Saturday, July 11, 2015

New Zealand Part 2. 9 days on the South Island.

A photo posted by mike (@yodagoat) on

A photo posted by mike (@yodagoat) on

After our time chilling out on the North Island it was time to head south. Lorraine kindly gave us a lift to the airport in Tauranga where we got a plane to Wellington, New Zealand's capital. In Wellington we met up with Sam, Lorraine and John's niece who showed us around some of the city. We had a ride on the cable car and went to look around the museum. Unfortunately the Britten V1000 was away getting cleaned, but we had a good look around the rest of the place. After we said our goodbyes to Sam, we had some beers, got some food and went back to the our hotel. The next day would be an early start to get the ferry to Picton.
The three hour ferry crossing takes in some amazing scenery.Sailing through the Cook Straights is like something from Jurassic Park or the Lost World. At Picton we caught the daily train to Christchurch. This runs through the Marlborough and Canterbury wine regions and down the East Coast, often only a few meters from the sea. They have a wee audio guide to tell you about where you are and an open sided viewing carriage which was great for taking photos from.
Stickerbombing the train

View from the train
The train ran right beside the beach.
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Jaked

After a couple of bottles of wine and a nice steak and cheese pie (it seems to be a New Zealand thing) we arrived at Christchurch and found our hotel. The bike hire company had arranged to pick us up at our hotel so all that was left to do was to get some food and relax. The cricket had been on that day in Christchurch so the pub we went to for food was busy. We spoke to a couple of local lads about riding around on the South Island. One of them had just fixed his bike up after smashing it and his leg up in an accident while the other guy was recovering from a broken back he got rolling his car!

Kiwi Motorcycle hire
At Kiwi Motorcycle Rentals
The next day Andrea from Kiwi Motorcycle Rentals came and picked us up along with a Japanese lady who was also hiring a bike that day. Originally I had planned to hire a basic KLR650 as it was the cheapest for our budget, but when Alan and Andrea heard that we'd be two up riding they offered us a deal on a wee Suzuki DL650 V Strom. We were hiring the bike for nine days and the extra comfort of the V Strom combined with the more powerful motor made sense. A few days before we were due to collect the bike we got an e mail saying that our upgrade had changed again. We'd been upgraded again to a BMW F700GS due to problems they had had with another bike. Result!
We went over our rough route with Alan, making a few adjustments here and there. We also arranged our accommodation for that night at the famous (formerly) Blackball Hilton in the wee town of Blackball.
We had been recommended to follow the Lewis Pass over to Reefton and then on to Blackball. The roads were amazing. The landscape is continually changing from sort of open moorland/prairie to forest to mountains to rainforest. We stopped in Springs Junction to fuel up. The F700GS only has a tiny wee 16 litre fuel tank and we had been forewarned about the lack of fuel stations in some parts of the South Island. We stopped again to refuel ourselves at the Reefton Tearooms and Bakery. I had a braw sandwich and a huge vanilla slice.
Lewis pass, South Island, New Zealand

Lewis Pass, South Island, New Zealand.

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Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.

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Reefton, South Island, New Zealand

Reefton, South Island, New Zealand

Reefton, South Island, New Zealand

Reefton, South Island, New Zealand

Good weather stayed with us all the way to Blackball where we checked into Formerly The Blackball Hilton. The "Formerly" bit is because years ago the Hilton family threatened to sue them for using the name. The legal letters are still on display in the bar! We dodged a few shower while playing pool and speaking to some other bikers that came and went. The Blackball Hilton is a well know Biker's pub, I think everyone staying that night were on bikes. I also dragged HB out for a walk to try and find Blackball's abandoned goldmine but had no luck finding anything. The only nuggets I did find were nuggets of sheep shit stuck to my sandals. We ate at the Hilton and spent the evening speaking to the locals over a few beers.
Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.

Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.
Blackball
Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.

A photo posted by mike (@yodagoat) on

Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.

A photo posted by mike (@yodagoat) on

Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.

After a breakfast in the Blackball Hilton we headed back along to Reefton and up to the Buller Gorge where we followed the road out to the West Coast. The road along the Buller Gorge is stunning, following the river along before hitting a jungly looking forest witch ends up right down by the sea.
Around Charleston we passed a sign saying "No fuel for 90km." The wee GS was still showing half a tank. No worries I thought.

Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.

Formerly The Blackball Hilton, Blackball, South Island, New Zealand.
Blackball morning.
Buller Gorge, South Island, New Zealand

West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

West Coast, South Island, New Zealand
West Coast Road
West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

A video posted by mike (@yodagoat) on

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Like most things in New Zealand the west coast road was amazing. Definitely one of the highlights as far as motorcycling goes and we were lucky enough to have stunning weather for all of it. We stopped at Punakaiki for some pancakes for lunch and visited the Pancake rocks (you can see how they get their name in the photos) The tide was out so we missed the big blowholes going for it, but it was still a cool thing to see. As we headed south I noticed the bike was getting a little low on fuel. Dinnae worry, we'll be fine.....

Pancake rocks, Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand

Pancake rocks, Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand

A photo posted by mike (@yodagoat) on

West Coast, South Island, New Zealand

South Island, New Zealand

At the river.
The rivers were low as there was a bit of a drought.

One Lane Bridge.


We rolled into Greymouth on fumes. A fair distance up the road the fuel light had come on and the bike started counting up something. It took me a wee while to figure out it was counting how many kilometers we'd done with the fuel light on. I think it was at forty something when we pulled in to fuel up. The bike took a full 16 litres!!
We carried on down the coast road, winding our way through the jungle and rainforest, crossing loads of one lane bridges. We had stopped at one of these bridges for a photo where two other bikes rode past, a guy on a BMW R80s and a guy on a KLR. We ended up riding the next few hours with these guys untill we stopped beside a river that was a crazy blue colour. We were taking some photos when two cyclists pulled up. We got chatting to them and one guy, a dual nationality American/Canadian was speaking about how much he loves Applecross in Scotland! They were cycling around New Zealand doing about 60 miles (100km) a day.

South Island, New Zealand

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As we rode into the next town I seen someone waving us down. I recognised the R80 and the KLR as the riders we had rode with so we pulled in. They wanted to ask what I though of the bike and were amazed to hear that we were over from Scotland. I told the guy with the R80 that Faithir would love his bike as he offered me a shot of it!. "Take it for a spin, the keys are in it."
I only went a few miles on the R80, but it was great to get a shot of another bike. I couldn't believe that the guy had given his keys to a total stranger. Just another example of New Zealand hospitality.

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R80s

R80s

We got to Franz Josef Glacier where we would be staying that night and found our accommodation for the night, the local backpackers hostel. There's lots of these around in New Zealand. You can get a room to yourself pretty cheap and they are pretty clean with good cooking facilities and stuff. We didn't bother cooking though, heading out to the pub for a big burger and chips. It was while sitting outside eating said burger that we had our first real encounter with New Zealand's Sandflies. They're like our midgies but fewer in number. When they do bite you though it can be quite a nip and it itches like crazy. Luckily Lorraine and John had given us some spray to keep them at bay and some cream to take the itch out the bites.
We wandered about for a bit looking in the shops and buying a few touristy trinkets before a relatively early night. The next day we were up early. We were carrying on down the west coast but before heading of we planned to walk up to the foot of the glacier. The glacier is receding at quite a pace, increasing the walk to the ice each year. We should have probably taken this into consideration before deciding to do the hour long hike in full bike gear. I had sweat in places I never knew I had.

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The walk up to the glacier was definitely worth the chef's arse I got but it was a relief to get back to the bike get some cooler winds flowing around the place. We carried on down the west coast before heading inland to Haast a wee town that claims to do the best Whitebait patties in New Zealand. Just as I spotted the whitebait place some guy came flying out his parking space in reverse and nearly took us out. If it wasn't for the guy standing beside his car shouting "WOAAH" I think we'd have ended up in hospital.

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Haast Whitebait.
Haast Whitebait

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Other guys stopping off in Haast.

At Haast we headed up into the hills and inland, a great road twisting up and down through National Parkland to the banks of Lake Wanaka. The road along Wanaka is a cracker, it was great fun putting the wee GS through its paces and, as always, we pretty much had the road to ourselves. The road leaves the banks of Wanaka and goes up and over The Neck to Lake Hawea before heading back round to Wanaka itself. We had hired a great wee chalet on the outskirts of the town so we got a curry from the take away and made use of the chalets wifi to catch up with folk back home over a few beers (or breakfast for the folk back in Scotland) while taking in the super clear night sky. While we were in the town we got speaking to three other guys on bikes who were asking about our trip plans. We mentioned we wanted to head to Invercargill to see Burt Munro's bike and one of the guys called Ray gave us his business card. He ran a Motel in Invercargill. Good guy.

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Lake Hawea pano

A video posted by mike (@yodagoat) on



A photo posted by mike (@yodagoat) on



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No breakfast the following day. We packed the bike and headed up the to the Crown Range, which is sort of like New Zealand's Stelvio Pass. We stopped in for a big fry up at the Cardrona Hotel, a place which will sound familiar to people who ride the Scottish Borders alot. Loads of places in the South Island have Scottish names and the further south you get the more Scottish place names you see. Breakfast was great but the view from the top of the crown range was even better, you can see all the way down to Queenstown. I think the road would be better to ride the opposite way to our Wanaka - Queenstown route. We were pushing the wee GS's brakes way more than we had pushed it's engine as we took the hairpins down, the wee GS proving me wrong again and taking it all in its small stride.

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We didn't visit Queenstown, instead we headed cross country through Cromwell and the gold mining area. We passed the bungee jump, this was something I really wanted to do but it wasn't to be. Even the smaller jump had a two hour queue and we didn't have enough time, so we pushed on south. Next time though...  
Anyways, the roads were amazing, I'm beginning to sound like a broken record but as far as motorcycling goes I had yet to encounter a crap road. The landscape as always was changing. This time we had vineyards changing to barren black rocky hills with blue rivers and hot sun. We came to some roadworks where one of the workers chatted to us for a while, telling us what was going on and cracking jokes. They were having trouble with landslides in the area so a team of climbers/abseilers were directing a helicopter with a bucket containing hundreds of litres of water to areas of the hill that needed washed. The guy reckoned the water was dumped within a few meters of the guys on the rocks. The Kiwi's don't fuck about. 

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"roadworks"

Heading south east we stopped in Roxburgh for lunch. As I got of the bike I heard a familiar sound.
"Is that fucking bagpipes....?"
We walked along the street where a guy in a kilt was playing the pipes outside the pharmacy. He was playing the well too. We listed to him play and complimented his piping once he was done. He then told us that his mum was from Lybster.
"FUCK OFF!!!!" HB and I said together. "No fucking way!" We could tell straight away that he was for real when he took no offence at our profanity and laughed. HB is from Lybster and knew his Granny! It's pretty crazy when you're on the other side of the world and you bump into some one from who knows the same remote highland village as you're from. His name is Alister Forbes and it turns out he's a bit of a piping superstar having played the Edinburgh Tattoo among other high profile gigs.
The black rocks became rolling green hills and the temperature started dropping as we headed south until we were back in Scotland. And it really did feel like we were back home. We arrived in Owaka and if I had fallen asleep at home and woke up a few miles outside Owaka I would have thought I was in  Perthshire or the Borders. Apart from the occasional palm tree and we could have been in central Scotland. There's a few jokes that the Scots that settled here looked for the wettest, coldest part of New Zealand and though. "This is it. This is for me!!"
We stayed in a converted hospital ran by an eccentric but friendly woman who directed us to the local boozer for food. I had quite a few beers there. At one stage the barmaid said to me "You've drank six pints of that Wild Buck beer...." I thought I was going to get in trouble but she went on to say "so you can claim your free t shirt!" Awesome.

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Lybster tinks.

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CT110 in Roxburgh

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The Com, Roxburgh.

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Owaka Hostel, a converted hospital.

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We got breakfast in a wee cafe in Owaka and heard the sad news that Leonard Nimoy who had played Mr Spock in Star Trek has passed away. We headed off along the Catlins heading for Invercargill. We had booked into The Tower Lodge Motel, owned and run by Ray, who we'd met in Wanaka.
Central Scotland tuned into a swampy marshland before flattening out to Invercargill. Between this transformation we took a wee detour and wobbled along the gravel roads to Slope Point, New Zealand's most southern point. From here it's sea for a few thousand miles then Antarctica.


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Sticker bomb.


We stopped for a few photos between Slope Point and Invercargill and got talking to the Pres of an Auckland MC who do a tour of New Zealand every year. We passed them and they blatted passed us over the next few miles till they stopped at the side of the road in what looked like a memorial type tribute to someone. We got lost in Invercargill and stopped in the big long main street to get directions to Ray's Motel. Even during the day there are loads of cool old cars and bikes cruising up and down the place.
We arrived at The Tower Motel and when we told the guy at the reception that we had met Ray a few day's earlier he told us that Ray was away at a classic car event, but he'd be back soon, so we headed out to E. Hayes and Sons, a hardware store. This is no ordinary hardware store though. In amongst the tools and stuff in the Hayes Motorworks Collection, including Burt Munro's bikes, one of which was made famous in the film The World's Fastest Indian. If you've not seen it watch it. It's a real feel good story about a good guy. I could probably do a whole post about the bikes at Hayes and Sons, but these photos will have to do for now.

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From Burt Munro's shed.

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Burt Munro's other bike, the world fastest Velocette.

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It's Burt's

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The World's Fastest Indian. A work of art.

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Fully running replica used in the film. Ducati engine (I think)

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I needed a fucking shoe horn to get into the film prop.

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After a few hours looking at the bikes we headed back to the motel via a pub. We were having a beer and got speaking three dairy farmers, sisters who all had their own Ford Mustangs parked up outside. The asked about Scotland and even offered me a job! I wont go poor if I move to Invercargill.
Back at the motel we were met by a huge American car. It was Ray's. We chatted for a bit and he took us for a spin round the block in his car, which was great fun. The rest of the evening was passed over a nice meal then listening to a band while sitting outside the pub and watching some real nice cars driving by.

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Ray's car and his Motel

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Ray, owner of the Tower Lodge Motel, Invercargill. Top guy.

After a good breakfast at Ray's we fueled up and said goodbye to Invercargill. Today we were heading along the south coast, past Monkey Island (no shit, if you don't get it speak to someone who was born in the 80s) and up into Fjordland, through the Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound. The flat of Southland began to look pretty hilly, and seriously wet. The big dark clouds stayed in the distance till we got to Te Anau. Te Anau is the last fuel and shops before Milford. It's also home of Miles Better Pies. We brimmed the GS's wee tank, brimmed the top box with wine, and brimmed our guts with pie and chips before heading of into the pissing rain.
The road twisted up through the rainforest, getting wetter and wetter. Milford Sound is one of the wettest inhabited places on earth, huge waterfalls can form where there was just a cliff in the space of an hour. As you get to the top of the Milford Pass it starts to look like a dead end with nothing but a huge cliff face with loads of waterfalls appearing all over the place. It's through this cliff face that the Homer Tunnel runs. The tunnel is about three quarters of a mile long and only wide enough for one way traffic, so you can have a wait of 5 - 10 minutes for the traffic lights. We got a few damp photos while the timer counted down how much longer we had to wait. The camper vans at the front of the queue let us through to go first through the tunnel but then chucked their full beams on. I think the guy thought he was being helpful but all it did was burn out my headlight. The only thing I could see was our shadow, not the best considering the road surface of the Homer tunnel is a bit shite.
Tunnel navigated, we popped out onto an awesome twisty road and a big green parrot which flew away down into the canopy. This bit of the Milford road was fun in the wet but would be incredible in the dry. We twisted our way down the hill then followed the river to the Milford Lodge. If you are planning on staying at Milford Sound this is pretty much the only accommodation available. We booked a room, breakfast and a boat trip for the following morning. You can eat at the lodge too but instead we opted to walk around to the Blue Duck Cafe, which is more like a pub than a cafe. It's about a 15 minute walk from the lodge but a friendly bus driver stopped and gave us a lift round.
We had a pizza and some beers in the Blue Duck Cafe and nipped outside for a look around the few minutes the rain stopped for. Then it was back to Milford Lodge for a relatively early night.
The rain was so heavy that I was worried the bike would be washed off it's stand, but the next morning everything was still upright. We got breakfast then headed round to the pier beside the Blue Duck. The boat tour was stunning, I took loads of photos but none of them do any justice to how amazing Milford Sound is. On the way back down the fjord you stop in at an underwater viewing platform where you can see all the wildlife. We were supposed to spend about 45 minutes there, but 20 minutes in there was an announcement saying another boat was available to take people back to Milford if they wanted. They recommended that anyone heading back to Te Anau should go, as they are expecting some heavy rain. Heavy rain! Outside was the heaviest rain I'd ever experienced.
"Thats nothing, its can get crazy."
So back we went.

Monkey Island, New Zealand

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Manapouri, New Zealand.

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Milford Sound

Milford Sound, New Zealand.

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Milford Sound, New Zealand.

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The ride back to Te Anau was wet. Fucking wet. We stopped in at the pie shop again then Tourist Info to arrange accommodation.  Cromwell was about the right distance away, we booked up and headed off. I never stopped for photos or anything, we were soaked through so just pushed on. 
When we arrived at the Colonial Manor Motel we were done in. The owners sorted us out with a place to dry our gear and a hot shower and dry clothes sorted us out.

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Our Cromwell neighbour's wheels and the wee GS.

A photo posted by mike (@yodagoat) on
Cromwell


Cromwell woke us with nice warm sunshine. We got breakfast outside a cafe then headed off to our final night on the South Island, a wee town called Geraldine. It was, as usual, a great run over the Lindis pass, through stunning scenery and past some beautiful blue lakes. We stopped at Lake Tekapo for lunch and an English guy who had moved over years ago talked us into a ten dollar shot of his segways, great fun!

More Stickering. Winton Massif down under.

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Geraldine is a was a nice wee place to spend our last night. We had a wander round the town, spoke to some guys in the local garage who had a nice collection of old cars and a Raleigh moped. Dinner in the pub and back to the Four Peaks Motel for bed.

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We got back to Kiwi Motorcycle Hire and the South Island said goodbye to us with another nice warm day. We shot the shit with Alan for a bit before Andrea gave us a lift to the airport via a short guided tour of Chistchurch which is still devastated from the 2010 earthquakes.

A short flight later we were back in Tauranga where we spent a few more days with Lorraine, John and Caitlin. 

New Zealand was awesome. Totally awesome. people say it's a trip of a lifetime, but we'll be back.

Abso fucking lutely baby.

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Oh, I had my gopro with me. I'll make a video soon, it's taken me ages to write this up, but the film is on its way.