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 whales 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
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 et.al. 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
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
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 fruit 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
Zealands roads called Great Escapes --
Routes/Rides are rated by number of Smiles :-) Its just come out
so look for it soon on Amazon.com 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).
(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. Theyre huge
birds with wingspans that average 3 meters in adults. Unfortunately that day the wind was
not blowing so we didnt 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 Peters 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 werent so cold
roads through the rolling green, scenic Catlin Mountains were lovely and full of sheep and cattle farms. Drove through the town of Gore. Theres 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.
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!