Riding in New Zealand is all about the twisties and today we have had a big slice of twisty heaven! Shame the day ended on a few sour notes …
Day four of our Hobbit Odyssey has been a second-gear blast, riding
from Blenheim to Picton, Havelock, Nelson, Westport and Greymouth around the north-west corner of the South Island.
With more time, we could have headed out one of the many fiords and taken in even more twisties, but the main road was twisty overload.
The first section from Picton to Havelock is Queen Charlotte Drive and it’s mainly 50km/h, but that’s about all you can manage in most places as it is very tight and there are some lumps that can catch you out. However, it’s not a bad surface and no pavement is broken.
It’s still a hoot and you will have to stop if you want to take in any of the breathtaking bay views.
The sun has come out and it’s dancing off the ripples in the bay and glinting off the chrome of our Harley Road King which feels surprisingly nimble in this tight, twisty run.
Thankfully motorists are moving over as we range up behind them and allowing us to pass. Even though it’s narrow, there are no hold-ups.
Havelock is apparently the mussels capital of the world, so we stop for a mussel pie and mussel fritters plus free fudge with our coffee and tea at Dellie’s in the main street. Absolutely beautiful food and a unique combination for breakfast.
On we ride through more open country with panoramic valley and mountain views to Nelson, a charming seaside town with a trendy main street and plenty of cafes. Sounds like all we did was eat, but we had another coffee and shared a moorish BLT for lunch.
Here we run into with Bruce whom we had met the day before on the ferry. He’s riding his Honda CB1100 with unique four-into-four exhaust around the island from street race to street race event. Unfortunately, the races start tomorrow and we can’t stay, but Bruce wishes us well and passes on some tips for the road ahead.
Seems we have a three or four-day break in the weather and have to take advantage of the clear days to see the fabulous west coast. He advises that if the weather turns ugly we should head to the east coast which only takes about 90 minutes.
Nelson has free wifi available just about anywhere. It’s a bit slow, but with 50MB free per day it will get you out of trouble and it offers me the opportunity to find the address for a new local motorcycle museum I’d heard about.
However, when we find the nearby New Zealand Classic Motorcycles museum it’s closed from December 24 to January 7. It’s a very impressive building so it should house an impressive display of bikes, but we couldn’t even see in the blacked-out windows.
Highway 6 is now smoother as we zoom past the Marlborough country vineyards, deeper into Lord of the Rings valleys that wind up over the Hope Saddle where the Harley is chewing up the steep hills and grinding the floorboards on tight corners.
The smooth road surface has coarse chip and no moss, so it’s as grippy as velcro. I’m swapping between second and third most of the way and we’re both a little spent by the time we hit Murchison at the gateway to the famed Buller Pass, a favourite with many riders.
There are bikes everywhere here, from adventure bikes to sportsbikes and more cruisers like ours.
The Buller Gorge flows alongside a rocky river with cliffs that occasionally overhang the road and turn it into signalled one-way sections. It’s another cracker of a road and although the range meter on the Harley says 250km to empty, by the time we’ve passed the Westport turnoff and seen the sign saying 90km to the next fuel, we have only 120km of range left.
So I’ve backed off a little, sitting at 10-20km under the limit and holding back the temptation to go hot through some of the tight and torturous corners that wind up and over the rugged headlands.
I’m reminded of the western end of the Great Ocean Road and California’s Big Sur, but with a distinctly Kiwi twist with the many cows having one of the best views in the world.
But Mrs MBW is now in my ear about running out of fuel. I’ve gone close too many times for her liking and she’s issuing threats should we run out. To make matters worse – or better – she’s now just in my right ear as the Sena SMH20 Bluetooth system is no longer working in my left ear.
Our idyllic day is now starting to taint under the duress of running out of fuel and the faulty bluetooth unit.
As I’m wondering whether things could get any worse, we near the little town Punakaiki and I roll off the throttle for the 50km/h zone, but leave it in a gear higher than usual to conserve fuel. This is my undoing.
Just over a little crest, a cop is sitting in his patrol car and his disco lights flare up as I hove into view.
Not only have I been diligent in slowing to posted speeds for all townships, but I’ve also been coasting along under the speed limit for the past hour, so my blood is pumping with the anger of this injustice! Then a soothing voice in my right ear tells me it’s ok and puts everything into perspective.
I’ve got to say, the cop was a nice bloke and he chose to ping me for 60 in as 50 zone, even though he clocked me at 61 which is a fine. Instead, he gives me an infringement notice which costs just $30.
It could have been worse and, all things considered, the speeding infringement and bluetooth malfunction can’t spoil what has been our best day yet here in Middle Earth.
At the end of a vigorous day of riding, I’m surprisingly calm and relaxed thanks to the light and precise handling of the Harley which has again shown its ability to make the miles disappear into smiles.
We are spending the night in Greymouth where we’re chomping on great steak and whitebait meals with a local chardonnay and Speights (pronounced “spates”) Distinction Ale at Speights Ale House. In the background, lawn bowls are playing on prime-time TV.
Ah New Zealand, we love you.