There is nirvana around every corner in New Zealand. That’s my verdict after riding the long way on Harley-Davidson motorcycles from Dunedin to Invercargill in New Zealand’s South Island.
We’re part of a media and VIP ride to the Iron Run rally in Queenstown being organised by Harley-Davidson Australia and New Zealand through their Kiwi dealer network.
The ride includes Olympic BMX rider and Harley ambassador Caroline Buchanan with her fiance Barry Nobles, an American BMX representative.
Our ride left the historic gold rush and university city of Dunedin from the McIver and Veitch Harley dealership in crisp conditions, but under aqua skies.
Over the next 350km, we probably rode only about 10km of straight roads in total.
The rest of the day was a combination of every type of corner you could imagine.
All set against a background that looked like painted scenery for a Lord of the Rings film … except those films didn’t need painted scenery to make them awesome.
That’s just how New Zealand is in real life.
It’s almost dangerous riding here because the roads are so challenging and demanding, yet you are constantly distracted by the achingly beautiful scenery.
We scrape our pegs rounding a hill crest to be distracted by a gorgeous valley nestled under a thick mist. Just stunning!
My first choice of ride this morning was the Harley Heritage Softail, a comfy lounge chair of a bike with a windscreen to keep the cold off my chest.
I was soon regretting not having taken the Road King, a much sharper implement for carving along the rugged coastline and over the hills to the quaint town of Lawrence where they claim the world’s first free public wifi!
We stop for a coffee at Gabriel’s, which was awarded in the best cafe in New Zealand honours, and a check on our social media.
Then we roll into the surrounding hills and ranges with their rollercoaster roads and patchwork quilt scenery.
It’s simply stunning, stunning, stunning.
Although there are some roadworks where they leave gravel behind and the coarse chip bitumen of the South Island flicks up occasionally, the roads are actually quite smooth and fee of potholes.
The Heritage is plugging along nicely and scraping its footpegs loud and clear in the corners, alerting the other riders that I’m right behind them.
We stop for lunch in Mataura at the Country Cottage Cafe and it’s time to hop on board the Road King Special with its apt all-black features (given we are in All Black territory), 19-inch front wheel, slammed rear suspension, wrap-around panniers and neat LED taillights.
I’ve been following that tidy rear end all morning and it really is very very nice, indeed.
As soon as I hope on board, it feels light and direct, while the Milwaukee Eight engine fires up with a deeper roar and more refined, yet more powerful vibe.
The steering is not as heavy as I suspect and the low-profile front hoop gives positive road feedback.
After several photo stops, we’re running a bit behind schedule, so we blast down the highway and I don’t get much of a chance to test out the bike.
However, it feels more like a naked Street Glide than a Road King with the screen removed. I think I’ll call it the Street King!
A more detailed review will follow when I’ve ridden it through more twisties tomorrow.
The day ended with a quick visit and photo stop at Bluff, 22km south of Invercargill where the land ends.
When we return to our digs at the Quest Hotel, we are allowed to park on the footpath right outside. In fact, the manager insists!
It seems you can do anything in Invercagill if you have a motorcycle.
Tomorrow, we ride to Te Anau and on to Queenstown for the Iron Run rally.
For those interested in the route we travelled today (or at least hoped to travel before our shortcut), please check out these maps.