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

April 22, 2001

Re-visiting friends to the North  

-- Story by Erin --

April 1st was my (ahem, 25th) birthday.  We celebrated with a day of off-road riding with a very international group of about 12 people.   Tom and Kirstin's friend Steve Collie had a road book route for some great tracks north of Christchurch.  Each of us mentioned the ride to others we knew or had just met recently.  The day of the ride, about 10 other people showed up: a German (Christian), a Norwegian (Arne) each on extended motorbike trips, an English couple named Rich and Beth (Rich had just ridden overland from the UK to NZ in 7 months), Stephen D, and Kiwi friends Garry and Jo (from the BMW Safari), Barry (F650 rider from the internet), Steve Collie, his girlfriend Anna, and of course Tom, Kirstin, and ourselves.

It was a fabulous day for riding and the roads and tracks were in pretty good shape.  After traversing a few farms, scaring some horses and other farm animals, we ended up at the coast on some cliffs.  The view was terrific so we stopped there for lunch.  After lunch we had a challenging afternoon driving some gravel, twisty roads through beautiful steep valleys and gorges.  There were a few minor crashes during the day but, all in all, a nice way to spend one's birthday (especially since I didn't fall!)

Lunch Break

After all the excitement of my parent's visit, Tom and Kirstin's wedding, the BMW Safari, and seeing old friends from New York in Christchurch, we got down to the business of figuring out a plan for our next several months in New Zealand. 

As we had already purchased season ski passes (NZ$299 = US$130/person) we were committed to staying until the beginning of September.  The ski passes are good for 3 mountains, 2 in the Queenstown area (the Remarkables and Coronet Peak) and one near Christchurch (Mt. Hutt).  We decided it would be fun to use Queenstown as a base during this time.  It reminds us very much of Breckenridge, Colorado where we like to take our ski vacations back home.  The town and atmosphere of the place feels very much alive and full of excitement. 

So we left Christchurch on March 29th and headed for Queenstown to see about accommodation.  We didn't know what we wanted exactly or even what might be available.  After 2 days of posting flyers around town, calling about 20 different ad's in the local paper, and checking out about 8 places (both shared flats and single units) we met Sharlene and her lovely home in Fernhill.  Sharlene is a long-time Queenstown resident who has spent her last few (NZ) winters working as a part of a crew on luxury riverboat cruises in France.  A worldly, energetic person, we hit it off with her immediately.  We also fell in love with her lovely two-bedroom house with a view of the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu.   I'm not sure if we chose her or she chose us but in the end the deal was sealed.

We paid her a 2-week deposit and took off for the North Island.  She would not see us again for another 3 weeks, and referred to us as her phantom flatmates to all of her friends.  We left Queenstown on Saturday,   March 31st and headed for Wanaka.  Chris had been in touch with the local rugby referee society, and signed on for when we returned to Queenstown.  He found out there were a couple of matches in Wanaka that afternoon and made sure to get there in time.   Hanging around the sidelines and chatting with some of the referees, Chris was asked to touch judge the second match of the day.  This was the first time Chris had been involved with rugby in New Zealand and he was thrilled.   For me, it was just another beautiful day watching the match on lovely green grass with Lake Wanaka and the mountains in the background.

Our friend Stephen D joined us in Wanaka.   While we were watching rugby Stephen was off sightseeing, where he met a very interesting German couple.  Frank and Jenny were riding a highly customized, BMW motorcycle with sidecar around New Zealand and Australia.  The sidecar looked similar to an off-roadFrank & Jenny rally sidecar rig.  The bike had Volkswagen snow tyres, was originally set up for a handicapped rider, and had a big tool box/storage chest with a padded cushion (seat) on top for the sidecar passenger.  Not the most comfortable looking ride I've ever seen but it definitely had character.  That night the five of us went to the cinema.   This wasn't any ordinary cinema.  Cinema Paradiso is an eclectic mix of movies (Art House and Hollywood), food (pasta and homemade, warm chocolate chip cookies), and fraternity-house style furniture (everything from old sofas to airline seats to an old English Mini (its a tiny little car!).  Chris and I sat in the Mini until my legs ached too much from being squished against the dashboard.  The movie was Snatch and we really liked it.  For those who have seen it you will know how difficult it is to understand the language.  I'm not sure how much our poor German friends understood!   Anyway, it was a fantastic night, and the food was great too.

Sunday morning, we headed out towards Mt. Cook, sort of the halfway point on our way back to Christchurch.  We had passed Mt. Cook several times before but either didn't have the time to stop or the weather had not been good.  This day the weather was absolutely perfect, a bit warm in fact for this time of year.  After finding a spot to pitch our tents near the base of a smaller mountain, we hopped back on our bikes to explore some of the intriguing dirt tracks we had seen along the way.  

Mount Cook

Following one of the tracks to the Tasman Glacier the road became difficult with large rocks and was not maintained further along.  I decided to park my bike and follow some of the walking paths.  Chris and Stephen, spurred on by a few 4x4 drivers, pushed forward to see how far they could get.  It was a good decision on my part because the road got far worse for them and Chris ended up getting himself into a spot where he had to be pushed out of by 4 other people.  Oh yeah, a bolt snapped  on his left pannier, causing it to drag,  and he didn't even realize it for about 30 meters.  He had a spare part, and was able to fix it himself.

View along the trail

some trail-side Repairs

That night there was a full moon, which rose slowly and provided a picture perfect view of Mt. Cook and the surrounding glaciers.  After dinner (a vegetarian feast cooked up by Stephen on our gas cookers) we went for a walk along one of the footpaths.  It was a bit surreal walking by moonlight with possums bounding along the path to keep us company.  There was a monument about halfway along that is at the top of a small hill.  We climbed it to see what it was.  It's a memorial to all of those who have lost their lives scaling Mt. Cook.  We walked further along the path until we got to what looked like a huge swing bridge.  It crossed a big, raging glacial water river  (Chris and I returned to this spot the next day and the bridge didn't look so big, but the river was just as raging!).

I could hear the wind outside our tent building up over the course of the night.  By morning it was a full-on gale.  The force of it was pulling the tent pegs out of the ground and we had to repeatedly re-stake it.    Finally, a big gust came along, ripped up the pegs and sent our 4-person tent rolling across the stone covered field, with our gear still in it.  The resulting damage was a bent pole, about 4 big holes, and several tears in the top of the tent.   So much for staying an extra day!  Apparently this kind of bad weather is typical for Mt. Cook and so we were grateful to have at least experienced one special day there.

Chris, Gretchen, Ross, Erin, and Stephen

Thursday April 12th (day before Good Friday) we left Tom & Kirstin's (again) and rode further north to Nelson.  Again Ross and Gretchen were the perfect hosts, especially with three Yanks in the house.  Ross organized a few rides with friends of his in town.  There was a nice mixture of bikes: couple of Harley's, a Suzuki Intruder, a Cagiva Elephant, and a new F650GS and R1150GS.  It was a great opportunity to see more of the Abel Tasman area and the small towns of Collingwood and Kaiteriteri.

Easter Sunday (April 15) we caught the ferry back across Cook's Straight to Wellington to start our tour of the North Island.  Lucky for us the weather was beautiful and not the usual windy conditions around Wellington.   The drive out on Monday morning was fairly uneventful even though it was Easter Monday and we were in the middle of holiday-end traffic.  We detoured through the Mangawhero River Gorge, as recommended by Ross.  It's a very historic area where missionary settlers first arrived in 1840.  They named their villages Jerusalem (now Hiuharama), London (Ranana), Corinth (Koriniti), Athens (Atene).   There are a good number of alternative lifestylers living along this route.  

At the end of the day we stopped in Ohakune, a small town we stayed in exactly 2 months prior, Feb 16th.  It has a magnificent view of Mt. Ruapehu (an active volcano), located in the center of the North Island.  As we pulled into town, there was a large group of folks milling about, mostly dressed in camouflage gear.   A closer look revealed several flat bed trailers  with extra large clothing-style racks erected on top.  The racks were loaded with deer and wild boar carcasses, all headless and gutted.  We have photos, but thought it best not to show here. Apparently, they have an annual 3-day hunting/fishing Easter competition in Ohakune.  We arrived at the end of day 3 when the hunters all come out of the woods with their catches, and to see whom won the competition.  There were several butchers present, willing to buy the carcasses from the hunters.  This may sound kinda gross, but the meat we all eat has to come from somewhere.....

An active volcano, Mt. Ruapehu, across the valley towards Ohakune

On our way up to Hamilton the next day we took the famous Desert Road.  This winds around the backside of Mt. Ruapehu through a barren, flat landscape.  It turned quite cold through this section and we had to hunker down behind our windscreens.  There was little traffic except for the Army tanks on maneuvers pacing us on the side of the road.  I waved to the tank driver and he gave me a big wave back.  The road turns very windy after about 50 kms of dead straight road.  It was cold and damp so we took it very easy in the turns.  That night we stayed with Steve and Alison Bell in Hamilton, and again they were very generous hosts.    After a day of running errands around the motorcycle shops in Hamilton we headed further north to Auckland.

It felt like a week of reunions.  Our next stop was a few nights with Arne and Ilsa in the Bombay Hills.  We stayed with Arne and Ilse when we first arrived in NZ.  Arne and Chris delved into computer and motorcycle issues, while Ilsa and I discussed food (Ilsa's a great cook.) 

Friday, April 20th:  23 months and 52,000 miles (83,000kms) into our journey.  We went by BMW NZ where we met up again with Grant and John, the head-honchos of the motorcycle division.  They had a new battery for Chris' bike, and John spent some time checking out my clutch.  He told us the plates were probably dragging, and would need to be replaced soon.  He also gave us a demo on how the plates work, and what to look for if we were to do the job ourselves.  

Later in the afternoon, we went to see Kerry Davison, president of the BMW Owners Registry -- the BMW club of NZ.  Aside from being a huge GS fan, Kerry owns half of, specializing in the tyre and service department while his partner handles the accessories.   We plan to see Kerry again in September to put some Continental TKC-80s tyres (great Enduro tyres) on the bikes before we fly to South America.  In the meantime, Chris' front tire was dangerously worn (14,570 miles), and he wanted something to hold him over.  Kerry brought out a used Metzeler Sahara 3, with more then half the tread on it, and mounted it to the front rim.  Afterwards, he looked at Chris' rear tyre, shook his head, and said we should really change that one too (6,620 miles).  Chris asked him how much would it cost, he replied that they were used tyres, and we could have them for free -- sure they were used, but they still had a fair bit of life left on them.   Kerry also offered us use of his workshop anytime we wanted.  Over the winter, we will send Kerry my front wheel to upgrade it to a 21" rim (like Chris') -- better for gravel roads, and much easier to find 21" tyres (typical dirt bike) versus my less-common 19" wheel in most parts of the world.

Check out th 50 liter fuel tank!We spent the weekend with Jurgen Homann, a soon to be world traveler and really nice guy.   Jurgen had been in contact with us for some time by email, and we finally were able to catch up with him.  Jurgen has completely stripped down his 1992 R80GS (bought from Ross Williams in Nelson) and rebuilt it totally with all kinds of goodies.  He wanted to know how to make ANY repair on the road himself, having very little m/c mechanical experience.  He and his friend Dirk are off on a world tour to campaign for polio awareness on behalf of UNICEF.  Check them out at: -- T(w)o Make A Difference).

On Sunday, April 22nd we went on a ride with Jurgen and Arne with the BMW OR club, a great group of folks.  The ride was out to the Coromandel Peninsula, a couple hundred kilometers east of Auckland.   Stephen D & Steve Bell caught up with us along the way -- yes, it really is a small world.  While the rest of the club made a loop back around to Auckland we rode north to the tip.  We stayed two days out on the peninsula, driving around the back roads and exploring some of the walking tracks and beautiful white sand beach coves.

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