New Zealand - 3
Auckland (17-02-2003) till Auckland (03-05-2003)
After Mum & Dad had left Auckland we had to follow a rehabilitation program. We were exhausted from three weeks living in a campervan. After a couple days relaxing we started working as we had to prepare the bikes for the next leg and we also had to search out our stuff. Martin was doing the bikes and I did the luggage but this was quickly done so I started reading books. It was my way to find myself back and the first book I read was about all kind of dangers in Australia and the second book was about a woman who is living in Africa where she raised a lion. Very touching and Martin had the idea that he didn't exist anymore when I was reading but fortunately the bikes gave him lots of attention.
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Route through New Zealand; 17-02-2003 / 03-05-2003
Graham took us out for diner in Auckland and afterwards we went to the harbor for a drink. Lots of really expensive yachts were berthed there because the finals of the America Cup was in full swing. It didn't go too well for New Zealand though as it was 2 - 0 for Switzerland!!! Yes, a country without any sea was beating the Kiwi's, surrounded by sea. So Jen tried to change this by supporting the Kiwi's by hanging a flag of the silver fern on her bike. It didn't help as they lost later 5 - 0.
Martins carnet was about to expire and instead of getting having a new one issued from Holland and couriered, he simply extended the current one. The AA in Auckland sent an email to the ANWB in Holland and they had no objections so the carnet could be extended. Martin only had to go to the Customs Office to see if they didn't object and they had to stamp the extension. It was easy to do and free of charge! Only the ANWB sent us an invoice of 50 Euro!!! A lot of money for just writing an email of no objection but still much cheaper than getting a new one and have it sent over.
After we arrived in New Zealand we immediately had ordered a new rear shock for Martins bike as the original one was getting bad because unusual heavy loading. The Ohlins importer didn't have one on stock but it would be arriving soon. We still hadn't received it, but it had arrived in Hawera so we decided to pick it up there as we were heading South anyhow. Then they also could help us installing the new shock.
The longer we stayed in Auckland the more homesick I became and I really wanted to go home. It was hard for me to find out what my heart was saying. Also for Martin as our life was so mixed up during the last weeks. After all we lived in a campervan with our parents and we were not feeling ourselves anymore. We also knew that time would tell us what the right feeling would be, but for some moments we both felt on going home. Martin was now on the road for nearly 3 years and I for 1½ years and you're going to miss some little things, like a place of your own or just being with people you love. During the traveling you meet a lot of people and with a few you became close but most of them you know already when you met them that you will never see them back.
At the motel were we stayed they had some problems with the fire alarm and on a rainy day at 7:30 am. the fire alarm went off. We all had to go down quickly and as I was still sleeping I didn't like to go but Martin forced me to go so in the chilly morning I was waiting outside until the fire brigade had arrived and found out it was a false alarm. As an early bird catches a worm we decided not to go back to bed and use the long day ahead of us. Two days later the alarm went of again around the same time but now we took it easy to go down and got dressed first. Again it was a false alarm but later that day they found the lose wire in the detection system so we could sleep now without worries.
But finally it was time to go again and in the morning our best mate Graham came to wave us out and we left Auckland. As we left Auckland the sky was full of clouds and as we drove they became darker and darker. On a road in the middle of nowhere we saw two bikers along the road so we stopped to ask if they need help. They didn't and as I was telling Martin this in Dutch they understood this and they turned out to be Dutch as well, so we had a nice chat with them. Jaap flew his bike from Holland to Australia and then to New Zealand. He asked if we were Martin and Jeannette as he had read all our travel reports on the website before he left home. We had a nice time with them and after some nice cookies from Gerda we moved on. The clouds of heaven opened upon us and while we were driving 80 kmh. there were some Kiwi's in cars behind us who gave us a 'peace sign', but their face were having different expressions as they were covered in war paint: They wanted us to speed up. We didn't give a shit about it and we were moving on the slippery roads in our own speed. We arrived at Dave and Jenny's place as we wanted to pay them a visit and to give them a present. Dave was the one who took my bike from Stony Bay on a quad when the road was too scary and muddy for me to drive over. It was so good to see them back and Jenny was treating us like a queen and king and spoiled us with her cooking. It was a nice evening together and Dave showed us his bike, a Yamaha FZR 1200.
We were on our way to Hawera to pick up Martin's new rear shock absorber. We had some long days of driving ahead, but as we took the 'Forgotten Valley Highway' the driving was rewarded with superb sceneries and hardly any traffic. We came through a place called Whangamomona in the middle of nowhere. It looked like time had stopped here and the atmosphere was so romantic and laid back. There was only a hotel and some nice (though run down) old houses, 80 kms. from the nearest civilization. While we had a cup of coffee at the hotel a farmer was passing through the street with his cattle and dogs. We felt pity that we had no time to stay longer here.
We continued to New Plymouth and we will never forget that place as we didn't like this place. The only good thing about it was that our bikes were parked safely. The next day we drove along the coast and arrived in Hawera where we had lunch before heading off to the bike shop. Martin took out the old rear shock and installed the new one. After loading the bike up Robert Taylor pressed on the rear of the bike a couple of times and then adjusted the shock. "It should be OK now" he said so after re-installing the shock he could make a test ride. He instantly felt the difference as it was a hugh one. But was this the optimal setting? Martin drove through some rough terrain without the shock bouncing through so he thought it was OK indeed. The only difference was that the back of the motorbike raised quite a bit which Martin found out because his side stand was too short now and I found out as it was much harder for me to climb on the back of his bike now. Martin however solved his problem by putting a small piece of wood underneath his side stand.
We continued along the coast then cutting through a mountain range to Masterton. Masterton is a very quiet place and it's not really a highlight. We had a coffee break and then decided to stay there overnight. Across the street there was a shabby looking hotel but we nevertheless decided to spend the night there as our bikes could be parked in the hall. It clearly had had its most glorious days (as the whole city had) and it was quite rundown. In the 1950's Queen Elizabeth had stayed in this hotel however. Coming weekend there was a sheep sheering contest in town and the sheerer even came from Australia. We would like to see some sheep sheering but this was too massive for us so we drove the next day to Wellington and this place pleasantly surprised us. It was a nice capital with a nice city center. Finding accommodation was quite hard and certainly expensive here. But we only spent one night here as we had to catch the ferry the next day and we knew we would certainly return here.
Graham told us about another ferry company which was not as big, so we took this company's ferry. It was really pleasant as it was not only cheaper but there were hardly any tourists on board and they had free coffee. The weather was good as well and the waves weren't that big as they were when we crossed the Cook Strait with Mum & Dad. We even saw six dolphins jumping out of the water in front of the boat. Also when we entered the bays of the South Island we saw some Prosper dolphins. It was amazing to see those creatures playing around the boat. It was a real nice welcome to the South Island for us. Less pleased we were when we found out after we arrived in Picton that most of the accommodation was fully booked. So we had to take a B&B room.
We had another emotional difficult moment as we had finally arrived on the South Island but what next? We decided not to plan more than a couple of days ahead and just follow our hearts. So we stayed another day to explore the Marlborough Sounds. We left early the next morning and the mystic clouds were like a curtain around the shore slowly opening up. This was exactly what we needed to recharge our battery again.
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We also decided to go to Titirangi Bay on the end of a peninsula. The road had excellent views and we had a lot of photo stops. But when we drove over a ridge and had a view over Titirangi Bay 600 meters below us we were stunned by the magnificent view. We were speechless with one exception as it was the first time in a long time Martin was cursing as he was so overwhelmed by the view. The road down to the bay was steep and not a good gravel road. I was glad I was on the bike with Martin. He drove everywhere in the world so there was nothing to worry me here. I was even relaxed when it was getting dark while we drove back along the narrow winding road.
The next morning we left Picton and going on the move again as Graham had told us about the Rainbow track, a rough off-road track which wasn't mentioned on our map. When we arrived at the DoC-office in St. Arnoud it was 2 pm. and here they told us that this track was only open for three months a year and this period finished today in three hours at 5 pm.. Martin felt quite disappointed about this, so we had to change our plan. We drove to Murchison to plan out a new route and ended up in a backpackers guesthouse 'The Lazy Cow'. After a couple of days we changed this name into 'The Crazy Cow' as it was such a nice place and a couple of boys were staying here a long time already giving it a relaxed atmosphere. Martin and I could find here some rest to finish the travel reports, always a good feeling once you updated a part of your trip. We met a lot of people from all over the world in a few days time. One of them was Mark and he became a good friend of us. He was on his way to Australia and would love to join us there. We had no problems with that so he could get prepared for it. For him this meant buying a motorbike and equipment and, quite important, get his motorbike driving license!
Staying in backpackers guesthouse not only has it's advantages as some people are very noisy and 'forget' there are other people around who wanted some sleep. One night at 2:30 am. it was enough and Martin confronted them with their behavior in a blunt way. It worked well but it was not until 5 am. before I felt asleep and Martin was already sleeping at that time like a baby for a long time.
The next morning we heard that most of the other guests couldn't sleep either. The Kiwi-guy apologized to Martin at breakfast and was told that it would be more appreciated that he was this thoughtful yesterday night. The German girl was mine as she tried to leave quietly. A good approach to get me angry and so I had a 'lovely chat' with her about her behavior.
The following days were awesome: as the boys mainly were living on pub-food I felt pity and as it doesn't make much difference if you're cooking for two or six I started cooking for them as well occasionally joined by an exhausted cycler arriving in the late afternoon as well. On our last evening here the boys hired a movie and Adam and George were baking a cake. The next morning we had to say goodbye but not before Martin brought Adam on his bike to a doctor. I called Adam my little puppy as he's an adorable person who stole my heart. He called me 'Mum' in return.
After we left we were instantly surrounded by the mountains and were enjoying the scenery while we were working our way to Hokitika on the west coast. Here we planned to meet our friends Ross & Judy during the 'Wild Food Festival'. This annual festival is famous in New Zealand as people from all around the country come to Hokitika just for the festival. The festival is famous for its 'exotic' snacks, mainly things you don't want to eat normally. It takes a lot of courage to eat this and the easiest way to overcome this is to get drunk and this was exactly what most people did. The God Bacchus had nothing to complain about that weekend. It already started Friday night. When we visited Hokitika that night we were stunned to see caravans and tents where put everywhere by drunk and noisy people. Fortunately we were staying 4 kms. outside town.
The next day we should meet each other at the cannon but the city council had moved the cannon to the harbor so it took some time before we met. The food festival couldn't really impress us but we had a good time together with Ross & Judy. We had a good laugh when Judy was eating a 'hot dog' of a bulls penis and judging by her face it wasn't her best hot dog.
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Discover the taste of a bullpenis at the Wild Food Festival
Fortunately not all the snacks were that 'special' so we could taste something as well. We left the festival and we went to a nearby lake where we had a nice walk and Ross told us a lot about the local flora. But finally it was time to say goodbye to friends again.
The following days we were busy again with our travel reports (English this time) and it was a good excuse to stay here longer because we loved the Water Edge Lodge where we were staying. First of all because I had a great friend, Bo the Labrador, and at nights we made a campfire on the beach as there was so much driftwood over there. From the garden of the house we walked straight on the beach. Ray & Colleen joined us there regularly and Ray was a great storyteller so we had a nice time at their place.
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Jeannette with Bo at Hokitika Beach
After the travel report was sent it was time to hit the road again. The weather was really nice but we knew that Autumn was on its way. We wanted to cross the mountain range to the east using the Arthur’s Pass. This made me shiver as I remembered clearly the pictures of the passes Martin had crossed in Pakistan. But without telling him I decided to have a look first to see if it was really that bad. But this was a different pass and not difficult at all as the hardest part was now covered by a bridge. It was really a nice scenery. Ross had told us that you actually had to cross the pass in both directions as they are so different, so we did and we turned around when we arrived in Arthur's Pass (the village). But as we wanted to head east we had to cross the pass again so we went over the pass three times that day. On the pass it was already quite chilly and we had to use our heated handlebars, and it would not be the last time we used it in New Zealand. After a long driving day we arrived in Ashburton were we arrived at Keith & Peggy's place (Bryan’s parents). They were not at home but just when we were discussing what to do next they returned home. We were very nicely welcomed and could spend the night as long as we didn't mind to sleep in the living room, no problem to us at all! We had a great night together as they showed us some old photo albums of Bryan and we had some good laughs with Morien as well. Most fun we had when we saw Bryan & Becca's picture in the living room so we could say 'goodnight' to them.
The next morning we left after breakfast and again it was a cold day on the bikes. This confirmed our view to go to Invercargill as quickly as possible. So the whole day we were driving South passing through Dunedin only. In the evening we had to do our shopping in a small village and while we were packing our groceries away a man named Michael came to us. He invited us to stay at his motor camp and didn't want to get paid for it as the campground wasn't officially open. They were working to turn it into a campground. We could camp on the grass but we would wake up early as workmen were digging through the field to supply water and electricity. We didn't mind it so we had a good night sleep and every one knows that an early bird catches a worm. The morning clouds did not smile to us and when we were back on the bike it was freezing cold.
We had promised a farmer the month before that we would visit him on our way South and so we did. We arrived around 11 am. at the farm of Peter & Helen and before we were able to take of our shoes off Helen took us to show us around over their property. Peter had to do the bookkeeping and he was already late with it. He peeled a couple of extra potatoes and Helen went to the freezer for some extra meat as of course we stayed for lunch. We had a look in the sheep shed and when we came back lunch was ready. Their oldest son was a sheepshearer so Peter quickly found out where he was working that day. So after lunch Helen took us that place. It was an amazing experience to see. I didn't know anything about sheep nor wool but I was updated very quickly. The sheep they were sheering were hogs (between 18 months and 2 years old).
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We took lots of pictures and after the smoko (lunch break) we left quickly as Helen also wanted to show us the milking of their cows. Like Speedy Gonzalez she drove back and we were just in time to see the second batch of cows to be milked. It was a fully automated milking carousel and the only thing which had to be done manually was to place and remove the udder caps. I helped them with that and soon my hands and arms were full of shit, but I had so much fun. We were back at their house around 5 pm. so it was time to leave. It was still cold in the late evening and we decided to camp on the first campground. Fortunately it was just before the 21 km. gravel road through the Catlins. There was a cold wind when we had our diner in front of the tent and as soon as we had finished diner we went inside the tent. That night the wind was blowing around the tent and it started to rain as well. But we knew our tent was storm-proof so we didn't really care.
The next morning it was different as it was still raining. As there's one thing I really hate and that's to pack up a wet tent so after we had breakfast Martin was writing his diary in the communal kitchen as I stayed in bed doing my hair and trying desperately to see the bright sight of life. I must confess that it took me a while to see it that morning. Around 9 am. it was dry so we packed up quickly before it started to rain again; of course we packed in the tent wet. So we could finally leave the campground.
Yesterday I was happy I didn't had to do the gravel road then but this morning I regretted this as to no surprise the gravel road was changed into a muddy and slippery track. The only thing I did was remembering all the instruction my man had told me before: not to use the brakes and not to make sudden steering movements. I can assure everyone that I was quiet like a mouse, pale like a ghost and my bike on automatic pilot: just following Martin who was in front of me. This same road I had driven with the camper but now this was completely different cup of tea. But we were doing well until we saw a sign of road works coming up. But it was impossible that they made things worse so we managed to get through without falling. I was not the only one who was struggling as we passed some push bikers, so I was not the only one who was not happy. I loved to feel the bitumen underneath my tires again. Now it was easy (though cold!) again. So Invercargill, here we come.
The day was already one full of surprises and Invercargill had another surprise for us as we couldn't find a single place to stay because there was a marching championship going on. So we ended up with two options: we could stay with the reverent or with Peter as both had invited us to stay before. We opted for Peter who is having a deer farm. He did not know we were coming. We drove to his place and here we met Jenny his wife who thought I was her daughter as she was on the phone when we entered their house. But nevertheless she gave us the warmest welcome we had in weeks. We were very welcome and she was apologizing for the mess inside as she was making a table cloth for the birthday of a friend the next day. When Peter came in it was the same as with Jenny and it was so good to see him back. Peter left Holland after WW II and he was a Kiwi now as he had lived in New Zealand for 49 years already. We stayed two days with them and they helped us with drying out our stuff and we were helping out with the cooking and we had time to see the deer’s. We loved them and at night we heard the screaming of the stags as the mating season was approaching. It was a good sound to fall asleep with. Peter told us so much of his deer’s and we had so much fun when we came with him to the meadow and the stag was protecting his flock by keeping them away from the fence. There were two deer’s that were so curious and naughty that the stag had difficulties to get them all together. Peter told us that in this time of the year the stag could loose a lot of weight sometimes up to 80 or 100 kilo's in just a few weeks time. In September the stags are loosing their velvet but at a deer farm their velvet will be cut as it is very valuable article because in Asia they use it in medicines. Very healthy! We loved to watch the deer and Peter is a man with a passion for deer’s. He showed us how much trust an animal can give to a human being. Normally the deer’s are easily frightened and therefore Peter always wears the same clothing. They know his smell and he is also taking his time to be with the animals. I fell in love with one deer that overcame his fear and ate out of my hand. Those creatures I remembered from the time when I was riding with my horse in the forest where you could see them from a great distance if you were lucky.
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A beautiful Stag at Peters farm
We loved our stay with Jenny & Peter but the next morning it was time for us to move on. We went to Bluff, New Zealand’s most southern town, and then returned to Invercargill as Jenny was conducting the choir of the Dutch Club. They were mainly from Dutch origin (although not all of them!) and singing songs I had learned when I was young and one song specifically reminded me of those days. We had such a good time with these people. After the rehearsal we said goodbye for the second time to Jenny & Peter. These people gave us so much love and we had an unforgettable time.
The weather was good even it was autumn now. As long as the sun is out it was still nice to drive on the motorbikes. Also we were dressed up warmly and when the rain stayed away it felt good. The landscape was changing now as we approached the Fjord lands. There were more hills and even more sheep. We drove to Lake Manipouri as we already heard some enthusiastic stories about a boat cruise through the Doubtful Sounds as it was here not so touristy (yet) as the Milford Sound and that appealed to us. We booked a day trip on a small boat (18 people max.). We loved Manipouri and its area. We walked along the river and the lake and had a nice day touring through the immediate surrounding. The day we were going to the Doubtful Sounds it was cloudy and foggy around the mountains but as soon as the sun came out, the clouds disappeared and the weather was gorgeous. On the other side of Lake Manipouri there was a Hydro Power plant which we visited. As it was deep underground we had to drive down through a long narrow tunnel. Lake Manipouri is around 350 meters above sea level. So water from the lake is falling down to sea level generating electricity. The water is then flowing into the sea through the Doubtful Sound. Actually there was not much to see inside except for some buzzing generators. There was neither much activity going on as the whole power plant was completely controlled from Twizel, 260 km away! Back on the surface we drove over a 600 meter high pass and descended down to sea level at the Doubtful Sound where we boarded another boat.
We enjoyed the spectacular scenery of sheer cliffs dropping into the sound. You really feel so small here. We loved every minute of it until we reached the open sea. It was quite rough and the boat was rocking a lot and I didn't like this at all. The sea was too rough for us to visit some sea lions on a outlaying island so Mark, our Captain, decided to turn around and I fully agreed with his decision although I love sea lions. During tea break there were three dolphins playing around the boat and we all were very excited to see them. We had plenty of time to get pictures of them although timing is a difficult issue especially when you're using a slow focusing digital camera. Most of the time the dolphins were submerged already on the picture. After the tea break our Captain tried to let the dolphins play with the waves of the boat and they liked it. Martin and I had a good look at the dolphins jumping out of the water. It was an astonishing thing to see. A perfect opportunity for some excellent pictures. But exactly now our memory card of the camera was full and by the time we had it replaced the dolphins were tired and had disappeared. Fortunately Howard did have some nice pictures which he emailed to us later so we still had a nice picture of jumping dolphins. Needless to say we had an excellent though demanding day.
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Dolphins in Doubtful Sound
Our original plan was to drive to the Milford Sound the next day. Not because we expected to have a better scenery over there but the drive to this sound supposed to be nice. But one email changed our plan as our friends Poul & Pia were on their way to Queenstown. Traveling is constantly changing your plans so we drove to Queenstown as well. Again we had a hard time in finding accommodation. But finally we ended up with a room with spare bed, so we could stay together in one room as we had so much to tell to each other. We expected Poul & Pia the next day but they we longing to see us back as well so they arrived the same evening. It was so good to see them back! We hadn't seen them since Bangkok and indeed we had a lot to talk about. They decided to stay a whole day although they had only two weeks to visit New Zealand as their car was being shipped from Australia to Peru. The next morning we made a boat trip on lake Wakatipu with a steamboat so we had some more time to chat. In the afternoon we went into Skipper Canyon. A narrow and winding gravel road and I have to admit that I was happy to sit on the back of Martin's motorbike. Poul & Pia were following in their rental car. It was a breath taking canyon and very, very impressive to me. It reminded the others a lot of the roads in northern Pakistan and we were very happy that we could share this splendid part of New Zealand with some dear friends.
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Action in Skippers Canyon
The nature was overwhelming to me and the gravel road was a real party for Martin. Next to the road there were sheer drops down to the small river deep down below! We loved it so much and we had a wonderful afternoon. Poul & Pia cooked for us that night and we had a wonderful last night together as they left the next morning. Saying goodbye to them was hard especially because we didn't know when we would see each other again.
There was no need for us to stay in Queenstown any longer so we drove that day to Milford Sound and we had to drive through the Homer Tunnel. A German motor biker we met before had told us some horror stories about this narrow tunnel and indeed the approaching buses were claiming more than their share of the road but on motorbikes it was no problem to pass them. I only had to stay close behind Martin. Coming out of the tunnel we entered into another world. We were surrounded by high mountain ranges and I felt soooo small and lost. We expected that Milford Sound was a tiny village but it was not much more than two guesthouses and a jetty. We only could sleep in a dormitory as it was raining (so tenting was no option) and there were sand flies everywhere. We slept in bunk beds and I couldn't sleep at all until Martin had to go for his midnight pee and I got into his bed as well, falling asleep in his arms.
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The next morning it was still drizzling and we left Milford Sound after a brief look at the waterfront. Here we looked into the sound but couldn't see a better scenery than in Doubtful Sound. We went through the tunnel again but this time before all the buses arrived so even with the roadworks in the tunnel it was not a problem. Once through the tunnel we felt relieved and could start enjoying the scenery again.
After a coffee stop in Te Anau we continued to Lumsden were we knew a nice lunch house but we found it closed. Peter, the dairy farmer had given us a nice scenic route through some small back roads to Roxburgh so it was time to get it out and follow his route. It really was a nice route and we enjoyed it very much! In Roxburgh we ended up in an old hotel building which was converted into a backpackers place (not the best choice). The problem here was that most of the guests were working in the orchards and had to get up really early in the morning. To make things worse: the kitchen was only two meters away from our room so we were awake early as well. The kitchen seem to be the ideal meeting place and not only in the morning but late at night as well. So moved to another place, just outside town and really enjoyed the silence over there and for two more nights we slept like babies. They had horses and more animals around than you can count for on your ten fingers.
Ross & Judy had showed us in Hokitika some pictures from this area and we liked it. We were in for some adventure and we wanted to make a little loop. Coincidently the name of the road was Loop Road as well. We felt like driving through a lunar landscape on the track towards Lake Onslow. We loved the remoteness. Again I was sitting on the back of Martin's bike and I was taking the pictures. I had a good laugh when Martin went through a small creek crossing.
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Martin was getting a wet suit
He liked it and decided to return for a second time so I could take a nice picture. As he drove through faster this time the water was flowing over his windscreen, good for an impressive picture but the camera was too slow and the picture only showed the back of his bike leaving the creek. I didn't dare to ask him to go through it a third time and I could not stop laughing when he was standing next me soaking wet and dripping everywhere. But the sun was out so it would dry soon enough. But even on these roads we met campervans. Are there no roads in the country where you don't find these vehicles? To continue our loop we passed a gate with a sign "4WD only". Here we didn't meet a campervan, but the track was not as difficult as Martin had expected.
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Loop road to Lake Onskow
The Poolburn reservoir was set in a nice scenery and later we found out is was used as a set for the 'Lord of the Rings' movies. Another highlight was that just before the reservoir Martin passed the 100.000 km marker on this trip; and we only made it half way around the globe! In Alexandra we got back on the bitumen road again and had here a nice coffee before heading back to Roxburgh.
On our way back to Roxburgh we saw a very little house that Judy & Ross had showed us a picture of. As it was on a road to a mountaintop, Obelisk Mountain, which we wanted to drive to, we returned here the next morning. The track went steep up hill and again I was very happy to sit on the back as we went up partly in first gear. On our way up we had to stop to open and close gates which was my job to do. Climbing back on the bike wasn't easy on these slopes (over 20%!) so one time I was leaning back too much so I fell together with Martin and his bike. No damage but I couldn't stop laughing! When we reached the top of the ridge at 1695 meters we drove through some huge boulders towards a telecom tower where we were surprised to see people working. They just had finished working before the winter set in and were packing up. One guy told us we could drive back to Roxburgh along the ridge, a four hour rough drive in a 4WD. We gave it a try and finally met some tough tracks which were equal to the Himalayan ones Martin had encountered over there. We took it easy and I have to admit it was quite scary in times. 11 kms. down the track the clutch cable suddenly snapped.
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Mount Obelisk at 1695 m when the clutch cable broke
We were absolutely in the middle of nowhere on 1700 meters, but we could use our cell phone to call the AA because of the telecom tower! Needless to do as they probably would never come up the ridge. Fortunately Martin had a spare cable with him so replacing the cable was easy. We considered our options: the track to Roxburgh was not on our map; we had no water and food with us; we had only for another 100 kms. fuel in the tank; there were more clouds appearing in the sky and we had at least another 3½ hours to go. So it was not a difficult decision to turn around and drive down the same way we came up. But we had another marvelous day. Later we found out that we were already on the wrong track and heading towards the Nevis River, considered as one of the most difficult tracks in the country!!! So we made the right decision.
We had to move on and as I wanted to see Arrowtown, close to Queenstown. The road towards Arrowtown was stunning and running through some narrow and deep valleys, the Kawarau Gorge. We briefly stopped at a bridge where people were jumping from on a bungee cord. We decided this was nothing for us, as we had enough challenges already and so we drove on. Arrowtown turned out to be a very touristy place. Not exactly our cup of tea but good enough for a cup of coffee. But this changed when they asked more than double the ordinary price. Martin wanted to justify this high price by using their toilet and then pee next to the pot but they didn't even had a toilet! We quickly left Arrowtown and were climbing up the hill soon, using hairpins, to cross the Crown Range. According to the map this had to be gravel hairpins but fortunately it was all sealed. We drove through a valley towards Wanaka through another stunning scenery. In Wanaka we took a little detour to Glendhu Bay and this was a nice ride but I needed a real good coffee so we returned to Wanaka. After two good cup of coffees we were ready for the next leg, another 120 kms. to Omarama. This stretch we had driven by camper as well so we knew how remote this stretch would be. But again we liked this part as well. Yes, I know it sounds boring but we really loved the South Island of New Zealand.
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Everywhere are many dead Possums on the road
When we arrived in Omarama the weather didn't look great and so I was not in a mood for sleeping in a tent with a dark wet sky above me. We were looking for some accommodation couldn't find a proper one so we decided to continue to Twizel although we had no idea how the accommodation was over there. So we called Brede, a cyclist we met in Kahoe (North Island), who had given us her phone number as we had to call her when we were around. We were lucky to get her on the phone because as a mountaineering guide she just returned from a week in the mountains around Mount Cook. When she heard we were on our way to Twizel she insisted at sleeping at her place as long as we brought our own food as she had nothing in the fridge yet. We had a warm welcome when we arrived at her place and had a nice evening together. She didn't let us use our sleeping bags, she knew how life on the road is and also a bed to sleep in with nice sheets. The bed was a cozy one in which we were rolling towards each other so at least we could warm each other.
My feelings about the weather turned out to be right as the next morning and it was raining cats and dogs, but as the nature needed some water desperately we did not complain. The sky was grey and black but we were dry inside. An excellent day to read a book at the fire place, but instead we decided to put Brede her new computer desk together and had a relaxing day as it kept on raining the whole day. The next morning it was dry so we got out into the garden to do some work together. Brede wanted to chop some trees in her garden and Martin had the honor to test Bredes new chainsaw and was cutting down some trees (after consulting Brede of course). Brede and I cut of the branches and brought the trees together on a pile. There was a little bird not agreeing with all the tree chopping and was yelling to Martin to stop. It even came with us to the house when we stopped to tell us what she thought about it. Exhausted we were sitting down inside and then we felt the hard physical labor we had done and for a couple of days we felt our muscles hurting.
As the weather seemed to improve that afternoon we decided to go to Mount Cook village to enjoy the views at the mountain Mount Cook. Brede had no motor clothing so she used her mountaineering outfit: a windproof fleece, snow gloves completed with her blue climbing helmet with no. 51 written on it. So as a real Biker Babe she sat on the back of Martins bike. It was cold when we drove up to Mount Cook.
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Brede introducing the new Bike outfit
When we arrived we couldn't see the mountain at all. Only some brief gaps in the clouds gave us some peek views on the mountain. When it started to rain our world was even getting smaller. But we had a lovely time with Eileen, a friend of Brede, we met that afternoon. After several cups of coffee we decided to drive back to Twizel. Brede took a cup of coffee with her on the bike as we had our heated handgrips. On our way back suddenly the no. 51 helmet of our biker babe was blowing through the air. I had to get the helmet as Martin had no idea what had happened as Brede only asked him to stop. Behind us there was a bus and I bet that the tourists in that bus had the movie of their life and guess what? Martin and Brede were starring in that movie!
The next morning we decided to leave Twizel. It still was cold and rainy and we didn't want to wait for better weather as it was already autumn and King Winter was coming soon. We left warmly dressed and with heated handlebars at full power.
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Jeannette enjoying the snowy mountains... but not the freezing cold
We were heading for Chirstchurch but the rain made us really cold in no-time, so in every village we were looking for a place we could get some coffee but we were not too fortunate. Around noon we arrived in Geraldine we decided it was enough for the day and found a place to stay. This was one of those days we were not happy to drive on motorbikes, but hey, it was a long time ago we had a day as bad as this. The next day the weather wasn't much better but Christchurch was only 58 kms. away. But as our gear still wasn't dry it and 58 kms. can make you feel really cold. That morning we passed Mount Hutt, a ski resort and 400 meters above us there was already snow on the mountains. It was 6ºC, not a comfortable temperature on the bike and even the heated handlebars couldn't keep us warm. So we were happy to finally arrive in Christchurch. Here we had some relaxing days which we desperately needed. We liked Christchurch a lot, it was a small but interesting city. On our first day we met Cliff & Jenny Batley, UK overlanders, who had followed basically the same route as we had, and we discovered the city centre together the next day.
Martin his speedometer was telling us it was time for another mayor service so we went to the BMW dealer so they could give Rosie a gentile touch. Mark was a very good mechanic and after he had serviced Martins bike we brought in my bike. It hadn't done 10.000 kms. yet but we were not feeling happy about its clutch. Martin had tried to adjust the clutch several times already but there was not much he could do about it. So now it was time to get the professionals in. Especially during a cold start my bike was behaving like a mad bull. It turned out that they had used the 'wrong' type of engine oil in Auckland (BMW dealer!!!). It wasn't really the 'wrong' oil but it was too thick for the clutch, but as always with big men’s toys: Everybody has its own opinion (except the BMW factory apparently as it's not mentioned in the manual). And the bike was running much better with the new oil Mark had put in. He also replaced the steering head bearing and told me I could feel the difference instantly. I did indeed but didn't trust this for a long time. But after Martin had assured me after a test ride that everything was completely fine I felt safe again.
Christchurch was nice but we were more impressed by the Banks Peninsula. Sitting on the back of Martins bike we explored most of the tracks on the peninsula. You could drive over a ridge and see Christchurch on one side and the harbor town Lyttelton on the other side. We were following the off-road tracks along the peninsula and had a fabulous time.
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Sometimes it felt like we were the only persons on the peninsula... together with a lot of sheep. We had to wait till a lot of sheep were moved to another meadow.
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On the Banks Peninsula
A little further we passed a big truck who had just dumped its load on the track covering it with a new layer of gravel. Loose stuff, so we were slipping and sliding steeply uphill. But we managed to stay upright. Some of the tracks were hardly used and those were the nicest ones as eagles flew up out of the long grass only 2 meters from us. It had the remoteness of Pakistan and the only difference was the ocean. It was narrow, close along the edge and I can assure you it was steep.
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Near Pigeon Bay
We were driving to Akaroa, which supposed to be a town with French influences, but we couldn't find anything French except for some street names. A tourist trap, so we left after a quick lunch, back to the remote tracks of the peninsula where we had another adventure. While driving uphill I felt that there was something different with the bike. I started to worry, so I told Martin. He also had noticed it but couldn't trace it directly. When we were just in a bench we felt the bike slipping away. Martin lifted the bike back upright immediately and we were rescued from, what I called, a horror movie although we were ending up at the wrong side of the road and so we were lucky there was no other traffic. We checked the bike for a punctured rear tire or a broken frame but we couldn't find anything. The bike just was serviced as well. We got back on the bike and it felt still not right. After a few meters Martin instantly knew it. He checked the front tire and it was flat indeed. It was the very first time he had a flat front tire after 10 punctures in the rear tire. Luckily we put the panniers back on that morning as they were removed for the service. The day before we were also out for a ride in the middle of nowhere without panniers. I think I believe in Angels! The puncture was repaired in no time but after that it took quite a few kilometers to get our confidence back in the bike. That night we opened a bottle of wine. Not only to celebrate the survival of the puncture but also to have a last farewell to Christchurch, a city we really liked and probably one of the nicest places of the South Island.
The next day we left Christchurch and the weather was nice. We left early in the morning and we had a coffee with Nigel Marks. It was nice to meet him finally as we had heard so many good stories about him and Kitty. We felt sorry we could not spend more time with them but we had to move on. We took the inland route to Kaikoura and the Indian Summer was so beautiful here, the green colors of the pine trees and the beautiful red Beech trees were gorgeous. In between there were the Deciduas trees with their yellow leaves. Martin was driving in front of me and he was so small in the overall view. It felt like being in a magazine, which was telling a story with pictures that looked to good to be true. Beautiful pictures so you wished you were there as well. Now, we were driving in that kind of scenery!
That same day Martin showed me how to be drive over a road which is completely dotted with sheep over a long stretch. There were hundreds of sheep on the road. I felt sorry for them as they were so nervous. We switched off the engines to take some pictures until we found out that they had escaped from the meadow so we continued slowly. Poor animals! We drove through them slowly but steadily. That day was like being in The Arc of Noah. We arrived in Kaikoura and went to the coast to see the ocean and here we finally saw a single penguin... at last. There was also a seal turning herself around like a burger. We could come really close and had a good look at her. But she also was following us with her beautiful brown eyes.
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Seal at Kaikoura Beach
We came to Kaikoura to go out for whale watching. But the weather was really lousy and the predictions for the next day were not much better. So we stayed the night and woke up the next morning with the rain ticking on our roof. So it was an easy decision to leave Kaikoura and leave the South Island.
When the rain stopped around noon we left Kaikoura and drove straight to Picton where we took the afternoon ferry which left Picton at 5:45 pm.. The sea was quite rough, even on a big ferry. My goodness, I, the daughter of a sailor, was seasick again and so my legs were no sea legs. I noticed this when the ferry came in the Cook Strait. The only place I felt safe was in Martins big arms. No boat trips for me anymore! We arrived around 10 pm. in Wellington and drove to James' place as he was expecting us. It was so nice to be welcomed so warmly when we were tired and to be offered a nice bed. We tried to be social that night but we were too tired so we head for bed soon.
We stayed a few days with James & Janine. We explored downtown Wellington, went to the exposition of “Lord of the Rings” in the Te Papa museum. It’s a very beautiful museum and worth visiting. James & Janine showed us the local nightlife as well but the taxi driver we had on our way back was an absolute reckless driver. On Sunday morning we joined James & Janine for a BMW owners ride. With six bikes we had a short tour around Wellington and we had a lovely time with the people up there. I saw my favorite bike the R1200C bike. I instantly fell in love again with that bike. The F650 was in the majority though I was again sitting on the back of Martins R1100GS. After having lunch together we went to a viewpoint so we could overlook the whole city and the harbor before we drove back home and had a lazy afternoon together with the four of us.
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A tour ride with the BMW club around Wellington
The next day we had to move on further north as the weather was getting colder, so we got on the move again chasing the sun. Early in the morning the weather was chilly but when the sun got out it was getting more comfortable. Along back roads we rode to Napier, a nice city which reminded us a lot of the French Mediterranean, with its atmosphere and palm trees along the boulevard. So we decided for an extra night but then we moved on again as Auckland was waiting for us.
It rained cats and dogs the next morning but according to the weather forecast this was only for the coastal area. So we drove along the coast to Wairoa... through the rain. After a cup of coffee we headed inland towards Rotorua as Graham had told us this was a nice scenic road, though a gravel one and only 105 kms.. Indeed the road was nice but no good times without some hard times. The road was passing a big lake but we didn't see the lake at all as it was quite foggy and still raining. Also when we got to the gravel road. Nobody had warned us for the 'road constructions'. It was getting the road to hell and Chris Rea could be with me on the bike to sing it for us. I always learn things the hard way and also that day, on the 16th of April, I will never forget. The road was covered with brown water and had changed the road into a muddy, slippery 'ice skating' arena. That day I was screaming on my bike, the first time in my life and I could not help it. It was so scary and I knew I had to keep the throttle open. I could not believe my eyes. I saw Martin struggling in front of me and later he told me he was continuously checking his mirrors to see when I was falling... but I didn't. All we saw of the 'road constructions' was a sign at the end saying 'Thank you'.
We thought we now had the worst part but further down the road they had put a new layer of gravel over the road. We were one of the first ones to pass it so there was no track we could use. We struggled enormously and in a bend Martin was slipping away but blessed with his long legs he managed to stay upright... I was chasing the dust and when my rear wheel was slipping away as well I fell. The lock of a pannier broke and I was stuck under the bike not able to get up. Martin was there to help me and he fixed the broken pannier back on the bike with a straps Ed had given me before I started to travel. I was so happy with it and we continued... struggling. The soft layer made us driving on the wrong side of the road as it was marginally better here. A van came around the corner and was passing us on the wrong side. Once we managed to overtake the grader we could use the surface of the old road which was much better. And it still was raining although we were far away from the coast already. Needless to say we were very relieved to get back on the asphalt again. It was unforgettable day and I crossed that day some mental borders.
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After "The Road to Hell
But back on the asphalt didn't mean it was easy as Martin found out. When he stopped along the road to turn the map his wheel slipped away and he fell that day as well. Now it was my turn to help him. The day had made us very dirty and we fell like pigs, we were tired and our whole body was sore. But we had arrived in Rotorua so we checked in in a hotel with a thermal pool, and a hot bath was just what our bodies needed. The next morning our stuff was still not dry but we didn't really care as the last part back to Auckland was an easy one now. We were really happy to arrive back at Grahams place. Not only because we had finished our 6 months trip through New Zealand but also because it felt like we were getting back 'home'. We loved to be staying with Graham again.
Now we could prepare ourselves and the stuff for the shipping to Australia. Each of us had his own job: I was taking care of all the luggage and Martin took care of the bikes. I soaked our motor suits for two days in the bath tub and sorted out all of our gear and separated what we didn't need anymore. Together with some souvenirs I bought we sent home a parcel of 17 kgs. I cleaned out everything to avoid any problems with the Australian Quarantine people. Martin was busy cleaning the bikes very thoroughly as they were really dirty. He even stripped the bikes partly so even under the seat they were spotless. The only problem we had was that Martins bike didn't ran afterwards anymore. Exactly the same problem we had experienced in Bali when we last cleaned the bikes. So he dried out all the electronics but to no avail. The starter motor was running but the spark plugs weren't firing. A computer problem, but why. As it was a Sunday Martin couldn't call the dealer for help so he surfed on the internet to find out how to read out the computer faults using only a multimeter. The multimeter said that both Hall sensors were defective. This made sense but there was nothing Martin could do about it so on Monday morning he called the BMW-dealer to pick up his bike.
They spent a whole day testing the bike and found out that... the Hall sensors were defective!!! No problem except there was none on stock in the country. As our bikes were about to fly at the end of the week they installed some used Hall-sensors which were taken out of a showroom model against a discounted price. But we had the bike back in time and running and that was the most important thing to us. We also put new set of tires on both bikes so we were ready for Australia.
To relax a bit Graham took us out for a ride. We first visited his parents and we had an nice breakfast in their garden. Then across small roads we were driving up to a peninsula at Tawharanui. In this park we had a nice walk around and enjoyed the nice coastal views towards the Coromandel Peninsula. When we left this park around sunset we saw a long cloud, I never had seen a cloud that long before and it was getting a really nice pinky color. Now I understand what the meaning is of the Maori name for New Zealand, Aotearoa: 'Land of the long white cloud'.
We decided to fly ourselves and the bikes to Brisbane and we got a cheap cargo rate of 2.05 NZD/kg. We didn't have to crate the bikes. We used the same agents as when we arrived. Joop Hageman, the warehouse manager, had kept our crates but for nothing, he could use it in his fireplace now. Stamping out the carnets was a problem as I hadn't signed my carnet yet but that problem was quickly solved. So we strapped the bikes on a pallet, removed the battery leads and the 'Dangerous Goods' sticker was put on the bikes.
The next day we were following our motorbikes and Graham brought us to the airport. Brian, Becca and Emma were there as well and after a last goodbye we left New Zealand and all our dear ones behind and boarded the plane to Brisbane. We had an absolute great time in a stunning country
Posted by Jeannette Boom at May 03, 2003 03:07 AM GMT