Franz Josef to Queenstown – Monday 9 March

I rode out of Franz Josef and headed straight to Fox Glacier. This is the spot where two Australian men were buried by falling ice two months earlier.

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

The track up the side of the river was shut due to rock falls but a new track had been formed across the riverbed. This gave a better ‘front-on’ view of the glacier without having to walk so far. Not that I’m lazy mind, but I was walking with all my gear on so I was laden down and getting quite hot.

From Fox Glacier the road south was uncharted territory for me. I shouldn’t have been surprised that it looked much the same as further north – but I was. The only break from this lowland rain forest jaunt was the winding road that led up to the lookout at Knights Point. While I was there a tour bus arrived. By the time I left ten minutes later the queue for the sole toilet was close to 15 people long.

Mental note to self again: don’t go on a bus tour!

The road to Jackson Bay

The road to Jackson Bay

I was determined to go to Jackson Bay which is as far south as you can drive on the West Coast. Back in Wellington when researching the trip Google Maps said the road from Haast to Jackson Bay would take 4.5 hours. In fact it took somewhere in the vicinity of 30 minutes, and has to be one of the most spectacular roads I have ridden. The stretch from Hannahs Clearing to Waiatoto was like driving through a tunnel, of native rainforest. And it was so straight.

Jackson Bay, West Coast

Jackson Bay, West Coast

Jackson Bay is a fishing community. There was one huge house on the hill overlooking the bay, and a few other dwellings which were for sale. But the thing I was there for was the legendary “Craypot” – a container converted to a restaurant. Open from midday to 8pm it was run by a woman who was cashier, cook and waitress. $15 for a whitebait fritter on white bread with salad Another motorcyclist I sat with had ‘fish of the day’ for $12 – a battered fillet and chips served in its own fryer basket. It looked delicious.

The Gates of Haast

The Gates of Haast

Petrol in Haast. Then a leisurely journey up to the Gates of Haast surrounded by stupendously tall and craggy mountains. I stopped at ‘The Gates’ and walked across the single lane bridge to get some photos of the Haast River thundering down between the rock walls.

Another quick stop at Camerons Flat where there was a stunning view north along the valley to (I think) the Bealey Range.

The road from there reminded me a lot of the Lewis Pass, transplanted further south. I stopped again at Makarora for a coffee despite the fact that there was a bus in the carpark.

Then a great ride down the shore of Lake Wanaka. I stopped for a few minutes to do a panorama of the surrounding mountains only to be forced back on the bike by several hundred sandflies.

I have been amazed by how many campervans and rental cars have been on the road. 90% of the traffic was tourist related. Every intersection, every layby had an arrow painted on the road to remind drivers which side of the road they should be driving on. Now I could see why.

The last time I had been to Wanaka was 1982, on a similar motorcycle journey. For all the development and wealth of tne area it was surprising that little had changed. The foreshore had been developed (in a pleasant enough way) and the campground that I had stayed in, and which I was sure would have been sold to a flash-harry property developer was still there. Some things change and some things stay the same. Wanaka had done both.

I rode over the Crown Range into Queenstown. In 1982 this was a gravel road the whole way – now it’s completely sealed from end to end making this ‘alternative’ route to Queenstown very busy and a lot quicker than the ‘normal’ route. The temperature dropped 5 degrees prompting a change to my thicker winter gloves, and activation of my heated handlegrips.

The Crown Range

The Crown Range

At 1063 m the Crown Range has the title “The highest sealed road in New Zealand”. I remember the ‘highest’ stat from 1982 but as it wasn’t sealed back then I can only imagine the claim to fame was highest public road, not highest public ‘sealed’ road. Whatever it’s claim to fame it is still a fabulous route and comes highly recommended.

Spent a very pleasant evening with friends near Arrowtown. Apart from the great company I now have a new recipe for cooking corned beef! Thanks heaps guys.

Apparently there is going to be snow to 600m and a southerly front coming through. Sitting here in Cromwell planning my route there’s no sign of the bad weather – yet.

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 café 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.

And the winner is…

“Bootlegger”, a mahogany chris-craft-type boat from Auckland and owned by Greg and Leigh Roy won the Jens Hansen Trophy as overall winner of the Antique and Classic Boat Show for 2009.

Bootlegger - Winner of the Jens Hansen Cup - NZ Antique and Classic Boat Show

Bootlegger - Winner of the Jens Hansen Cup - NZ Antique and Classic Boat Show

The boat took 5 years to build, but in that time two versions of the same design were under construction. One was the 18 foot V8 powered version that won today – the other was a 10 foot replica with a smaller powerplant that Greg built for his kids!

That’s dedication to your art. Or is it madness? I’ve got two sheets of marine ply in the garage ready for action – for me even one boat is daunting, let alone two.

Photos will be posted on my return late next week.

NZ Antique and Classic Boat Show 2009

It’s the tenth anniversary of the Antique and Classic Boat Show. Held at Lake Rotoiti in Nelson Lakes National Park this year saw a record number of entries – 120, up from the usual 80 odd. From Pete Rainey’s initial hunch that there would be other enthuiasts interested in getting together to look at boats this event has grown so big that overseas tourists have been known to plan their visit to New Zealand around this event.

This year boat enthusiasts came from as far north as Auckland and as far south as Invercargill. There was pretty much a craft for all tastes – from beautiful mahogany italian style river boats, to classic Hamilton jets, to seagull outboard motors. Michael Seresin, of Seresin Estate fame brought his twin V8 Riva. It was craned into the lake, very carefully.

The supreme winner will be announced at 9.20pm tonight. As official photographer I already know who will lift the Jens Hansen trophy – but my lips are sealed. More on that later.

Rain warnings for Nelson

The trip starts at lunchtime today – looks like I’m heading into a severe rain forecast for Nelson Lakes. Bugger.

My route will take me from Picton to St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes. The Antique and Classic Boat show is held there every year on the first weekend of March. This is their tenth anniversary, and I have photographed the event nearly every year.

St Arnaud to Fox GlacierOn Sunday I’ll leave there and head for Fox Glacier – this is a long ride, but because I have done the West Coast many times I won’t feel the need to be stopping to sight see.

Fox Glacier to Jackson Bay to QueenstownMonday is an early start – trying to get as far south as Jackson Bay (the furthest south you can drive on the West Coast). Google maps suggests a two hour driving time one way Haast to Jackson – so maybe time will be against me as I’m trying to get to Queenstown for Monday night. I’ve never done the Haast highway so I’m looking forward to that. 5 day forecast doesn’t look too hot for that region – more rain.

Queenstown to Lake Tekapo, via Danseys and Hakataramea PassTuesday I’ll leave Queenstown and head for Tekapo. Depending on local intelligence I’ll either do the Lindis Pass (easy) or Dansey’s Pass (easy too but gravel all the way). Danseys Pass will bring me out near Kurow where I can either do the Hakataramea Pass road (this is where I’ll need the help of the locals due to having to cross river fords). If it’s been raining then I might go via Omarama cos the last thing I want to do is tip the bike over in a river, especially since I’m travelling solo.

Tekapo to Christchurch via Mt SomersWednesday travel from Tekapo to Christchurch via an inland Canterbury route. Keen to go via Mount Somers – my great grandfather had the first general store there so it’s my whakapapa.

Thursday will be a leisurely ride up the coast back to Picton for an early evening sailing on the Interislander.

I’ll be updating this blog via my cell phone – unfortunately this means no pictures, but I’ll update the posts when I get back.

Test post from phone

I’m excited.

I have finally managed to get remote posting set up for my blog. This means I can post via email from my Palm 700wx.

In 2 days time I’m leaving on a motorcycle tour around the South Island. I won’t have my laptop with me, nor will I have time to post from an internet café. Finally my smart phone proves to actually be smart.

I’ll keep you posted – so to speak.

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