For the second time in 9 months I have enjoyed riding in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. Christmas and New Year happen at the height of summer so Glen and I along with Glen’s sister Susanne, took the opportunity to spend some time with my family in Nelson. As told in my Post Trip to Akaroa; March 2012, my brother Ross, who owns the Century Park Motor Lodge in Nelson has recently returned to riding motorcycles and has been encouraging my other brother Don to ride with us. Don was making the move back onto bikes after many years not riding (and even then, only on small bikes and scooters) and with some trepidation, Don agreed to join us on a round trip from Nelson to Hanmer Springs via the Lewis Pass, returning by the east coast at Kaikoura and home through Blenheim.
Ross has recently bought a Honda ST1300 Pan European to fit his 1.93 m frame, and had not yet sold his Honda VFR800. Mm-mm three men and two bikes, and we didn’t feel like riding pillion, so we took a car as well, rotating the rides in two-hour sections. The car came in handy for luggage which included camping gear for our overnight stay at Hanmer Springs.
Before we left, I coached Don on a return short ride to the Rai Valley, which included the technically challenging Whangamoa Ranges. By the time we returned it was clear that Don had not lost his riding skills and we were ready to leave in two day’s time.
This trip was the first time we had been on a trip together. This may sound strange for brothers who are close, but when we were young, I was a few years younger and moved to Auckland, and we never got to share this type of journey.
The journey started in Nelson and we travelled 100 km south to Lake Rotoiti which lies in the Southern Alps. There had been summer storms and torrential rain only three days before, so the rivers were raging and the lakes were full. Some roads on the West Coast had been closed as the rains had torn away bridges and washed out roads.
Once you cross the Alps, the rain forests of the West Coast give way to the dry valleys of Canterbury and lead to Hanmer Springs. This is an alpine village which caters for skiing in winter, tramping, mountain bike riding, horse trekking etc in summer, and has a large thermal pools resort – a great relief after a day’s ride.
We camped there (three burly men in a two-man tent) and the next morning travelled east and north on the inland road to Kaikoura. This road is very complex in parts but the scenery is spectacular and well worth taking.
At Kaikoura we stopped to enjoy freshly cooked crayfish (NZ Rock lobster) at a roadside caravan – a delicacy anywhere else, but eaten on newspaper on a BBQ table beside the ocean in Kaikoura. Immediately on the other side of the road is the Pacific Ocean with several colonies of New Zealand fur seals.
I was able to walk right up close to the seals on the rocks and took photos but I did not want to disturb them. These seals were made nearly extinct by the earliest European arrivals in the 19th century who could not believe how easy it was to get high quality fur. Fortunately they are now well re-established.
We then followed the coastline north to Blenheim where we visited the Omaka Aviation Museum. This museum was developed by Peter Jackson, the well-known director the Lord of the Rings films, and features a great selection of World War 1 planes, all realistically presented in life-like displays.
The final leg of the journey was through Havelock on Pelorous Sound, Pelorous Bridge (great home-made pies) and back to Nelson via the Whangamoas. Was it a good ride? It doesn’t get much better as you will struggle to find more beautiful scenery anywhere (yes I have travelled a lot around the world). Was it good too ride with my brothers? A long time waiting and worth the wait.