Even when we are just expecting a transport stage in our two-week Hobbit Odyssey, New Zealand surprises us.
Day 13 of our tour starts with breakfast in our home stay in Hanmer Springs with over 300km to the Picton Ferry then another 200km from Wellington to Wanganui. It’s a long day by Kiwi standards as the roads are twisty and distances take longer than you would expect.
But our delightful hosts tell us it could take 5 hours to get to Picton, so we hit the road early!
We backtrack a little on Highway 7, then take Highway 70 northeast toward Kaikoura.
Highways are not what you may think in New Zealand (especially the South Island) and this one is a challenging, scenic and winding trek through some beautiful mountainous country.
Here the roads writhes over ridges, grinding your footpegs down into gullies and carves up canyons. It may be a transport stage, but it’s one of the most entertaining rides of the trip.
As we near the coast, we ride straight into a wall of thick fog and as we fuel up at Kaikoura the attendant tells us the fog means it will be a hot 33-degree day. We already feel “burnt” as we pay $1.95 a litre for the fuel.
But our ice-breakers are still on and the ambient temperature is cool as we now hug the coast for the next 80km north.
We’re “rocking, rolling, riding, out along the bay” watching seals sun themselves on rocks, grey beaches, calm turquoise seas and a thick off-shore fog.
The road winds along the coast like a cross between the Big Sur south of San Francisco and the Captain Cook Highway north of Cairns.
We stop at the Kekerengu Shop for a very nice coffee and unfortunately rejoin behind a procession of vehicles that includes some sort of farm machinery, a tourist bus, a couple of campervans and some cars.
But the 103 V-twin of the Harley Road King quickly dispenses of them one by one and we are still making very good time toward Picton.
With two stops for fuel, two for photos and one for morning tea, we still make it to Picton in 3.45 hours.
Picton is an active and busy tourist port town and we chow down on a beautiful clam and seafood chowder at Gusto in the main street before making our way to the line-up for the ferry just after 1pm.
In Wellington, the Interislander Ferry has a bus shelter for riders to wait in, but here we stand in the burning sun for 90 minutes.
For the first time in 13 days we break out in a sweat.
Sad to say goodbye to the South Island.
The ferry crossing is calm, the ride on and off on the metal planks a bit slippery and the 200km ride up Highway 1 and 3 to Wanganui is best not mentioned. It’s straight, boring, too much traffic, too many small towns where the highway passes right down the main street …