This entry is part 14 of 33 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#24



With air fares across the Tasman so cheap, a week in New Zealand is totally practical.

My good mate in New Zealand who runs tours there, phoned up; “Hey, Pete, there’s a brand new 1200GS waterbus in Auckland that needs to come down to Christchurch – interested”?

Can a duck swim? We boarded one of Air New Zealand’s new Dreamliners, a tailwind got us there in 2h 30m. Caught a shuttle to the northern Auckland suburb of Takapuna, found a motel near the shop, ate at a Takapuna beach restaurant, and went to bed. Next morning was bright and sunny as I walked the short distance to the shop. Twenty minutes later we were on our way on the smoothest two wheeled motorhome I’ve ever ridden.

I’ve had many trips around New Zealand but time and other destinations have not diminished its appeal one iota. It is truly fabulous, for a whole bunch of reasons, some of which are intangible.

Sure, the scenery is great, the roads superb, the natives friendly, costs reasonable, but there is much moreto it than that. Hard to define, but it’s a combination of unbelievably fresh clean air so that you can see to the horizon without a hint of haze. It’s the reception you get in the little cafes and places on back roads. It’s the ambience, for want of a better word, that absolutely puts you in a special place, nirvana, heaven.

So we stopped for lunch in a small village café off the highway. Big mistake. One hour later after lengthy chats with various locals, we were on our way again, following a deserted road along the river, while the traffic heading south infested the main highway. The town of Te Kuiti looked like a good place to stay. So we went to the information centre to see what was available. Big mistake.

The info girls were on for a chat.

Eventually we got away and settled on a motel high on a hill with a full glass wall million dollar view of the surrounding hills.

We had allowed ourselves two and a bit days to make the Wellington ferry, so our second day was a wander. We headed for the Mt Ruapehu volcano and Tongariro, where it had been snowing just before we arrived, the GS LED panel readout said the temp was 4.5 degrees. A few years ago the same dial on a GS in Oklahoma read 44 degrees. What a world we live in. But with good gear and heated grips, we were very comfortable. Lunch was a leisurely affair in the café of the rather grand Chateau Tongariro Hotel.

Rain threatened but fizzled out as we made our way down the very bendy Highway 4 to Wanganui. Little traffic, superb road surface, and just the right number of curves and bends. We crossed the bridge into Wanganui and found a motel by the river. An easy walk downtown for tea finished up a magic day.

We had booked an evening ferry from Wellington, to make the most use of the day. Only a few hours away, and all day to do it, so we stopped for a leisurely breakfast at the town of Bulls. Big mistake, our waitress was a biker. While there we got a message that our ferry had been delayed until late. That was our cue to head north again, up highway 3 and then cross country on the most amazing back road, sealed but narrow and very windy. Initially I missed the turn and stopped for a minute to check the map. As always happens in New Zealand, instantly a local – and his dog – were there to advise us.

To fill in more time we revisited the huge Southward auto museum, which houses a variety of vehicles, some worth a million dollars or more. Then we left the busy Wellington highway and hopped over the Paikakariki Hill road. One minute we’re on the busy highway, seconds later we are far above the highway looking down on the traffic as though from an aeroplane. That road is just incredible by any standard.

We easily followed the signs to the Picton ferry terminal, to hurry up and wait for our ferry. Loading waspainless and simply a matter of doing what you’re told. Of course there were quite a few bikes on the ferry, and one rider told us he had been a master of one ferry, and now drives boats that service the off-shore oil rigs in Australia. You meet the most interesting people.

We had pre-booked our motel in Picton, but it was midnight by the time we got there. No problem , a large sign directed us to our room where the light was left on for us. Key inside. A nice touch that would never happen anywhere else in the world. Without any pre-arrangements.

Saturday morning the motel car park was like a race car pit area – it was full of rally cars preparing for an event.

Cars in the air with their underwear showing, engines being tested, the only thing missing was the smell of Castrol R.

The compulsory option out of Picton is the massively bendy road that hugs the Marlborough Sounds.

Deserted and spectacular. We stopped for breakfast in the small town of Havelock, big mistake.Another local biker pulled up on his Triumph Tiger. With his wife, out for a weekend ride. Half an hour later were on our way through the green pine forests to Nelson.

We did not delay in Nelson, having stayed there many times before. The west coast beckoned and one of my favourite roads in New Zealand, the Buller Gorge road to Westport. It was perfect, bright sun, no wind, by the dramatic Buller river. That road has to be one of the world’s best for a fast bike ride. A quick refuel in Westport (4.9l/100km) and then south to the Punakaiki Tavern cabins for the night. A walk along the beach was a perfect end to a perfect day.

We left early to cross the South Island via Arthurs Pass. Once again the Pass divided the weather from cool and cloudy to warm sunshine in a few kilometres over the top. The fast run down sweeping Porters Pass took us on to the Canterbury Plains for the last leg in to Christchurch.

The new GS? I seriously could not fault it in any way. It is ultra smooth, gear changes can be made with not a sound except a change in engine note. Its strong in any gear. Totally sure-footed. Its only ‘problem’ is that I like light weight, and it is a bit portly at low speed for anyone who tips the scales at less than 70 kg.

Next day, back on the plane and home. One delightful week, 1700 fantastic kilometres, no reservations at all.


Tip: For the best airfares, get the Air New Zealand iphone app, short term specials all the time.

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Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.

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