Friends & 50,000 miles
-- Story by Erin & Chris
Well, we've arrived in
Christchurch, and the odometer has just clicked over 50,000 miles (80,000 kms) on the trip
so far. It's been almost 2 years, and we've certainly covered a lot of ground
so far. It's hard to believe we've seen/done so much, and often think how lucky we
are to have had the experiences we've had so far. Can't even begin to imagine what
the next half of the journey will bring.
bikes are starting to show signs of wear and tear, so we've decided to
stay longer than planned in New Zealand. We'll spend the (Southern
Hemisphere) winter here, get the bikes fixed up, maybe even do some
skiing, and see as much of this lovely place as possible!
Having the extra time will also allow us to take some Spanish classes
and get prepared for the last big leg of the trip through Latin America.
February: The morning was beautiful with blue skies and sun to slowly wake us.
Its a rare thing to have such fine weather in Fjiordland (they get the most rainfall
of anywhere in New Zealand) so we decided to jump on the bikes and take a day trip to the
famous Milford Sound. There was stunning scenery of rocky fjords, rushing rivers, tranquil
lakes. We passed through Homer Tunnel, which is about 1 kilometer long, rough hewn, pitch
black, wet/dripping and a bit scary. The tunnel was originally started by 5 guys on the
dole, armed only with pick-axes and took several years to complete. I dont know how
many men ultimately worked on it but in the end, 3 men gave their lives for the effort.
was, thankfully, a rainy day. It afforded us a day off of sightseeing to catch up on
writing in the journal, organizing parts and supplies and relaxing in general. All the
while, enjoying the view from our little cabin beside the lake.
On our third day in
Manapouri we took an all day trip out on Doubtful Sound. It's a one hour boat trip across
the lake, about an hour and a half bus trip to see the hydroelectric plant (300 ft. below
the surface) and over the mountain pass, then a three hour journey by catamaran out to see
the Fjords of Doubtful Sound. Doubtful Sound was named by Captain Cook when he
discovered the entrance but was afraid to enter. He was doubtful that once inside
there would be sufficient wind to blow his ship back out to sea again. It was a
beautiful, clear day. We saw loads of dolphins, a few seals, and lots of waterfalls.
March we left Manapouri. We had a great 60km off-road ride (recommended by Ross)
through a stunning valley to a place called Walter Peak. There were no cars, lots of
cows and sheep and us. As we rounded a bend there was an awesome view of Lake Wakatipu and
the town of Queenstown on the opposite shore. From here it was 12 more Kms to Walter Peak.
We crossed a farm and had to open and close several cattle gates along the way. At Walter
Peak we were surprised to find it a big tourist destination (working farm demos, etc.).
The ferry we were supposed to catch turned out to be the old, refurbished steel-hulled TSS
(Twin Screw Steamer) Earnslaw . On board was a piano player, and open engine room area
where you can see the inner workings and the guys shoveling coal into the fire. It was a
particularly fun time. The boat is not designed to be an actual ferry, so the bikes
were loaded into a companion way.
There was no one for miles!
Yeesh, this is a tight squeeze!
ended with a scenic drive to Glenorchy, just 45 kms down the road where we met up with
Stephen at the caravan park. We originally met Stephen about a year and a half
ago in Budapest. He arrived in NZ last week, and purchased a new R1150GS he'll use
to travel with until July in NZ & OZ. Stephen is an American who lives and works
in Hungary, but has a wander lust and a love of motorbikes similar to ours. Back
when we first met Stephen he rode with us across the Hungarian/Romanian border.
Sunday morning we took a
fun ride off-road to a place called Paradise (no kidding) and Chinamans Bluff at the
head of the Dart River. We made several creek crossings and confirmed that our Daytona
Gore-Tex waterproof boots were indeed no longer waterproof. Later we met Peter and Donna
Mitchell for lunch in Q-town. Spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town, getting
more camping supplies for Stephen (novice!) and ate some Hokey Pokey ice cream (a New
We had a
great time in Queenstown. We even met 4 Californian TABS (Trans Atlantic BikeShare) members who had
borrowed 2 bikes from the North Island. The idea is you can borrow someone's bike,
and someone else from the club can borrow yours. Bill and Phyllis were on a F650,
and Wes and Marilyn were riding a R100PD -- both borrowed from Murray and Renate in Levin.
We've had a lot of email contact from Murray, and plan to see them when we get back
Many people think its too
touristy but we really enjoyed what it had to offer. It has a certain spark about
it. It's laid-back style and beautiful setting on the edge of the lake make it a
real favorite for us. Taking advantage of the good location, weather, and road
recommendations from our friends Ross Williams and Steve Bell we rode along the Nevis
River, between The Remarkables and Garvie Mountains. At first it was a steep climb with
multiple switchbacks on gravel. At the top we rode the ridge for awhile taking in
the awesome views. We slowly descended to the valley and rode along the valley floor
for some 20 kms or so. We were the only one's there except for the sheep and cattle
that own this area. There is a sign at one point along the way that says the road is
unsuitable for anything other than a 4WD and that there are some 24 fords (river
crossings). We rode through about 18 of them -- It was too much fun!
Chris and Stephen go off to find the Nevis Bungy Jump its on a
"secret" road, and the boys were determined to find it. I decided to stay at the
caravan park and do some domestic chores and catch up on some reading (besides, my boots
were still soaking wet!) Searching the high backcountry, over more difficult
terrain, Stephen christened his new R1150GS with multiple scratches and a broken blinker,
while Chris just added more scratches. Apparently, they ran into a locked gate around
5:30pm, and didn't know what to do. They were getting tired, ran out of water, it
would be getting dark, and were nervous as the trail was getting more difficult.
From one of the high ranges, they got a signal on Stephen's mobile phone, and
Chris called to give their GPS co-ordinates -- just in case. He said the route
wasn't that difficult, but if they had a bit of a crash in the valley, they might not have
time to get out before dark. He figured since he could give me the info, better safe
than sorry. They both came back exhausted, but very happy!
It was time for a rest, anyway.
7 March, we
finally decided to tear ourselves away from Q-town. In the morning we took a detour
up through Skippers Canyon. There is another bungy jump there, jet boating on the
river, and other assorted adventure things to see and do. The road was twisty and
fun, but rutted in the corners and heavily trafficked with 4WD. More fantastic mountain
scenery. Saw the jet boats playing in the shallow river, and Stephen even went
weekend we went to Hokitika for the Wild Food Festival. There were fascinating
foods, lots of beer, and several parties with some great bands: Friday night was Zed (#1
band in NZ), and Saturday night the Beach Boys made us dance-- well, 2 of them anyway, and
along with back-up from a local band, they were fantastic! On Saturday, we consumed
a variety of exotic foods: Hu Hu Grub (type of worms), beer, Ostrich, beer,
mushrooms (not magic), beer, black Abalone, beer, wild boar, mutton bird (like a seagull)
and ..... more beer. We camped out in Mauriama's backyard, a really fun local woman
and her family. Many residents open their yards up to the 18,000 visitors -- it's a
way for the locals (population 2,000) to make a bit of extra cash. We had a
wonderful, if not exhausting weekend.
We left the festival late
Sunday morning, and decided to take the long way to Christchurch, in order to avoid some
of the traffic. We stopped for lunch at the Blackball Hilton.... Actually the
official name is Formally the Blackball Hilton. Seems the big famous hotel
chain threatened a lawsuit, and forced the name change. Many friends recommended
stopping there for a feed, and now we understand why. The town is called Blackball
and it's a cute little sleepy town just inland from the coast.
Not to continue boring you
with repetition, but the ride to Christchurch was gorgeous -- stunning scenery and awesome
twisties. Just before we got to Christchurch, Stephen turned north to Kaikoura to do
some whale watching. We'll hook up with him again in a couple of weeks. Our
old m/c traveling buddies from India/Asia, Tom and Kirstin, now live in Christchurch and
we'll be staying with them. It will be great to see them again. They're
getting married this Saturday (St. Patrick's Day), so we'll be digging out our best
threads for the occasion.
folks arrive on Friday, and we can't wait to see them -- it's
been a long time! We've rented a... a.... um.... c,....car (that was tough) to
travel with them around the south island.