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Rob en Dafne de Jong

Ride-on New Zealand

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Date: 12 September 2000

Hey there, New Zealand was great.

We enjoyed every bit of it and the people we have to thank for their hospitality, friendship and support are just too many to mention. It started right at the airport, where Pat of the Top of the Hill homestay decided to come to and collect us. The next day two lovely solo motorcycles, both of them Yamaha's (XT600 and XJ600) were waiting for us at New Zealand Motorcycle Rentals and we had wheels again.

And how we had missed riding solo. The Kiwi roads, winding and twisty, are just what we needed to completely have that wonderful feeling of being out on a holiday. Before we packed up though we visited two schools with our project "The World on a Children's Drawing" and got a lesson ourselves too from the children, who told us all about New Zealand wildlife, about the volcano's and the geysers as well as about 'New Zealand Earthquake land'.

We headed off to Rotorua on a nice sunny day, to see the geysers and mudpools as well as the old bathhouse that is turned into a museum. Even though it was June/July we had very nice sunny and warm weather, but off course got our bit of rain as well. Unfortunately about every time we were hitting a nice piece of dirt road it started to rain (must have been damned Murphy again) and we ended up slipping and sliding and get muddy all over. But still, the road over the mountains to Mt Egmont was great. Ended up in a herd of sheep that made the dirt even dirtier and asked for a tentspace at a house where we were invited to camp inside a carpentry where the fireplace did some good work that night. Other nights we pitched our tent down in the wool shed of a sheep farmer or slept at the sheerers quarters as it was not the sheering season.

Many times Rob would find himself cutting wood for fireplaces in the afternoons, for which an axe would be brought and we would have long cozy evenings while the wind was blowing and the rain was falling outside. Next morning a careful sun would appear and slowly start drying up the wet lands.

We drove around almost all of both the islands. Started getting cold weather when leaving Christchurch for Mount Cook and Wanaka. We camped out specially to try out our new Fairy Down sleeping bags. The water in our jerrycan was frozen and our tent, bikes and everything was white the next morning. We had (and still do have) one problem with our new sleeping bags though. We have a hard time getting up every morning.

On the road to Wanaka it really was cold and misty and we had to wipe our visors about every two seconds to keep it from freezing up. The XJ had problems with the cold as two cylinders wanted to stop running all the time due to the freezing air that cooled it down too much. It all added to the fun of riding out in the cold as well as to the fun warming up in a small restaurant, where everybody agreed that we should sit in front of the fireplace.

In Wanaka we met Jim Faulks, who runs Criffel Peak Safari's. Meaning: A lovely day out on quads bikes, riding to the top of the Criffel and enjoying the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the lake far below.

Then we continued going to Queenstown, Invercargill and Bluff, which is supposed to be the most southern point of the 'mainland'. A Maori-legend tells that the north island once was fished out of the sea by a Maori boy. The south island represents the boat the boy was fishing from and the northern island the fish. This is why the south island is also referred to as the mainland.

We had an unforgettable drive over the Haast-pass and along the West-coast of the south island.

The sun was shining al day long and the coast is spectacular. We stopped to see the Fox glacier and thought about driving some small mountain tracks. If only we had had more time. Going east again over the Lewis pass was great as well. We found the hot spring that we had seen on a hikers map and pitched our tent down nearby. That night (temperature was two Celsius below zero) we laid ourselves into the steaming water of the pool and got totally relaxed, while the full moon was shining above us and the stars were making their own show. The river not far from the pool offered us a nice icy cold drink from time to time and all was perfect.

On the North island in North Palmerston we visited the Rugby Museum and after that travelled on to Napier, which is called the Art Deco capital. In 1932 Napier was destroyed by an earthquake. The survivors started right away rebuilding the city, which was completed within 2 years. Yes, and all of it in that periods fashionable style. Art Deco has a lot of decorative lines and curves and the colours used are nice and soft. Here and there influences of different styles, such as Art Nouveau and Spanish School are present.

In the North of the North Island (Omapere) we stayed two days with Gaye and Alan, who used to be tuna and crayfish fishermen. The stories that they can tell about their fisheries could have come straight from a bestseller. The entry of the inlet is called 'the bar' and as soon as the wind starts blowing the bar turns into one angry destructive hell. Gaye told us that the only way to enter the inlet is to 'surf a big wave, that takes you in'. And they were in a powerboat. If they chose the wrong wave the next wave could break right on top of them and down they would go. "We would have to turn around an go in the tunnel of the wave," Gaye told us and they would jump out at the end of the tunnel.

We could not get enough of their stories and as Gaye is a Maori woman, we learned a lot about the Maori way of living as well.


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de Jong's Home

Travel Stories, English:

January 2002,
Ride on 2002...
October 2001,
Ride on Home
July 2001,
Russia and
April 2001,
Jan 2001,
Dec 2000,
Oct 2000, L.A
to Fresno via
Sep 2000,
New Zealand
July 2000,
Australia part 2
April 2000 India
and Australia,
part 1
Dec 1999,
to Kathmandu
Nov 1999,
Shoeshine boy
of Gondar

Sept 1999,
Uganda to
May 1999,
Zimbabwe to
Dec 1998,
South Africa
and Namibia
Sept 1998,
Swaziland &

June 1998,
S. Africa 1
April 1998,
W.Africa 2
March 1998,
W. Africa 1

Travel Stories, In het Nederlands:

July 2001,
Rusland en
April 2001,
Jan 2001,

Top of Page

New Zealand may be the only country in the world that has a beach mapped to be an official highway. Passage is only possible at low tide and every tidecycle, the sea washes out the marks that were left behind. The beach is called the 90 mile beach, but in fact is not much longer that 90 kilometres. To ride the firm beach is great, but the way to get there is really spectacular.

I'm talking about the most northerly entry near Cape Reinga, where a river runs into the sea which is used as a passage (about 1 km) through the dunes. The river is about 30 cm deep and has a moderate current.

Rob took the XJ down the water, that is about 20 to 40 cm deep and has a moderate current. I'd never been on a solo bike in so much water before and just started the XT and went in. Water was everywhere, as off course I'd gone in too fast in the knowledge that I did not want my engine to stop running.

Off course we had to try out the maximum speed of our bikes on the beach. 165 km/h was about it.

Every time we hit a spot green algae (is that the right word?) our rear wheels started spinning, as you don't have any grip there. Coming off the beach our bikes looked just horrible. The engine was green of the algae and we hurried up to get to the steamcleaner. Taken off the tank and the buddyseats and wash, wash, wash.

The kids in the school had told us already about the volcanoes on the island, about the geysers and the mudpools that say 'blob'. In the area around Auckland only already 50 volcanoes, dead and alive ones exist. We joined Murray of Geotours NZ one morning, who taught us how to recognize different kinds of lava rocks and we learned that there are many different kinds of volcanic eruptions.

Another thing we really enjoyed, was to make a piece of art a la Maori, from nothing more that a cow-bone (mooohhh). Rob made a silver fern, which is the symbol of New Zealand and I made a fish hook form, which is a typical Maori symbol for good fortune and prosperity. According to Ian, owner of the Bone Studio in Whitianga on the Corremendel peninsula, this is the only place in New Zealand where you can make your own necklace and true or not, we had a great time.

All around the world New Zealanders are known for their crazy things, like jumping of bridges with a bungee cord on their feet. "Yes, we have to go bungee jumping," Rob had had the idea when we were still preparing our tour back in 1992. In Christchurch we tried out the bungee-rocket. You sit and are strapped down in a cage and are kind of shot into the sky with a speed from 0 to 160 km/h within 3 secs (G5-force).

At this speed your face starts looking funny and you think hooooooooo... sh..., this goes tooooo faaaaasssttt.

We were also invited by 'Fly-a-wire'. In this you are flat on your stomach in a small rocket-like fly-thing, to which you are strapped. Behind your feet you've got a 600 cc boxer engine that you can control with a lever. First you are winched up and than backwards till you hang upside down (hoooooo---scaaarrryy). You cut yourself loose from the wire pulling you back and you whizz down reaching 140 km/h within 3 secs. After that you have 7 minutes to fly around, powered by the engine. It was superb. 7 minutes is quite long and you really get the hang of it, trying to make tight corners and reach higher speeds. Crazy they are, the New Zealanders, absolutely totally crazy, the way we like them.

In Auckland we had to check out one more thing before leaving these precious islands. There's Buckly Systems ltd, father and son Buckly and a team of designers, engineers and mechanics, that in the past ca. 2 years have developed and built a 3 cylinder GP racer. We join the team on a testing day out on the racetrack where a new step forward is made. The team is going to try real hard to make it's (re)entry during the GP of Valencia and for sure be there when it all happens at Phillip Island (Oz). It will not be the first time, but hopefully this time it's for real.

Our sidecar arrived two days later after we set foot on American soil in Los Angeles. To get it out of the port was really just a piece of cake. Not checks, no questions, just a few forms and we were ready to roll again. We shipped our bike RORO from Sydney Australia with Wilhelmsen Wallenius and all went well, although their service in Australia could have been better and they should have given us at least a discount. Air New Zealand made up for all of that though, being so generous to fly us from Sydney to Auckland and from Auckland to Los Angeles for just 25% of the price. Thanx guys!

We received a lot of mail lately (many thanx), which we enjoy reading very much. We tried to mail everyone back, but it could be that we forgot some of you. Our apologies!

Next newsletter will tell you all about our travels through bear country, in which many times the humans are more dangerous.

A greeting and a smile!

Rob en Dafne
Ride-on World tour

Story and photos copyright © Rob and Dafne de Jong 1998-2002.
All Rights Reserved.


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