Friday, 29 January 2016


A 600cc bike from 1920... Modified in the 1960's and it still holds an unbroken land speed record today at 191mph... let me just say that again ... one hundred and ninety one miles per hour!!

Now look at the bike... And ... Imagine doing 191mph on it... Actually... Imagine just doing 100mph on it (that's probably more within most people's limited  imagination of speed)

Burt Munro did that when he was in his 70's...
What exactly is stopping you from achieving anything in your life?

Invercargill is, not unexpectedly, not much to write home about. But the hardware store in town, selling modern tools, mechanical and service parts. General maintenance stuff, also doubles as an interesting museum of old vehicles, nostalgia and memorabilia not only about Burt Munro but other kiwi motorsports legends. It's my idea of how a shop should be. It is home to the original, genuine Burt Munro special.. Indian scout.

Completely off topic....At this point, can I just offer my thanks to Mr Jamie Lancaster for introducing the word "shizzle" to my vocabulary last year.. (Polite - read child friendly  version of shit!)... I've started using it all the time.. . Mostly when I'm talking to myself!
....I fucking hate that word ;o)

So waking up to 7°C in Invercargill was a bit of a shock to the system. Time to move north.. Quite literally the polar opposite of what you would do in Europe to find warmer climes..
A two hour drive to Queenstown saw the temperature back into the 20°'s ... That's better.. Thank-you.

Queenstown. Lovely lake side town reminiscent of ... (Had to Google it) .....Windermere.... but bigger.But man! Its busy! 

Packed with backpackers.. Haven't twenty somethings got anything better to do these days? Three campsites in town all like some European youth refugee camp.. 
Time to getouttatown!

A drive through some supercalifragelisticexpialedocious! (see previous blog entry) scenery brought me to Cromwell... Although Olivier wasn't home, it does house the "highland Motorsport complex" and this weekend happens to be "speed week" (sic)

Guess what I'm doing this weekend?
No not camping in my car/van/camper getting drunk on red wine (I don't have to cool it)
... Well yeah that too...

As another aside
..... I read Steven Kings book "on writing" and right now I'm breaking every rule in the book... But hey!.. Rules are meant to be's what they're for. (I'm currently on my twenty second book of this trip.. "The Martian".. By Andy Weir... Which is probably influencing this blog entry)

The West coast.. The fabled west coast that everyone has told me about the south island.... Yeah... It's alright!.... I guess. If you like that sort of thing. Mountains, lakes, the odd glacier... Yeah not much to write home about at all...


'Scuse my french, I'm suffering from a lack of superlatives again... ITS FUCKING AMAZING! :o)

I simply don't have the words to describe this area. My camera can't do it justice. I can only say if you get one chance in your life to come to New Zealand.. You will not regret it. I would guarantee it, but I can't afford to refund your airfare if you are some wierdo who is not completely satisfied.

I've figured out a couple of things today.. I've been listening to a lot of music since I've been driving rather than riding. My MP3 player has something like 4500 tracks of music so I've got plenty to go at on "shuffle" mode. BUT what it does is force me to listen to whatever is playing. All through this trip, riding the bike, I've found myself singing out loud some random tune that pops into my head - sometimes something completely obscure that I don't even like.SECOND BUT - it is freedom of the same tone, ideas, thoughts and random observations have appeared in my mind. Listening to my music has filtered/masked and blocked those random brainwaves. - I switched it off today. wound all the windows down and blew away the cobwebs in my mind. 

The other thing was that driving is not very interactive. It probably is, but its less interactive with the immediate surroundings than riding a bike. I'm sat in a comfortable chair, I can control the environmental surroundings. more/less wind/air/heat/cool. A bad/wet road surface doesn't matter. I can choose in car entertainment. I can sit back relax and take as much or as little notice of the passing world as I choose. If only more car drivers experienced just once the utter involvement in riding a bike. its complete connection with its surroundings and the riders total control required to make it all happen. If you've never done it I can't explain the difference any clearer than that. Choose life - choose a bike!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Scenic Southron settings

What to do when you run out of superlatives? Make some up? Or would I just end up sounding a bit like Mary Poppins? Whatever the answer I've used so many on this trip it's at risk of sounding boring saying that the latest thing is outstanding, stupendous, fantastic etc. etc.

But at the risk of being repetitive! The approach to the south island by boat is utterly amazing! The ship cruising through the "sound" as it approaches the hills that surround Picton is a sight to behold. Gliding through the water, as the land slides by on either side of the channel.

I made an (uninformed) decision to take the east coast, south. If you see what I mean! Saving the recommended west coast for the trip back north, when I will also check out the mountainous region in the middle as I meander back.
I want to get to Invercargill on the south coast to pay homage to Burt Monroe.. The worlds fastest Indian.

Having made that choice of route, it's not perhaps the most stunning of the south island scenery, but there are parts worth seeing!

I've also managed a few nights free camping in this region. There seems to be less restrictions although the facilities are somewhat limited. But that's fine. Washing in a bucket works for me. Simple life. 
And the compensations have been waking up to a million dollar sea view or the peaceful surrounding of a countryside field under the shade of a tree.
New Zealand's summer is a very pleasant place to be. Comparable to a (good) English summers day. Comfortable temperatures and pleasing green pastures, with the potential for rain. Ying and Yang makes the world go round.

So far it seems to me that the south island is less populated and like everywhere I've been getting around is not a problem. With the major roads mostly being single carriageway and limited to 100kph. It doesn't sound much (about 60mph) but with no traffic to speak of and lots to look at, what's the rush?

New Zealand in no way feels overpopulated and it is a pleasure to travel through. The lakes and mountains of the east coast . Especially to the east of Christchurch have an almost Scottish feel to them - Although the little town of Akaroa on the lakeside is distinctly French with the Boulangerie next to l'essence station.

I'm not entitely sure there are any other land masses on earth this far south? Maybe the tip of south america or south africa? .... Whatever it is noticably cooler at the south end of the south island. Going north again soon in search of summer!

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Northern island

Travelling through the fabulous hills and lakes of New Zealand's north island.

Disconnected from the elements in a "car" which is always an inefficacy to me. That connection with the sun, the air and the land (and the rain) is what makes travelling by bike so thrilling. So utterly involving. 

The roads through this part of New Zealand are made to be travelled by bike. With twists and turns up hill and through valleys. It's my one big disappointment. But having made the (correct) decision I've just got to live with it... I'm just feeling the difference of being just another camper on the trail.

New Zealand's thermal activity is not something I had anticipated. The geology I guess is obviously volcanic if you look at it... I hadn't! But it is very active which I suppose is better than dormant of you live on top of a ticking eruption.

I hadn't also considered that New Zealand was used extensively for locations for the lord of the rings films. As such there are lots of places that have since become tourist attractions. There are definitely a couple of those I would like to fit in.

I think I was being a bit unfair to New Zealand in my first few days. I wasn't in the right frame of mind. I thought I enjoyed Australia but new Zealand has gone above it in my chart of good places to be.

The climate might not be as climactic temperature wise and summer rain is as much a fact of life as it is in Europe. But  if a land is green that's because it gets wet. With hills and coastal landscapes affecting the weather it can't help but be cooler than its near neighbour that has vast flat inland plains superheating the summer winds.

Passing over the hills and mountains of the southern counties of the north island. Twisting roads with snow capped mountains. That led me to the south west coast.

With the ferry crossing booked for Friday, I ended up with a free day. So after a little investigation, the film set for Rivendell (home of the elven folk) in the Lord of the rings films was relatively nearby. A fabulously narrow and twisty road over the hills delivered scenic views by the bucket full that a camera can never capture.

 To the mainly unforgettable town of Upper Hutt. But just a short trip up the hill is Kaitoke National Park. A wonderfully lush verdant valley with camping at less than £3 a night.. The Rivendell set is well marked, but as most of the scenes were digitally created and filmed on location sixteen years ago, there is little to see with regards to the movie scene
Still a magical place though!

The road into Wellington was easy and the boat ride smooth as it entered the fjord that leads to Picton. The "gateway to the south island"

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Kiwi fruit...

With a night that only lasted three hours on the red eye flight from Melbourne. I lost two more hours as I took another step towards the international date line. Arriving at New Zealand's early morning.

I managed to clear customs without getting arrested for fruit smuggling. Or any other potentially hideous food or natural substance!..

It was a tough start to my New Zealand adventure, as Monday melted into Tuesday with a lack of any meaningful sleep. A grey overcast sky and a desire to getoutta town meant I drove further than I intended after inadvertently getting on to a remote coast road.

A snatched 20 minute doze at the beautifully peaceful Kawakawa bay allowed me to drive on.. But signs all over any "free" camping places saying no non self contained campers... (i.e. vans without their own waste disposal systems)

According to a local guy I spoke to the day after, its down to lots of issues with mess from backpacking students in rent a campers... Like mine!

I wasn't initially overly impressed with the vehicle, but it's not so bad and definitely easier than a tent. It's a shame that what seems to be a turbine smooth electric motor under the bonnet doesn't sound or feel like the 3.0 litre V6 behemoth that it is!

Wednesday dawned cool, but along with some dramatic scenery it got lots better as the day went on. As did my ability to see the world without the fug of sleep deprivation, making life seem somewhat better and improving my perception of what at first was a slightly sad feeling. A lot of which was related to lack of sleep, but also came about from leaving my trusty motorbike behind. I'm suddenly inconspicuous. No UK plated motorbike parked next to a tent. No one notices as I pull up at the petrol station. What used to be a big talking point at every stop is gone. It almost makes me want to shout out that I'm not just another tourist, its been a big adventure to get here... Maybe I am! 

Waterfalls, rushing rivers and jagged hill tops with winding roads. New Zealand it seems is Australia with interesting scenery! Something like Wales and Scotland and Norway all mixed up together. Slartibartfast might have won an award for this place too. (look it up!)

The Bay of Plenty provided everything I need. From a dramatic mountain backdrop to fabulous seascapes. A supermarket with cheap New Zealand Merlot and a soothing river alongside a grassy campsite... I might never move on! 

Summer on the north island is comparable with a European summer so far. One day grey and overcast, the next sunny and warm. As an island there are a lot of similarities. Further south, just like further north at home is cooler and wilder by all accounts.. We shall see!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Retracing steps

Events can seem random while you're living them, but when you look back, what do you see?
A chain of coincidences? Plain old luck? Or something more?
What you see is a clear path. More than that. A true path.
What are the chances these things would have just happened on their own? Each piece falling into place exactly when we needed it?
There is a power at work. Something beyond our understanding. You can call it what you like. 
It doesn't need a name because it knows yours.

(All these little pre-ambles have at one point or another bubbled to the surface as I contemplate my way along the road..marvelling at nature's magnificence or man's ineptitude.. Some of these words actually made sense to me at the time. If they don't to you dear reader, simply pass on by. They are after all, mostly the ramblings of an over-active stress free mind!)

January (high summer - how odd) Saturday after new year, dawned cool with overcast skies and temperatures at around 16 degrees. After the recent  numbers that felt bloody cold to me!

With the wind making up for the lack of effort from the temperature, the ride heading back east along the same bumpy dull road I passed along my way westward was challenging. Gusty winds mixed with salt swept from the dried lakes picked me up and then dropped mid corner. 

More hill than mountain
Along the road to Mount Gambier I decided to look for some camping availability and was checking my maps when I was asked if I was looking for the race circuit? - Err! no, but is there one and what's the occasion? - It turns out there is a classic race meeting at Mac Park a little circuit just outside town...

Decision made and a camp site secured - Sunday's activities looking good with I'm told classes for older bikes (BSAs and Triumphs etc) and "newer" classics like 1990's superbikes and the like. Should be good!

Or would have been - I got to the circuit on Sunday morning to be told the races had been cancelled as sadly a rider had died in a pre event race the previous afternoon.

So with a spare day it was time to explore the interesting volcanic area around Mount Gambier. Where an amazing blue lake fills the remains of a volcanic crater, where overheard quote of the day was from an american teenager who stood looking at an information board overlooking said volcanic crater asked.. "OK where's the volcano?" - err! - it's in front of you DUDE !!! lol

Moving on....
Still heading back east with no rush to get to Melbourne.

Stopping at Port Fairy, where no one was dressed in pink, a week long music festival was in full swing. With a folk band playing on the grassy main street corner in the centre of town and the local bars advertising evening musical entertainment. A lot of local Irish references and many republic flags in evidence.

I guess Australia's different regional cultural references must go back to the homes of the original European settlers?

During a walk along the wildly windy beach I came across what looked like a recently dead bird. That after checking I think was a relatively rare giant petrel. Sad but interesting none the less.

According to a bloke on the campsite later my trip is "RIPPER". Not sure if he was taking the piss "CRIKEY MATE !" lol.

Riding back along the Twelve Apostles coastline gave me the opportunity to get some pictures of places I'd ridden past on the way west. And it seems London bridge has indeed fallen down. 

Prior to the collapse...(1990 internet picture)

And today.

Camping against the Gellibrand river at Princetown was cheap, peaceful and populated by a mob of kangaroos at dusk with two big lads watching over the rest of the group as they grazed.

After a day of rest... (I know, its tough!) I rode through the amazing Otway park region. Marvelling again at the flora and fauna of the area. Coming to rest at Apollo bay. Which sounds like the location of an Australian soap. Where I will prepare for the final run to Melbourne and my exit to New Zealand

And as the sun sets on my antipodean adventure the land of the long white cloud beckons. Where I will be less an adventurer and more just another hired camper van..