I spent 2 weeks or so riding around New Zealand over the Christmas New Year break. What glorious fun. (There is a more complete set of photos over at Flickr.)
It reaffirmed what a wonderful place this is. Even during the height of the summer break it was easy to get away from it all.
My friend April, ex USA, was great company, and meant that I really got to see NZ from a foreign tourist perspective. We we often both treated as being from offshore, and almost universally we had positive experiences.
New Zealand is increasingly a great place to travel to – it’s not only beautiful and so forth, but people in and out of the tourism industry really appreciate visitors and it shows.
We rode from Wellington, down the Molesworth track to Hamner, then to Christchurch.The Molesworth Track is only open over summer, and is an excellent excursion. We briefly met several people from Wellington cycling the track – a wonderful idea.
The next day saw us go to Haast via a windy and then very wet Arthurs Pass. New Years Eve was to Te Anau (Queenstown was a traffic jam) and we spent New Years Day spent at Milford Sound. It really is one of the most spectacular places in the world.
The next day was a very big one – from Te Anau back to Wellington. That wasn’t the plan, but there was a big front behind us encouraging us to keep going. It simply meant steady riding at the speed limit all day. The nice thing about being on the motorbike is that our hold-ups by slow traffic in the hills was minimal.
Best shopping town award, and April was a very experienced judge, went to Napier, which we got to via the Wairarapa. Here she is perusing some mops.
We went through Gisborne, then the Motu track 9top two photos) to Whakatane, and then to Auckland via the back roads.
After dropping April off it was up to Waipu, then through to Raglan (highway 22 is very worthy) and then back to Wellington via the Wanganui river road. Be sure to go down that road son as it is increasingly devoid of gravel. Here’s the very pretty Jerusalem church.
2009 was a good domestic travel year for me – for example I managed to ride or drive through the Haast Pass three times in 2009, once on the Brass Monkey, once on the way back from skiing in Wanaka, and this time. Similarly it’s been a great start to 2010, with the visit to Milford on New Year’s Day.
New Zealand really is motorcycling paradise, and despite there being two tragic motorcycle fatalities during my trip (both relatively near to where I was that day), it remains one of the safest places to ride in the world. You certainly don’t need to go fast in New Zealand to experience great riding, and those tempting straights simply make you tired, wear your tires out and are fully policed.
Speaking of which, there was a checkpoint on the road into Wanaka on New Year’s Eve. The stop was the usual efficient affair, but what was interesting was April’s comment afterwards – “That was the friendliest Policeman I have ever met.” We tend to forget just how good interactions with the Police are here in New Zealand, and for his part the officer left us feeling even happier about the day and the country. Well done.