Sounds 2012

IMG 0756This is a short trip down to the Marlborough Sounds to visit old friends. We scored a cut price trip on the Interislander ferry as part of their birthday celebrations, it's worth being on their mailing list for this sort of thing.

Heading out from home we have a great run through quiet roads, bypassing Hamilton, through National Park and on down to Palmerston North. Motorcycling doesn't get much better than this with the odd truck to steam past and no 'moments'.

We arrived quite late having started conventionally (read late) but having pre booked the Arena Motel and dinner that was no problem. A quiet walk into town for dinner at the very excellent Bella's restaurant and couple of well earned drinks. Whitebait was on the menu and was really good.

We think highly of the Arena Motel as it's off the main road and very quiet and comfortable. I suspect you'd need to avoid it when the Arena is actually in use though.

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IMG 0758After last nights meal we returned to Bella's for breakfast (whitebait omelette this time). Alistair and the chef work hard to make Bella's a first rate experience with a good choice of wines and that personal touch that turns good into great.

Turning left at Waikinai for the single track road to Wellington's Upper Hutt is a worth while change from the coastal motorway but it is a lot slower and makes us a bit late for the ferry and we were able to drive straight on, feet hardly touching the ground.

We heartily recommend the lounge on board the Interislander ferries, well worth the extra money for lunch, drinks, wifi and quiet away from the horde of marauding schools children.

Our destination in the Sounds is only an hour from the ferry and is a nice run down Queen Charlotte Drive.

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IMG 0800Our only excursion in the Sounds is to the Slip Inn in Havelock where we have probably the best battered fish (blue cod) we have ever had. Stupendous. Sadly they forget about us after we have eaten and we don't bother with coffee there but my word what a meal. We would not think twice before going back.

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IMG 0829Returning on to Picton at the end of our stay we get greeted by name at the ferry check-in and again, by name, on board in the lounge. This is a bit marred by having to tie down the bikes ourselves with wet and dirty tie downs, ugh, but it's still impressive. Again hard to fault the service.

Very cool on our arrival in Wellington with the temperature gets down to 7 degrees C on the Rimataka hill north of Wellington and we have to stop to don winter gloves and extra thermals.

Our stop for the night is the Martinbrough Hotel which is very welcoming and just what we need. Unexpectedly we had a little light rain to make us very happy to arrive. The Hotel restaurant had an excellent meal and we had a very comfortable stay with our motorcycles locked up in the courtyard. It would be an excellent place to stay for a few nights if you were thinking of sampling the local wines.


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IMG 0831Our run today takes us through Masterton and into Ekatahuna both of which are below our already low expectations, clearly the latter has had many failed ventures with closed cafes and the like. Cold is the major problem today with a low of 5 degrees C.

The Paihtua track is no longer a track being tar sealed and a very nice run for the bikes (and us).

Wanganui is a hard place to find a motel and cafe in close proximity. Worse yet there's a womens bowling championship taking place which has filled a number of the motels. The Riverside, about a kilometre from town seems to be the best of the selection available and we are fortunate to get the last room they have at 4pm. There is also a shortage of restaurants (many cafes but resturants seem in short supply, so we take our hosts recommendation of Stellas, a bar and grill which was quite acceptable of it's type.

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IMG 0839Breakfast at Muddy Ducks, next to the Wanganui iSite, was great as was their coffee. We finally slipped out of town at 10:45, a bit of a late start. Luckily it's much warmer today.

At Hawera (let it be said this is not a place to linger) we have a quick coffee and discussion of where to stay and how we will get home tomorrow. Our options are very limited as there are only a couple of motels between New Plymouth and Te Kuiti but on investigation none have an open restaurant within coo wee. It will have to be stay at New Plymouth and an early(ish) start to get home.

Our old favourite, a Bella Vista (we haven't stayed in this one but they are predictably all the same) is right in the middle of town and there are clearly a number of restaurants around. Just like last night we get the last room (at 3pm) so clearly there is something going on in New Plymouth too!

Our dinner is excellent. Andre' L'Escargot is a top class french restaurant with prices to match. You could quibble about the toast with the escargot, fresh bread would have been better, but overall an excellent albeit expensive dining experience.

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IMG 0849The run from New Plymouth to Te Kuiti is one of the nicest in the country marred only by heavy trucks thankfully most of the time it's not too hard to get past them though.

A highlight is breakfast in River Run Cafe in Mokau which has fresh whitebait fritters, yum! Lunch in Pirongia and again little traffic to mar the journey. 

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