Our last day on the road dawns with overcast skies and a light drizzle in the air. We split into two groups, the first heading for the Coromandel peninsula and the second to Lake Rotorua for a rather special helicopter flight.
Taking off from the lake the helicopter heads north towards the coast and out over the ocean. Ahead lies the Bay of Plenty and the highlight of this flight, White Island, an active in the middle of the sea. We land and take the opportunity to explore this fascinating island. We return at about midday and head staight towards the second highlight of the day, the Hobbiton movie set. Here we are transported straight into the world of Middle Earth before climbing back onto our bikes for the final stretch into Auckland, New Zealand's largest city.
For the group heading to the Coromandel the day is all about the ride. Ultra-twisty roads carve their way through the mountains and along the many hidden coves of this gorgeous peninsula. A quick stop for lunch in the charming seaside town of Tairua and we're back on the road across the peninsula towards the Firth of Thames, where we join the coastal road to Kawakawa Bay. After a quick blast on the motorway we arrive in downtown Auckland and end the day in style with an excellent meal in the Skytower.
Today is dedicated to the ride. We head out of Napier and onto one of the best biking roads New Zealand has to offer, fabulous Gentle Annie. Stretching for 149km through the Ruahine Forest Park this roads leaves us with huge grins plasterd across our faces. The road ends in Waioru where we catch our breath and grab a coffee before heading north on the Desert Highway past snowcapped volcanoes. We stop for lunch at Lake Taupo, the largest lake in New Zealand, and enjoyed a classic Edelweiss picnic. A quick snooze in the sun and we're back on the bike on our way to Rotorua, our stop for the night. Tonight is the night for our Hangi, the traditional Maori dinner, where we nomiate Matt to be our chieftain.
Today is dedicated to proper Kiwi-style riding. 400km of the finest backcountry roads full of twists and turns through some of the most beautiful country New Zealand has tto offer. our route takes us through the winefields of Martinborough before diving into the country lanes of the sheepfarming communties of Pongaroa in the Tarua District. Our day ends in Napier, the Art Deco capital of New Zealand.
It's our second rest day of the tour and Wellington is the perfect location for this break. We spend our morning riding to the Southward Car Museum, the largest collection of classic cars and motorcycles in the southern hemisphere. The afternoon is dedicated to exploring some of the many bars and restaurants New Zealand's capital has to offer.
We meet up after our rural stay in the small town of Richmond. Last night's rain has moved on a little and we're hoping for dry roads ahead. Due to flooding in the north of New Zealand we head south towards the plains along the Wairua River, the largest wine growing region in the country. We are sorely tempted to stop and sample but we need to press on to catch our ferry from Pcton to Wellington, New Zealand's capital city. We board the the ferry perfectly on time and, with the sun just coming out, enjoy one of the worlds most beautiful ferry rides through Queen Charlotte Sound. A mere three hours later we have crossed Cook Straight and depart into the bustling streets of Wellington. We end the the with an excellent meal in one of the many small restaurants in the heart on New Zealand's capital.
Today proves to be an interesting day. We wake to multiple messages on our phones. Last night a series of strong earthquakes struck New Zealand with epicentres just north of Christchurch and Wellington. We are all doing well with no injuries or damage to our hotel or equipment. Some of us even managed to sleep through the whole thing.
We set out on highway 6 heading north. Our first stop is just a few hundred meters from the hotel at the fantastic pancake rocks. This 25 million years old rock formation offers fantstic views of the coast and our route north. The next highlight of the day is Buller River Gorge and some of the best motorcycle roads in New Zealand. Endless sweeping turns take us through the rainforest and into Motueka where we refill the bikes and stop for lunch. Back on the road we cross Hope Saddle and head for Kohatu and another highlight of the trip. We split up the group and head for an unique experience on an Edelweiss tour, a rural stay with local family.
We wake to liquid sunshine and head straight into the tight twisties of Cook Saddle. Deep green jungle surrounds us as we gradually make our way north towards our first stop of the day at the Bushman Centre in the thriving town of Pukekura (population 2) for a taste of life on the West Coast. The skies clear and soon we head back out on our way towards Hokitika, the jade capital of New Zealand and our lunch stop. Avoiding Greymouth we head inland towards Jackson and ride along the shore of Lake Brunner, before rejoining the coast for the final miles to Punakaiki and our stop for the night.
We wish we could stay but it's time to say goodbye to Queenstown. The first highlight is just around the corner, the seven switchbacks of the Crown Range road. Climbing to just over 1000m above sealevel we then dive down the other side and head for our first coffeestop of the the day at the historical Cadrona Hotel. Riding through Wanaka we join Highway 6, our companion for the next 3 days. We ride across Haast Pass and dive staight into the rainforest of the wild We(s)t Coast. Clear blue skies and a cool breeze welcome us to one of the most remote regions in New Zealand. We wind our way north towards the town Fox Glacier in the heart of Glacier Country, our stop for the night.
It's our first rest day on tour so we do what any biker would on his/her day off. We go for a ride. Heading west out of Queenstown we ride along the shore of Lake Wakatipu on a road seemingly designed for bikers. Superbly grippy tarmac allows us to enjoy the twisties too their fullest while breathtaking views open up around every corner. A quick stop in Glenorchy for a coffee and we head back towards Queenstown, but not without parttaking in one of New Zealand's most spectacular sports, jetboating! Rushing through a narrow canyon at 40mph is just thie thing get our hearts pumping before we tackle the mountain road to Coronet Peak which offers us an amazing view the lakes and mountains surrounding Queenstown. We end the day in style with a true Kiwi pizza at Winnie's, where some alcoholic beverages might have been consumed.
Today we started early from Te Anau to do the first 120 km to Milford Sound on an empty road. We had breakfast on the cruise ship that took us through the fjord. On the way to lunch we stopped many times to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. A quick lunch at the Fat Duck Cafe in Te Anau for us and freh load of fuel for the bike and we head out onto the last section of the day´back to Queenstown.
We set out from Twizel on Highway 8 and make our way south towards Lindis Pass. Lupins line the road as we follow the sweeping turns across the pass and towards Kawarau Gorge, the site of the world's first commercial bungee jump. Two members of our group, Gerhard and Jörn, decide to take the plunge and dive off the Kawarau bridge. Buzzing with adrenaline we jump back on the bikes and head for Lake Wakatipu and the first picnic of the tour. Although it would be very tempting to finish the picnic with a snooze in the sun we decide to press on and enjoy the twisties along Lake Wakatipu. Crossing the 45th parallel we reach the southernmost point of our tour and swing back north and towards Te Anau, the gateway to Miford Sound and our stop for the night.
Welcome to the first day of riding! We set out and head south onto the fabulous Summit Road that winds its way along the rim of an extinct volcano befor descending into Canterbury, the agricultural hearland of New Zealand's south island. Gentle hills and verdant fields remind us of the English heartlands of a bygone era while sweeping roads allow us to acclimatise to new bikes and new roads. After a relaxed lunch in the farming community of Geraldine we start the climb up Burkes Pass and head up into the Otago Highlands. Green fields give way to dry scrub and aquamarine lakes. The Church of the Good Shepherd in Tekapo makes for a fantastic picture stop before we climb up to the highest cafe in New Zealand at the Mount John Observatory. Just a few miles down the road lies the sleepy town of Twizel and our hotel for the night.