north to Christchurch airport and fly to Australia.
Scott Leaving Port Chalmers, His Last Port Of Call Before Antarctica
Leaving My Honda CBR250R In Timaru
Posted by ianmoor at 04:00 AM
February 11, 2013 GMT
New Zealand South Island Part One
I never got to see Wellington as there was torrential rain for the two days I was there prior to catching the ferry to the south island. The campsite, like many in New Zealand had a kitchen and lounge area so there was at least good shelter from the rain.
Ferry Reversing Into Picton Harbour In The South Island
There was no choice when it came time to catch the ferry but to roll up a saturated tent, load up the bike and ride through the rain to the ferry terminal. Thankfully I was given covered parking for the bike until it was time to board. I had been looking forward to the ferry trip as the boat has to navigate between islands on its approach to Picton on the south island and the ferry publicity photographs looked very scenic. When I spoke to some locals however; they warned me that it is often a very rough crossing as the Pacific Ocean funnels through the gap between the islands. My crossing wasnít rough but the rain reduced the visibility so it wasnít particularly scenic either. The rain had eased to a fine drizzle when I rode off the boat into Picton. I considered looking for accommodation with walls and a roof but as the rain had almost stopped and being all too aware of the budget constraints on long term travellers I erected the tent, still dripping wet from taking it down in the rain in Wellington. I dried off inside the tent as best as I could with a towel and hoped it would dry out during the afternoon. It didnít, but another rub down with the towel and a folded up tarpaulin between the damp floor of the tent and the mattress kept me dry. The following day the sun was shining and I finally got everything dried out.
Queen Charlotte Sound, Picton
From Picton I travelled through Nelson to Abel Tasman National Park. The park is where Abel Tasman attempted to land in 1642, one hundred and twenty seven years before Cook but was driven off in a battle with the Maori. Tasman was a Dutch explorer and the first European to see New Zealand. At Marahau, the shallow sea was a hive of activity with a fleet of tractors towing boats in and out of the ocean, canoeists paddling in the bay and horses splashing through the water. The boats being pulled in and out of the water were mainly water taxis. They would take you to beaches with no road access and with a bit of luck pick you up later. They also dropped off and picked up hikers and canoeists with their canoes so that they could travel from one point to another rather than having to do round trips.
Canoeists And Horseriders Trying To Decide Who Has Right Of Way
Kaiterieri Beach, Abel Tasman National Park
From Abel Tasman National Park I headed through the Motueka valley towards Saint Arnaud in Nelson Lakes National Park. The Saint Arnaud campsite was on the shore of Lake Rotoiti which was handy for getting evening and early morning photographs. Virtually all the campsites have a 10am checkout which I always battle to comply with. There never seems enough time to wash, pack up the tent and luggage; especially as the tent often needs drying out and have breakfast. I left Abel Tasman NP without having breakfast and stopped at the first rest area I came to which turned out to be tables and chairs laid out on the lawn of what was either a church or village hall although there were no other buildings in sight.
Motueka Valley Picnic Breakfast Stop
Nelson Lakes National Park has been successfully trialling a method of returning habitat to its natural, pre European state that until now has only been successfully carried out on small islands where remigration is difficult. Imported species of insects and mammals are trapped and killed to reduce, and then control their numbers sufficiently to allow the indigenous fauna to recolonise the area. The aim is to severely reduce the number of foreign species so that they no longer have an effect on the ecosystem but not wipe them out completely. Native insect and birdlife numbers have increased by reducing the number of wasps that arrived in New Zealand as stowaways in packing cases shipped from Germany. Rabbits, possums, mice, rats and deer are being tackled now which is allowing native plants to recover which in turn supports the native wildlife. Maoris must be wondering how far up the food chain this experiment of severely reducing the numbers of ecosystem destroying European species is going to go, all the way up to Caucasians?
Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes National Park
I was warned that the west coast of New Zealand gets a lot of rain so I always tried to check the weather forecast and time my visits to coincide with drier weather. However New Zealand summers are similar to the UK, it can and will rain unexpectedly. I planned to zig zag across the mountain passes and catch as much of the coastline as I could without doubling back on myself too much and riding the same roads twice.
Foulwind Point Near Westport On The Tasman Sea
The coast road from Westport to Greymouth proved to be the best coastal scenery in New Zealand so far as I make my way south. Pancake rocks are particularly stunning. The surface of the rocks have worn with horizontal indentations that look like stacks of giant pancakes. Geologists donít know why the limestone has formed into this unusual shape and I like the idea that there are still a few unresolved mysteries in our planet.
Pancake Rocks Between Westport And Greymouth
I had chipped a filling in one tooth ages ago but as it didnít bother me I was happy to wait until an opportunity arose to get it fixed. Just before Christmas a back tooth started to give an occasional twinge so it was time to find a dentist. I was planning on spending a few days in Greymouth prior to riding the Lewis Pass to wait for the forecast rain to end so I found a dentist and booked an appointment for the following day. The dentist said that the back tooth causing a problem was a wisdom tooth and needed to come out. In addition to the chipped tooth there was another filling that was required. The dentist could repair the two teeth needing fillings and take out the wisdom tooth in one session. This sounded like a lot of work for him and pain for me but after perusing the estimate of $760 (£395) I gave the go-ahead and the dentist dived into my mouth with a syringe. The two fillings were completed without drama then it was time to part company with my wisdom tooth. While my mouth was overfull of fingers and implements there was what sounded like a very loud cracking noise from inside my head. I thought the tooth had snapped and that the dentist was going to have to go poking and fishing around the cavity to get the broken bits out. But no, a bit of bone, i.e. a lump of my skull which I had been very attached to had broken off with the tooth. The cavity wouldnít stop bleeding so a new array of implements had to be inserted into my mouth to sew up the wound. Then came the seriously painful bit, paying the bill!
The wound continued to bleed for the rest of the day and on into the following morning which literally had me spitting blood. Thinking that the day couldnít get any worse and while my mouth was still numb from the anaesthetic I opted to tackle my least favourite motorcycling job, cleaning and greasing the chain. I continued with other least favourite chores by doing my laundry. By the time the washing was optimistically hung out to dry on a cloudy overcast day which had produced occasional showers the anaesthetic had worn off so I decided to do the manly thing and lie on my bed and wallow in self-pity for the rest of the day. Needless to say, it started to rain again and my laundry didnít dry.
To help take my mind off the sore mouth and the soft, mushy, easy to chew diet I took to the first of the three mountain passes I intended to take in the south Island. Lewis Pass runs from Greymouth on the west coast through the old mining town of Reefton and on to Kaikoura on the west coast. Yet another good ride on quiet roads (apart from my noisy exhaust), no great altitude or serious changes to the weather to contend with as there was when tackling passes in the Andes just a pleasant day riding through the hills.
Hairpin Bends Of Lewis Pass
Kiakoura is the place to go for whale watching in New Zealand. I was tempted by a helicopter tour where you hover above the whales and can see the whole animal, the bits below the water as well as the bits above. The photos looked spectacular but it was way out of my budget. I settled for a stroll through the park that had a path curving its way through a series of whalebone arches. I did get to see dolphins swimming close to the beach. Kiakoura was founded on whaling which is how the bones where available. Instead of hunting the whales the town now makes itís living catering to the whale watchers.
Kaikoura Whalebone Arch
I hadnít originally planned on visiting Christchurch following the earthquakes that devastated the city in 2010 and 2011 but I needed to travel through it to get to the start of the Arthurís Pass road and I wanted to visit nearby Lyttelton and the Banks Peninsular. Travelling anywhere around Christchurch; you soon notice the effects of the earthquakes. Lots of damaged roads, lots of roads closed with diversions in place while repairs are carried out, numerous closed buildings and, showing their battling spirit, businesses trading in modified shipping containers as the original buildings have been lost.
Christchurch Arts Centre, One Of The Hundreds Of Buildings Closed By The Earthquake
The city centre, now known as the ĎRed Zoneí is completely fenced off with no admittance except for building workers. The damage is obvious and on a huge scale. They are still demolishing buildings and I didnít see any indication of starting to rebuild the city centre at all. As the damage is so extensive it has been decided to redevelop the whole city centre from scratch which seems like a good idea but the decision has delayed insurance settlements for some property owners. I spoke to one who said his building was severely damaged but repairable so the insurance company had offered the cost of the repair work. However the local government wonít permit repairs as they want to demolish all the buildings in the block as part of the redevelopment. Up till now no one has agreed to pay for the difference between the repair costs and the cost of knocking the building down and rebuilding.
Christchurch Cathedral Behind The Red Zone Boundary Fence
I met a couple on Christmas day in Thames on the north island who had lived in Christchurch. Their home was severely damaged in one of the earthquakes with floors tilted over at extreme angles and obviously too dangerous to live in. They moved to Auckland the following day and donít intend to return.
Christchurch Red Zone Demolition Site
Lyttelton was a popular base for the Antarctic exploration expeditions of the early 1900s as a final port to stock up on last minute essential supplies, final checks and maintenance before heading out to the then unknown wilderness of the south. Scott, Shackleton and Australian, Douglas Mawson all chose Lyttelton as their final port before heading to Antarctica. A great uncle of mine accompanied Shackleton on one of his lesser known expeditions to Murmansk a few weeks before the end of World War One. Travelling may be a hereditary trait although in my great uncles case he was packing a rifle and bayonet. I came across the following quote on Shackletonís Ďnorthern Russia campaigní at www.south-pole.com/p000098b.htm
ďThe northern Russia campaign, said General Ironside, "was a side show of the Great War". Soldiers could hardly be spared from the front lines so troops were scraped from the bottom of the barrel to be sent to Russia.Ē
Way to go Uncle Charlie!
Lyttelton Harbour Where Many Of The Antarctic Explorers Departed From On Their Expeditions South
J Voyce and Co, Ships Providores of Lyttelton is now a cafť where I had a coffee. While there I was thinking and hoping that Shackleton, Scott and Mawson had all called in to buy those last minute nautical widgets before disappearing south for months or years at a stretch without any contact with the outside world.
My Coffee Break And Just Possibly, Suppliers To Antarctic Explorers!
Banks Peninsular is the circular shaped bit of land sticking out into the Pacific Ocean to the south east of Christchurch. It has lots of narrow roads, mainly made of gravel running down to small inlets along the coast, an area I wanted to explore. I tried to take a scenic route on a road overlooking Christchurch on the way to the Banks Peninsular. I got to the top of the hills with the views looking down onto Christchurch under the clouds but had to return the way I came as the road was closed due to the earthquakes.
Looking Down On A Cloud Covered Christchurch
Banks Peninsular Tree Stump That Refuses To Die
Posted by ianmoor at 10:58 PM
January 23, 2013 GMT
New Zealand North Island Part Two
The inappropriately named Ninety Mile beach in Northlands near the northern tip of New Zealand is in fact ninety kilometres (fifty six miles) long. Vehicles are permitted and the sand is firm and smooth between the high and low tide lines although it was high tide when I was there; so I canít vouch for the firmness or smoothness of the beach personally. I wasnít particularly inclined to get my new (to me) motorbike covered in salt spray or risk an embarrassing off, the older I get the more and more I appreciate the qualities of paved roads! Signs say that hired vehicles are not allowed on the beach which should make it a motorhome (RV) free zone. Traffic is generally very light on New Zealandís roads but a high proportion of the traffic outside of the cities is made up of hired camper vans known locally as white ants because they crawl out of the holiday parks and travel in single file convoys.
Ninety Mile Beach In The Far North Of New Zealand
The largest kauri tree in the world stands a short distance from the road running through Waipoua Forest in Northland. The impressive tree with its five metre diameter trunk is known as Tane Mahuta or ĎLord Of The Forestí, it stands forty five metre high and is at least 1200 years and possibly 2500 years old. Vast areas of kauri forest were cleared by the early pioneers seeking timber for building. The kauri gum or resin was also collected and used as early forms of firelighters and as chewing gum. Maoris used to use the gum as a pigment to make a dark colour for their tattoos.
The Massive Five Metre (16 Foot) Diameter Trunk Of Tane Mahuta The World's Largest Kauri Tree
Camped at Matakohe near the kauri museum, the bike took its first tumble while parked next to the tent. The ground softened with rain through the night causing the side-stand to sink in. Fortunately I had parked with the bike leaning away from the tent otherwise it would have landed on me. I always inspect the ground and usually put a stone or bit of wood under the side-stand as a pad but the ground had been so hard it had been difficult to get tent pegs into it when I arrived.
I Slept Through The Bike Falling Over Through The Night!
It was comforting and reassuring to learn that New Zealand contains no animals, reptiles or insects that can kill, injure or maim me. No bears, no poisonous snakes, just possibly; a few poisonous spiders that no one ever sees. It was therefore doubly disappointing to learn the inaccuracy of this information by being stung on the Adamís apple by what I assume was a bee. I was riding the bike at around 80 kph (50 mph) when I saw a dark pea sized object sweep down across and under my visor to cunningly locate the only area of naked flesh on display at the time. I didnít find the creature after being stung and stopping the bike but presume that if you are the size of a pea and are struck at 50 mph by an Adamís apple you are unlikely to survive. An unpleasant experience for both of us. Through the night the sting swelled to resemble a bright red turkey wattle and restricted my breathing a little but I had survived another wildlife encounter. Whoever said there are no dangerous insects in New Zealand hasnít been stung on the Adamís apple while riding a motorbike.
Returning to Auckland to complete a loop around the north of the north island I stayed at Ambury Regional Park, a working farm on the shore of Manukau Harbour between the city and the airport. The farm is part of the park, open to the public and includes a variety of farm animals including of course, sheep. There are 4.45 million people and 31 million sheep in New Zealand. This ratio of seven sheep for each person has been reducing over the years as the occasional Kiwi (rugby mad person, not the fruit or the mythical bird) leaves sheep rearing in search of an alternative career.
Ambury Regional Park And Camp Ground Near Auckland
Captain James Cook made his first landing where Gisborne was later built on the 8th October 1769, two days after his first sighting of land. Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to see New Zealand in 1642 but following a bloody battle with some Maori people he didnít land. Cook was the first to circumnavigate the two islands and accurately map them although the Maori had arrived and settled from Polynesia hundreds of years earlier. The Maori were settling in New Zealand from 1280 and may have first arrived as early as 980.
The Site Of Cook's First Landing On New Zealand
A few days before the end of the year I arrived in Gisborne to discover that it was full. This was a surprise considering how empty New Zealand had been up until this point of my journey. Gisborne is host to the Rhythm and Vines Ďpopí festival, the biggest New Yearís Eve party in New Zealand with 30,000 young music fans gathering for a three day festival. Thatís one Kiwi (rugby mad person, not the fruit or mythical bird) out of every one hundred and fifty descending on Gisborne. All these young party animals meant that the campsites were full and that I wouldnít have wanted to stay even if there had been room for me. I headed further up the coast to Tatapouri where I found a campsite with a quieter more sedate clientele more befitting one celebrating his sixty first new year!
Painted Gisborne Sub Station
Cookís second landing in New Zealand was in Mercury Bay on the Coromandel peninsular on the 3rd November 1769. This was a few kilometres from the site of the first Maori landing. Kupe, a renowned Tahitian explorer landed in nearby Whitianga 850 years earlier. The Polynesians had no written records and historians seem unsure of exactly when Kupe landed but some reports estimate that it was around the year 980 AD.
Cook's Beach, The Site Of His Second Landing On New Zealand
My first ride inland took me to Rotorua, a town with a background smell of sulphur that bubbles up through the lake and the hot mud pools. The lake, formed in a volcanic caldera has a number of hot springs as well as bubbling mud pools along its shore. The Rotorua museum housed in an impressive old building and the Blue Baths built to utilise the free hot water from the springs are set in perfectly manicured parkland which includes immaculate bowling greens.
An earthquake on the 3rd February 1931 flattened most of Napier including the town centre. A phenomenal fifteen square miles (forty square kilometres) of land was permanently lifted up out of the sea during the earthquake. The town was virtually rebuilt from scratch in the then popular and modern art deco style. The newly raised land was utilised and now forms part of todayís Napier.
Napier Art Deco Building
Napier is billed; alongside South Beach, Florida as joint art deco capital of the world, however the vast majority of the town centre art deco buildings have had unsympathetic modern shop fronts built. At ground level it now looks like any other high street with large plate glass windows and doors and modern shop signs which sometimes obscure art deco features. You have to look above the canopy which provides shelter to the shoppers but obscures the view of what remains of the art deco architecture above ground level. It could have been stunning if the buildings had been left as originally built or renovated in the art deco style. Once away from the main shopping street there are a number of good art deco offices and homes but these are isolated buildings. It was well worth visiting, just not as spectacular as it could have been.
Napier Art Deco Styling
Lake Taupo, in the centre of the north island was formed by a huge volcanic eruption which ejected a colossal 1170 cubic kilometres of material and caused several hundred square kilometres of land to collapse. The caldera formed by the land collapse later filled with water to form the lake. Fortunately all this happened 26,500 years ago before people arrived. Since then the volcano has erupted a further twenty seven times although the subsequent eruptions werenít on the same scale as the first. The last eruption occurred around the year 200AD but the volcano is still classified as dormant rather than extinct.
Lake Taupo With My Next Destination, The Snowy Peak Of Ruapehu On The Horizon
On my way to Tongariro National Park I unexpectedly passed an active volcano which was an additional bit of excitement to an already good day of riding the bike through New Zealandís scenery. The activity was from one of a dozen or so cones that form the super volcano of Mount Tongariro. You get used to reading about volcanos erupting thousands of years ago, hundreds of years ago or at the very least, several decades ago but another of Mount Tongariroís cones, Ruapehu last erupted on the 21st November, 2012, six weeks prior to my visit. A column of ash was thrown four kilometres up into the sky. Footpaths near the summit where still closed as there was a possibility of imminent further eruptions. My campsite was equipped with sirens to warn of an eruption with evacuation procedures to nominated high ground away from any lava flows. It would appear that in New Zealand; it isnít the wildlife that is trying to kill you but the geology!
Smoking Tongariro Volcano
Campsite Volcano Eruption Siren
Tongariro NP was my first Hobbit / Lord Of The Rings film location. Although I havenít seen the films and failed to finish reading the books when I attempted them years ago I have at least been to Mount Doom, Mordor, Emyn Muil, the Plains of Gorgoroth and later went on to the Dimholt Road. My favourite Hobbit fact is that $380,000 (£185,000) was spent on coffee by the film crew!
Mount Ngauruhoe (aka Mount Doom)
One shock and surprise in New Zealand that I havenít fully recovered from yet is having to pay for wifi access. Throughout the Americas wifi had been readily available and free. Nicaragua and Bolivia, two of the poorest countries I have visited on this trip can provide free wifi but not New Zealand! Virtually all of the cheaper accommodation options, cafes and restaurants charge for accessing their wifi, usually around $4 per hour although cheaper deals are available for a full twenty-four hours. Instead of accessing the internet two or three times a day for short periods as I used to; I now have one mammoth session about once a week which makes it feel more like work than a pleasure. Whakapapa village in Tongariro NP had the most expensive wifi I have come across so far, an outrageous $8 (£4) per hour. The internet is used less in New Zealand than anywhere else I have been to on this trip. Paying for wifi reduces the time you spend on the internet which could be viewed as a good thing but I miss being able to research my trip, check the weather forecast etc. when I feel like it.
Mount Ruapehu Had Erupted Six Weeks Before My Visit
From Tongariro National Park I moved onto Stratford to explore another national park, Egmont which contains yet another volcano, Mount Taranaki. The route took me over the Forgotten World Highway, another great motorcycling road with good scenery and little traffic. Most of New Zealandís roads are like that, even the main roads linking the major towns tend to be two lanes and almost free of traffic. I liked Stratford, there were walks through shady trees laid out along the river banks in town, a supermarket and a cafť with free wifi all within walking distance of the campsite. Towering over the town and a short ride away was the snow capped peak of Mount Taranaki within Egmont National Park.
Mount Taranaki In Egmont National Park
My final destination on the north island (apart from Wellington to catch the ferry to the south island) was the Putangirua Pinnacles on Palliser Bay or to give it its Hobbit name, Dimholt Road. As I was staying on a cheap and basic DOC (Department Of Conservation) campsite a reasonable distance from any shops I had to pick up groceries on the way which is a bit difficult with my restricted luggage capacity on the CBR. Once there I had to boil my drinking water again which reminded me of camping in Latin America. The campsite was relatively empty for the first night but it got crowded the following day which was the start of the weekend. I guess it is close enough to Wellington to attract Wellingtonians who want to escape the city. When I returned from a walk I found the motorbike blocked in between my tent and a campervan which had inched up right alongside the bike. On the opposite side of my camp a tent had been pitched with its guy ropes literally crossing mine. What happened to the peace and tranquillity of touring isolated, sparsely populated New Zealand? The answer would seem to be a combination of the long NZ school summer holidays and foreign, predominantly German tourists!
Posted by ianmoor at 10:39 PM
December 23, 2012 GMT
New Zealand North Island Part One
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Cape Reinga, The Northernmost Point Of New Zealand
Cape Reinga Where The Pacific Ocean And The Tasman Sea Meet
Posted by ianmoor at 03:31 AM
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