Our trip started off not too well, as we arrived in Wellington, I received 2 SMS messages, the first stating our ferry the next
morning MAY be cancelled and the second text saying it had been cancelled, and we would need to book our passage to South Island on
another ferry. So, early next morning we drove to the Interislander ferry terminal and were lucky enough to get a booking the next
night at 5 PM. This meant we were already 32 hours behind our scheduled pick-up of the two bikes.
We made a decision to
forego picking the bikes up in Picton and rather collect them in Brightwater, just south of Richmond/Nelson. This
turned out to be an excellent decision as the 5 PM only arrived in Picton 8:45 PM, far too late and dangerous to pick
up bikes and then ride along the very twisty Queen Charlotte Drive. I had phoned Scott Baker earlier and changed the pick-up
location to his premises in Brightwater.
That night we drove in Yvonne's car to Havelock where we spent the night, even in a
car it's a hard drive at night. We arrived pretty exhausted from the early start and hanging around in Wellington killing time
for the late ferry.
Early next morning we drove through to Brightwater to collect the bikes from Scott. He works for John Fitzwater,
the owner of GoToursNZ
, one of the many bike hiring companies on South Island. Most are based in Christchurch.
I hired a Honda
Goldwing 1800 and John, my brother from South Africa, hired a Suzuki V-Strom. The Goldwing was an obvious choice for me, as I
owned one a few years ago and was comfortable with it, and a big plus was there was not such a great need for wet-weather gear as
the Goldwing has an extremely protective windscreen, for cold and rain. As it turned out, we both made great choices.
The bikes ran very sweetly and never missed a beat. Scott obviously maintains them really well.
Because of John's limited time
for the trip, I pre-planned as much as possible, but did not book any accommodation anywhere, choosing to book only a day ahead when
we knew for fairly certain where we would be. Only on one occasion, our first day on the bikes was I unable to get any
accommodation in Greymouth, due to the Wild Foods Festival being held in Hokitika, but more about that later.
Our trip is shown
on the map on the right, click here
to display it in full size.
Once we had picked-up the bikes and cleared paperwork and bike
instructions we headed to Greymouth, via Murchison, Westport and Punukaiki, where the Pancake Rocks are located. This is as far as
we made it on our first day, about 60 km's short of Greymouth. While the other three walked along the boardwalk at Pancake Rocks,
I rode back a few km's to the Punukaiki Tavern, where I managed to get two rooms. Rooms were basic but clean however, their pub
was great and we enjoyed a pub-style meal there that night. The trip was 271 km's.
Our target destination the next day was Fox
Glacier, a ride of 276 km's - not a very long ride but as there was plenty to see along the way, we did not want to rush it. After
a bit of grocery shopping in Greymouth we headed for Hokitika, where the food festival was in full swing, with virtually everyone
dressed in fancydress, some really weird and wonderful costumes and some weird looking youngsters - no doubt some serious partying
took place in the make-shift camping ground, the aroma late at night must have resembled the aroma at Woodstock!
our bikes to Franz Josef Glacier with Yvonne & Isabel following us in the support car. Once again we were extremely
lucky with the weather, it was almost perfect, even though there was a very fine mist "rain", more of a heavy mist. We stopped for
lunch alongside the highway. Most days we picnicked at lunch time.
We arrived at Fox Glacier about mid-afternoon, once again
the weather was good but with a very light mist rain, It was so light we hardly felt it, once out of the treed-pathway, the mist disappeared
and the sun shone brightly. After a (very)strenuous hike alongside the glacier we reached a view site with a stunning
view of the Fox Glacier, the hike was well worth it!.
Our motel in Fox Glacier was very well appointed and clean, a mezzanine
unit with the living area downstairs and the bedroom upstairs. We walked around the small village and visited the obligatory souvenir
Our South Island 2,000 km Motorbike adventure
Pancake Rocks (Punukaiki)
Early morning, Fox Glacier
At the top of the Fox Glacier viewsite
Day 3 of our bike ride was from Fox Glacier to Queenstown, a distance of 353 km's.
On the way, we stopped at the Gates of Haast
and Wanaka, from where we decided to ride over the Crown Range to Arrowtown and then finally to Queenstown. The ride was amazing,
dense forests until just past the Gates of Haast, a twisty road but very scenic, then the landscape and scenery changed totally as
we drove alongside Lake Hawea and then alongside Lake Wanaka. We visited Puzzling World
at Wanaka, which plays tricks on one's mind.
We all felt a little dizzy and disoriented in one room in particular. Many of the exhibits appear to defy gravity.
Range is an amazing ride, not far from Wanaka is the famous Cardrona hotel/pub that was used in the Speights beer TV ad campaign.
We had to stop there for the obligatory photo shoot! From Cardrona, the road was great, long winding and sweeping corners, pure
perfection for a great bike ride. From the Crown Range Summit one gets a stunning view down towards Arrowtown and Queenstown.
Little did we know it was going to "be all downhill" from there on. About eight years ago I did the Crown Range, in the opposite direction
is my motorhome - but I had forgotten just how steep and sharp the corners are. To say we had to concentrate while navigating the
many switchbacks would be an understatement.
Arrowtown is an old gold-mining settlement, but it has been transformed into a quaint
tourist destination. Many of the old buildings are still there. Well worth visiting. We met Ron & Sheryl in Arrowtown. I sold
my previous motorhome to them.
We arrived in Queenstown quite late that afternoon, in fact, it was more like early evening. After
checking in at one hotel, we were directed to the apartment in the centre of town, where we were going to stay for the next two days.
The apartment we had rented was right on the main esplanade, so the views from our windows were breathtakingly beautiful, we couldn't
have wished for a more perfect setting and location. There's plenty to do in the Queenstown area. It's adrenalin junkie heaven, but
we are "old farts" so much of the adrenalin stuff we left to the crazy people!
We did more sedate things like going up the cable-car
to get a view of Queenstown from above, always stunning! The next morning we did a boat trip onboard the TSS Earnslaw,
a steam-powered ship. Check out the official site for this area:
we were in Queenstown, we heard the news about Cyclone Lusi and the fact it was very likely to "hit" NZ, both North and South Islands,
with devastating results and extremely strong winds with very heavy rain. This is when we decided that going to Milford Sound
wasn't really on. Actually, we had already pretty much worked out we did not have the luxury of time on our side to do the 574
km round-trip in one day. A pity, but it's a tough ride there and back in 12 hours, especially with a 2-hour boat ride thrown in for
good measure. Maybe next time??
From Queenstown, we decided to head for Geraldine, a ride of 363 km's. On the way, we stopped
at Cromwell, to buy petrol and wine, Tarras, Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo and Fairlie. From Tarras we rode over the Lindis Pass,
a good road with long sweeping bends, perfect road for bikes. By now, the lush forests had disappeared and were replaced by dry, brown-grassed
rolling hills. At Omarama we turned north towards Twizel, where we stopped for yet another picnic lunch.
When we arrived at Lake
Pukaki, Mt. Cook and the other mountains in the distance were covered in thick clouds, however, as it was already quite hot, we figured
if we waited a while the clouds would lift and then we would get a view of Mt. Cook, from the "other side" we had seen earlier from
The Glacial Highway on the West Coast. Our wait paid off, about 2 hours later the cloud lifted, and we saw Mt. Cook. Although the
view was good, it wasn't as spectacular as the year before when we travelled in our motorhome.
Our motel in Geraldine was by
far the worst on our trip. It looked as if it was built and furnished in the 1950's and nothing had changed since then, yet it was
the same room rate as the place in Queenstown?. It was at least, clean. We stayed in Geraldine as it then gave us a short ride into
Christchurch, so we could arrive there mid-morning, leave the bikes and car at the hotel and catch a bus into town.
The famous Cardrona Hotel
At the top of the Fox Glacier viewsite
John needed the toilet urgently!
John - Crown Range Summit
Switchbacks between summit & Arrowtown
John & Isabel, Queenstown
Lunch at Cheviot. Goldwing & X5
View from our apartment, Queenstown
Me, approaching one of the many switchback bends on the way to Arrowtown
Same place a year earlier
Mt. Cook and Lake Pukka (2014)
Redcliifs - destroyed house
This is exactly what we did, we arrived at the Airways Motel mid-morning, left the bikes and the car there and caught a bus into town.
In town, we walked around near the museum, had our normal picnic lunch in Hagley Gardens, and then we caught the 2 PM red bus tour
of Christchurch city. We had done the tour a year earlier and whereas that tour was about the destruction on the city by the
massive earthquake, this tour was more focused on the regeneration and rebuilding of the city. It was extremely information
and uplifting to see how the city is being rebuilt, albeit at a slow pace. It's likely to take decades to totally rebuild Christchurch
and the surrounding suburbs. After the tour, we walked to Cashel Street to view the container-built shopping precinct.
The next morning we drove to Sumner to show John and Isabel the earthquake damage to the houses at Redcliffs, South Brighton and Bexley.
As soon as we got back to the hotel we set off for Kaikoura. We stopped at Cheviot to fill up with fuel and, once again, a picnic
lunch of roast chicken and salad sammies. This was a short ride of only 189 km's, but the next day we wanted to ride all the way back
to Richmond, a ride of 273 km's.
The weather forecast for Cyclone Lusi were getting worse by the day. It was now forecasted
Lusi would hit the top end of South Island very badly. In light of this, we travelled at a reasonable pace to Blenheim, where we visited
Peter Jackson's Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre
, as both John & I are very interested in anything aviation related. From there
we rode to Havelock and then to Richmond, where we had booked 3 nights at the Parkside Motel, albeit a bit traffic noisy, it was one
of the better motels we stayed at, with an extremely friendly owner.
The next day we decided to go to Kaiteriteri, with Yvonne
on the bike for a change. The ride there was really good, with a great road with all types of corners, sharp & twisting, gentle
and sweeping. Kaiteriteri was very busy, there was a marathon taking place. On the way back we drove through Motueka, and we stopped
for an excellent lunch at the Appleshed restaurant in Mapua. John was fascinated by the extremely fast current at Mapua. From Mapua,
we went to Rabbit Island, where for the first time we encountered a "road maggot" - a campervan driven by a person more accustomed
to driving on the right-hand side of the road, he got pretty close to us before he realised what he was doing. Thankfully, this was
the one and only scare we had on the trip, except for the odd corner or two where there was loose gravel on the corners!
night (Saturday 15th March) the cyclone forecast was not good at all, so when we got up on Sunday morning I persuaded John to
get the bikes back to GoToursNZ as soon as possible. A quick call to Scott Baker and he said we were welcome to bring them back, albeit
a day earlier than planned. An excellent decision as not 5 minutes after trooping them off, and while still talking with Scott, the
heavens opened and the wind started howling, and it stayed like that for about 18 hours. I believe Nelson had about 150 mm of rain
in an 8-hour period. Never mind the rain, riding a Goldwing is not fun in a gale-force wind.
That Sunday we drove into Nelson
city and just walked around, a bit miserable as it was pouring horizontally, due to the strong wind.
On Monday, we drove to Picton,
along the scenic Queen Charlotte Sound road. That night we enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Oxley Rock Hotel restaurant. Once again
we were lucky with our choice of hotel in Picton, an ideal location with stunning views over Picton Harbour.
All in all, it was
a fantastic adventure, especially sharing it with John. The weather behaved, and for both ferry trips we had calm seas and sunshine,
which always make the journey more pleasant and scenic. We arrived back in Wellington at about 6 PM, and we then drove back to Napier,
arriving home just before 11 PM.
Peter Jackson's Omaka Aviation
On Kaiteriteri beach, in bike gear??
Yvonne & I leaving Kaiteriteri
Leaving South Island and Queen Charlotte Sound, onboard the ferry "Kaitaki". See you again one day!
A celebratory "selfie" after a successful & pain-free bike ride
Image of Cyclone Luis which threatened the end of our trip
The storm of the century at the beginning of our trip which caused the ferry cancellations.
Click on any image to see the full size photo.