Day Twelve: Rotorua to Auckland
It's our last riding day of the trip and we set out into the morning sunshine, heading north towards the Coromandel peninsula. As the bikes eat up the miles we see the scenery changing from rolling farmlands to sandy white beaches and mountain forests that make the Coromandel such a popular destination. A quick coffee at the Flat White Cafe in Waihi Beach allows us to soak up some beachside atmosphere before heading north in search of some more twisties. And we find them in spades. We stop for lunch in the beautiful little harbour town of Tairua, pay a visit to the Kauri twins and get back on to the road, crossing the peninsula in an almost neverending sequence of tight twisties and fast sweepers. Next we head for Kawakawa Bay for some last tight turns before we hit the outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand's biggest and busiest city. A quick blast on the motorway takes us into downtown and to our hotel, just in time for the traditional Edelweiss boot beer. We end the day in style in the Sky Tower, the highest freestanding building in the southern hemisphere where we watch the sun set on two weeks in one of the best biking countries on the planet. We'll be back.
Day Eleven: Napier to Rotorua
We wake to clear blue skies and soon we have left all civilization behind as we head for what has to be one of the best biking roads on this planet: Gentle Annie. 140km of thight twisties running through the mountainous farmland south of Lake Taupo and we have it all to ourselves. We arrive in Waiouru, slightly out of breath but excited. A quick coffee and we start heading north to Lake Taupo, where our tourguide Tony has prepared one of the classic Edelweiss Picnics. After lunch we take a well deserved rest under the trees on the shore of Lake Taupo. From Taupo we set out for our final destination of the day, Rotorua, but not without taking in some more twisties on the way.
Day Ten: Wellington to Napier
Today it's all about the ride as we head north out of Wellington. We cruise through the low-hanging clouds of Rimutaka Hill and descend into the small town of Martinborough, one of New Zealand's premier wine growing regions. We refill on caffeine and gas up the bikes before heading for some of the best riding of this trip. Incredibly light traffic allows us to enjoy every single twist and turn to it's fullest as we speed north on route 52. A quick, massive lunch at the Pongaroa hotel and we get back on the bikes and head for Napier, the Art Deco Capital of New Zealand. We spend the night in of the classic Art Deco hotels where we join a long line of distinguished guests that inlcudes Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.
Day Nine: Restday in Wellington
We start our well-deserved restday with a morning's ride through the countryside just north of Wellington. Suburbia gives way to farmland as we cruise along small country lanes to the Southward Car Museum, the largest collection of classic cars in the Southern Hemisphere. We spend a very enjoyable hour salivating over beautifully sculpted metal and chrome before hopping back unto our bikes and heading back into Wellington. We arrive just in time for lunch in one of the hundreds of restaurants New Zealand's capital has to offer and spend the afternoon relaxing in the Te Papa National Museum or sampling some of the many excellent bars. A day well spent...
Day Eight: Richmond to Wellington
We meet up in Richmond on what is our last day on the south Island. Hugging the coast we ride around the town of Nelson before climbing into the mountains around Mt. Richmond. Sweeping turns take us towards or coffee stop in the capital of the Green Lipped Mussel, Havelock. From there we head out onto one of the most beautiful roads on the South Island, Queen Charlotte Drive. Incredibly twisty and narrow with breathtaking views of Queen Charlotte Sound this road should not be missed. Queen Charlotte Drive ends in Picton where we board the ferry Kaitaki to Wellington and the North Island.
Day Seven: Punakaiki to Kohatu
The rain has stopped just in time for our departure from Punakaiki, so we decide to take a stroll around the fascinating Pancake Rocks. Alternating layers of sediment have formed some of the most spectacular rock formations in New Zealand and are a must see on any trip to this country. Fantastic twisties and sweepers take us to our first coffee stop of the day, Cape Foulwind. Named after the smell of its resident seal colony this is a great place to view some of the fascinating wildlife New Zealand has to offer or to just relax with a cup of coffee in the sun. We can't stay still for long and soon we are on one the best biking roads in the World. Buller River Gorge features almost of 100km of fantastically sweeping roads with next to no traffic and is a true delight for any biking enthusiast. We stop in the small town of Murchison to catch our breath and refuel both our bikes and ourselves, before heading back onto the road. We cross Hope Saddle and head for the Flat Rock Cafe in Kohatu where the group splits up for a real New Zealand farm stay. We will see you in the morning...
Day Six: Franz Joseph to Punakaiki
We wake to a typical West Coast summer day (the rain is lovely and warm) and after a hearty breakfast make our way back onto the open road. We cruise through the everchanging scenery of lakes, rainforest and coastline and arrive in the thriving hamlet of Pukekura (population 2) where we visit the Bushman Centre for the proper West Coast experience (we can't explain it, you have to see it for yourself). Our next stop is in the town of Hokitika. Once the largest settlement in New Zealand, this small town is now a thriving centre for ecotourism along this barely inhabited stretch of coast. A quick bite to eat for lunch and we are back on the road heading for Greymouth, the capital of the West Coast. We refuel our bikes and head onto highway 6 for what is one of the best coastal roads in the world. Hugging the coast the road features fantastic twisties and jawdropping scenery with barely any traffic to speak of. We arrive in Punakaiki just in time to take a stroll along the beach before dinner and drinks, before retiring to our rooms with the sound of the waves breaking against the beach.
Day Five: Queenstown to Franz Joseph Glacier
We say goodbye to the almost frenzied lifestyle of Queenstown, but not before partaking in an uniquely Kiwi form of transport: Jetboats! 800hp blast us through Shotover Canyon as we hurtle over sandbars and barely scrape past sharp jagged rocks. A true must-do for any New Zealand visitor! With grins plastered all over our faces we get back on our bikes and turn west, climbing over the Crown Range as we head for Wanaka and on over Haast Pass. The vegetation changes abruptly from the rolling hills and pastures of the last few days into dense, lush rainforest and soon we arrive at the West Coast. The road winds its way along the coast with rainforest to our left and the crashing surf of the Tasman Sea to our right as we begin our long treck north towards Franz Joseph, our stop for the night.
Day Four: Restday in Queenstown
What is the best way to relax from three days of motorcycling? Go for a ride! We set out along Lake Wakatipu towards the small town of Glenorchy. The road hugs the lake shore in series of beautifully sweeping turns with unrivalled views of the Eyrie Mountains across the lake. We stop for a coffee at the Glenorchy Lodge before heading back towards Queenstown just in time for lunch. The afternoon is spent sampling some of the many fear-inducing delights (anyone for bungee-jumping?) this adrenaline-fixated town has to offer. We end the day with some of the best pizza New Zealand has to offer before returning to our hotel to rest and prepare for the days to come.
Day Three: Te Anau to Queenstown
An early morning departure takes us out of Te Anau and towards one of the highlights of this trip, Milford Sound. Cloud covered peaks surround us and soon we are in the middle of the rainforest as we climb up to Homer Tunnel and then down towards the the Tasman Sea. We reach the cruise ship terminal in Milford just in time to check in and board our ship and soon after we are in the middle of the Sound. Countless waterfalls and verdant rainforest intermingle as we sail out towards the ocean, a pod of dolphins surfing at our bow. Elated we return to our bikes and ride the 120km back to Te Anau. A quick lunch break at the aptly named Fat Duck Cafe and it is time to get back on the road as we head for our final destination of the day, Queenstown, the Adventure Capital of the World.
Day Two: Twizel to Te Anau
The morning dawns with clear blue skies and soon we are back on the road heading south. Our route takes us over Lindis pass and down towards Lake Dunstan before swinging west and into Kawarau Gorge. The road follows the gorge in a series of quick sweepers designed to put a grin on any bikers face and the almost non-existent traffic allows us to enjoy this fantastic stretch of tarmac to its fullest. A quick stop at the Kawarau bridge allows us to pay homage to the site of the first commercial bungee jump and observe some of its modern day devotees as they leap off what seems to be a perfectly safe bridge. Our next stop is located in the small community of Kelvin Heights on the shore of Lake Wakatipu where our tour guide Thomas has prepared a proper Edelweiss picnic. After eating way too much we decide to hit the road again and soon we are speading along on what has to be one of the best biking roads of the South Island, the fabulous Wakatipu road. Tight twisties and long sweepers combine to make an unforgetable experience and after a quick coffee stop in the township of Mossburn we reach Te Anau, our home for the night.
Day One: Christchurch to Twizel
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to New Zealand! Our group from Ireland, USA, Germany and Switzerland assemble in Christchurch and head out into the Canterbury Plains, the agricultural heartland of the South Island. Our first stop is in the small farming community of Darfield, where we sample some of New Zealand's excellent coffe before joining the Inland Scenic Route. This beautiful road offers a first glimpse into rural New Zealand with gently sweeping turns through the foothills of the Otago highlands. We stop for lunch in the town of Geraldine before swinging west and head for Burke's pass, the gateway to the highlands. The lush, green fields of Canterbury slowly give way to the sparse brush of the Otago as we climb higher and soon we reach one of the many highlights of this tour, the Curch of the Good Shepherd on the shore of Lake Tekapo. Built by the first European settlers in this region the church offers a tantalising view of the Southern Alps and the surrounding lakes. We ride on towards Lake Pukaki and after a quick picture stop head into the town of Twizel, our stop for the night.