Our last 2 weeks in New Zealand were not at all what we
expected. We knew we would have some major work to do, but also thought we would have a
lot of spare time boy, were we wrong! The many obstacles we encountered, and the
terrible state of the world was creating a level of stress we had not felt in a long,
Friday, Sept 14th: We found ourselves back at Arne & Ilses place
in the Bombay Hills, about 45 minutes south of Downtown Auckland. It seemed so perfect to
end our journey in NZ with them, as they picked us up from the airport when we first
arrived in NZ seven months before. After dumping our gear into their spare bedroom, I ran
out to Eden Park to meet Grant Clegg (BMW NZ) for an NPC rugby match to watch Waikato
defeat Auckland. Grant is also a referee, and was a touch-judge in the curtain raiser
match. The big game was a good match, and the fans in the terraces (cheap seats) where I
sat were in full color/glory. I happened to be wearing the colors of both teams, so I
didnt get berated too badly J The banter between the
fans was good for quite a laugh!
On Saturday we woke to cloudy skies and light rain. We got dressed and rode out to
Coxs Creek Reserve, a park in Herne Bay about 3km west of Aucklands CBD. Today
was to be my last day refereeing in NZ. Grant had arranged for my game in this Tongan
tournament, and even provided me with the appropriate uniform. My match was between a team
from Australia and a local Auckland club. A DJ was pumping music in the background, and it
was a very festive event. It was a fun day, and the men from Tonga seem like good,
On Tuesday we went to the airport to check pricing and make arrangements for shipping
the bikes to Buenos Aires, Argentina. We strolled into United Airlines Freight Export to
make some inquiries. "Im sorry" the man said, "due to the events of
September 11th, United Airlines will not be shipping any Dangerous Goods".
My heart sank. We thought we had it all planned out. "When will you resume taking
DGs?" I asked. The man behind the counter told us that things were changing every
day, but he would be surprised if the ban would be released before a months time.
My stomach turned, my heart beat faster, and little droplets of sweat formed on my
forehead. I already knew that to ship by sea to Argentina would take 60 days, as the boats
go to South America via Singapore. I thought about calling the airline and pushing back
our departure by a month. I knew there was only one boat that went direct from Auckland to
Santiago, Chile a trip that would take 18 days. But we already had tickets (free
from FF mileage) to fly on Qantas direct to BA, and they didnt have service to
Santiago. Ack!!! What do we do?!?! Erin and I discussed options. Our back-up plan was to
send the bikes to Chile by sea, fly ourselves to BA, then take a bus (some 22 hours) from
BA to Santiago when the bikes arrived.
Not wanting to give up yet, we went to talk to the cargo people at Air New Zealand.
"Yes" they said, "we can fly your DG cargo to Argentina". But the cost
would be US$5,000! We smiled and left. We eventually found the cargo department of Qantas
they lease warehouse space from Air NZ, and only have a small office at the
airport. The women smiled at us, said "Sure, no worries" and directed us to see Mike Brebner at Jupiter Air A freight
forwarding company thats 51% owned by Qantas.
Mike reconfirmed that Qantas could fly the bikes, but that the price would indeed be
about US$5,000. He explained that when Aerolineas Argentina was flying internationally,
they had a rate of $2/kg (about $1,100 for 2 bikes) which Qantas matched. Since Aerolineas
stopped all international flights, the rate went with them. We hung around and talked for
a bit, and asked why Air NZ had a price listed of $2/kg, but that they couldnt honor
it. Mike pulled out what looked like a telephone book in fact, it was a price book
of standard rates for shipping around the world. He said he too saw that rate, but that
only applied to special conditions. "What conditions" I asked, and Mike looked
up the proper codes. He said the rate only applies to direct flights. Before I could open
my mouth, he said "hang on" and made a quick call. When he hung up he smiled and
said Qantas would honor the rate, but there was a backlog of cargo so it may not go on the
same flight as us. Qantas flies from Auckland to BA every Friday and Sunday, and we
figured even a week delay wouldnt affect our plans (giving them 4 planes to get our
Well, we were thrilled beyond words! Not only would the bikes be able to fly, but also
we would save about $1.10/kg (~$600) over the rate quoted by United! Theyre rate was
based on flying to Los Angeles, then transferring to a plane bound for BA. We got back to
Arnes later that evening, and had a celebration dinner it was their 19th
We brought the bikes into MOTOMAIL to exchange
some parts that Grant had organized for us. Kerry Davison runs the tyre and services
departments, and also happens to be the President of the BMW Owners Registry
its the national club, with some 600 members. We had met Kerry previously, and he
offered us use of his workshop and his service (if he wasnt busy). Poor guy! Little
did he (or any of us) know what the week would throw at us.
We believed it would take a few days to do the following: Complete Service; new tyres;
replace Erins 19" rim with 21" rim; replace chain and sprockets; attach a
Scottoiler to my bike; check the valve clearances; and attend to a few other small things.
The bikes had to be crated and deposited at the airport the following Wednesday, which
meant we had to crate them on Tuesday. No problem, we thought plenty of time!
We had 6 days, thought we would need 3, and ended up taking 7.5! Everything was going
great Kerry was calling distributors of Chains, sprockets, oil, and other
accessories to help get us discounts. We discovered on Thursday morning that the valve
clearances on Erins (white) F650 were
..gone. There was no clearance, and the
shims were already using the smallest size. That meant only one thing: The valve seats
were shot, and the head (top of the engine) needed to come out. The bike had just over
65,000 miles on the odometer, and when we checked the clearance 15,000 miles earlier in
Perth, they were fine (we thought).
The valves themselves might have been damaged already, but we got lucky there and they
were fine. Dealers don't normally stock valves for F650s, and ordering them would have taken at
least a week. Ian from Motorsport Lifestyles, the leading BMW dealership in Auckland,
graciously came over to verify our findings before we pulled the engine. Ian was a master
BMW mechanic in the UK, and with all his years of experience, never knew anyone who had to
open a F650 engine before. We would be the first (any of us knew of) to open up the engine
I had pulled the head of my R100PD twice before, and it was fairly simple. The heads
stick out the side of the bike (flat twin), and the head can be pulled in about 15-20
minutes. I figured it would take me about a half an hour. Six hours later, we finally got
the darn thing off. After loosening all the appropriate bolts, there wasnt enough
clearance above the head studs and below the frame to remove the head were
talking about 2mm of clearance required (put your thumb and forefinger together, then
create a gap so light can barely get through, and thats your 2mm). In the end, we
had to drop the engine out the bottom of the bike to create the clearance required. We
hoped we would never have to do THAT again! It was late when we finished, and Kerry took
us back to his place for the night.
We got the head back from the repair shop on Friday night, and decided to put it back
together on Saturday. Late Friday night I realized that Kerry wouldnt be able to
help us on Saturday, as it is normally his busiest day of the week. I called Jurgen Homann
early Saturday morning to ask for his assistance. Jurgen is also a RTW motorcycle
traveller who was back in Auckland recovering from a broken arm he received in Ecuador
while playing soccer (got that?). Jurgen had never worked on an F650, but had pulled apart
his R80GS before his own trip, and after-all, hes a German engineer! He cancelled
his plans for the day (a birthday party BBQ of a close friend) and spent the day helping
By 6:30pm, we were finally finished, but the bike would have to wait until morning
until we could change the oil filter and add oil. This would have to wait until Sunday
morning, before the "shakedown" ride we had scheduled for 11am. We called Arne
and Ilse (2 hours later than promised) and told them not to worry about us for dinner, as
it would take us an hour to get back home. Kerry took off to see his wife, and Jurgen was
already many hours late for his party. They took off and we sat outside the shop alone,
with my bike.
After a few minutes, Erin had a good cry. We were pushing ourselves with late nights
and early mornings. Kerry was practically avoiding his business and was devoting too much
time to helping us. Karl, Kerrys partner who runs the dirt bike center, was spending
many hours welding and getting his hands into the engine. And lastly, we were showing up
late for dinner at Arnes house, watch CNN, tend to emails, get up early to watch the
news, and leave for the day after an early breakfast. We felt like we were using our
friends, and well, that didnt sit right. Our friends knew that we didnt plan
for things to work out this way, but we couldn't get over the guilty feeling.
Geared out and ready to hit the road again
Sunday, Sept 23rd Got Erins bike closed up,
filled with oil, and went out for a ride to the famous Puhoi Pub with a couple of
Kerrys mates. Erins bike was running "Sweet As", and we were feeling
a little better, but still exhausted.
Lunch with Kerry at the Puhoi Pub
In the evening, we met up with Sharlene -- she flew up to Auckland for 2 nights, 1,500kms
from the South Island, just to have dinner with
us and say farewell Ya just gotta love Gidget. Sharlene was staying at her friend
Sues house, and the 4 of us went out for a great Thai dinner, including my favorite:
Kao Ngaw (sticky rice).
Monday morning we were back at MOTOMAIL to
finish a few last bits while Karl finished welding a rack, while I settled our bill with
Kerry (6 days labor at no charge!!!!!!!). Kerry and Karl became our newest
supporters, and really went out of their way to help us out -- thanks guys!
Karl, Seth (dog), Kerry, Chris, and Erin
In the afternoon we ran some other errands, picked up the crates from
BMW, and went to see Gidget for our farewell dinner with her. We had a fantastic time
together, and reconfirmed plans for her to come join us for a few weeks in South America,
early next year.
On Tuesday morning while Arne & Erin started to work on rebuilding/assembling the
crates, I rode my bike into BMW for a visit with Ian. My new (used) bike was burning oil.
Not a lot, but I used about 1/3 of a liter in 1,500 miles Erins bike never
used any oil. We did a leak-down test, and confirmed the piston rings needed to be
replaced. Great!!! The bike has half the mileage that Erins has! We think its
some kind of fluke, and doubt Renate was aware of the problem when she sold me the bike. I
wasnt too upset, as I kind of expected the problem to be real, and not my
imagination. The only downside was I would have to do some work on the bike when we got to
South America. Grant immediately sent an email to his contact at BMW Argentina to arrange
the parts for us.
I got back to Arnes before lunch, and we had a lot to do to make the crates
smaller. We assumed the volume would be greater then the weight, and were trying to
get the boxes down to a volume of 550kg. We packed most of the gear in a crate with
Erins bike, and made a smaller crate for my bike. IF you ever have to build a crate,
either use an existing one at its normal size, or build one from scratch. Trying to cut
and paste took us about 3 times as long.
Arne was a whiz at carpentry, and although I had my doubts as I watched the project
begin, these were the strongest boxes weve ever seen! We got Erins bike crated
up and loaded into Arnes trailer, which was huge, but could only transport 1 fully
crated bike. Rather than make 2 trips (and we were running out of time), we tied the
knocked-down pieces of my crate to the side of Erins, and I rode my bike to the
airport. Arne had to get back home to do his "real" work, and Jurgen came in to
help us with the final crating. We had to bring the crates in still open so that a customs
official can inspect the bikes.
Some final sawing, about a million nails, and the job was complete. We
got the volume to 565 kg a minor miracle. Unfortunately, the heavy-duty BMW crates
added made the actual weight heavier, and you pay the higher amount. When we flew the
bikes from Sydney to Auckland (uncrated), the F650 weighed only 240kg. Sure, we were
taking a few extra spares (to leave in BA), but only about 20kg worth. Turns out those BMW
crates weighed a good 80kg each! The actual crated weight of the 2 bikes was 689kg, for a
total cost of US$1,305 (including all paperwork and handling fees). Next time we send by
air, I would remove the front wheel, strap the bike to a pallet, remove
mirrors/windscreen, cover with old blankets, then wrap with plastic. This will keep the
volume down, the weight down, and allow the workers to move the pallet with a forklift.
The wrapping/padding would be adequate for protection.
That night, tired and pretty grungy, we went to the Novotel to spend our last 2 nights
in NZ -- our Queenstown friend Kris had booked us in for the special rate of only
US$20/night. What we didnt know is that she also arranged a huge upgrade for us to
the Executive Suite = the best in hotel! It wasnt a room, it was a huge apartment!
Our last 2 days in Auckland were typical New Zealand relaxed, casual,
stress-free, and with mates. On Thursday we got our yellow fever shots; Erins carnet
stamped out; my new carnet from the NZAA; and ended the night with dinner/drinks with
Jurgen, Grant, Kerry, and his wife Vanessa. Kerry even brought us a gift of cool wrenches!
Friday, Sept 28th: After 227 days (7.5 months) and another 10,000 miles, it
was time to leave NZ. We had a great visit from Kris before
Jurgen picked us up and took us to the airport. Arne and Ilse wanted to come say good bye,
but we called them and told them theyll just have to come for a visit instead. We
stopped at Jupiter Air to see if the bikes would be on our flight
we can also hope for Sunday,
but not likely L
Leaving NZ was more difficult then we imagined -- it's like our
second home now. We spent 7.5 months here, rode over 10,000 miles, and made a lot of
life-long friends. It was similar to when we departed New York back in May
1999: Friends were calling/emailing us all week, to send us off with good wishes.
At 5pm, we boarded Qantas flight 115, and watched NZ slip away under
the passing wings.
Couldnt imagine someone visiting New Zealand and not enjoying their trip