Day 1- Monday 16th March, Christchurch to Akaroa
After months of preparation the day had finally come, our NZ bike ride was about to commence. Breakfast was dispatched in short order and final packing and adjustments completed. We assembled in the forecourt of the motel for the traditional group photo as misty rain began to fall. Josef who was ride leader for day one led the eight bikes out and on our way to Lyttelton, the port for Christchurch. The tunnel that takes you through the range that separates the two areas was clean, white and bright, a far cry from our trip last year when it was still suffering from the ravages of the earthquake. From Lyttelton we continued around the harbour on our way to Govenor’s Bay. We meandered through a lovely rural landscape of country houses and various tourist accommodation while taking in the beautiful views of the harbour partly shrouded in cloud and misty rain. Continuing on to Diamond Harbour, Teddington and finally Port Levy where we ran out of bitumen. The road had been truly stunning with breath taking vista’s, bends, climbs and descents that melded into one great bike road. On the return leg we had a short stop at Diamond Harbour before continuing on with our goal of reaching Akaroa. Taking the Geades Pass Road we worked our way east before meeting the main highway to Akaroa. With Lake Ellesmere on our right and the hills on our left we worked our way along a relatively flat flood plain. It was here that the wind picked up as we made our way through long sweepers with the occasional tight bend to keep you on your toes. Then as we started the climb, the road tightened with the distance between the bends shrinking dramatically. Almost in unison the fog and the rain increased reducing visibility considerably, a pity as this would be one of the most picturesque rides in N.Z. All of a sudden out of the mist appeared our lunch stop, the Hill Top Tavern. As the name implies it is located on the top of the range and was a very welcome sight. The Tavern was warm and accommodating and with all the glass windows would have been the ideal spot on any other day to take in the views. We now commenced the decent into Akaroa with the bends coming up even faster if that was possible. The road on this side of the range continued to impress with glimpses of the harbour becoming more frequent as the rain subsided. As we pulled into our accommodation for the night the rain had decided to give us a break. After unpacking we walked around Akaroa, a beautiful harbour town originally settled by the French in the 1840’s which today strongly reflects that legacy. Street names, shops and architecture have a strong French flavour which only seems to enhance the beauty of this town. The drizzle returned so we headed back to our digs and onto dinner at the Grand Hotel where we voted Josef the very best Ride Leader for Day 1 of any N.Z. bike ride we had ever attended! At the hotel we watched with intrepidation as news of Cyclone Pam which was impacting the North Island filtered through. Reports of 300mm of rain was certainly cause for concern, what would tomorrow bring?
NZ Bike Ride Tribe Report Day 2 - 17th March Akaroa to Fairlie
On waking you could hear the wind blowing, but was it raining? A quick look out the window confirmed that the rain had stopped and a moderate southerly was drying the car park! Today was Tony’s lead and he wanted us fueled and ready to go at the fuel station in the main street of Akaroa at 8.30am. It was still very cloudy as we left Akaroa and started the climb over the range but things improved for the better with the sun shining in our faces. The views we had missed out on yesterday were now around every corner, in fact so good we stopped at the Hill Top Tavern just to take in the vista. Away again the paced picked up as people started feeling comfortable with the road but all to soon we had descended the range and were pulling into Little River for breakfast. Little River is a very small town with the odd distinction of having silo’s set up as accommodation! Anyway the cafe was a good one and breakfast was enjoyed by all, little did we know that this was the start of things to come and this was to become the “food ride” We motored out of Little River and picked up speed again running the long sweepers which is a feature of this road made even better by very light traffic. We then swung east heading for Lincoln and then swing south onto to Darfield where we stopped at the bakery. It was very cool and as we happened to stop outside a sport shop John thought it was timely to update his glove supply. People warmed up around the fire and after some friendly banter with the locals we were on our way. It was definitely warmer on leaving Darfield and after a short distance we started the Inland Scenic Route with a few stops along the way to take in the panoromic vista’s. The route for most of the day had been skirting the mountains we would could continually see in the distance but not reach because of a turn that would take us away at the last minute. We then came into Methven a small rural town which was to be our lunch stop for today. The home made Cornish pasties were delicious as were the other offerings. After some people fueled and checked over the bikes it was on the road again heading for Geraldine only about 50 kms away. Geraldine is one of the oldest towns in NZ settled when the settlers made there first moves inland. It is also a very pretty town with a main street with many old buildings adding to its character. By this stage the food was almost running out of us so a couple of apples and coffee where the only sales. After a lengthy leg stretch we were on our for the last section of the ride which would take us to Fairlie. This road is a beauty with a mixture of undulating fast sweepers punctuated by tighter turns strategically positioned to put s smile on your face. All the while you are trying to keep your eyes on the road as they are continually drawn to the views produced by the mountain range that is riding as your partner. Only a short distance from Fairlie we pulled over in a parking bay (McKenzie Council Lookout) to take in one of those vista’s. This was when things got interesting as we watched John’s drone that he had been carrying in his top box launched from a road side monument and fly effortlessly above us with his GoPro camera in operation. After a successful landing we were back on the road and in no time checking in to our accommodation. Dinner that night was at the Gladstone Hotel which had a very welcome fire to warm us up as the evening had gotten quite cold.. Another great day with no rain and some great roads.
Day 3 - 18th March Fairlie to Arrowtown
Looking out the window of the hotel, Wednesday morning was shaping up well with more blue sky than clouds. However while the sun was shining it was cold at about 6 degrees Celsius. We congregated at the Caltex service station at 8.15am and after fueling, Barry who was ride leader for the day had us on our way. It was a short 17km run into Lake Tekapo although some thought it was more like 37km’s! Anyway we were soon at the most photographed church in NZ on the shores of Lake Tekapo. After photographs were taken and John had launched the Drone for pictures from a very different angle we were on our way to the Astro Cafe located on the mountain over looking Lake Tekapo. It was a steep climb to the top but we all made it up safely. The views were spectacular as the sun was shining, making the cold temperature feel a little warmer. Over some morning tea we continued to take in the views and take photo's and yes the Drone got another run.
We were soon on the road again travelling along flood planes with the snow capped mountains in the background. They were almost urging us on as we continued our journey and reached the shoreline of Lake Pukaki which today was a very bright blue, just astounding. Barry pulled over in a viewing area where there was a gap in the tree line and smack bang in the middle of the gap we could clearly see Mt Cook. It's the tallest mountain in N.Z. and the majority of it was covered in snow a truly wonderful site as it glistened in the sunshine. The roads continued to deliver with some straights connecting the sweepers and before long we reached Omarama. This town basically is an intersection for travellers coming from various regions and was full of tourists. After lunch we continued south and again the roads continued to deliver with the number of straights reducing, the undulations increasing and the bends getting tighter. Cromwell was our next stop, this is the largest fruit growing area in the region. After fueling and discussing our options it was decided to skip afternoon tea and continue riding to the bunjy jump facility just outside Arrowtown. The road from Cromwell to Arrowtown is a ripper, you basically follow the shoreline of the Kawarau River which is located in a deep revine with rugged mountains on each side. To top it off the sun was still shining and the river again a very bright blue. All to soon we were at the AJ Hackets bunjy jump facility and dismounting in the carpark. The whole facility has been carved into the side of the mountain and is very modern with video camera’s and screens giving all the non-jumpers views from all angles of the jumpers. We watched a few jumps, had some afternoon tea and then remounted for the last section of the ride into Arrowtown. We actually road down the one way main street, the eight bikes making quite an impression on locals and tourists alike. After moving into our accommodation some of the group took a walk into town while Alan F, Marc, Barry and Josef and Di had a go at the Coronet Peak road located between Arrowtown and Queenstown. While only 7kms long from bottom to the top it is one of the best bike roads, anywhere. Dinner was at the New Orleans Hotel and after a few games of pool it was back to the accommodation. Tomorrow was going to be a big day, we were going to travel to the notorious west coast of N.Z. This is where local riders remind you that, “one day your the pigeon and one day the statue”!
Day 4 - March 19th Arrowtown to Franz Josef Glacier
The ride leader for this mornings session was Alan W and he had the riders organised for an 8.00am departure from Arrowtown. The morning was a beauty with almost a complete blue sky, only problem, it was two degrees! Ice had formed on seats and screens and had to be washed off. Never mind, the promise of warmer weather as the day progressed and the fabulous roads we were going to traverse had the adrenalin counteracting the present situation. Very soon we were leaving Arrowtown and taking that left turn which signalled the start of the famous Crown Range Road which is not only a fantastic bike road but also takes you to the most famous pub in NZ, the Cadrona Hotel! The Crown Range starts with a series 180 degree switchbacks, then opens up slightly before you start the next steep accent to the top of the range. Then starts the long descent, both area’s are a mixture of fast and slow corners strategically positioned to keep you on your toes. Traffic was minimal and road conditions perfect even though the temperature would not push past that 2 degree. We pulled into the Cadrona car park and you could see the grins before the visors went up! Into the pub with most people going for the “Classic”, Cadrona speak for the works. After breakfast and a look around this old pub which started operating in the 1870’s and has survived even though the town of Cadrona no longer exists it was off to Wanaka. This is only a short run and after a look around the beautiful lake and fueling up we were on our way. The west coast of NZ is very beautiful, mountainous, rugged, sparsely populated with high quality roads that seem to be just a collection of corners. Today it also negated its reputation of being a very wet region by bathing us in sunshine, all day. At times we were 50 metres from the beach and could not see water because of the tall timber. At other times you marvelled at the barren mountain ranges, the size and colour of Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea but all the time negotiating the next corner! From Wanaka we travelled to Haast for lunch then motored on to Fox Glacier. At one spot where we stopped for a leg stretch we had a clear section of west coast beach to admire and the water was less that 20 metres from where we were parked. While admiring the beach and some of the flotsam we wondered if any had come from Australia. The sky and the panorama so clear you would think you could see Australia. We then stopped for afternoon tea at Lake Matheson before ending the days ride at Frans Josef. It had been a big day and after checking out the glacier, having dinner and a walk around town we hit the hay in anticipation, after all tomorrow was going to be “photography day”!!!.
Day 5 - March 20th Franz Josef to Reefton
A cloudy but mild morning welcomed riders as we assembled for breakfast at The Landing in Franz Josef, a welcome change from yesterdays cold start. We took off at about 8.30am heading north and hoping the mild weather would continue. Today was meant to be an easy day with a planned ride of 250 kms and so we made several stops along the way taking in the views from various parking bays. Again the road out of Frans Josef was awesome. Morning tea ended up at the Timber Top Walk Cafe located 20 kms from Hokitika. This is a similar set up to Pemberton but has a very large tower in the middle of the walk. We then proceeded into Hokitika where we fueled up and took a small tour of the town. Of interest is the local beach which is covered in large amounts of driftwood, possibly from Australia? While we were there, local craftsmen were loading the wood into quads with trailers for future craft projects. There were some very interesting pieces of wood on the beach so one can only guess what they will turn them into. On the road again it wasn’t long before the rain started which required a quick stop at Greymouth to don the wet weather gear. Our next stop was for lunch at Pancake Rocks about 40 kms the other side of Greymouth. This is an excellent road that mimics parts of the Great Ocean Road except it has less traffic and a 100kph speed limit and it wasn’t raining as we covered the best bits! After lunch and a tour of the Pancake Rocks which you can understand how they got named after you see them, we hit the road again. However it was decided that rather than doubling back to Greymouth we would continue up the coast. First we travelled north before swinging east and finally south east before we hit our destination for the night at Reefton. The ride had now covered 340 kms! While the rain had steadied our pace and effected the views at times, this road was extraordinary. It followed a series of revines with a river to your left with the road cut into the side of the mountain. We were continually ascending and descending’ as we worked our way along the various ranges. There were a few leaks detected in the wet weather gear on arrival but nothing to serious so after unloading the bikes and showering we hit the pub for another serving of great Kiwi tucker. Tomorrow was planned to be the most relaxed day of tour with a dip in the hot springs!
Day 6 - March 21st Reefton to Hanmer Springs
After another great breakfast at a country pub we assembled at the service station across the street. It was Di's lead today with a relaxing ride of 150 kms planned to Hanmer Springs. After watching some hooligan ride up the main street without any headlights we were off at 9.30am and starting our first climb out of Reefton. While yesterdays rain had gone it was still cloudy with some mist although very mild. Therefore we were surprised when we crossed the top of the first range and were welcomed by glorious sunshine with only a few clouds making the views even better. The road was also a ripper, same as yesterday but made even better by the beautiful weather. We can go on all day about the roads but you have to ride them to understand. Morning tea was at Springs Junction and number of other riders were using this town for a short break. We were given advice about fog along the mighty Lewis Pass which we took on board along with our morning tea. Leaving Springs Junction the road continued to deliver with the temperature improving by the kilometre, no fog at the pass when we went through. By the time we reached the valley that leads to Hanmer the temperature was 22 degrees, yeeeee haaaaaaa. A further few stops along the route for photo’s and we were entering Hanmer Springs. This is a lovely little town at the end of a spur road with a population of 900 people, however on a weekend like ours, 5000 people can go through the thermal pools. Very popular with locals from surrounding areas as well as tourists. Di had picked a top spot for our accommodation and we soon unpacked. Up to the the local cafe on the river where they jet boat, bunjy jump, canoe etc. for lunch. After a light lunch and plenty of photo’s we spread out and investigated the town with a group hitting the thermal pools. Tony was a sight with his GoPro documenting activities. John flew the Drone after successfully completing some emergency repairs and we settled into relaxing at our own personal bear garden next to our rooms. After plenty of stories, a few drinks and some shenanigan's involving time lapse photography, you had to be there, we went to dinner. Another great night, great stories and plenty of discussion on how the voting was going for various categories! Food again was excellent although a little late. Tomorrow is our last day, we can't believe it. A late change to our plans will ensure it will be a ripper!
Day 7 - March 22nd Hanmer Springs to Christchurch
It would seem the N.Z. bike road fever had gotten hold of the group! Initially we had planned a lazy 100km ride into Christchurch for today. But the need for more corners was greater so our ride leader Marc took us north east instead of south from Hanmer Springs! Off we went via Mouse Point and onto our breakfast stop at Waiau, lovely little town with only the cafe open on a Sunday morning. From there we took the inland route to Kaikoura, coastal town some 120 kms from Hanmer. Keep saying it but this road was another beauty. A secondary bitumen road that winds itself through various farm land including Llama, sheep, dairy and beef cattle and the very small communities that support the area. The bends were rated from sweepers to 15kph posted corners and crossed four different ranges that ascended and decended. If you wanted to design the perfect Sunday ride for the club, this would be it. We found a cafe over looking the sea at Kaikoura and had our morning tea before checking out the grey pebble beach that is common place in N.Z. Marc then led us out along the rocky coast which was calm or rough depending on what headland you were going around. We spied a couple of large fur seals on the rocks and were able to get close enough to them to get some goods shots. About 20kms out the road turned inland and again traversed farm land that looked remarkably dry. Next stop was Cheviot, where we had a leg stretch and decided that we weren't really hungry, so after fueling up we were on our way again. It was a relatively easy run into Christchurch with some traffic building in the afternoon. After reaching the hotel we started to get organised for the next part of the trip. So after covering 300 km's today it was clothes in the washing machines, return bikes to the depot, pick up rental cars, confirm details for the train trip to Greymouth tomorrow, shower and get to the pub by 6.30pm, brilliant.
We covered 2,004 kms over some of the best roads you could ever wish for with great food, accommodation, sights and shared with a great bunch people.