South Island Tour – November 2015

On Sunday 22 November I begin the annual motorbike trip with some old mates. We’ve been doing it for around five years now and each time bar one we have ridden around the South Island.

Day One – Sunday 22 November 2015:

My journey starts on the Bluebridge Ferry (Wellington to Picton) on Sunday morning arriving at Picton at 11.30am. The others are a day ahead of me as I had to stay behind to attend a friend’s wedding. So, my first day riding is a long one – from Picton to Tekapo in an afternoon. I’m aiming to get there by around 7pm.

Day Two – Monday 23 November 2015:

Tekapo to Catlins

Day Three – Tuesday 24 November 2015:

Catlins to Te Anau

Day Four – Wednesday 25 November 2015:

Te Anau to Milford Sound to Te Anau to Glenorchy

Day Five – Thursday 26 November 2015:

Glenorchy to Franz Josef

Day Six – Friday 27 November 2015:

Franz Josef to St Arnaud

Day Seven – Saturday 28 November 2015:

St Arnaud to Picton to Wellington

You can follow my trip on the Spotwalla map below (refresh as you go). This map relies on me remembering to keep my iPhone in tracking mode. It will start tracking from 7.00am on Sunday 22 November and finish at midnight on Saturday 28 November.

The 2015 NI 1600 in review

Checkpoint #1:

1 h 50 min (159 km)

My speedo at the start of the NI1600

My speedo at the start of the NI1600

The Avoca Hotel

The Avoca Hotel

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.


Checkpoint #2:

28 min (33 km)

Whangaehu River bridge

Whangaehu River bridge

A short blast through to the bridge that crosses the Whangaehu River, with a photo of the bike as proof that it was visited.


Checkpoint #3:

1h 3 min (68 km)

Pemberton Corner

Pemberton Corner

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!


Checkpoint #4:

51 m (58 km)

Halcombe Memorial roundabout

Halcombe Memorial roundabout

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.


Checkpoint #5:

2 h 55 min (232 km)

At Oakura with Marshall 'Stretch'

At Oakura with Marshall ‘Stretch’

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.


Checkpoint #6:

3 h 37 min (281 km)

Raglan Z - a dark and lonely forecourt

Raglan Z – a dark and lonely forecourt

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.


Checkpoint #7:

1 h 26 min (112 km)

A busy time at Bombay Hills BP

A busy time at Bombay Hills BP


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.


Checkpoint #8:

2 h 9 min (135 km)

A remote checkpoint at Te Rerenga

A remote checkpoint at Te Rerenga School

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.


Checkpoint #9:

1 h 40 min (106 km)

Whangamata Z

Whangamata Z

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.


Checkpoint #10:

2 h 5 min (143 km)

Fairy Springs, Rotorua

Fairy Springs, Rotorua

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.


Checkpoint #11:

2 h 42 min (192 km)

Ohura - ghost town

Ohura – ghost town

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)

And the finish!

And the finish!

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?

NI1600 route has been revealed

So, the route was revealed at 7.00pm last night. It is, as the organisers said, very windy and technical. That can also mean slow which might be a problem in the latter stages.

It takes in a lot of the North Island taking a tortuous route through the lower part of the Wanganui/Hunterville region. This is the one place that I’m likely to get lost on. Lot’s of navigation, so much so that my phone GPS can’t handle it. I’ve had to resort to making notes on my phone with turns etc. Hopefully this won’t hold me back. Actually, I’ve just bought a map – going old school – further pressure on time if I need to stop and check locations all the time.

There are 12 checkpoints on the route – around 5 of these are manned checkpoints, the others are photo stops where we need to capture us, or our motorbikes, in the prescribed location (in front of a memorial, on a roundabout, near a sign or bridge etc). It’s also an opportunity to stretch the legs and recover, marginally, until the next leg.

As well we need to time fuel stops. In the early hours of the morning we’ll need to rely on 24 hour petrol stations, or card pumps. Some of these are off the prescribed route so detours may have to be taken. My bike will do around 320kms on a full tank with reserve, so in the scheme of things it has a reasonable range. That still means that over 1,600 km I’ll need to stop for gas around 8 times. Best to time these with checkpoints so I’m killing two birds with one stone.

Here’s the link to my Spotwalla track: (It will be actively tracking from 1pm this afternoon 10 October 2015)

The North Island 1600

NI1600 logo for 2015On 1.00 pm on Saturday 10 October 2015 I’ll be leaving a campground at Turangi to attempt to ride 1,600 kms on my motorbike in less than 24 hours.

I have done this three times previously. Twice as part of the Rusty Nuts organised rally, and once as the Distance Riders Group. We won’t know the route we need to take until 7.00pm on Friday night. I’ll post that route here tomorrow (Friday night).

I’ll also be setting up a Spotwalla track so you can follow my progress through the night if you find yourself with nothing to do and you’re wide awake at 3.00am on Sunday morning.

The link for that is: – at the moment it’s just a map. When the ride starts I start an application on my iPhone that starts pinging location messages back to the map. All you’ll need to do is refresh the map to see where I am!!

The other exciting thing about this years event is that if we’re successful we are eligible to apply for membership of the renowned Iron Butt Association of USA. The IBA are the premier long distance riding group in the world. Their most famous rally is the IBA Rally held every two years where contestants ride 11,000 miles in 11 days.

And the weather is looking good.





Day 1 – San Francisco

We arrived in San Francisco yesterday lunchtime, all completely exhausted after getting only 3 hours sleep on a very noisy 777. I’m not complaining – it’s part and parcel of getting halfway around the world for a holiday. But we were knackered.

The apartment is great. We were met at the door by a heavily tattooed cleaning lady who turned out not to be the owner. We wasted no time beginning our exploration of the Mission neighbourhood.

First stop was the highly recommended Philz Coffee, literally one block away. We’re spoilt for choice in Wellington so when we walked in to find three people making coffee from around 30 different flavoured and roasted beans then we thought we were in heaven. Looks can be deceiving. Weak, insipid, watery…sorry, just not good enough. All filtered too, not an espresso machine in sight.

We wandered as far as 16th Street and Dolores Park. A gentle slope on the western hills overlooking the city was completely crammed with young-ish hipsters playing frisbee, throwing balls for their assorted dogs, drinking wine, and, by the smell of things smoking the occasional herbed cigarette.

We stopped for groceries at the famous Bi-Rite grocery store on 18th Street, battling with the locals for the most amazing produce. Funny thing was Sugar couldn’t find acodophulus yoghurt. We did manage to find some wonderful eggs from chickens fed on sea kelp, and some fabulous smoked bacon.

By the time we got back to the apartment we were completely busted. Finding a restaurant to eat in can be stressful, and in our family often causes the most arguments. This time we all agreed – the closest thing to an American Diner we could find in our neighbourhood – St Francis’ Fountain – an original 1940’s diner that sold the best burgers and BLT’s in the neighbourhood.

We wandered through the dark streets around 7pm, past the Latinos playing cards across the street from our house. They looked threatening but the Guest Book in the apartment says they’ve been doing if for decades.

Bring on Day 2!

Mexican wrestling masks - The Mission

Mexican wrestling masks – The Mission

Near Dolores Park, San Francisco

Near Dolores Park, San Francisc

Dolores Park

Dolores Park

Shops on 24th Street, Mission

Shops on 24th Street, Mission


Guests weep as boy sings Fix You by ColdPlay

At a recent wedding in Greytown, New Zealand, guests broke down in tears as a young 11 year old boy sung the beautiful Fix You, by ColdPlay. Here’s Arlo singing the song. Please share if you like it!

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