St Arnaud to Franz Josef – Sunday 8 March

I left Lake Rotoiti around 12.30pm on Sunday after spending the morning organising and shooting Bootlegger (the winning boat) at the head of the lake. It was a double treat – got to chase Bootlegger in Michael Seresin’s Riva, before we swapped personnel and returned in the other.

I left the lake heading into a stiff westerly wind. Murchison was the first of many stops. Mental note to self: don’t EVER stop at a cafĂ© that has a tour bus parked outside. The food will invariably be bad, and the prices extortionate. I wasn’t disappointed.

Buller Gorge is a dream to ride through. Dense, lush rain forest. I took the left turn at Inangahua Junction. The stretch of road from there to Reefton really emphasises the relative poverty of the West Coast. I swear I saw a farmer pulling logs out of a swamp. If the tractor had been replaced with a team of horses then that sight could have been 120 years ago. Fields of the blackest richest looking soil, but riddled with the biggest, roundest stones, making it not much use for anything.

The best thing about being on a motorcycle is a keener experience of smell. Cruising past a small lavender farm was an unexpected treat.

The worst thing about being on a motorcycle is getting wet. On the West Coast this is more pronounced. Just before Reefton I was sure someone was throwing marbles at me but no, this was rain, West Coast style. The drops came intermittently, out of nowhere, amidst a sunny sky.

I stopped at Reefton for fuel and a coffee. Reefton was the first place in New Zealand to get public street lighting. Sometime in the last decade or more a beautification process appears to have taken place – the main street is picture postcard perfect. And the coffee (L’Affare) good.

A huge dumping of rain just after Greymouth had me worried that it would be like that the remaining 180kms to the glaciers. But just when I thought I could feel the wet seeping through my gear the sun emerged. It was pretty plain riding all the way to Franz Josef, although the temperature dropped several hundred degrees as the ice from the glaciers, and the snow from the mountains created that fridge effect.

Whitebait fritters and blue cod for dinner – I’m on the West Coast – I’m allowed!

Weather has turned up a good day this morning. There’s little cloud on the mountains so there’s an almost perfect view of the peak of Mount Burster.

I’m eating an adequate breakfast in The Landing Bar Restaurant while TV1 Breakfast show blares out across the dining room. Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell have just explained (at ridiculous length) how to adjust a widescreen TV set. Insightful? Riveting? Rubbish!

I must leave this place. Heading for Queenstown. More later.

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