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Old 10-17-2010, 12:56 AM   #1
CrazyFrog OP
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Location: Nelson, NZ
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South Island of NZ, 1400km in 3 days on an EXC

So there it was, beaconing me like a moth to a campfire, a nice ‘06 model KTM 525 EXC for sale on TradeMe (NZ‘s online auction website, our version of Ebay) with low hours/mileage, well priced, in good condition, selling with some bling goodies, and located down in Te Anau, at the far end of the country.


Hmmmm, now that’s a good excuse for a road trip, I thought.
Hell, I don’t need this thing, but an extra bit of torque wouldn’t go amiss for road trips, and all parts are interchangeable with my current 450 EXC.
And so it goes, I hit “Buy Now” and make contact with the bloke.
We agree to collect it from Te Anau a week later, when I have a few days off work.

A week or so passes, work has been manic, and not much time to think about a roadie, but managed to figure out a good itinerary late one night, and plotted it out on my GPS Mapsource. I had to carefully plan fuel stops as I knew the tank range would be pitiful, so I would need to fuel up regularly.
I chucked a meagre few garments into a small backpack, some basic tools, and packed my helmet, jacket, ride pants and boots into a box for the plane trip down from Nelson to Invercargill.
One of the benefits of working for the national carrier is last minute cheap air tickets, so bailed from work at lunchtime and caught the next flight south. I’d arranged to be collected from Invercargill, so made the rendezvous, and drove back to his place.
We gave the bike a quick once over, made some basic adjustments, I fitted my GPS mount, all the road kit and fired it up to hear the almighty crackle of the Akrapovic titanium exhaust system. Hey, that was not as bad as I was expecting, well, at idle at least. I decided not to fit the OEM muffler for the road trip, seeing I was sticking to the backroads most of the way, I figured if I stay out of trouble, trouble won’t find me.
And so it was, all set for an early departure, so retired to bed after a couple of beers and the finest burger and fries.

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Old 10-17-2010, 01:19 AM   #2
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Day One.

The day broke with clear skies and not the forecasted frost, thank Christ.
Air temp felt quite cool but not freezing, perfect riding weather.
I departed Te Anau before the road got busy (y’know, rush hour and all!) only to pass by two Highway Patrol cars on the side of the road, so had no choice but to put the decibel rating of the Akra to the test, and quietly rode past them at barely an idle.
Well, I passed the muffler test okay, the cops didn't look up from their coffee and donuts, so I happily continued on without harrassment onto Mossburn for my first fuel top up, where I uplifted extra gas for the Nevis Crossing and Hawksburn Rd into Alexandra.



As I road towards the hills, the recent snow was quiet evident up on top, and hoped this wouldn't cause any problem through the Nevis.





As it turned out, there was little snow left on the road, just a few old snow drifts which were easy to plough through, the rest was plain sailing.





The morning light on the tussocks and natural browns and grey landscape was stunning, almost a shame I’m too much of a muppet with the camera to capture it effectively, so snapped a couple of basic point and shoot pics to share the moment later.







I dropped down from the summit into the Nevis valley and started with some of the 30-odd stream crossings, some were shallow, some were deep, and some were greasy bottomed bogs, all were forded successfully with no dramas. Lovin' that.





Unlike this Nissan 4wd I found abandoned, buried up to it’s axles after driving up a stream bed, where it had collapsed into a sink hole as he drove over top.






There was a snapped gear winch cable close by, and that thing wasn’t going anywhere without a heavy lift helicopter or a bulldozer to tow it out. Ah, yep, I thought, this is why I ride motos!


The Nevis route was originally pioneered by pasturalists in 1860, until gold was discovered 2 years later, and gold mining has been carried out well into the 20th century. Remains of equipment and dwellings can still be seen today and are a reminder of the harsh conditions these early settlers endured.
I continued on, out of the valley and into more arable sheep grazing land, before climbing out again up onto Duffers Saddle, the highest public road in NZ at 1300m above sea level.




I descended down towards Cromwell and turned off onto Hawksburn Rd which took me through some good high country farm tracks and eventually dropped down into Alexandra, where the temps were rapidly rising into the mid 20’s and this was still before midday.
I’d covered the first 220km in around 3 1/2 hours, so had kept up a good pace through the Nevis and tighter gravel stuff, with not much stopping, apart from opening and closing all the bloody gates.

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Old 10-17-2010, 01:30 AM   #3
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After some lunch, Powerade, more fuel, chain lube etc, I set off again, this time over Moa Creek and Old Dunstan Rd past the Poolburn reservior and then gapping it to Ranfurly, as you guessed it, for more fuel.

The 525 EXC isn’t too bad for fuel economy if ridden sensibly (is there any such thing on a 525??) basically that means steady throttle, not too much snapping on the gas or riding like you’re doing an enduro.
Just ride smooth and steady and it has acceptable fuel consumption.
The biggest drawback is the small tank capacity, only 6 litres before hitting reserve, which has another 2 litres. This gives a range of around 125km before really sweating about finding a gas station, so in order to get through some longer stretches, I carried a slimline 4 litre can which I carried in my backpack. It was only ever there long enough to be a top up supply, as soon as I’d covered around 60km, into the tank it went.

By this stage, I’d now covered over 300km, and the EXC seat, which had affectionately become known as “The Rack”, was coming into it’s own. About as bloody useful as a piece of 4x2 timber, and even with MTB shorts under my riding trou, I was starting to feel the dull ache of discomfort setting in.
I was standing a lot, but without any form of fairing or screen on the EXC, my body was feeling it from the wind fatigue, so sitting was more of a neccessity in order to keep up the distances for the day.

The last leg was through the historic Danseys Pass, from Ranfurly to Kurow, another gold mining area from the 1860’s which started at the Kyeburn diggings, and developed as a trading route when the wagon trail was forged across the high country pass into the Waitaki basin.






I rolled into Kurow around 4pm, and gladly parked the bike, my ass was sore and the temperature was still in the mid 20’s, so I wet my parched throat with a couple of “big botts” of the amber nectar, which the South Island rural pubs are so famous for. Those beers, together with a good pub feed, a long hot shower and a comfortable bed, I slept like a log.

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Old 10-17-2010, 01:36 AM   #4
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Day 2.

I woke at 0615 to clear skies again, but as it was too early for the hotel cook to get out of bed, I settled for the complimentary continental breakfast at the pub and feasted on cereal, toast and bad coffee.
Made tracks by 0730, and headed off up the Hakataramea Rd, absolutely no traffic to be seen right through to McKenzie Pass. Just magic.







I had to dodge some suicidal bunnies and a couple of dumb sheep, which gave me a couple of “Oh, Faaaark!” moments, but once again, no impacts, me or the wildlife.

It was fantastic to barrell down the wide open gravel roads at well over 100kmph in the cool morning air, leaving a billowing trail of dust behind me in my mirrors.



At one stage a topdresser went over top, then banked away towards the hills and unloaded his fertilizer in a similar fashion, with clouds of dust streaming away from his aircraft. It would have made a good picture with the two of us making our own trails of dust in the air.


From the Hakataramea, I turned and headed over McKenzie Pass only to go onto my reserve tank, and realised that I would pay the price for being too hard on the gas through the Haka’. I knew I wouldn’t make it to Fairlie for fuel, so went to plan B and stopped to talk to a farmer on his quad bike. He led me back to his house, and gave me enough gas to get me to the next station, Top bloke, friendly and wouldn’t accept any cash for the fuel, that’s what I love about rural NZ, most of them are good, down to earth buggers.

From Fairlie I followed Spur Rd and Rockwood Rd before cutting back towards Geraldine, and sadly, no more gravel for a couple of hundred km’s.
It was a tedious drag up the backroads from there, long straight roads, ticking off the small settlements, Arundel, Mayfield, Mt Hutt, Windwhistle and finally Sheffield for one of their famously good pies. Steak and Cheese of course, nothing else compares.
I looked longingly at some of the side roads in this area, wanting to ride to Erewhon, Lake Heron, Lake Coleridge to name a few, but they would have to wait for another day, I was on a mission to get home.

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Old 10-17-2010, 02:07 AM   #5
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Once onto Arthurs Pass road I slogged on, taking a break at Lake Pearson, which was magic, calm, warm and free of bloody sandflies.



I cooled my feet in the water briefly before gearing up again and heading over the Bealy Bridge and into Arthurs Pass village for lunch.





Now, you try and eat peacefully with these damn kea birds around, talk about a battle of wits.
Those little bastards tried eating my GPS on the bike, and when I went to shoo him away, his mate decided he’d go my plate of food. Crafty little buggers know a thing or two about teamwork. A spray of water from my drink bottle soon sorted him out. And his mate.





For an alpine rest stop I thought it would be nice and cool, but it was over 23deg here too, so getting my gear on wasn’t much fun, but once moving, the air cooled me down again.
I continued over the pass and over the Otira Viaduct, fine piece of Kiwi engineering that it is.





Onwards towards Otira village, and turned towards Mitchells at the base of Lake Brunner. This was much cooler, heading into the heavier forested area which was a relief to escape the heat for a bit.
I followed Inchbonnie Rd, Noname, then Maori Creek rd up over Mt Riley, which had great views. Unfortunately, I was a bit over stopping, so no photos here, and gapped it to Moana for fuel.

Made a decision to push on towards Reefton for the night, as Moana seemed a little grim at this time of the year, and not many options for food, so gassed up and tracked towards Haupiri and turned into the Ahaura - Hochstetter road, more superb forestry roads in there, but got the feeling it’s a little too remote to be blasting down my oneself, so took it easy.



Had a brief stop at Lake Hochstetter, but the lake edge was non existant, as the water levels were right up onto the grass, so didn’t bother staying for long.






Soon to come was my second fuel crisis, after checking the distance to Stillwater for fuel, I knew it would be touch and go whether I’d make it or not. I stopped to ask a local who directed me half a km down the road where I could buy some gas from a cow cocky. He helped me out and was again real friendly and nothing was a problem. I happily paid him $2 a litre, much better than walking. He informed me the Stillwater, Ngahere and Ahaura fuel stations are now all closed, so good thing I stopped at his place.

Finally, Reefton appeared ahead of me, where I checked into the first pub I arrived at, and preceded to limp off to me room, damn it, 680km is too much on an EXC in one day. I managed to find the energy to do an oil change on the bike before relaxing with a couple of beers and a good feed.
You gotta love small town pubs and the relaxed atmosphere they have. Livin' the dream!

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Old 10-17-2010, 02:15 AM   #6
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Day 3.

Had a bit of a sleep in today, no rush as I only had another 250 km to get home. Set off a bit after 9am to another fine warm day, and made my way north on the sealed highway to the Upper Buller Gorge, where the road turns left to New Creek. This was just a short detour to the Mackley river crossing and back, time was limited and fuel range was always going to be an issue. The river was well up anyway, and didn’t even consider it by myself. The track in there is still a good blast though, the route winding through majestic native forest and past some minor coal workings.
Once back on the Buller highway, I pushed on to Murchison, for fuel and a good cooked brunch.

Thought I’d try getting through the Nuggety Creek road which links with Tutaki Rd before the Braeburn route. It’s a great little farm style track, following the riverbed through farmland, but unfortunately, through access seems to be a no-go. I met the farmer, who I wouldn’t say was grumpy, but he was quite adamant he didn’t want through vehicle access over his turf.
I could have explanied this was a legal paper road, but not worth adding fuel to the fire, and burning any future bridges.

So, time to backtrack, and headed back to Mangles Valley and over the Braeburn which was cleared of the fallen trees which were there last time.
The Porika track was fun as always, just the usual rocky sections and the rest was good, starting to dry out after a very wet (and snowy) September.
I didn’t stop for photos again, as this is pretty much my home turf, but here’s a file photo from my last trip across there (on my 450).



Okay, so there wasn't as much snow this time, but always a fun little track to get to St Arnaud.
This was to be the last of the gravel for this trip, I topped up the tank with the spare fuel I had, and after a good blast up Howard Valley Rd, I rejoined the seal again for the last 100km to home.
Nelson turned it on as usual, with a warm sunny 22 deg day, so the last leg of my journey was a relaxing ride to unwind with.

And so it is, the new toy is home safety, and is booked in for some workshop time, tinkering with it to personalise it and give it the once over.
Damn, I love road trips.

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Old 10-17-2010, 02:16 AM   #7
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nice,680 ks on a 4x2 and with a backback,have a beer on me!
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Old 10-17-2010, 12:32 PM   #8
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Good stuff! So a seat rebuild & a bigger tank are on the cards for the 525 then?

Looking forward to covering some of that ground on the way down to the Burt next month.

Cheers
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Old 10-17-2010, 06:16 PM   #9
cooneyr
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I'm glad the seat made you pay for such an awesome ride (bike and route that is) ya lucky barsted. I'm off south over labour weekend on big blue so I'll keep eye out for your tracks and maybe add a few more

Good bit of info on Nugety Creek Rd. Had thought about that one for a modified northern DB.
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Old 10-18-2010, 12:00 AM   #10
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Nice write up......

Damn fine piece of country isn't it...
Well done matey, hop to get down that way soon on the SXC.....BUT.....With a bigger tank..:)

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Old 10-19-2010, 02:09 AM   #11
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Thumb Alternative routes around Murchison

Went once,with another guy,---from Upper Matakitaki (down a short side road,abouve Six Mile) --upstream & across the Matakitaki river & on to the end of Tutaki south Rd. --both of us on B.M.W,s (f650 & R80).Turned out to be a bit of a mission as the river was up a bit & daylight was fadeing. It was private land & we should,nt have really been there I guess,but apart from the river crossing ,the track was,nt bad.
My first ever ,stoney river crossing.
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Old 10-19-2010, 12:42 PM   #12
Mark_S
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good stuff and great RR

I want to do that loop

although if your 525 seat is anything like my trail bike's seat then bugger that for a joke

give me my klr couch (and 21l tank) any day

I'd like to see comparison shots of the number plates on your 450 and 525 as I suspect something isn't quite kosher there....
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Old 10-19-2010, 08:55 PM   #13
kiwipeet
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Great RR

The nevis looks a bit colder than when I was there last!
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Old 10-20-2010, 05:47 AM   #14
mlkdash
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nice RR

Loved reading that - and good luck with the seat mods! Wonderful country that is. I took a pedal bike trip through some of that 10 years ago and also met some extremely generous folks. Cheers
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Old 10-20-2010, 05:58 AM   #15
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Good work - well not really work!

What a wonderful journey. I bought a trail bike in Bristol (England) to ride home 200miles. The PO thought I was mad! Perhaps as I was as the route wasn't anything like yours.

It's always a bit of a risk buying a M/C online. Will it be fine or an old nail? Now you know it's a runner.
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