Andre and I woke at 5:00 am Boxing Day to make the annual pilgrimage to Wanganui (or Whanganui, spelling now optional). Well it’s actually only the second time we’ve made the trip. Last year’s trip was great so we thought we’d do it again. We mainly took the most direct route, which is a bit unusual for us as we prefer secondary roads – there are more corners therefore more fun, less likelihood of excess speed and consequent loss of licence, and it’s more about the journey than the destination. However we needed to be in Wanganui mid-morning and with 450km plus time to refuel the bikes and ourselves en route, we couldn’t “muck around”.
We took Highway 1 to Rangiriri, crossed the Waikato River and followed the west side of the river to Ngaruawahia, then Highway 39 to Otorohanga where we joined Highway 3 heading south the Highway 4 through to Wanganui. The Parapara’s, the last leg of the journey are legendary in New Zealand and they lived up to their reputation that day – tight bends short straights and more bends for 90km.
The races in Wanganui were good but not great this year due to the number of accidents and red-flagged races. Andrew Stroud, who is a Kiwi icon, winner at Daytona and Assen and NZ superbike champion many times over, couldn’t quite keep Australian Dan Stauffer from winning. Well, he has just turned 44.
This is Stroudy on a Suzuki GSXR 1000 ahead of Stauffer on a Yamaha R1.
Kenny, Jim, Andre and me.
We met up with some interesting people in Wanganui, including Jeff Marusiak from Edmonton, Alberta in Canada and Kenny Johnston, a Geordie living in Wellington and some other friends of theirs. We had a lot of laughs, told a few lies and made some new friends. After breakfast the next day, we rode back with them to Raetihi, again through the Parapara’s – very special trip as Andre and Jeff got away from us when we were caught up behind a long line of slower riders and I had to do some special riding to try to catch them up. Didn’t quite do it.
We talked our way out of a speeding ticket at National Park then took a longer route home, following Highways 41 and 32 down the west side of Lake Taupo then back to Kihikihi and the original road home. Apart from dropping my bike while parking at a cafe, there were no dramas.
Boxing Day is also the birthday of my granddaughter Zoe and it will be a challenge to miss her birthdays as she gets older, but hopefully I can squeeze the odd trip to Wanganui in years to come.