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Old 11-05-2014, 09:00 PM   #1
vaara OP
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NZ South Island rideabout, November 2014

Day 1, November 5, Auckland to Nelson to Takaka

The story thus far:

Slightly more than 50 years ago, a lady in Washington, D.C. gave birth to a baby boy. After he recovered from a brief bout of jaundice, his parents took him home to their modest house in the suburbs...

SKIP AHEAD!

50 years and 3 weeks after the events described above, I boarded a flight to Honolulu with the intention of ending up, several eons later, in Auckland, New Zealand. And so it came to pass that after a rather uncomfortable couple of flights, and a night at the Auckland Airport Novotel, I woke to my first glimpse of this green and pleasant land.



Which was shortly followed by my first taste of Kiwi humour.



My mission for the day was to fly to Nelson, pick up a rental bike, and then ride it to the nearby town of Takaka, where I had booked two nights at a farmstay. The rental-company bloke was kind enough to meet me at the minuscule Nelson airport -- where the baggage claim is a poorly-defined area on the curb -- and took me on a brief tour of Nelson. In exchange for this, I was kind enough to give him $50, as agreed in advance.

The bike was in his garage at home. I was pleased to discover that it had a Scottoiler -- no messing about with chain lube for me. After some organizing of stuff, and some paperwork, I was off.

This would probably be a good time to confess that I didn't take a pic of the bike upon picking it up. You probably really really want to know what kind of bike it is, don't you? Well, I shall keep you in suspense for just a few more lines. There's a pic of it coming up. I promise.

So, back to the ride, I backtracked a bit, nearly got attacked by a blown-over "WORKS END" sign, then successfully negotiated a left turn towards Motueka. The day was overcast and cool; I was just barely warm enough in my Aerostich Roadcrafter Light with 2 layers underneath.

There was a flat bit, then a hill, and then I was in Motueka. Here I parked in a motorcycle parking spot and went into an adjacent eatery, which I selected because it had a motorcycle spot in front. I paid $14 for a chicken pizza, which amounted to almost exactly $1 per bite. It was a very small pizza.

Then I put on my extra layer, which I should have done before, and set off down Highway 60 towards Takaka. There is a big hill in the way, called Takaka Hill. The road was swoopy and twisty and turny, and I was having far too much fun to stop and take photos. I did eventually stop at a spot called Hawke's Lookout, where a short trail leads to a splendid view of Nelson and the road I had just ridden.

There were eroded limestone formations too.



Everything you ever wanted to know about dolines, and nasty sea serpents too. Any resemblance to Homer Simpson is strictly coincidental.



And now for the view.



One nice thing about using Flickr for photo storage is that I can specify the display size. So here is the obligatory selfie -- sized as befits someone who hates having his picture taken.



When I got back to the bike, I discovered that I was short one glove. So I hiked most of the grueling 400 meters back toward the overlook, and found it lying on the ground. Still probably not enough to break me of the habit of sticking my gloves in my helmet...

A short time later, I crested Takaka Hill and was rewarded with a grand view of the Takaka Valley, with snow-capped peaks beyond.



Here it is, the moment you've all been waiting for!!!



After the summit, the road descends through yet more entertaining twisties and finally to the flat dairyland that is the Takaka Valley. I missed the turnoff to my accommodation, so I got a quick tour of Takaka, there being no other kind of tour of Takaka, as it's a very small town.

Tomorrow: To the Top of the South.
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vaara screwed with this post 11-05-2014 at 09:09 PM
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Old 11-05-2014, 10:29 PM   #2
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Day 2, November 6, Takaka to Wharariki Beach and back

After a chilly night (my hosts, being hardy Kiwis, tend not to believe in insulation, or central heating, or double glazing, and my delicate Californian self found it hard to handle the 5°C overnight low) I had a quick breakfast and a not-so-quick wait for the weather to warm up a bit.

I had no firm plans -- indeed, I have no firm plans whatsoever for the rest of this trip, though there a few sights I would very much like to see -- so both my hosts recommended that I visit Wharariki Beach, which is pretty much the end of the road here on the South Island, and the very northern tip of the West Coast as well.

After picking up some water and trail mix at a "dairy" (i.e. convenience store) in Takaka, I rode north. At a lookout point I stopped to snap a nice view of Golden Bay.



I don't have one of them fancy GoPro thingies, so stopping for photos involves pulling over (and let me say right here that left-side traffic is much better when it comes to pulling over when you're on a motorcycle, for reasons that will become apparent if you just think about it a bit), de-gloving, etc. I have not yet mastered the art of the hand-held action shot either, but maybe I'll give it a go on this trip. Don't tell the bike rental bloke.

I was feeling a vague craving for more caffeine, so I detoured into the microscopic town of Collingwood in search of a café. The big one on the left side was closed, so I turned around and saw an open one out of the corner of my eye; by the time my brain had processed the information and realized the need to improvise a parking spot, I was 100 meters past and could no longer be bothered to perform another tricky right-hand U turn.

After this, I took the turnoff towards Farewell Spit. The road narrowed, and there were numerous one-lane bridges. The scenery grew grander the farther I went -- at times the road was only a few meters from the ocean. Here too there were rivers brimming with water, a sight with which we Californians have become sadly unfamiliar.

Another couple of turns, and I was on the access road to Wharariki Beach. Which is about 6km long, and gravel. And now for another confession: I don't like riding on gravel. There, I said it. But I persevered and came to a car park where several trails (or "tracks" as they're known here) begin. The first part of the walk to the beach goes through idyllic sheep pasture.



Then through a bit of primeval Jurassic-Park looking forest -- after which the Tasman Sea can be seen.



2000 km to Australia.



Lots of monoliths and seawater caves about.



And sand, obviously.



During my walk back to the bike, I stopped to explore a little tannin-rich stream that flowed into the sea. That little blob is a seal that was lazily playing in the water. And now you know why I'm not a wildlife photographer.



And now some proof that I actually did do a bit off-asphalt riding. Not that I'm defensive or anything.



And a view that I missed on the way in. This is quite near where Dutch explorer Abel Tasman first landed in New Zealand.



Now it was time for lunch. I made for the Mussel Inn, a well-regarded pub and live-music venue between Collingwood and Takaka. The crowd was sparse; the food (a sort of Manhattan-style mussel chowder, garlic bread, salad) was excellent. As I was sitting at a picnic table under an oak tree, the gentlest of spring showers began. I couldn't be bothered to move -- so I got sprinkled on.

Then I returned to Takaka to vegetate and work on this report.

Tomorrow I hope to ride a few hundred km down the West Coast -- as fine weather is promised. But apparently the weather forecasts in NZ are notoriously unreliable. I'm also not sure when I'll have time to update again... but stay tuned!
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vaara screwed with this post 11-06-2014 at 01:52 AM
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Old 11-05-2014, 10:44 PM   #3
Te Hopo
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Excellent mate, knowing those roads it is always entertaining to me to hear what others think of them.

Nice pics and I like the writing style.
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Old 11-05-2014, 11:02 PM   #4
Ben Carufel
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In. Totally in. One of my best friends in the whole world moved to Nelson with his wife about seven years ago and I've been down to visit them a handful of times. My girlfriend and I went in 2010, and we did the drive to Abel Tasman a few times, stopping at that same turnout to look over Takaka Valley.

Good memories!
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Old 11-06-2014, 12:50 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Te Hopo View Post
Excellent mate, knowing those roads it is always entertaining to me to hear what others think of them.

Nice pics and I like the writing style.
Thanks, Te! Or do you prefer "Mr. Hopo"? Nice country you have here.
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Old 11-06-2014, 12:59 AM   #6
vaara OP
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Originally Posted by Ben Carufel View Post
In. Totally in. One of my best friends in the whole world moved to Nelson with his wife about seven years ago and I've been down to visit them a handful of times. My girlfriend and I went in 2010, and we did the drive to Abel Tasman a few times, stopping at that same turnout to look over Takaka Valley.

Good memories!
One thing that struck me is how *green* everything is. In fact my first reaction was, "did someone Photoshop that hill?".
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Old 11-06-2014, 01:21 AM   #7
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Glad your enjoying my back yard Should be a mint ride down the coast tomorrow, but put plenty of layers on
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Old 11-06-2014, 03:03 AM   #8
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Really enjoying reading your ride report, thanks for sharing. Its cool/interesting see what people from outside of nz think of our country! Enjoy your ride down the coast. That's my favorite road in nz - you'll see why
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Old 11-06-2014, 03:03 AM   #9
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as other have already said - your writing style is great - thanks for taking us along for the ride
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Old 11-06-2014, 06:03 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by vaara View Post
But apparently the weather forecasts in NZ are notoriously unreliable.
It's more that the weather in NZ is notoriously unreliable. One of the joys of the maritime climate c/w a continental climate. If you've never heard the phrase "Four seasons in one day", you soon will...
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Old 11-06-2014, 07:11 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Ben Carufel View Post
In. Totally in. One of my best friends in the whole world moved to Nelson with his wife about seven years ago and I've been down to visit them a handful of times. My girlfriend and I went in 2010, and we did the drive to Abel Tasman a few times, stopping at that same turnout to look over Takaka Valley.

Good memories!
I was in Abel Tasman in 2010 as well. Amazing place.

Nice report OP, thanks for reminding me of how great that place is.
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Old 11-06-2014, 10:59 PM   #12
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It's more that the weather in NZ is notoriously unreliable. One of the joys of the maritime climate c/w a continental climate. If you've never heard the phrase "Four seasons in one day", you soon will...
Today I got two: cold & dry, and cold & wet.
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Old 11-06-2014, 11:44 PM   #13
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Damn, you rode past a stunning part of the South Island and one of my favourites. The Whanganui Inlet and the road down to Anatori. Probably a bit too much gravel for your liking though and there is always next time.
Enjoy your trip and looking forward to the next update.

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Old 11-07-2014, 02:45 AM   #14
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Day 3, November 7, Takaka to Fox Glacier (~550 km)

Friday dawned clear and cold -- the overnight low was 4 degrees, which in Fahrenheit terms is approximately "No fucking way I'm getting on that bike until it warms up!". Eventually it did, a bit, so at the crack of 10:15 a.m. I got back on the road. The return ride over Takaka Hill was pleasant enough, though toward the end I found myself in a festive procession led by a double tractor-trailer creeping along like me on a gravel road.

Back in Motueka, I tried withdrawing some cash at an ATM (it worked) and then got some gas; unfamiliar as I am with the fuel filler neck on an F650, I managed to create a pretty little geyser of gas all over the bike seat. On the plus side, I deftly worked the pump to make the total exactly $30, which totally made up for having petrol-soaked hands.

Finally it was time to cover some new ground. I turned right and rode south on Motueka Valley Road, edging ever closer to Antarctica. The scenery was pleasant -- and occasionally quite grand, though there's a certain monotony lent by the ubiquitous Scotch broom, an invasive non-native shrub that is every bit as much of a pest here as it is in the Pacific Northwest.

For my next break, I turned off at a "picnic table" sign, but couldn't find an actual picnic table. Not that I needed one.



After turning right onto Highway 6 for the ride through Buller Gorge, I decided to remedy the grievous lack of photos here by hand-holding my camera in video mode. The results speak for themselves (and what they say is, "don't do that anymore").



Throughout the day's ride, I had to fight the siren's call of the right-hand lane: "Come to meeeee.... You know you want tooooo..." The arrows helped.



1080 is a chemical being spread all over the South Island to kill off possums and other predators that have been busily killing off native bird species. I saw anti-1080 signs all over; apparently it's not just deadly to possums, but to other critters as well.



By this time it was about 1:30 pm and I hadn't eaten yet. I had thought it might be fun to have lunch at Formerly The Blackball Hilton -- a pub and hotel in the town of Blackball that was sued by Hilton Hotels into changing its name. Even though I knew I wouldn't get there until well past lunchtime, I headed there anyway.



As I suspected, I was late for lunch, but the barman rustled up some indifferent fish & chips for me anyway. And now, the façade:



To call Blackball "quiet" would be putting it mildly.



But it was not ever thus. A century or so ago, Blackball was a hotbed of labor unrest.



A nearby exhibit has an affecting tribute to lost laborers: a spinning wheel bearing the names of men killed in mining or industrial accidents.



The barman, who had seemed a bit standoffish earlier, came outside and asked me where I was heading. I had no idea, beyond just riding down the West Coast, and told him so; he recommended trying to make it to glacier-land. So that's what I decided to do. After Blackball I quickly reached the coast at Greymouth, which had a startling sight: a multi-story building. It quickly became apparent that I had entered the Tourism Zone, as the road was lined with hotels and backpacker's and B&Bs, and every third vehicle was a rental campervan.

After a while the road left the sunny coast and climbed into the cloudy mountains, which (again, just like in the Pacific Northwest) snag the clouds and hold them there. Consequently, I got rained on a bit.

Approaching glacier country:



The road consisted of straightish and sweeperish sections interspersed with short twisty bits. The surface was excellent -- at least until the very end, between Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, where there are lots of scary gravel patches in corners. You have been warned.

Finally, I made it to Fox Glacier around 6:30 p.m. The motel has thoughtfully provided motorcycle-shaped concrete parking pads by each room.



I found an excellent burger, unfortunately paired with a nasty Pinot Noir, and returned to call it a night. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I might splurge on one of those helicopter flights. Or maybe I'll just ride another 550 km. Milford Sound is calling my name...
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Old 11-07-2014, 07:49 AM   #15
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I'm getting that feeling again.

Where is my helmet? Tell the boss I'm crook and won't be in until mid Dec.
Oh, I miss the Sth Island. First time was in Dec 76. I did a lap with John Fitz, of Thunderbikes, Nelson fame. We had a ball. Crazy teenagers on a Gt380 and an RD350.
Enjoy Milford Sound. That is amazing country down there.
Stay safe, my friend.
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