Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 7 & 8. Christchurch - Nelson - home.

The rain has stopped for the moment and the ride over Arthurs Pass is a visual delight. I’ve been over this pass a number of times but this is the first time it has looked like this so indulge me as I snap off a few shots to share.

I think this is why we like B-trains in NZ. The corner before this was very sharp but by the time I got my camera sorted out I missed it.

This sign had me worried for a moment wondering what might be lurking in the mist ahead.

A classic Canterbury braided river.

There is no getting past this guy in a hurry.

We are over the top of the pass here and heading for the West Coast which is renowned for its wet weather. I was not to be disappointed – I spent the rest of the day riding in the pouring rain.

Some of us are old enough to remember when trains once looked like this. I gather the rest of us must have grown up with Thomas the tank engine.

Chock full of salmon I follow my brother on his XT600 out of Nelson and back over the mountains to catch the ferry to Wellington. And yes it was raining in the hills.

Boarding the ferry at Picton with the other remnants from the rally. Today the sea will not be so calm.

If you think these decks look slippery, try the off ramp in Wellington. I made it home from here – 1,600 miles in total, 8 days and the end of another ‘Bert’.
Day 6 - Invercargill to Omarama

Rally over and with improved weather I head north past the great lake associated with the tourist town of Queenstown. I am heading to Omarama in the McKenzie country famous for its perfect gliding conditions. It is also to be a reunion with the riders from the South American Patagonian tour.

This is my food shot just so as Sherm and VSP don’t feel left out. Fresh salmon steaks, whitebait fritters, new season potatoes and all for breakfast.

Heading up through the McKenzie country you cross a number of aqueducts feeding snow melt water to hydro schemes. Behind me this one supports a salmon farm. At today’s rates salmon is $4.88 US a pound so I buy a couple of chunks to take to my brother and supper tomorrow night.

Lupines have taken over and by now must be classed as a weed but for the traveler in spring they add much welcome colour to an otherwise colourless environment of tussock grass. Today I ride for 6 hours in the rain so stop early at a country hotel. Tomorrow I will tackle the pass through the Southern Alps to the West Coast.
The Rally - days 4 & 5

Home for the next two nights. It was raining and windy and the beach races were cancelled. Drat – the beach races are one of the highlights of the weekend.

An aerial view of the rally site taken from a previous year. The sites for three events can be seen from this picture - the beach, the ¼ miles speedway oval (centre) and on the left the track circuit (teretonga). The street races are held in a town nearby.

The beach race from last year - note the guy on an HP2. She’s a grey old climate down here. Invercargill in northern hemisphere terms is up around Vancouver in Canada.

The speedway is a well organized event and attracts a capacity crowd. The bikes follow the European format so there are no Yamaha’s, Suzuki’s etc as you would see at US short track meets.

Sidecar racers are the hoons of speedway and are hugely popular with the crowd. They look to be hugely dangerous and certainly crashes are spectacular but the sound of a ZX10 or Firestorm engine on the rev limiter adds a new dimension to the spectacle.

Bert is buried in this family plot at the local cemetery.

This is 105 Bainfield Road and is the house Bert bought in 1951 and from which he did the development work on his Indian. It bares no visual resemblence to the house shown in the movie and I suspect is has no lemon tree either. Me thinks it is to far south for citrus trees to grow. The house in the movie incidentally was a standard 1950's 'state' house. These were houses built by the government to house low income families.

Sunday morning and not much stirs in Invercargill. The rain has stopped but most of the campers will go home with wet tents. The weather in Invercargill is so unpredictable that most of the rally goers stay in motels and as such the town is fully booked for the weekend. The cafes just down the street from this view were full of bikers tucking into the great Kiwi breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatos and hash browns with a side of toast as it comes. No choice of wheat, rye or sour dough here, it’s white bread or nothin’.

Wyndham is a village north of Invercargill and each year they surrender their streets to be filled with hay bails and motorbikes. The local garage lends itself as a ‘hat check’ for riders gear, the PTA sell hot dogs and the moms from the pre-school sell BBQ lamb in pita pockets and have a line 10 deep.

Bert’s original bike on display in the pits. It is crude in the extreme and a far cry from the Ducati based replicas made for the film. One of the film replicas does the rounds on a trailer nearby.

This guy has taken a old 1942 30 cu in ‘Army’ Indian out to 45 inches and races it both here at Wyndham and also on the beach. I like his new take on warmers, most of his fellow competitors use the warmers on their tires.
Day 2 & 3. Christchurch to Invercargill.

Just North of Dunedin the road introduces you to the Pacific Ocean again.

This is the city of Dunedin city spread out below and I never tire of this view. Dunedin is a lovely city of Scottish heritage with a charm all of its own. I was stationed here many years ago with the military and also did my undergrad degree at the local university. Prejudiced? – you bet.

The Catlins, a remote part of the East coast between Dunedin and Invercargill. They have sealed the road now so the traffic density has increased – motor homes and tour buses mainly. The fine weather of the past two days has gone as a southerly front reaches the coast bringing with it cold, wind and rain. It does not bode well for the rally this weekend.

The South Island is a high tourist area and these arrows are on many of the roads to remind drivers to drive on the left. Despite this my sister-in-law and her partner were run down by an Italian in a motor home driving on the wrong side of the road.
25 Nov - still the first day. The idea was to make it to Christchurch for the night.

Not sure where all the people have gone but this is Kaikoura on the East coast of the South Island. The coast is famous for its cooked lobster and whale watching tours. Not far from here is a seal colony that has taken up residency on the rocks next to the main road. They stink real bad but the tourists love them.
Highway 72 west of Christchurch. This route is more scenic and less monotonous than State Highway 1 to the east. This road also avoids the need to transit through Christchurch. Stayed the night in a forest just north of here and had a lovely Thai meal, the chef of which also acted as waiter.

Sheep – what more can you say, this is New Zealand after all.

Day 2 - 25 Nov
Before the humans came, New Zealand had no mammals so bird life flourished. The Moa (sounds like lawn ‘mower’) was the largest of the birds. Guess what? – they are extinct. I started the day of with a breakfast of smoked salmon eggs Benedict at Seagers cafĂ© and cooking school, expensive but a real treat.
Bert Munro Rally 2009
This ride report is for my American friends who have showed such interest in the Bert Munro 'thing'. Bert lived in Invercargill, New Zealand's most southern city, and the event is in its fourth year. It's not really a rally but more of an event spectacular over four days. There is a hill climb on Thursday, beach races Friday evening, circuit racing at Teretonga Park Saturday, Speedway Saturday evening and on Sunday there are street races in a small village north of Invercargill.

Wed 25 Nov. Waiting to load at Wellington for the 10.30 sailing to Picton in the South Island. The sailing time is approx 3 hours.

This is one for the truckers. The curtain side B-Train, New Zealand’s answer to the 18-wheeler. Standard US 18-wheelers are too long to negotiate our tight roads. Single trailer units in NZ are shorter than US 18-wheelers and have 22 wheels.

Today’s sailing is on smooth seas so riders tie their bikes down more out of habit than necessity. When the sea is rough, as it often is, tying your bike to the deck is necessary. There are as many ideas on how best to do this as there are bikes and riders.

Looking over the stern at the gap in the rocks that the ship needed to negotiate in order to enter the Marlborough Sounds. When the sea is rough it is a great relief to arrive at these calmer waters. We have an hour steaming through the sounds before docking at Picton. As for scenery; think of British Colombia’s inside passage.