South Island Together

stf_9361A rather later departure than I at least had in mind. Both of us have had to cull the amount of clothes we are taking so we will plan on regular laundrettes.

Noon found us at Pirongia on the unofficial Hamilton bypass. A bakery pie was most welcome as were the Pirongia loos, always clean these.

Apart from having to make frequent stops for coffee, Neurofen and fuel the journey was happily uneventful, finally arriving in Palmerston North around 6:30.

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Read more: Tuesday 23rd November

img_9375When it's too good to miss you don't want to miss it. Breakfast at Bella's is just as good as dinner and Alistair greeted us like an old friend. Even the parking warden was friendly and didn't give us a ticket (nor should he have we had bought a ticket but he would not have know that, where do you put a pay and display on a motorcycle?)

The drive out of town is a bit more salubrious than the drive in, serving to highlight the gulf between the haves and have nots hereabouts.

It's not a long drive to Wellington from “Palmy” and apart from a coffee in Paraparaumu uneventful.

There were quite a few bikes in the queue for the boat but one Ozzie woman set Mary's teeth on edge by telling her that she wouldn't be seen dead on a bike like that!. Not much worse that she could have said.

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Read more: Wednesday 24th November

img_9390A restful night at the Lugano and a leisurely breakfast at the cafe on the corner got us out of the motel at only just gone 10. I can see it being difficult to get all the way around the South Island.

There seems to be a lot of traffic on highway 6, particularly large trucks but it's a nice road and we soon arrive in Nelson. The town is busy and pleasant with numerous cafes for lunch and Mary's CanAm attracts most of the crowds, we keep it in view while we eat.

We were only in Nelson in February so we move on quite quickly only stopping in South Street a historic area well worth a look for interests sake and for the pottery shop with a good range of local wares and $15 shipping around NZ.

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Read more: Thursday 25th November

img_9399The excursion to Golden Bay is on a no exit road, in the sense that it only goes to Golden Bay and then stops when the land runs out. For this reason it's a more isolated area and very reminiscent of Great Barrier Island in the North.

The Takaka Hill is perhaps one of the great motorcycle routes in New Zealand, hairpin after hairpin through staggering scenery then, when you finally get down the other side, long straights and sweeping corners. Quite magic. This is by no means a quick run as we found we were compelled to make regular stops to relieve the hands and take in the view.

Collingwood is very small and quiet but offers several motels and small cafes and would be an excellent base for a few days. We went on to the base of Farewell Spit and walked across, East Coast to West Coast in 30 minutes. There are a wide range of walks and activities like horse riding (we met a group) to amuse.

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Read more: Friday 26th November

img_9422Another breakfast and Skype at the Moorings and we targeted Westport for tonights stop.

The road takes us around the edge of the Kahurangi National Park and is for the most part glorious and deserted, with a bonus of no trucks as it's Saturday. All along Old Highway 61 there are vast hop plantations and the road climbs steadily until it joins with the Nelson to Westport road.

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Read more: Saturday 27th November

img_1666We thought a quiet run out to Karamea, another no exit road, and a second night in Westport would give us plenty of time but surprisingly nowhere near enough. You could do a couple of days here and not see it all.

Dennison (a ghost town since the coal mine failed 40 years ago) is much as we recall it from our journey 25 years ago except that today it was warm and sunny. DoC have been busy landscaping and the like and it's pretty nice if a bit ott. In many ways I rather like the spooks being left to themselves.

Granity a few km further on is charming and has a small cafe (also for sale, and looks to have been for some time), a theatre - The Lyric, and several arts & crafts shops. There is little traffic even on this fine sunday in late November so I rather suspect it might be a bit quiet?

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Read more: Sunday 28th November

img_1714Breaking with tradition we had breakfast (toast and marmalade) in the motel to allow for an earlyish start and to avoid a fourth meal in the “Dog”.

The road is fabulous (again) quite a bit more traffic than we are used to but we are in no great hurry as the views need to be savored. There's a very large contingent of motorcycles coming the opposite way for most of the day and some wave and some do not. Churlish we thought.

Punakaiki rocks (pancake rocks) are just as spectacular as always and amply reward the short walk around them. Unfortunately it's not high tide so the blow holes are not really working but none the less you can clearly get the picture. Fortunately it's another really nice day.

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Read more: Monday 29th November

img_1805The weather gods are still smiling and the initial overcast breaks up rapidly. Our day this morning is to be a trip on the Mt Cook ski plane (www.mtcookskiplanes.com) around Mt Cook with a landing on the Tasman Glacier on the other side of the divide.

There's a bit of initial uncertainty about the weather but we are off the ground just before 10am from a very rumpy strip with a nasty power cable at one end. I rather wonder what (apart from price) is the problem with the Franz Josef field nearby.

The trip is fabulous and pretty smooth too, only marred by the lack of headsets for the passengers. The Cessna 185 is quite a noisy beast and it's very, very hard to hear the pilots commentary, not to mention the risk of hearing damage. Take ear plugs.

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Read more: Tuesday 30th November

img_1865A flying start and gone just before 10am (!) and off to Fox for a brief look at the glacier there. The road down to Haast went though various types of weather ranging from drizzle to hot sunshine and some difficulty deciding how much kit to wear. The day finally decided on hot as we went inland

We had hoped to go to Jackson about 50km south of Haast to join friends for lunch at the Cray Pot Cafe there but it became clear to us once at Haast an extra 100km return would be well beyond us so reluctantly we stopped for lunch at the Fantail Cafe in Haast.

Our recommendation would be to take a picnic lunch for the day and enjoy it at one of the many fabulous beauty spots you'll go by. The fantail is a mistake. Soggy sandwiches, instant coffee it claims expresso but that's not credible and nasty music (apologies to Abba and Doris Day but neither have ever been a favorites of ours)

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Read more: Wednesday 1st December

img_1902Whoo Hooo! The road over the Cardrona pass is magnificent and has everything that you could wish for except in a few places unannounced 'gravilons'. The views,surface, hair pins, fast curves , etc., are all guaranteed to bring a smile to all but the most difficult to please biker and they shouldn't be in New Zealand anyway as they don't deserve it.

A lunch stop at the Remarkables Shopping Centre in Frankton, just out of Queenstown then on to Kingston. The sad news here is that the Kingston Flyer (a steam train) is sitting rotting rather than transporting tourists. Sadly there are morons everywhere and those responsible for this wanton vandalism should also be shipped off somewhere. Perhaps cleaning up Commonwealth Games villages would be a suitable punishment.

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Read more: Saturday 4th December

img_1921Real Journeys do a day tour from across Lake Manapouri, through the underground power station and then across to Doubtful Sound. the details can be found here on their website, www.realjourneys.co.nz

Suffice it to say that while not the cheapest it was very well organised and an absolute pleasure to go on. A full day, pick up at the hotel at 7:30 thank you very much, but better than the later one in our opinion.

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Read more: Sunday 5th December

img_2098Rain overnight had cleared this morning and we set off on the Scenic Southern Route (or whatever it's called) towards Invercargill.

The temperature is well down on the recent past and is (variously) between 9 and 16 degrees, more often at the lower end. Linings and thermals are deployed for the first time this trip and are only just enough when it starts to rain somewhere North of Tuatapere.

The days highlight was the Yesteryear cafe in Tuatapere. Two old girls (well older than us) have collected an array of old items from the first half of the 20th century and earlier. Old ranges, kitchen equipment, radios (they are even playing records on a radiogram).

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Read more: Monday 6th December

img_2126A very early start (for us) for our tour of Stewart Island organised by Stewart Island Flights. Check in at 7:30am and the taxi man was early at 7:10 – you can imagine how close the airport is to the City.

Apart from a predictably crummy breakfast at the airport, we boarded our aircraft, the very same Cherokee Six (ZK-DIV) that I flew to the South Island in about 1986. It's done a few more hours since then and time has not been that kind to it. However our pilot (Gerrard) kindly let me have the right hand seat and even take the controls for the straight and level. It does fly well, they are a terrific aircraft.

Everything went well, transfer to Oban (tiny village you understand) walk over the hill to Golden Bay to meet Ken the water taxi man who got us to Ulva Island by 08:50. “Take the paper for John and I'll see you at 11:30” says Ken. “What on Earth will we do here for over two and a half hours?” think I. Actually it flew by.

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Read more: Tuesday 7th December

img_2228Just back in after a splendid evening at The Point at Kaka Point. Paddy, mine host there, is a mine of information about the district and happy o have a drink and a chat.

The run though the Catlins is great fun. We stopped at only a small number of the possible attractions including Waipapa Point, the scene of NZ's worst civil shipping disaster in 1881 when 131 lives were lost.

Curio Bay is an awesome collection of petrified trees laid out on a kind of coastal shelf where the Southern Ocean is aiming to do some serious damage.

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Read more: Wednesday 8th December

img_2262A very cold night in the Catlins, most unseasonable I'm assured but that's less than completely believable.

The morning ride through the Southern Scenic Route is just glorious. The only weakness for is that the three wheeler finds the surface pretty rubbishy and by lunchtime the cracks in the number plate have turned into great big crevices and it's really ready to fall right off. The mudguard and plate are attached directly to the wheel so every little jolt shakes it.

The NZ Post Office no longer deal in number plates it seems and I was referred elsewhere, a Vin I think she said. I compromised by chucking the broken bit in the top box and forgetting about it.

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Read more: Thursday 9th December

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A big day with not much to write about. Oamaru to Kaikoura via Timaru and the outskirts of Christchurch. Various nice coffee stops on the way but nowhere really to write about. The roads are fast with lots of morons driving (you can only wonder where some of them get their licenses).

The Bella Vista in Oamaru turns out to be directly opposite the AA who provide replacement number plates. Sadly their computer will not countenance a small plate for the trike so I now have a pair of large (car) plates. Needless to say the holes in the plate don't match the holes in the trike so the whole lot is in the cargo bay as our teeth are not up to the job of drilling the necessary holes.

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Read more: Friday 10th December

img_2308A final day off for whale watching and our hostess at the Bella Vista had tried to arrange a trip with the Whale Watch Kaikoura but since they are not answering the phone it's problematic. We settled for leaving a message and in the end walked there.

The sad news is that far from being apologetic about the phones the desk staff at Whale Watch Kaikoura were offhand and defensive. So much so we were at the point of walking out and had there been any alternative you may depend on it that we would have gone elsewhere.

Also take note that their 10:30 trip is actually at 11:00 and they seem to time their trips oddly. We did have time for a coffee and scone in town and talking to the owner of the cafe it seems that, as in so many places in NZ there is a youth problem and clearly there is a good size gulf between the haves and have nots here.

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Read more: Saturday 11th December

img_2333The coastline north of Kaikoura is awash with seals and you get surprisingly close to them when you pull up. They have apparently had trouble with some type of low life attacking the seals, it is hard to understand what motivates pond scum like that.

There is certainly a characteristic pong where the seals live.

An early lunch at Figaro's in Blenheim was very nice and they ran it through quickly for us so we would not be too late for the ferry at Picton.

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Read more: Sunday 12th December

img_2345Little to report except for the very long way from Palmerston North to home.

One thing that is of note is that the back way from Palmerston (Highway 54) through Fielding is one of the nicest roads in the country with the most fabulous views of the Rangeteki River valley. It rates so much better than Highway 1 it's just not funny.

Another highlight (there are not that many when you're in a rush) is the cafe at the old National Park railway station. An excellent coffee and sandwich awaits you there.

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