Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there

Paeroa (pronounced pie rower)
Is the "P" in L&P I know that doesn't mean much to anyone in the UK, but the "lemony" soft drink is the popular bottled fizz in NZ. "World famous in New Zealand since ages ago"

Paeroa is also (almost) "famous" for its motorcycle Street race. That's what I'm here for!
Before that though, Saturday was put over to a car and bike show though with an eclectic mix of old and new interesting and downright strange!

Do the Karangahake shake
After wandering around the show and the parade through the town, I stopped at the wonderful Karangahake reserve. Where old mine workings along a narrow river gorge have become a leisurely walk. Tramlines still go through dark tunnels with "windows" out to the gorge. No lighting or sign means stepping into the inky blackness on trust that "it must be this way" Luckily I was right! A wobbly suspension bridge and a walkway cut into cliff brought me back to my starting point. What a fabulous little place!

Currency confusion
One thing that's puzzled me since I've been here... The smallest coin they have is 10 cents. ..100 cents to a dollar. So why are items sold at less than fractions of 10c?
If a shopping total comes to $25.73 for example they give you change to the nearest 10c... Bloody silly idea!

"Battle of the streets"
Sunday's Paeroa street races were entertainment on a level that I completely identify with. Modern and classic bikes. Young guys out to prove their lack of fear and old hands still giving it back. Out gunned old stagers still sliding tyres wildly to the edge of the hay bales lined up against the street furniture. Raucous open piped Triumphs and Nortons a couple of Ducatis and Moto Guzzi in the BEARs (British European and American racing) race. The latest super bikes and stuff that looked like it belonged in a museum. All doing what, in the end they were designed to do well in their respective era. Going as fast as the human on board dare go! All within touching distance of the viewing public.

With no visible police presence, it was left to the exiting crowds to organise themselves at the road junctions. But it didn't seem to be a problem. Its a smaller crowd than a MotoGP event granted, but traffic has a way of finding its own way. Some organisations would do well to remember that! 

Take cover
One sound that will resonate in my memory of New Zealand is the haunting wail of a WW11 air raid siren. Used to call the volunteer fire service into action. It's a sound that carries across the hills and even for me, despite not being old enough to have experienced the fear that echoing drone must have brought, it is a sound that triggers childhood dread from an age when cold wars were new.

"Not all who wander are lost".
The movie set of Hobbiton, home of the Baggins brought to life. It might be make believe, but it's more real than any theme park fantasy, with more moral meanings in the stories that we could do a lot worse than to live by. An ale in the Green Dragon looking out over the lake at the end of the tour is a fine way to spend some time.

A great experience to visit if you're ever in this part of the world.

A couple of days by the sea will see out my last bit of time in New Zealand. The car/van/camper is due for return and I move on... Always moving on.. but this time, somewhat reluctantly. 

Friday, 19 February 2016

Northern reflections

A few "stats" to put things into perspective:
UK land mass 241,590 sq km
NZ land mass 268,021 sq km
11% bigger

NZ population. 4.37 million
UKpopulation. 63.18 million
14 times more than New Zealand

Camping by a fast flowing tidal estuary at Mapua saw out the hot final weekend in the south island.

Saturday was a fabulous day covering an unplanned near 50km on a rented bicycle. Along a cycle route through and around the oddly named Rabbit island (not a single Oryctolagus cuniculus to be seen) and out to the little coastal town of Richmond near the "City of Nelson". With the tide having filled the estuary, cooling down with a swim in clear blue water on the way back was fabulous. The 15% discount card from the cycle hire business for the cafe across the road ensured I replaced the calories a had managed to  burn off!

I chose to take the scenic coastal road back to Picton. Why wouldn't you?

Through the "green mussel capital" of Havelock with enormous views of the water and surrounding hills, it put "scenic" into the next dimension!

News reports of an earthquake in Christchurch reminded me that these islands are "alive" in so many ways. No casualties and no tremors made it this far north.
The journey on the 9am ferry north passed quickly as I chatted to an early retired couple returning from a walking holiday/break.

Quickly out of Wellington and on my way north I passed the Kaitoke national park (waving to the elven folk at Rivendell) I had stopped at on my way south and through Masterson to end up at a beautiful little riverside campsite in "kiwi country" at Eketahuna. Despite keeping my eyes peeled for the little flightless burrow dwellers. Just like the rabbits, none made an appearance.

Following the cost road north west through Hastings I stopped at the "art deco" designed town of Napier, that was rebuilt after a 1920's earthquake. Two in one blog entry! A gathering of 1930's cars outside the "Gatsby" themed hotel added to the ambience.

It's late summer now and you can tell as the mornings are cooler as the southern hemisphere heads towards autumn. Although it is very apt to warm up quickly.

I had a sudden strange thought (while not staring at the stars this time) that I am actually upside down! The gravity of that situation struck me as funny!

After a peaceful overnight rest at Morere, the spectacular road to Gisborne brought me to the Waioeka gorge. (Pronounce it how you like... I don't know!)
Although the day turned rainy, the low cloud hanging in the trees and hills brought a mystical edge to the region as the road swooped and turned its way following the contours of the river for the length of the narrow channel carved into the scenery... Tourist guide
An amazing road to drive along. Misty mountains, river waters flowing like a timeless craftsman, carving the valley. Native bush flora with huge ferns and amazing trees allowing this traveller the occasional glimpse of rushing high-rise waterfalls, tumbling down the sheer cliffs.

A wild wet n windy night in Whakatane (wh pronounced f ... cue schoolboy humour) followed before heading for Paereo for the weekends motorbike races... Assuming the pacific rain storm passes over.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Summer, sea and sand dunes

Probably need to be playing .....
While reading this ;o)

Have you ever sat under a clear night sky and utterly marvelled at the unthinkable vastness of visible space before you? The stars and planets visible to the naked eye a mere fraction of what there is of the known universe. And how totally and completely insignificant you are on this huge theatre of light. All of life's worries, and everything that brings concern to your everyday 'blink of an eye' existence all boils down to an improbable collection of chemical elements.

Stop worrying about anything.. In the end it absolutely doesn't matter!

In other philosophical news. England's claim to a green and pleasant land is way off beam. The description is far more fitting of New Zealand...

I'm sorry. I realise my enthusiasm for these islands must be slightly wearing now. But I'm finding it difficult to understand why more people just don't live here.. 
Simple as that, I guess. 
Being fortunate enough to have been born in England I have been blind to a wider view of the world. It seems from afar that England and Europe is in a mess. My view has widened immeasurably during my travels.

Might not publish the above... If you read it. I did!
So after travelling north and west I got within easy distance of the north coast of the south island.

Summer in full bloom.. Hot sunny lazy days.... I will miss summer.. It's been ten months long this year.

Driving through Nelson,I happened on a plain fronted building with a simple sign that said.. " NZ Classic motorcycles" wasn't sure if it was a shop, or a business but I pulled in to investigate.. 

Glad I did! An amazing (private) collection of old motorcycles from the 1920's through to more modern machines. Lots of 50's and 60's Triumphs, Nortons, BSAs, Indian, Harley and others I didn't recognise. Three Brough Superiors! and a Britten.

After a weekend at a camp site that turned out to be popular with families I moved on. From somewhere full of 30 somethings with young kids, along with the grandparents, to a less facilitated camp site full of 20 somethings avoiding responsibility. Not quite sure where I fit into that grand scheme of things. 
Perhaps I don't and that's the whole point.

Sat on a pebble sea break with a turquoise sea and misty mountains on the horizon, in not sure there is much more. A bed to sleep in, a bottle of cheap wine, I think I'm turning into a bit of a hippy... Peace man!

Heading towards the north west point of the south island. A quick stop at (the very busy) beautiful bay at Kaiteriteri. Before crossing the mountain road at Abel Tasman national park, to Collingwood. A fantastic place, wonderful scenery... Blah blah blah.. Yeah I know you've heard it all before... But really.... A truly stunning area to be in. Mountainous twisting roads. Jaw dropping views and, today, perfect weather to enjoy it all... 

There's a spit of land jutting 24km out into the sea at the north western tip of the south island. Farewell spit is a huge  bar of rolling sand dunes with open ocean on one side and the tidal "golden bay" on the other. A fantastic and hugely interesting place with sweeping hills running down to steep cliffs and a wide clean beach on the seaward side. I read that a lot of whale strandings occur on that beach due to the huge tide that leaves shallow sand banks for miles. Luckily the tide was in when I visited so the sea was right up to the base of the dunes.  

On my way back a second beach at Wharaiki beach which after a bit of hike provided more stunning sand dunes and a scenic beach to take a cooling dip. 

From here I will head south east again to get towards Picton to take the return ferry to the north island. Where more adventure awaits! 

Thursday, 4 February 2016

A song of mountains and ice

To live in the city of crowds, traffic and constant noise, to be always striving, to be in the ceaseless competition for money and status and power, perhaps distracted the mind until it could no longer see—and forgot—the all that is. Or maybe, because of the pace and pressure of that life, sanity depended on blinding oneself to the manifold miracles, astonishments, wonders, and enigmas that comprised the true world.
Dean Koontz - Innocence.

Continuing the slightly Scottish theme of the south island's highlands.
I camped at a site in Bannockburn, so utterly quiet and dark at night I could only hear my own heartbeat,just down the road from Cromwell. Where the highlands motorsport complex is situated. 

It is a modern development that has everything a Motorsport park should.
Sitting on a grassy bank in the summer sun with a cool beer accompanying the rumble of V8s competing with more nimble old British sports cars around the complex twists and turns of the circuit. 60's cool, but the sun is hot.

The most amazing car shape ever built (A two door '57 Chevrolet BelAir) was among the many interesting old motors on display.

All set to the backdrop of mountains and clear blue skies. I can see why the Scottish pet food millionaire and ex car racer bought and developed this petrol head playground.

Feeling slightly inadequate now though.
One vehicle on display was a 1981 Ford tractor. With a caravan that had travelled around the world... A tractor! With a sign indicating a max speed of 20 kph. It only took a year to complete the journey. I've met cyclists, I've met walkers I've met car drivers in totally inappropriate cars taking their own version of an overland adventure. I didn't expect anyone to have done it on a tractor!

Heading North West from Wanaka  the lakes and scenery expanding and exploding into view with an intensity that it is impossible to describe. You think you've seen the most amazing view ever, only for it to be outdone at the next turn of the road or crest of the hill.... It would be easy to become blase when your vision is overloaded with so much input, but honestly, every single sight takes your breath away.

It's a superb biking road and as the valley narrows, it leads to an open flat plain bisected by a wide river bed at Haast. Judging by the numbers, many bikers of all denominations seemed to be in  agreement.

Once at the coast, huge distances of tropical rain forest followed. Alternating between clear lake waters or the sweeping beaches seemingly untouched by humans. Sand blasted, wave tossed and sun bleached tree trunks holding all the land rights on the grey sand.

Fox Glacier... Not minty! Blue and ice, but mostly gravel. It's retreat along the valley seemingly unstoppable as the water drains ceaselessly down the vast ice created valley. The price of progress elsewhere on this little planet.

Late lunch time and a cafe on the main street has tasty food, a cool beer and a back packing ukulele player sat quietly strumming on the street corner, providing a gentle backdrop to accompany the chirping cicadas. The tranquillity almost constantly broken by the frequent thud of helicopter blades ferrying those with the credit card balance to see the prettier side of the glacier. Thereby adding to the problem that is reducing the glacier...

The sun is HOT here... Latitude making a difference? I've got used to hot weather after 9 months of summer, but sitting in the sun here burns my already tanned skin... Finding shade.

Further north the same echoing peace is utterly undisturbed. The tourists helicopter flights concentrated on ice flows rather than the simple natural beauty of the forested mountains and lakes. A small flightless bird hoots, cicadas chirp, all under the ever present watch of the ancient wooded hills.

What is it with Germans?
All through New Zealand... There's lots of them here.. I don't have a problem with Germans as such, but in a DOC (department of conservation) camp site there is lots of space. A whole field... Yet they park next to me? ... Stopped to make a cup of tea in an empty car park, with a fabulous view of the mountains. A bloody great rented camper van rolls up next to me blotting out the scenery... Followed by a cheery "hallo" with a German accent... A camp site that is fairly busy, the site owner says park anywhere, so I find one section where there's no one else (it's furthest away from the toilet block!) Late in the evening a camper van rolls in and parks next to me..... You can guess the spoken language... Aaaaahhhhhhhhgggggg! lol.

When I was young(er) the phrase "at the turn of the century" referred to 1900... And with it was some historical artefact or location. It occurred to me today that the same phrase now refers to the year 2000.

I must be getting old!

I raise the subject because New Zealand like most countries offers tourist guidance via a brown coloured signpost for points of significant interest. New Zealand's "historical" sites are from the "old" turn of the century. In fact not very historic at all!

Further north now. I turned inland as the coastal route was getting a bit less interesting. The mountains might be gentler, but the scenery, flora and fauna are just as incredible as ever. 

Experience of the day today? Well NZ has a lot of narrow, single carriageway bridges. Give way signs at each end ensure the infrequent traffic arranges its own passage according to the oncoming traffic. Not difficult when the number of vehicles on the road is a low as it is. However. This particular single track bridge is also the crossing point for the railway line!!!! Brings a whole new meaning to the perspective of "GIVE WAY"