Starting at the Turangi Holiday Park we headed to National Park, through Raetihi, along the Paraparas through to the Upokongaro Tavern (Avoca Hotel). This was the first manned checkpoint. We needed to take a photo of our bike (or a marshall) in front of the Avoca Hotel entrance.
28 min (33 km)
A short blast through to the bridge that crosses the Whangaehu River, with a photo of the bike as proof that it was visited.
1h 3 min (68 km)
This felt a lot longer than 68 km. Very twisty road with lots of loose fine grit gravel. I came barrelling around a corner to find a fellow NI1600 participant standing on the side of the road signalling to slow down. One of the riders ahead had hit gravel and ridden straight into a fence. There were plenty of people helping – he didn’t appear injured and the riders had the bike back on the road so I continued on to Hunterville where I queued for petrol. We heard later that the rider who ‘crashed’ was not able to continue.
We headed north to Ohingaiti then hung a right and headed into the northern Manawatu. My GPS on my iPhone was all but inoperable so in these early stages I made the decision to try and stick with some of the other riders and just follow them – assuming that they would know where to go. ‘We’ found the next photo checkpoint at Pemberton Corner, apparently an historic place – I still have no clue as to the significance of this location!
51 m (58 km)
From Pemberton Corner we headed south towards Cheltenham. This included one of the longest straights I have ridden. Another rider shot past me at a rapid rate of knots. Turning right at Cheltenham back towards SH1. I kept up with two fast riders who ‘showed me the way’ to Halcombe. Never been there before. Not likely to visit again.
The objective was to photograph the bike near a war memorial on, or near, the town roundabout. When I arrived there was a bit of a queue to ride your bike onto the mound.
2 h 55 min (232 km)
This was the first of the substantial riding legs. Coming out of Halcombe I followed the Honda Goldwing guys – there were four of these beasts. Again, with no GPS I thought I’d follow the leader. What I didn’t realise was they were making a detour to Marton for their first fuel stop so I found myself off course, thankfully not by much. Instead of hitting SH3 at the intersection of Makirikiri Road I exited onto the highway several km’s north at Turakina. It didn’t add any extra time or distance to my journey.
Headed north west through Whanganui, then Hawera, then along the Surf Highway to Oakura. It was nearing dusk. The sun was getting low on the horizon, and the wind was pretty bad. I couldn’t help thinking why anyone would want to live in the Taranaki. Wind blown and devoid of any meaningful vegetation, along with the pervading smell of cow shit. They can have it. Needless to say I was very happy to hit the BP station at Oakura for the second manned checkpoint.
3 h 37 min (281 km)
Another big leg. There were quite a few bikes congregating at the Oakura BP. I tagged along with the Goldwings again riding through New Plymouth as darkness was falling. This was another long leg up through Te Kuiti, and then along SH39 and SH23 to Raglan.
The Goldwings left me for dust. I saw one other rider at the BP in Te Kuiti where I re-fuelled. I rode to Raglan pretty much on my own. I did stop at the Otorohanga McDonalds for a quick bite to eat. It felt like I was there for 30 minutes or so but my Spotwalla tracker suggests around 15 minutes for an Angus burger and small fries.
Didn’t see any other riders until approaching Raglan as riders were returning either to Ngaruawahia, or up the SH22. Photographed my bike on a lonely forecourt at Z Raglan.
1 h 26 min (112 km)
I was getting a bit sick of winding roads so decided to take the marginally longer but easier ride to Bombay by heading out to Ngaruawahia, and then north on SH1. It’s pretty much a dual carriageway the whole distance so I made reasonable time and arrived at Bombay Hills where there was a rather large gathering of bikes for the third manned checkpoint.
It’s strange but there’s very little talking at these checkpoints. For me it’s about either refuelling the bike and the body, taking a toilet break, and then heading back out onto the road. I did have a long discussion with a lovely chap about his classic BMW R60. He was a marshall so wasn’t riding but was interested in the GS. One rider was catnapping on the lounge seats in the cafe of BP Bombay Hills. I have no idea whether he continued or not.
2 h 9 min (135 km)
By this time it was around 1.00 am. I knew the next leg would be a challenge. Riding around the Coromandel Peninsular in the daytime is bad enough but at night time is almost silly. I was heading for Te Rerenga to take a photo of the bike in front of the Te Rerenga school sign.
While the distance was not far the windy nature of the road meant that it would take a while. Seems I did it in 1 h 37 min which was pretty good going. I installed some great HID bulbs on the bike some years back and they really come into their own when doing this technical night riding. It’s almost as good as daylight – almost!
Stopped at the school sign with two other riders who I had managed to catch up.
1 h 40 min (106 km)
From this point on I rode almost the rest of the way back to Turangi alone. I followed the two riders who were at Te Rerenga into Whitianga where we went our separate ways. Again, without a GPS I basically followed street signs into Whangamata and in the process made a few unscheduled detours and U-turns. I arrived at an empty forecourt in Whangamata at around 4.10 am.
2 h 5 min (143 km)
I was running low on fuel so made a short detour to Waihi to refuel. It was a bit of a deja-vu as the BP Waihi was a checkpoint stop on the 2014 NI1600. From here I headed into Tauranga. To my mind Tauranga is a small city that thinks it’s really big. It’s the most frustrating place to find your way out of. I ended up driving along the ‘motorway’ and then having to do a U-turn where I promptly found myself on a toll road. Bugger. Nothing to do but to continue on.
At this stage I was completely convinced I was on completely the wrong road as I headed towards Rotorua. I found myself in a gnarly little gorge heading through to Ngawaro. It wasn’t until I arrived back at Turangi that I confirmed I was where I was supposed to be. The time was around 5.45 am and so the sun was beginning to rise.
I arrived at Z Fairy Springs where I had a cup of coffee, put on some more clothes as it was getting chilly, and headed south.
2 h 42 min (192 km)
The ride through to Benneydale was cold but pleasant. I travelled some roads not previously taken. From Benneydale it started turning to custard. The roads through to Ohura could hardly be classified as roads – more like badly sealed farm tracks. By the time I got to Benneydale I’d been riding for 16.5 hours so my tolerance was low and my ability to concentrate wasn’t compromised but it was struggling. These roads were ghastly. Big potholes. Lots of loose crap over the road to trip you up and throw you down if you weren’t careful. It was bloody hard work and I remember a couple of times yelling and screaming for it to stop. Plus I saw no-one. No-one at all. Was I even where I was supposed to be? Apparently so.
Ohura township was a delightful little ghost town with perfectly formed but run down, and largely empty shops. I had travelled through Ohura 6 months before on the Forgotten World Highway Rail Carts – in that experience we saw Ohura literally from the other side of the tracks.
Checkpoint #12 and FINISH:
1 h 37 min (115 km)
From Ohura it’s a very quick jaunt out to meet the last leg of the Forgotten World Highway and into Taumaranui. Nearly back to base – thank God.
I have to say I was aching but not as tired as I had been on the 2014 jaunt. On that occasion as I headed down the western arm of Lake Taupo I sung every song from South Pacific that I knew in order to stay awake. This time because of the technical riding required in the last few legs there was no opportunity to be tired. I remember yawning ONCE, and once only.
I made it back to Turangi at 10.05 am. That’s a time of 21 hours and 5 minutes. I’m pretty happy with that. Google suggests that it should have taken 1,343 minutes, or 22 h 38 mins. That’s continuous riding with no stops for food or fuel and with no traffic. I’m bloody happy with my time, although I’m not convinced that in a weeks time I won’t get some mail with some speed camera fine collection. It’s very hard to slow down to 50kph at 4.00am in the morning when you have been riding at speed all night. That’s not a great excuse, but it’s all I’ve got.
Thanks heaps to the organisers. I love this event. My friends think I’m mad which is why I’ve never been able to persuade any of them to do it with me. Maybe next year. When do entries open again? Can you let me know?