Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

March 3, 2001

M/C Paradise on the South Island 

-- Story by Erin --

Friday, 15 February 2001 we left Steve and Alison’s place in Hamilton and start to head southward. We needed to catch the ferry in Wellington to get to the South Island the next day. It was late in the afternoon when we left and the roads were quiet and had long sweeping curves.  The sun setting slowly made all of the colors seem so vibrant. Nearing our overnight destination Ohakune, about 30 kilometers out of town we sight a huge snow-capped mountain. This mountain is actually a volcano, Mt. Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park. After spending a restful night in a cabin at the caravan park we hit the road for Wellington on Saturday. When we arrived at the ferry terminal in Wellington we were met by Nick Palmer, the American motorcyclist we first met in Broome, Australia about 2 months earlier. Nick was there with his R80GS; he had just done several weeks of traveling in the South Island and arrived in the North the previous day. We had to say a quick goodbye and planned to meet again in a few weeks later in the south, as the ferry staff hurried us along.  You can also see Nick's story

On board the ferry we met up with our "Sydney-sider" friends Tony and Sally. They had flown into Auckland the day before and rented a Honda VFR. The ferry ride was surprisingly short, only about 2 hours on the fast-ferry, and calm. As we neared the entrance to the sound of the South Island there was a sudden commotion on the boat. Turns out there were whales at play not too far off the port side and all of the people (including ourselves) on the starboard side rushed over to see what the hub-ub was all about. I just caught sight of one of the whale’s fins. When we disembarked the ferry we made arrangements to catch up again with Tony, Sally and their friends Tom and Flip sometime in the next day or two. The last ones to leave the port, we drove in a northwesterly direction, to meet Ross Williams, in Nelson. Ross is a friend of Steve Bell. A fanatic for great roads, Steve gave us the scenic directions to meet Ross. Poor Ross must have been waiting for us at the meeting point for an hour longer than he expected!

On Sunday, 18 Feb Ross helped us with the bikes while Gretchen made delicious sausages with homemade plum sauce for dipping. Ross owned the BMW dealership in Nelson in a former life.  Previous to that, he was a police officer and now is a consultant to the Police force.  In the afternoon, Ross, Gretchen, and their friend Russell gave us a motorcycle escort out of town. It was a great ride from Nelson to Westport through the upper and lower Buller gorges.

Next day we enjoyed a sunny, scenic drive down the West Coast. Along the way we saw a seal colony just outside of Westport at Cape Foulwind, the pancake rocks and blowhole about half way to Franz Joseph Glacier/town where we spent the night. We managed to meet up with Tony, Sally, Tom and Filipa and had a big, delicious dinner that night. While we set off in the black and chill of night to our tent at the caravan park, Tony and gang had a short walk back to their guesthouse. We did have a nice view of the glacier though!

Top: View of Glacier in background

Right:  Erin resting by the glacier river

Feeling energetic on Tuesday, we walked up to beginning of glacier, about 1.5 hr. walk return. Then we got on the bikes and had another great drive further south through mountain gorges and along the coast. We stopped for a delicious lunch of fish and chips at a seaside takeaway trailer/diner in Bruce Bay (just north of Haast). Met up with Tony at scenic outlook and drove together to the town of Haast, the Gates of Haast, start of Haast Hwy and through the Haast Pass. Plan to do that ride again and (free) camp along the way. That night we spent in the lovely little town of Wanaka. Lovely resort town on the lake. Enjoyed wine and cheese and watching the sun set over the mountains.

Road into Wanaka

Spent the next day relaxing, soaking up the mountain air and atmosphere. Had a picnic lunch down by the lake, watching the water sports and paragliders. Went to Puzzleland: a place with all kinds of puzzles, holograms, and even a human maze – very cool!

22 February left Wanaka for Dunedin. Chris meant to do a paraglide, but due to high winds, they were not running until later in the day. It will be something saved for when we return. We took the mountain pass to Cardrona through the scenic mountains -- Very beautiful. Came out other side near Queenstown. Spectacular views from the top looking down on Q-town. Then took rode in direction of Dunedin. Stopped at Kawarau Bridge (AJ Hackett) to watch bungee jumping. Now Chris wants to do all three jumps: Kawarau - 43m from bridge; Ledge - 47m from cliff face above city; and Nevis – 134m from pod suspended on a wire between two cliffs. Stopped at nice little Peter Mitchellfruit stand outside Cromwell and got nectarines and plums. In Dunedin we stayed at Castlewood B&B, a lovely restored Victorian house owned by Peter and Donna Mitchell. Very nice fplks and fellow motorbikers. Peter compiled an excellent book on touring New Zealand’s roads called Great Escapes -- Routes/Rides are rated by number of Smiles   :-)   It’s just come out so look for it soon on and Whitehorse Press. Highly recommend it.

Friday, 23 February, was Super 12 Rugby (union) day. Chris told Peter before we arrived that he wanted to see a match. Not a day later Peter wrote an email back to us that he bought tickets for a match (the Otago Highlanders vs. the Auckland Blues). The home team won, thankfully, and we enjoyed a great evening with Peter, Donna and all of the local fans and scarfies (the local crazy students who paint their faces, drink loads of beer, and are situated in the standing-only section) in the House of Pain (their stadium/pitch. Drinks and live music followed in The Octagon (the center of town).

The Highlanders (Blue) defeated Auckland (White) 23 - 8

Donna, Peter, Erin, and Chris partying in the House of Pain

Saturday and Sunday we hung around town, shopping, going to the movies and organizing stuff. On Saturday, Peter took us on a ride out to the Otago Peninsula. The view back to Dunedin is something special from there as is the view off the coast out to sea on the other side. At the tip of the peninsula is the Royal Albatross colony sanctuary. From here you can see the rare sea birds nesting and get a glimpse of their young. This is the only mainland spot in the world where they come to nest. They spend the rest of their time circumnavigating the globe. They’re huge birds with wingspans that average 3 meters in adults. Unfortunately that day the wind was not blowing so we didn’t see them. However we did get a few good pictures of stuffed replicas inside the sanctuary building and café!

Monday, the weather was fine and Peter and Donna managed to get two of their Ulysses Club buddies, John and Ian, together for a ride with us out of town. We took one of Peter’s scenic routes south away from most of the traffic. We got as far as Balcluth, the start of the Catlins area, where we enjoyed a hearty lunch of steak sandwiches, chips (fries!), and wine supplied by Ian.  Later Peter and gang sent us on our way down the rugged coastline. (Chris thinks the Catlins coastline looks very similar to Nova Scotia). Before we stopped for the night in Papatowie we managed our way down about 20 kilometers (return) of gravel road (a bit slippery Peter!) out to a point called The Nuggets. Here there is a lovely old lighthouse, unmanned but still in operation, and awesome views of the pinnacle-type rocks jutting up from the sea, and hordes of sea lions frolicking in the surf below.

Next morning the gravel rode continued. Because so many people recommended it we went to Cathedral Caves (good walking exercise) and almost got swept away by the tidal surges. Not far from here we also stopped for lunch at Curio Bay to see the petrified forest at low tide, yellow-eyed penguins and porpoises. We were lucky to see the penguins as it was not the time of day for them to be on land. The dolphins were fun to watch as they came right in to the shallow depth of the shoreline and were swimming around wetsuited tourists. If it weren’t so cold… The back roads through the rolling green, scenic Catlin Mountains were lovely and full of sheep and cattle farms. Drove through the town of Gore. There’s not much else to mention about this town but it is on the Gore-Clinton Presidential Hwy (no kidding!) We eventually made it to our little cabin in Manapouri that night, on the West Coast again in Fjiordland National Park.



Inter-Link (fast) Ferry

Ferry service between Wellington (north island) to Picton (south island) -- fast ferry takes about 2-1/4 hours.
NZ$45 per person
NZ$45 per motorcycle

Prices are one-way and based on booking at least a week in advance -- show up at the dock without a booking, and pay a lot more!


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