Day Twelve: Rotorua to Auckland
Our last day on the bike dawns with a stiff breeze and overcast skies. Highway 5 takes us past gently rolling farmland and forests as we head for the small town of Tirua. We refuell with some of the excellent Kiwi coffee and set out for our highlight of the day, the Shire of Hobbiton. The former film set for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies has become one of the most popular destinations of New Zealand and a must-do for all Tolkien fans. From here we turn north and head for Kawakawa Bay. Located about an hour's drive from the bustling city of Auckland this stretch of sparsley populated coast has some of the best twisties of the North Island, making it a fitting finish for our ride. A quick blast on the motorway takes us into the heart of Auckland and we end the day in style in the highest building in the Southern Hemisphere, Auckland's famous Sky Tower. At over 1000 ft, the Tower offers a fantastic view of New Zealand's largest city and marks the end of what has been a truly amazing experience in one of the best riding destinations on this planet. We will be back....
Day Eleven: Napier to Rotorua
We continue our ride north as head out onto Highway 5, the Thermal Explorer Route. Climbing up through clouds we turn away from the coast and head for Lake Taupo, New Zealand's biggest lake. Located in the crater of an extinct (we hope) volcano the lake is surrounded by some serious geothermal activity. Steam rises up all around us, carrying with it the signature smell of the volcanic forces deep underground. Rotorua lies ahead, our stop for night and the location for our special, traditional Hangi dinner.
Day Ten: Wellington to Napier
Today it's aabout the ride as we head north to Napier, the most eastern city of New Zealand. Wellington and it's bustling traffic are soon left behind as we blast up Rimutaka Hill (while obeying all local speed restrictions, of course) before arriving in the town of Martinborough, home to some of the best wines of the North Island. Since alcohol is taboo we settle for caffeine and a bottle or two for the evening...
Avoiding the main roads we continue our way north, passing along endless fields of sheep and cattle, all without a single straight road in sight. Pure riding heaven! A massive lunch in a proper Kiwi country pub is followed by even more curves before finally arriving in Napier, our home for the night.
Day Nine: Rest Day in Wellington
Our rest day in Wellington begins with a light drizzle and overcast skies, but as true bikers we are undeterred and head out into the Wellington countryside. As we reach the coast we are rewarded by clear blue skies and one of the best views of the Tasman Sea on this trip. A quick blast along the costal road takes us to Southward Car Museum, the biggest collection of classic cars and motorcycles in the southern hemisphere. After an hour spent drooling over the beautifully restored examples of automotive engineering we head back into Wellington and spend the afternoon trying some of the excellent restaurants New Zealand's capital has to offer. And of course we have to visit the Te Papa, the harbour, Cuba Street, at least one of the many great pubs and before we know it is time to rest our weary head in preparation for the ride to come.
Day Eight: Nelson to Wellington
We meet up in the small town of Richmond for our last day's ride on the South Island. Bypassing the busy port town of Nelson we rejoin our old friend Highway 6 and head east for Havelock, where we arrive just in time to sample some of the locally farmed green-lipped mussels. Well sated we head out on to Queen Charlotte Drive. This ultra-twisty, narrow road closely follows the coastline of Queen Charlotte Sound and is yet another example of why New Zealand is one of the best riding locations in the world. We reach the end of the road in Picton where we say our final goodbye to the South Island and board the ferry bound for Wellington. Stunning sunshine and calm winds make for a smooth sailing as we cruise through Queen Charlotte Sound and out into the Cook Straight, before finally making our way into Wellington harbour, home to 400.000 people and the capital of new Zealand.
Day Seven: Punakaiki to Nelson
Today is our last day on the West Coast, so we make it count. Our first stop is at the famed Punakaiki Pancake Rocks, a collection of magnificent layered rock formations hollowed out by the pounding surf over the course of many millenia. With the sun breaking through the cloud we ride north to the aptly named Cape Foulwind, home to one of the largest seal colonies on the South Island and our last glimpse of the Tasman Sea before turning inland. The fast, flowing curves of the Buller River gorge road are enough to make our heart sing as we head for our lunch stop at Murchison, home to one of the best burgers in the country (according to our resident burger expert, TG Tony). Lunch is followed by a relaxing ride over Hope Saddle and an excellent coffee at the Flat Rock Cafe in Kohatu before the group splits up for an uniquely Kiwi experience, the farmstay. The evening is spent making new friends and enjoying the warm-hearted hospitaly of our hosts.
Day 6: Fanz Josef to Punakaiki
Heavy clouds cover the rainforest as we set out, adding an extra layer of atmosphere to what already promises to be an excellent day's ride. Our first to stop is at the quirky Bushman Centre in thriving metropolis of Pukekura, population 2. This small museum offers us a glimpse of life in the rainforest and of the people that make this harsh environment their home. But the open road sings its siren song and soon we are on our way as we head up to Arthurs pass, the main pass over the Southern Alps. As we reach the top we are greeted by one of the rarest inhabitants of New Zealand, the Kea! These cheeky mountain parrots are incredibly rare (with fewer than 3000 left in the wild) and highly intelligent, and think nothing of landing right next to unsuspecting tourists and stealing their cookies. Heading downhill the sky begins to clear and the roads dry up, just in time for one of the best stretches of riding on this trip. Highway 6 north of Greymouth has everything a biker could dream of with tight twisties, long fast straights and some of the most ruggedly beautiful coastline on Earth. We arrive at our hotel in Punakaiki with the images of our day buzzing in our heads and we can't wait to get up tomorrow, and do it all again.
Day Five: Queenstown to Franz Josef
It it time to say goodbye to the Capital of Crazy, but before we leave we have one last stop to make: Shotover canyon. We park our bikes and climb aboard one of the most exhilarating modes of transport available, the famous Kiwi jetboat. Travelling through narrow canyons at around 60km/h, these boats leave us with permagrins as we head back onto the road and up the Crown Range road heading for Wanaka. This laid-back little lakeside resort makes an ideal coffee stop before heading up Haast pass and into the wild and remote West Coast. Home of one of the largest remaining temperate rainforests on this planet, this region is sparsley populated with settlements few and far between. We ride trough the seemingly endless forest, every now and then catching a glimpse of the rough Tasman Sea as we make our way into the little village of Franz Josef, our stop for the night.
Day Four: Queenstown
Welcome to Queenstown, the Adrenaline capital of the world! From Helicopter Golf to Shark Submarines, the possibilities are endless. We start the morning in true Edelweiss style with what must be one of the most picturesque rides on this planet, the Road to Glenorchy. Hugging the shore of Lake Wakatipu, this road offers a spectacular mix of sweeping turns and amazing views of Lake Wakatipu and the Eyre Mountains. The complete opposite of Queenstown, Glenorchy boasts a calm and relaxed atmosphere which in combination with its beautiful scenery has made many of its visitors question the need to return home. But soon the siren song of our bikes returns and we head back for Queenstown by way of Coronet peak and return to our hotel in perfect time to enjoy the many attractions of this capital of crazy.
Day Three: Te Anau to Queenstown
An early morning departure from Te Anau sees on the road to Miford Sound, 70km of pure paved bliss. We climb steadily through the rainforest, just in time to see the sun rise of the Southern Alps before driving through Homer Tunnel and down the valley to the ferry terminal at what is one of the major highlights of the South Island. Before us lies Milford Sound, home to some of the rarest flora and fauna in the world, a deep canyon of dark blue water surounded by sheer cliffs, waterfalls and vibrantly green forests.A short cruise offers us a glimpse of this wonder of the natural world before we head back on to our bikes for the fantastic ride back to Te Anau. Saying goodbye to this beautiful speck of earth might be difficult, but we know there is more to come as ride north to Queenstown, our home for the next two nights.
Day Two: Twizel to Te Anau
Clear blue skies mark our departure from the highlands as we head out on what promises to be a truly spectacular day's ride. We hit Highway 8 and head south past Omarama, the glider plane capital of New Zealand and head for Cromwell, centre of the fruit growing industry of New Zealand. Kawarau Gorge lies ahead, offering a fantastic mix of fast sweepers and tight twisties. The site of the first commercial bungy jump in the world we take a quick break at the AJ Hackett Bungy centre, where our resident daredevil Philip decides to honour this remarkable feat of insanity by jumping off a perfectly good bridge. To calm our nerves we head for the shore of Lake Wakatipu, where our tour guide Tony has prepared one of the famous Edelweiss picnics. This is followed by a short snooze in the sun to regain some much needed energy for the ride south. The road hugs the shore of Lake Wakatipu, offering remarkable views of the Remarkable Mountains, rivaled only by the seemingly endless twists and turns of what is undoubtedly one of the best motorcycle rides in New Zealand. Passing the souternmost point of our trip we swing north and, after a short coffee break, head in to the town of Te Anau. Located on the shores of the biggest lake of the South Island we take advantage of the beautiful spring weather for a stroll and a beer (or two) before a well deserved rest. Tomorrow awaits...
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Southern Hemisphere!
With winter just around the corner in Europe and North America, it is time to head for warmer climes and New Zealand, boasting some of the best biking roads on our planet, will be our home for the next two weeks.
Day One: Christchurch to Twizel
Rolling clouds, broken by short glimpses of the lush, green scenery of the district of Canterbury, are our companions as we say goodbye to Christchurch, the capital of the South Island. Riding along the rim of an extinct volcano we head south into the agricultural heartland of New Zealand. Rolling hills dotted with white sheep fly past as we head into the small town of Darfield, our first stop of the day and our first chance to sample of the truly excellent Kiwi coffee. With ample caffeine consumed we get back on our bikes and follow the aptly named Inland Scenic Route through some of the most picturesque scenery of this beautiful country. A quick bite for luch in the town of Geraldine is followed by a blast up Burke's Pass and into the arid plains of the Mackenzie Highlands. A quick stop at the famous Church of the Good Sheperd offers amazing vistas of Lake Tekapo, before heading on past Lake Pukaki and into the small town of Twizel, our stop for the night.