TT2000 - A golden weekend.
I had a very pleasant ride down to Dunedin, arriving there around 2:00 pm. The bike was nice and clean for a change, and I was only carrying minimal gear. Stopped in at MCR for a coffee for myself, and tyre, chain and sprocket for the bike. That small job that I expected to take 45 minutes seemed to go on forever, however after a couple of hours Nighthawk turned up to keep me company. Finally at close to 5:00 pm the bike was ready, so Nighthawk and I shot up to his flat for another coffee and to catch Xaria without her cap.
From there I checked into the Manor House Backpackers, almost right behind Nighthawk and Xaria’s place then down to Hells Pizza for dinner, then into bed shortly after 9:00 pm.
After such an early night, I was awake at 5:00 am, so after a coffee and something to eat I decided to hop on the bike and see what was happening around town. Imagine my surprise to find McIvor and Veitch open at such an early hour, and around 100 bikes parked outside. Naturally I had to venture in and see what was going on. Not much there took my fancy, but I did fill in a form and receive a nice T-shirt with a TT2000 logo on it. By a sheer coincidence I just happened to have a coat hanger taped to the inside of my top box as a result of an idea given to me by KoroJ. The T-shirt fitted the hanger perfectly and, as there was a general mass exodus from M&V, KoroJ and I decided to set off for a scenic ride.
OK, it was still dark, but so what? We headed up Rattray St, but the Speights Brewery was closed, so carried on up towards Three Mile Hill. Near Ashburn Hall, where the fixed speed camera is, I slowed down to exactly 50 kmh when two other bikes shot past. I recognised one of them as Mr Triple’s Tiger, and sort of confirmed it as he was two up. We followed in a tidy procession down the hill, but at the turn off to Outram, one bike carried straight ahead on Dukes Rd while Mr Triple, KoroJ and I turned right. I decided Mr Triple was setting the speed just a tad low, so I passed and upped the pace to something just a bit faster. At Outram KoroJ and I turned right up George King Memorial Drive, but Mr Triple carried on straight ahead. At the Hindon Rd corner there were a number of bikes all parked up taking a photo of the sign post, so KoroJ and I stopped and took a photo of other riders taking photos of the sign post. We headed up to Lee Stream, but one look at the fog forming in the Valleys and I knew that my usual route through Mahinerangi would be at a snail’s pace, so down to the Taieri Plain, through to Berwick and on to Henley. I had a bit of a heart in the mouth moment as we were leaving Berwick. There was what I thought was water across the road, but both tyres lost grip as we went through. As it was next to a dairy farm, I won’t try and guess what it was that turned tyres into skates.
From here it was down boring SH1 to Milton then onto one of my favourite roads, the Manuka Gorge and onto Lawrence. We stopped at the entrance to Gabrials Gulley and took a photo of the two bikes, and were just getting ready to Leave when Mr (and Mrs) Triple turned up. Obviously they were out for a scenic ride as well. It was still early in the day (not yet 08:00) so we turned south on the Tuapeka Rd. I had to lead KoroJ onto a bit of Gravel at Tuapeka just so he could experience it, and we stopped at the Punt for another photo. Once again Mr (and Mrs) Triple turned up. Were they following us?
OK, time to give that triumph Tiger the slip, so we headed off at a good pace down to Balclutha for some petrol. Once here there was no choice but to go further south down the Catlins. I gave Daffyd a toot as we passed his house at 9:00 am. A short detour seemed to be in order to visit Niagara Falls for a photo stop. There were a couple of bikes already here including Shannon, from Roxburgh, on a Suzuki Bandit. This must be a popular route for motorcyclists.
Once again we headed south, but we didn’t really feel like going through Invergumboot with all those traffic lights and 50 kmh areas, so just after Fortrose we turned north once again and headed to Wyndham. Once there we saw a few bikes parked next to the war memorial, but the only thing of real interest in Wyndham is the entrance to the park with its massive archway, so KoroJ and I headed around the block. Other riders must have agreed with us as there were around 10 bikes already there as well.
How cold is cold?
18th June 2010
After almost a week of heavy frosts with morning temperatures down to -6C the weather forecast for friday looked good. A northerly influence coming through to thaw the ice and should make for pleasant riding conditions. When I went to bed on thursday night it wasn't looking too hopefull as the temperature had already plumetted to -3C and still dropping. So I was very pleased to wake up on friday morning to find the northerly had indeed come through and the temperature had risen to +2C.
So it was on with the bike gear and shortly before 10:00 am I was away. The northerly was picking up in force as I went through the Cromwell Gorge and I knew that I was borderline for having enough fuel to get to Omarama so I stopped in Cromwell to top up with that liquid that motorcyles love. This also meant that I wouldn't need to stop in Omarama, or so i thought. I noted that the temperature in Cromwell was still at +2C despite the northerly wind, and it looked like the overcast would keep temps low all day.
At Tarras it felt like someone had opened the fridge door as I rode from acceptable above 0 riding conditions to suddenly being below 0C. Only 5km into the Lindis Pass road and there was snow and ice at road level and it just kept getting colder. The first pic below is taken on the long straight before Morven Hills Station about 1/3 of the way through the Lindis. While stopped to take the photo a car passed by in the same direction, and once underway i followed it for quite some distance before finally passing it just after the twisty section near Dip Creek when the car was slowed down by a stock truck. There was hardly any traffic on the road and all the way to the top I only saw one car and one truck going in the opposite direction. There were many places where there was white ice on the road and I was pleased that the grit trucks had been through
At the top of the Lindis Pass where there is normally a drop off down into the valley the snow plows had created a raised bank instead. Picture 2 below. The same car passed me again here, but there was no sign of the stock truck. (I later learned that the truck stopped to put on chains.)
Heading downhill towards Omarama I was mentally calculating how much I could expect the temperature to rise with the decrease in altitude. It wasn't enough. By Killermont Station the snow had gone from the side of the road and it was now just the ice remaining. I repassed the same car again just before hitting the black ice on the Omarama bridge. Fortunately it was only a short section and proved to be no hassle. Omarama at 11:30 am was a much needed toilet stop, and the car I'd been passing and repassing along the way made the same stop. Talking to the driver I learned that the temperature at the top of the Lindis Pass had been -8C and in Omarama was still - 4C. (The same driver told me about the truck stopping to put on chains). Perhaps not quite the balmy ride I had been anticipating.
I headed down the Waitaki Valley and could feel the air warming as I went. Near Aviemore the fridge door was closed and once again the temperature felt above 0C. At Kurow I crossed the old twin bridges to Hakataramea the headed down the northern side of the Waitaki to Ikiwaki. Suddenly I felt the bike drift slightly and saw ice at the same instant. The temperature dropped again and the road became quite slippery as I headed through the hills to Waihou Forks. Going into the Waimate Gorge I couldn't help notice the signs saying "slippery when frosty" and "ice/grit". The latter ones were quite misleading because where there was grit there was no ice and where there was ice there was no grit.
Waimate was a good place to stop and have a hot lunch and refuel the bike. Now came the real reason for the ride. There are a number of back roads in this area that need exploring, and explore them I did. I won't go into too much detail here as some of these roads may form part of an organised ride later on. Suffice it say that when I arrived in Geraldine at 2:30 pm I had a grin from ear to ear, and the day had been above 0C for the whole section of the ride. I turned around and headed back on almost the same route (with a couple of deviations) to Waimate. Fuel was needed again and looking at the time I realised that I wouldn't get back over the Lindis before dark.
Heading out of Waimate at 4:00 pm it was straight back to below 0 temperatures for the run back through the gorge and through to Ikiwai. Like earlier in the day there was no sign of ice heading inland from Ikiwai, but now came a new issue. The whole day had been overcast except for away in the west low down on the horizon had been a thin sliver of blue sky. The sun now dipped down into the piece of blue sky directly in front of me. The sun strike would be the worst I have struck for many years and it was continuous for about 15 minutes. During this time my average speed would have only been around 50 km/h or less. Fortunately the sun soon went down and so did the temperature. I knew I had to get at least through Oramama before dark or the Lindis Pass would just be too treacherous. Approaching Otematata I was tempted to call into Old Rider's for a hot coffee, but I knew if I did that I wouldn't get through the Lindis, so I just pressd on into the rapidly fading light.
It was still dusk as I went through Omarama at 5:20 pm and already I could see the occasional glistening of ice forming on the road. On into the Lindis Pass and my speed dropped lower and lower as I sucked the bike up with my arse to keep upright. Patches that looked dry were actually ice already forming, and patches that looked wet, well that is black ice and I knew to keep absolutely upright and straight when crossing them. Near the top of pass I had the unusual experience of waving a camper van through as he was going faster than I was. Once over the top it was now fully dark and much more difficult to pick up the icy patches on the road. I took it carefully all the way to tarras where once again the fridge door closed and it felt like a balmy evening. A pity the northerly hadn't moved through the other side of the Pass as well.
I finally arrived home just before 7:00 pm. 740 km in 9 hours and some of the coldest riding I've ever experienced.
Southern Cross 2005 - the tale of 3 newbies
During the week before the Southern Cross rally I had the bike fully serviced and new Pirelli Dragons fitted. I spent plenty of time cleaning the bike and checking
that I had all the correct gear fitted and securely attached. On Saturday 7th, I left home at 09:25 am, then called into local bike shop to pick up a new body belt. I
met another rider, Dave from Matamata in Alexandra, and we rode together as far as Gore on wet roads. Not heavy rain but wet enough to prevent me from
properly scrubbing in the new tyres. After having lunch with friends just out of Invercargill I took the back road through to Tiwai.
As I came back onto the main road, two police cars went hurtling past at high speed towards Bluff with sirens blaring and their red and blues flashing.
Obviously something was happening further down the road. A few minutes later I was following a car at around 105 kph when it suddenly slowed down and pulled
hard left. I naturally accelerated to pass it, but as I pulled alongside with my speed increasing to around 135 kph I heard a noise from behind that made me
recheck my rear-view mirrors. There was another police car with red and blues flashing right on my tail. I kept the throttle open and also pulled hard left as soon
as I was clear of the car I was passing, but the police car wasn't interested in me as it continued on at a speed well over 160 kph. I later learned that there was an
armed offenders callout in Bluff that afternoon.
I soon found the Eagle Tavern, and parked outside. I was hardly off my bike when Geoff and Mike came out and introduced themselves. The night before the
rally was spent in the Eagle Tavern meeting some of the riders and watching the Highlanders snatch defeat from the Crusaders. I also told a few riders (including
Mike and Geoff) of a shortcut through some of Southland's back roads that would by-pass Invercargill and save a few minutes ride time.
Day 1 (Sunday 8th): 784 km.
We all gathered at Stirling point with most riders there well before the official start time of 12:00. Because of the large
number of entrants the organisers announced that all future checkpoints would open half an hour earlier at 11:30 am to ease the congestion at sign in time. All
makes and models of bikes were represented including one intrepid traveller on a Piaggio scooter.
As the ride commenced I waited until Mike and Geoff were ready then set off intending to lead them through the shortcut. I was careful not to set too fast a
pace too early on, but I was still surprised by the large number of riders who seemed to want to make a race of it. Many bikes passed me by at speeds that
had to be way above the legal limit including the guy on the scooter. At the Tiwai turn-off to the shortcut, I noticed 3 or 4 bikes follow me but as I could only see
headlights in my mirrors I couldn't make out who they were. I was a bit disappointed when I turned back onto SH1 at Kennington to discover that Geoff
and Mike were not among the riders that had followed me. Just short of Edendale a group of fast riders who had already passed me once
flew past again I didn't get a good look at all the bikes, but there was another GS1200SS among them. I sped up just to see what speed they were travelling
at, and followed them for about 1 minute at 135 - 140 kph. As far as I was concerned they could go for it, and I slowed back down to around the speed limit.
I turned off at Mataura onto the Clinton back road (few cops patrol this section) and let my speed increase to around 110 kph. Next another fast group of riders
that had already passed me once shot by at around 125 - 130 kph and once again I let them go. I still hadn't yet scrubbed in my tyres, and there was snow on the
hills not much above road level, so no heroics for me. As I passed through Clinton, that same group was just pulling into the petrol station, so despite their
higher speed they had gained less than 1 minute.
Back onto SH1 and it was into following the many Sunday afternoon drivers travelling quite slowly. I stopped at Balclutha for a short comfort break, and as I
was rejoining the main road Geoff and Mike cruised by. I followed them up the hill past Scumdog's (and a short toot on the horn) then on northwards.
I took the lead on Dunedin's Southern Motorway, and then through the one way street system, before waving Geoff through on the Northern Motorway (he has a
radar detector). The road was very greasy due to a combination of water and stock effluent, and both Geoff and I did a wee bit of a slide despite careful low
speed riding. Mike pulled up at Waitati and I thought he was stopping for a refuel. Geoff turned back to join Mike, whist I carried on to fill up in Palmerston. I had
just finished my refuel when Geoff and Mike pulled into the petrol station. Apparently they hadn't stopped for fuel, it was simply a case of needing more
protection from the cold.
We carried on north seeing fewer and fewer bikes on the road as we each formed our own groups at a pace we were comfortable with, but still seeing other groups
as they stopped for fuel or food. Our main stop was in Timaru for a bit of a feed and to refresh ourselves, then on the road once again just as it was turning dark.
Once north of Ashburton the traffic density increased, and we were fortunate enough to find ourselves travelling behind a 4WD that was setting a good pace.
We stopped for fuel at Templeton just as a light misty rain began to fall, but although cold, it wasn't heavy enough to need additional wet weather gear. Geoff
and Mike had accommodation booked at Amberly for the night, but I had already planned to head further north. In view of the weather conditions and the
possibility of an overnight frost I decided to carry on to Kaikoura. A group of 3 bikes passed me at Waipara and I sat behind them for a short
distance, but I thought 135 kph at night in those conditions (the road was wet and very greasy) was just a wee bit risky, so I slowed down and let them go. They
were just stopping at Cheviot as I passed them, but then 25 minutes up the road the same group shot past me once more. On the Kaikoura coast road I saw a
bike parked up against the cliff face, so I stopped to check that everything was OK. There was no sign of the rider anywhere so I carried on. I later learned that
this was the scene of a double accident about 15 minutes earlier. One rider was travelling a bit too fast for the conditions and slid into the rock face. A car
travelling right behind braked hard, causing the next motorcyclist to also have to brake very hard. The second rider slowed down to around 15 kph before he too
lost control and came off. The first rider was later taken to hospital suffering from concussion, and the second rider’s bike suffered sufficient damage that he too
pulled out of the rally. Despite my lower speeds and the short stop at the crash site, I arrived at Kaikoura at 9:30 pm only a short time behind the faster riders who
seemed to love passing me.
Day 2: 607 km
I left Kaikoura in the dark at 06:30 in the morning after refuelling and headed north on a road that was still damp from the rain the previous day. As it got closer
to dawn the temperature dropped until it was quite chilly. I felt sorry for those riders who stopped in North Canterbury overnight as they would be really finding it cold.
The sunrise when it came was absolutely glorious, but it did show the frost glistening at the side of the road. Riding past the vineyards on the outskirts of Blenhiem
I saw the wind machines blasting away at the grapevines, and could even hear them whirling. Just out of Blenhiem and into fog. Now that is cold. I would rather have
the frost than fog any day. Picton was clear of the fog, and I arrived in plenty of time to refuel and change my ferry crossing to the morning sailing. Geoff and Mike
joined me at the ferry terminal as we waited to board. 31 bikes, including that bright yellow Piaggio scooter, tied down on the ferry for the morning crossing, but I wasn't
too impressed with the facilities for securing the bikes. Instead of lashing the bikes hard down on their suspension with the front wheels against a bulkhead, there were
simply wire ropes crossing the deck to tie the bikes to. I'm glad it was a relatively smooth crossing.
We were the last group of bikes to leave the ferry terminal and head out on the road once again. It was fairly tedious going until we had passed Paraparaumu
after which we were able to get back up to a reasonable cruising speed. At Bulls we passed a large group of riders who had stopped for a break, but otherwise we
saw few riders on the road. About 20 kms south of Hunterville we very nearly ended our ride totally. Geoff was leading and I was following in a staggered pattern
shortly behind when an idiot in a Toyota who had been parked at the side of the road decided to pull out in front of us and do a U-turn. He saw us too late and
braked hard. By that stage Geoff had already swerved hard right and I prepared to try and squeeze behind him. Fortunately he did stop and only blocked one lane,
so we all passed him safely, but that was a very close call. We stopped in Hunterville for fuel then carried on at a nice steady pace. Just short of Waiouru I noticed
that Mike's headlight was no longer behind me, so I turned around and headed back to see what had happened. I hadn't travelled more than a few hundred meters
when I saw him approaching (he had stopped for a photo) so once again I turned north. Geoff meanwhile had noticed a complete lack of bikes behind him, so he
pulled over at the side of the road right behind a Hilux Ute speed camera vehicle and stood directly in front the lens. He stayed parked there as we came up and
joined him, much to the dismay of the speed camera operators.
The desert road gave us some wonderful views of Mts. Ruapehu and Tongariro, but the sunset did cause some difficulties with sunstrike. We had a brilliant ride
from Turangi around the side of Lake Taupo, and it was just on dark as we approached Taupo township. The ride through the Kinlieth forest with its well formed
sweeping bends brought back fond memories of when I used to live in that area. As we passed Atiamuri power station I wondered if the Old Lantern Tea Rooms
were still operating and started to watch for the quaint wee cafe beside the road. As we approached the spot where I expected to see it, there was an eerie
bright green light shining through the forest. As I rounded the corner, what was once a quaint wee cafe was now lit up with enough lights to power half of
Auckland. But all of the lights were green. It was like a UFO had landed in the middle of the forest.
The smell of Kinleith mill as we passed was a reminder that Tokoroa was not far away, and soon Geoff led us through the streets to his house and our
accommodation for the night.
Day 3: 609 km
As we would be back in Tokoroa on Thursday night we decided to leave behind any unnecessary gear and only carry sufficient for two nights away. This meant I
could travel with only a top box and my small wet weather bag instead of two panniers, tent and bag. However while rearranging my luggage I discovered one broken
bolt and another very loose on the luggage rack. A quick trip to a local engineering supply shop for a couple of high tensile bolts and we were on our way once again
shortly after 9:00 am.
We refuelled in Putaruru and proceeded north via Matamata and HW27. With the panniers gone my bike was much better balanced and now started to handle more
like its sports bike heritage. I took the lead with Mike following and Geoff bringing up the rear. We were fortunate enough to come up behind a Falcon that was
travelling at a pace somewhat in excess of the speed limit, so we felt quite safe to sit behind and let him run interference should any revenue gatherers be about. It
was still only 11:00 when we reached the Auckland motorway, and traffic was relatively light. I was a bit surprised to note that although we were maintaining a
fairly steady 100 kph we were passing virtually every vehicle on the motorway. Are Auckland drivers becoming over-paranoid about speeding tickets? Once off
the motorway we did see a speed camera van parked at the top of a rise right at the end of a passing lane. Not revenue gathering? Yeah, right.
We had planned on a lunch stop at Orewa, but as it was still quite early we decided to press on to Wellsford instead for fuel and food. There were a few
other Southern Cross riders who obviously had the same idea, their bikes by now were becoming a familiar sight. Doug and his CBR1000 "Roxanne" were
waiting for us at Kaiwaka. As this is his home territory, he had offered to lead us through an alternative "scenic" route. We turned off the main road at Otaika, just
south of Whangarei, and it was straight onto motorcycling heaven. 83 km of narrow winding road with hardly another vehicle anywhere until we reached Kaikohe
via Maungatapere, Titoki and Tautoro. I'm glad we had a guide who knew the road though as we maintained a very crisp pace all the way. However the twisty
sections weren't over yet as next we were into the Mangamukas with a whole series of 55km bends that just seemed to flow from one to the next. This was really
brilliant country and the grins on our faces when we stopped at Awanui told the whole story. Doug left us here and headed back home via the coast road while we
continued on north to Houhora Heads and our overnight stay.
Day 4: 834 km.
As it was only 70 km to the Cape Reinga checkpoint we decided to call in to the bakery at Pukenui and take a picnic lunch with us to eat at the northern most point of
SH1. 50 kms of easy riding highway followed by 50 km of well formed gravel road. We caught up with a few other riders on the gravel section and most were handling it
quite well. The Piaggio proved to be the hardest bike to pass as he was determined to follow the wheel track closest to the middle of the road at a very low speed, and
just refused to pull over. Eventually I passed him on the left (legally a no-no) and saw Geoff and Mike follow suit. Geoff was having a hard time on his Blackbird, yet I
found the GS1200 handled the conditions without any difficulty.
We were among the first riders to arrive at the checkpoint, and were able to spend a leisurely hour eating lunch, watching the other riders come in, and generally
talking bikes. One rider on a yellow Triumph came into the car park a bit too hot and proceeded to lay his bike (and pillion passenger) down in front of everybody.
No damage fortunately other than a broken indicator and hurt pride. With the book signed we remounted and started the longest section of the whole
trip. I loved the gravel riding and took the opportunity to open it up a bit, then slow down and wait for Mike and Geoff to catch up while watching how the other
riders were coping. Geoff was feeling a bit more comfortable on this return section as he was weighting his footpegs a bit more and letting the bike move
rather than fighting it. The bikes that did impress me were the KTM and the 4 Suzuki DL 1000 V-Stroms. Each of these riders was obviously at ease riding on
the gravel and were prepared to make their bikes perform. Once back on the seal we found ourselves riding in a large group almost all the way to our refuelling
stop at Awanui. There was a line up for fuel at this stop although some riders did carry on to either Kaitaia or Taipa. We chose the Bay of Islands road
for the trip south as, although it may be slightly longer, it was a more relaxing ride early on. We teamed up with another couple of riders for the journey south as
they appeared to riding at roughly the same speed we had been cruising at. The same fast group that seemed to be always passing us, only to stop at the next fuel
stop rocketed by again just south of Whangarei, but when we stopped to fill up at Wellsford, there they were. Geoff took the lead once again as we headed south
towards Auckland. We knew that we would catch the rush hour traffic, but I still wasn't prepared to find the traffic travelling as slow as it was. We reached Spaghetti
Junction at 5:00 pm, and it took us a full hour to travel to Bombay. Fortunately we were able to keep moving by using the narrow piece of road between the middle lane
and the safety barrier. By the time we reached Bombay, and our planned meal break, it was dark and just starting to drizzle so a visit to the cafe was most welcome.
Coming back out 45 minutes later and the drizzle was quite heavy. Geoff and Mike elected to put on their wet weather gear, but as we only had 3 hours or so riding
to our overnight stop I decided to just stick with my leathers. What I hadn't counted on was the extremely high humidity that was causing my visor to fog up, and
everytime any traffic was coming towards me my total vision was simply an opaque haze. Geoff stopped at Maungatawhiri to adjust his riding gear, and as I
was riding rather slowly in the conditions, I pressed on after Mike who was some distance ahead. The continuous drizzle also made the road rather slippery and
twice I found the rear end sliding out. Mike obviously knew the area well and I found it almost impossible to keep up with him through the Karangahake gorge.
Despite the conditions we made good time to Tauranga and our next fuel stop. The rain eased off, although the roads were still damp, and traffic become more
sparse as we made our way through Te Puke, Matata and Whakatane before reaching our overnight stop at Ohope at exactly 10:00 pm. My decision to forego
the wet weather gear proved to be the correct one as my leathers repelled all the rain and I was still completely dry.
Day 5: 583 km.
This was to be a relatively short day in distance, but a fairly technical day with lots of low speed bends and another 40 km of gravel roads. We departed Ohope at
8:00 am and had a very pleasant ride around the coast to Opotoki where we stopped to pick up some brunch at the bakery. From here on I was torn between riding
hard to keep up with Mike, or slowing down and enjoying the fantastic scenery. The fact that had a timetable to keep to meant the scenery would have to wait for
another time, yet despite that I still found myself, on too many occasions, looking at the scenery rather the road and diving into a corner too fast for comfort. I'm sure
Geoff was amused at the number of times I'd have to brake hard and take another bite at the best line. We didn't see many other bikes on this stretch of road until we
stopped at Waihou Bay for fuel, but once we arrived at Te Araroa there were already quite a few others there with the same idea as us, i.e. something to eat and drink
before continuing on to the checkpoint.
This section of gravel was a bit more difficult to negotiate than the Cape Reinga road. It had a very high crown in the middle of the road with a thick coating of coarse
gravel, and the road itself had a nett slope towards the sea. This combination meant that for a large part of the way the bikes were travelling across quite a steep loose
Once again the KTM and the Suzuki V-Stroms seemed to handle it with ease. I had fun letting the rear end drift out a bit in places, and pushing a bit harder on the
straights, but poor Geoff experienced his front wheel washing out in gravel then getting caught in the sandy rut in the water table, and down he went. The first indication
I had that something was wrong was that after rounding a bend and starting to power along a bit of a straight, I couldn't see Mike in my mirrors. After about 15 seconds
I knew something must have happened so a quick U-turn and back down the road. Fortunately Mike and a few other riders were already there and quickly had Geoff
and his Blackbird upright. No injury and no damage other than some scratches to the paintwork.
About 20 or 30 bikes were already at the checkpoint when we arrived, and we were very relieved that we didn't have to make the 20 minute climb to the
lighthouse before signing the book. Back down the road towards Te Araroa and there seemed to be an endless line of bikes still heading towards the checkpoint.
All of these riders would have made it with time to spare, but once we were west of Te Araroa there were two riders still arriving who would have been cutting it
very close to time, and later two separate riders who were still heading east after the checkpoint would have closed. Riding back along the scenic East Coast road
once again and I heard a loud bang like a .223 discharging from under my bike. Nothing seemed wrong though, the
bike was still handling well and performing up to scratch so I continued on. When the same noise was repeated about 10 minutes later it was time to stop and have
a thorough inspection. I couldn't find anything amiss, as in no broken or loose fittings, no obvious punctures etc, so I soon continued on even if a bit more
cautiously. There was no repetition of the loud bang, but I still gave the bike another thorough look over when we stopped for fuel in Opotiki. We back tracked the
route we had taken previously through to Ohope, then over the hill to Whakatane before turning off towards Rotorua. More scenic country as we passed by the Rotorua
lakes, although the sun was coming in at a low angle and causing some small visibility issues. Through Rotorua and I was back on roads that I knew fairly well.
Geoff was setting the pace, and it soon became obvious that we would reach Tokoroa right on 5:00 pm. As we cruised up Tar Hill (between Atiamuri and Tokoroa) I
was hoping that we would pass the Kinlieth Mill gates before the till Traffic came out onto SH1. We made it on time, and had a clear run through to Tokoroa itself.
Day 6: 337 km.
We departed Tokoroa at 8:00 am and headed towards Whakamaru, the town I lived in 13 years earlier. Geoff once again set the pace on that roads that I used to know
so well. Nothing had changed. The bends hadn't been straightened, the bumps and hollows in the road were still there, and I swear that the ripple in the seal at the
bottom of the hill is exactly the same as its always been. We filled up at Mangakino then headed out on the Bennydale road.
It was foggy in patches, and I remembered from past experience that when there is a sign indicating "Slippery when Wet" that this road can get very slippery.
There are many parts of this road that never see the sun, not even in mid summer, so I tended to be rather cautious on some of the corners. But where the
road was dry it provides heaps of grip and we could again make good time. The Awakino gorge has always been one of myfavourite stretches of road with its
sweeping bends that just seem to go on forever. I first rode through here 31 years ago and decided then that these sweepers are among the best in the country. I
still haven't changed my opinion. But we had a checkpoint to reach, so this time I didn't turn around and ride them in the reverse direction like I did back then, but
continued on and followed Geoff to our next fuel stop in New Plymouth.
I took the lead for the final hop to Cape Egmont, and although I was expecting the turnoff, and reading all the road signs, I still overshot the turn by about 30 metres.
We arrived at the final checkpoint right on midday, signed a map of New Zealand and marked on it where we were from, but I almost didn't want to sign the final
checkpoint book. I guess I knew that once I put a signature next to my name in the book that the rally was over, and I didn't really want it to end. But after we had been
there for at least 5 minutes I did sign in and stood with Geoff and Mike for a group photo. We stayed there for a bit longer before mounting our bikes for the short hop
into Oponake and the after ride function.
I have ridden many endurance rides in the past, but this was my first Rusty Nuts ride. It won't be the last. Geoff and Mike are a great couple of guys to ride with and I
really enjoyed teaming up with them. It was an anticlimax as Geoff headed home to Tokoroa, and Mike departed for Upper Hutt and the group of riders who stayed to
party dwindled to about 30 stayers.
The Journey Home:
The next day as I was loading my bike at the Oponake camping ground, the side stand sunk into the soft ground and the bike began to topple over. Maybe the
Suzuzki GS does only weigh 205kg dry, but now fully loaded and fuelled there was no way I could hold it, and down it went. I soon found I was unable to lift it
back onto its wheels by myself, and Dave, who I rode to Bluff with before the start of the rally now came to my aid to get the bike upright. Fortunately the soft
ground, coupled with my attempts to prevent it going down in the first place, meant it had a soft landing, and there was no damage.
I had some friends in Taranaki and Manawatu that I hadn't seen for years, so a few quick phone calls and a get together was arranged for Palmerston North that
afternoon. I found I had an hour or two to kill, so I stopped at the Air Force Museum at Ohakea for a bit of a look round. I arrived at my friends place in
Palmerston North at 1:30, and after a cup of coffee and some reminiscing about old times I persuaded him to fire up his 1981 BMW, fuel up, and ride through to
Foxton where another old mate of ours now lived.
The following morning, and the weather forecast for the North Island didn't look too good, so the decision was made to cross the strait at the earliest opportunity.
I rode south to Wellington, and straight to the ferry terminal where I discovered that there would be no midday crossing today. the next crossing would be at 5:30
that evening. I had plenty of time to kill so I decided to take a scenic tour around Wellington. First off it was the Motorway up to the Hutt Valley, but as I went
further north the weather started to deteriorate so at the bottom of the Rimutakas I turned around and headed back south. One thing I did notice on this part of the
ride is the lack of greetings that Wellington motorcyclists extend to each other. I waved to every rider I saw, which would have been well over 20, but only 3 waved
Back through Wellington, and I took the scenic road out around the bays. The road around Worser Bay and back to Island Bay is slow going with the all the car
traffic but is quite picturesque. Back to the ferry terminal and there was still time to fill in, but it wasn't too long before a few other motorbikes started to arrive.
These were riders who had been to the Cold Duck rally and were now returning south. In all there were 6 bikes on the ferry for the crossing back to Picton where
I stayed the night.
Monday morning, and it was P!$$!NG down. The heaviest rain I had seen on the whole trip, and it was driving in. This was decision time. Should I get out the wet
weather gear, or should I just rely on my leathers for rain protection? I rode the short distance to the petrol station in just my leathers to see just how wet it would
be. In the end I decided to compromise by wearing a waterproof overcoat, but no additional protection for my legs. Once fuelled up I took the scenic (in good
weather) Queen Charlotte Drive to Havelock. It was very slow going as my visor kept fogging up and the road was quite greasy. However once out on the main
road conditions started to improve, and at Pelorus Bridge I stopped and took off the wet weather gear. I needn't have put it on in the first place.
Through Nelson and on south, and the weather was just perfect. Great roads and light traffic all the way. However about 30 kms short of Murchison, there was an
idiot in a silver coloured Holden who was travelling at somewhat under the speed limit. I passed him without any hassle, but then he sped up and followed me
through the nice sweeping 85kmh bends before showing me his bright red and blue indicators that he had fitted inside his grill. It must have been a quiet day for
him because he obviously wanted to get me for as many things as he could. He checked the rego, the warrant, the lights etc and even checked the tread depth on
the tyres. He was mumbling things about "young hoons on bikes", but the look on his face when I took off my helmet and he saw that he had stopped a middle aged
hoon instead is worth the 20 demerit points and $80 fine for being just over the speed limit. I reckon I was doing 105 kph when he stopped me, but the ticket
says 114 kph, and it probably isn't worth fighting.
I stopped for lunch at Murchison, then carried on towards Westport. About 20 minutes later I glanced at the speedo and realised that, while thinking about the
speeding ticket, I had forgotten to fill up at Murchison. It was still a long way to Westport, with no fuel stations in-between, but I wasn't turning back. Sure
enough, at 295km travelled from Picton the fuel warning light started flashing. I estimated that I had about 45 km to go to the next fuel stop, so this would be a
real test to see how far the GS1200ss goes on a tank full of gas. When I finally fuelled up at Westport, it took 17.8 l for 341 km (19 km/l) so in theory I still had
another 40 km of fuel left. The West Coast road with the ocean on one side, and the bush and mountains on the other is superb riding. Traffic was light, so I continued
on to Hokitika as my overnight stay.
I only planned for a short ride today, with plenty of time allowed to stop and view the Glaciers, so I called into my favourite Hokitika cafe
(Preston's) for a whitebait breakfast. The meal, when it came out was absolutely huge. Two large whitebait fritters, each the size of the plate, a generous portion
of chips, and a breakfast salad, all for $16. I am a big eater, but there was no way I could eat it all. From here I travelled south to Franz Joseph at stopped to do the
tourist thing at the Glacier information centre. I had visited Franz glacier on a trip with my wife only 6 months earlier, so this time I wanted to check out Fox. Back on the
bike and over the tight twisty section to Fox, where the first stop was the glacier lookout. Both Franz and Fox Glaciers are currently advancing and I was surprised to
note the rugged ice face that covered land which had been bare only a few years ago. Then it was back to the access road and onto the glacier itself. A very
spectacular sight, and well worth the stop. With the tourist thing done, and the Bike refuelled, it was on south once again. I had planned on going as far as Haast today,
but when I reached Haast township it was still only 2:00 pm, and 3 hours from home. Far to early to stop, so onwards and over the Haast pass to Makarora where a
hot coffee was due. From there I travelled alongside Lake Wanaka where the burnt out area of land caused by a Ducati catching fire a few weeks earlier is still very
Over the neck to Hawea and I was starting to feel the cold despite the brilliant sunshine Obviously I had already spent too long in the Far North.
The last stop was 4:30 pm at Cromwell where I refuelled again, and sent a text message to my wife saying I'd be home in 30 minutes, and telling her exactly what
I expected. Sure enough, just before 5:00 pm I parked the bike in its usual place in the shed and walked inside to my loving wife and a lovely home cooked dinner.
Total distance travelled was 5406 km, and I used 280 litres of fuel for 19.3 km/l.
Total cost of the trip for fuel, accommodation, fuel, beverages, tyres and service