Leaving Queenstown felt almost like leaving New York.
We had planted tiny roots that didn't want to be dug up. On Monday, August 27th we
said a teary goodbye to Sharlene and Queenstown. The only consolation
was that it was a beautiful, crisp and clear day to be out on the bikes.
There was still a lot of grit on the road leftover
from the winter road maintenance crews, which made me a bit nervous. We had to be careful of both ice and the
slippery grit in all the shaded corners. About 3 hours into the trip north, and just
before Lake Tekapo, I got stopped for speeding by a polite, good-natured police
officer. He could have given me a much bigger ticket for going more than 120 kms/hr
(I was actually doing 125kms) and could have also given Chris a ticket since he was right
behind me, but he was very kind and knocked it down to only one ticket between the two of
us and a lesser charge of doing 120kms (a savings of $50NZ). Before we parted ways
we asked him if we could take his picture since he was now part of our trip. He
gladly obliged and we gave him our website address so he could check out other photos from
Listen mate, you need to loosen up your grip on that throttle!
When we arrived in Amberley that evening we received a nice note from
him on our Guest Book Registry. It read:
NAME: Greg Sutherland
STATE / COUNTRY: Twizel New Zealand
HOW YOU FOUND US: You were both doing 125 km/hr coming towards me and my radar
unit caught you. That's how we met! Sorry!
ABOUT YOURSELF: I am a Police Constable from Twizel New Zealand. I'm the
big meany who gave you a ticket but now I feel pretty bad about it. Very nice to met
you and I must admit you are the first people who I've met who want a photo with me after
I have just issued a speeding ticket.
COMMENTS: You will be hard to forget. Feel like joining you....but I
couldn't keep up!!!!
It was just before dark when we found our way to our friends Nigel and Kitty's house in
Amberley (about 50 kilometers north of Christchurch). They had a big BBQ dinner
waiting for us and invited several of their friends over, one of which is
Chilean. We bombarded her with the little Spanish that we've learned.
The next 4 days were spent tearing the bikes apart, getting essential parts, and running
errands. Nigel's friend Phil was also a huge help as he is a trained motorcycle
mechanic from the UK. Kitty supported the cause by cooking up some wonderful
Chris, and Phil (background) are hard at it
Tuesday night we went to see a foreign film, "Gloomy Sunday".
It's based in Budapest, around the beginning of WW2, and is about a love triangle
between 2 men and a beautiful woman. One of the men is a pianist, and writes a
beautiful song for the woman, titled "Gloomy Sunday". The song is
instantly loved by all who hear it, and bolts to the top of the charts around the world.
But, the song's melody is a sort of curse, and people around the world commit
suicide after hearing the soothing tune. It was a wonderful and mesmerizing film.
The bizarre thing is that 5 minutes before the end, a woman sitting 3 rows ahead
screamed out for a doctor -- Apparently, her mother had just had a stroke! We walked
out of the theatre a bit stunned!
Thursday night we all went out for dinner and drinks in Christchurch for Tom Walsh's
35th birthday. Everyone was there: Tom's wife Kirstin, Steve Collie and Anna, Rich
and Beth, Jo Buckner, Nigel and Kitty and ourselves. This was the core group of the
original gang that went on the April Fool's Day ride.
Top L-R: Jo, Erin, Nigel, Steve, Rich, and Beth
Bottom: Kitty, Chris, Tom, Kirstin, and Anna
On Friday night, our last night with them, Nigel and Kitty invited us to
the races where Nigel makes the photo finishes for the racing club. I was excited
because I had never been to the races before. This night there were the trotters and
the greyhounds. This meant a busy night with races going off every 15 minutes or so,
alternating between the two events. Nigel is well know around the place and
introduced us to the announcers, the TV production crew and camera people. We got
to watch the announcers in action and were amazed at how they could keep all of those
names in their head! It's not like back home where most of the announcers call out
the numbers. We placed a few bets, which didn't place but loved the action all the
It turned to Saturday, September 1st, and we found ourselves saying
goodbye again. I was getting profoundly tired of saying goodbye to all of our
friends. Especially to those who we spent so much time with and shared many good
memories. I found myself saying that they would be seeing us back in New Zealand
sooner rather than later!
We rode up the east coast, mainly in the rain, up to the ferry terminal in Picton.
Missed seeing Ross and Gretchen one last time because they got caught in the rain
on the west side of the mountains. Although the weather was bad the seas of the Cook
Strait were thankfully calm! We arrived in Wellington that evening and checked into
the Ibis Hotel right in the downtown area. Our friend Kris from Queenstown swung
this deal for us through her Novotel connections. Before we even checked into our
room we went straight to the bar to watch the rugby match between the NZ All Blacks and
the Australian Wallabies. Unfortunately it was not a good outcome for the All
Blacks and they lost the Tri-Nation's Cup tournament.
The two days we spent in Wellington were purely sightseeing and enjoying the city.
We connected with a few old friends: Josh Landis, an American journalist whom we
met in Laos and then again in Cambodia; and Gary Williams, partner of Jo Buckner and whom
we met through the BMW Safari in March. Josh had just returned from a recent trip to
the states where he and a friend took a motorcycle trip down through Texas and Mexico.
Gary was working on a project in Wellington during the week and flying home to
Christchurch on weekends. Had two interesting meals with these guys. With Josh
we ate at a place called Fidel's which just happened to be located on Cuba Street, and
Gary took us to a Belgian place called Luven's where we gorged ourselves on buckets of
mussels, fresh brown bread and Belgian Beer. Besides all the good food we really
enjoyed the spring-like weather, walking around the waterfront in Wellington and our trip
to the Te Papa national museum. The museum is well known for its Maori cultural
exhibits, showing contemporary marae (meeting houses) and canoes among many other
things. There is also a racing bike on display, which was built from scratch by an
amateur Kiwi bike builder. It ended up breaking speed records.
John Britten's famous
bike, hand made in his garage several years ago, and still holds the speed record in it's
When we left on Tuesday, the 4th of September, we only had a short drive
up along the western coast to Murray Spiers and Renate's place in Waitarere Beach, about
10 kilometers past the town of Levin. We originally met Murray and Renate through
the TABS motorcycle club. TABS is short for Trans
Atlantic Bike Share, which we highly recommend to everyone to become a member of if
you enjoy traveling. When Murray heard we were looking to buy a used F650
a few months ago, he
immediately contacted us. Renate was doing less off-road riding and wanted to sell
her bike and switch to a more road-oriented bike. Now Chris is riding Renate's bike,
appropriately called, what else, Renate.
Wednesday morning, 6:15am, September 5th = Tuesday 1:15pm, September 4th in New York.
The cell phone rings, and Chris bolts from bed screaming "No, No, No!"
You see, Chris's father was having heart surgery Tuesday morning in New York (he
had bypass surgery 8 yrs ago), and his mother was going to call if there were any
complications. Luckily, it turned out to be our old friend Stephen calling from
Hungary just to see how we were doing. Of all the times to call.....Chris' heart was
pounding (no pun intended), and was so happy it was Stephen!!
Chris' parents were preparing for a trip to China, and Robi went to the hospital for a
check up before they departed. The doctors found one of his arteries was 99% blocked
-- thank G-d he didn't collapse in the outback of China! He has since had another
triple bypass, and is recovering better than last time -- feel free to drop him a
After talking to Chris' mother, again confirming Robi was recovering well, we headed
northwest to Hawera. Around lunchtime, we arrived at Hawera Motorcycles, the New
Zealand distributors for Ohlins shocks, to meet Robert Taylor (a.k.a. the Doctor) for
final adjustments to our shocks.
Hawera M/C Crew: Wade, Chum, Shane, Robert (the Doctor),
and humble owner Al (with the broom)
Robert was great and immediately set to work on them. Alan Green,
the owner of the shop, asked us where we were staying and we told him of our arrangements
at a local Backpackers place. He graciously and generously invited us to stay with
him and his wife Janene at their house nearby. Their house, complete with a big
black cat called Caligula, is huge with lots of character and history. It's the
kind of house you expect when you stay in a grand-style B&B. It even has a name,
the California Bungalow. Janene has done a lot of traveling herself and we
discovered that we had both been to the same little bathhouse in Kusadsi, Turkey!
It was funny to look at her pictures as many were the same as we had taken.
The kindness of Alan, Janene, Robert and the rest of the shop employees turned our
routine stopover into a really lovely experience! Besides providing us with a nice
place to stay, Janene cooked up wonderful meals for us including a breakfast of white bait
fritters. White bait is a baby fish that is transparent to look at with only the
eyes readily visible. Kiwi's eat them like a delicacy and cook them up various ways.
They can cost up to $90NZ or more a kilo! Janene made a sort of pancake with them
combining it with eggs and fried up in a pan. After they're cooked they turn white
and are very delicate in taste. I'm glad we didn't leave New Zealand without trying
Robert worked hard for about 2 days trying to get our shocks just right. Finally
on Friday, we took the bikes out for a long ride around the volcano, known as Mt. Egmont,
to test out the shocks. Shortly after leaving town we stopped in for coffee and to
say hello to Murray Sulzberger, a BMW rider, on his dairy farm outside Hawera.
Murray had invited us to stay at his family's bach (like a summer cottage) when we first
arrived in New Zealand. We tried to convince Murray to take a ride with us to New
Plymouth but being a dairy farmer has its responsibilities-------like milking the cows
twice a day!
We were able though to entice Murray Spiers and his friend John out for a ride to meet
us in New Plymouth, about a 3-hour ride north of Waitarere Beach. It was a nice day
and we were able to get good views of the impressive volcano, which many compare to Mt.
Fuji. Mt. Egmont rises up out of a relatively flat looking plain high into the sky.
We met Murray (along with his dog Waka in the tank bag) and John at the BMW
dealership, Callender Motorcycles. Fred, the sales manager there recognized us from
our website and welcomed us into the shop. Callender's has one of the better views
I've seen from a motorcycle shop. They are situated right on the waterfront with
views out to the sea. After much looking around the shop at the bikes and the gear
we set off back down south.
Murray pose in front of the bikes, while Waka checks out Mt. Egmont from the rear of
On the way back we stopped in to the shop in Hawera to thank them for
the job well done on the shocks and for their hospitality. The weather was turning
darker, so we made it a fairly quick goodbye. We still had a good two-hour drive in
the dark before we reached Murray's place in Waitarere Beach. When we did finally
arrive, Renate had a big roast dinner waiting for us!