Adventure in the Southern Hemisphere.

About 20 years ago, Frank and I almost went to New Zealand.  He was in Australia for work and I joined him for vacation.  Our plan was to do 2 weeks in Australia, then go to NZ.  However, it was winter there at the time, so we decided to go to Fiji instead.  Not a bad substitute at all, but we have talked about going to NZ ever since.  Well we had finally accumulated a lot of frequent flier miles and decided that we could use them on a big trip, and we bit the bullet and made the reservations almost a year ahead of time.  We talked about the possibility of bringing the kids, and maybe even shipping the sidecar over.  But the planning stages of this trip escaped us so quickly that we did as much research as we could but never found anything that would work in terms of shipping our own bikes over. This would also be the longest trip we would go on with out the kids.

After lots of research, Frank found Circle NZ, and it’s owner Clive Chapman.  He would set us up on two Suzuki VStrom 650’s.  After a few emails back and forth, they showed us how right everyone is about how friendly Kiwi’s are.  They have a Christmas tradition of going over to a friends house, and when she found out that Clive would be picking up 2 American tourists from the airport on Christmas day she told him to invite them over.  We were just the right amount of curious and crazy and joined over 15 strangers for Christmas! Plus it was perfect timing as we were starving, and they had a feast that all of them contributed to. The other bonus was that Clive and his wife Kasha allowed us to stay in the separate quarters that Kasha’s parents live in as they went on holiday for a few days.  Amazing hospitality and great conversations.  I was already starting to learn a lot of fun new words.  My favorite of the day was “Suckee do”.  That is what our host calls the air vent over the stove that “sucks’ the air out.

My VStrom was equipped with 3 hard bags, Frank’s had a hard top box and the soft side bags are SW Motech, and I think I really like the design idea of those bags.  They are waterproof, and the top rolls down just like most dry bags.  This is useful if you need to add stuff to the bags later, like for food or souvenirs or an extra pair of boots…

Raining already

We headed out on Tues Dec 26th, Boxing day in NZ.  very grey and cold morning and about a mile down the road it started raining for real, and we pulled over so that Frank could but on his rain gear.  As we continued I realized that my pants were not covering my boots.  I had brought my water proof ICON Raiden Adventure suit and water proof boots, but they are low profile.  Apparently I had never worn the suit with those particular boots, only my taller dirt boots.  I found out very quickly that I was getting very cold and wet in that gap that was open above my boots.  I kept trying to adjust my pants by standing up and wiggling them down to get better coverage, but the wind also kept it open.  The other unfortunate problem I was having was that my waterproof gloves, even though my hands were still dry, they were getting really cold with  continued cold air flow going over them.  My fingers were numb. I told Frank to look for a hardware store of some sort, so I could look for boot covers.  We went through a few towns looking for breakfast and found that everything was closed due to the Boxing Day holiday. We finally found a town that had a grocery and Dairy open. A Dairy is like a small mini mart or conveneince store in the US.  We pulled over so I could assess my boot situation. I literally could not tell if my socks were wet, because my hands were so cold, but Frank confirmed that they were.  I changed into dry socks, Frank got some plastic bags from inside the store and I put my feet in the bags with rubber bands at the top to keep my dry socks dry. Then we were in search of food. The Dairy had food and we got our first taste of “pie” in NZ. Not an apple pie, or lemon merengue pie, but meat pie.  We would soon discover that these pies are everywhere. They look similar to little mini pot pies we have in the US, but without the heavy gravy or sauce inside.  I got the breakfast pie that had egg sausage and cheese, and it was pretty tasty. I had a feeling I would have more of these on our trip. With my tummy, feet and hands now all happy we set off to continue our ride, but it was still raining so we would need to find a solution to my boot problem, and hopefully a bigger town would have something open.

We found the Shire

With the amount of rain, we did not stop much to take photos, but we headed north towards Kaikoura, via the more inland route. We made our way into Rangiora,  and the end of town found a store which turned out to be a cross between Target and Costco. My two favorite places, so this could be the answer.  We ended up buying a pair of serious rain boots that had a steel toe and really long thick wool socks. This worked out perfectly and would keep my dry and warm.  It was still only around noon, so we decided to continue on.

We spent part of the day trying to figure out the Go Pro that our friend Sal let us borrow.  I had the mount on my helmet, and soon discovered a couple important things about the device.  One: it is really hard to push the buttons with my warm thick gloves, and Two: GoPro batteries suck!  They run out really fast. We have 3 batteries and went through all three. Since it was rainy most of the day it would be a good test day to figure things out, and I look forward to the great pictures, without water spots on them, as I learn how to use the thing.

Go Pro plus rain drops

Did I mention that we have been driving on the wrong side of the road all day?  So far so good, I love roundabouts (traffic circles) and we have not done anything stupid yet, but it is really weird to make a right hand turn because it feels like someone is going to come up from behind you on your right side.
We found small cafe that was open and while eating  lunch I was eavesdropping on someones conversations and overheard about a stream that seals swim up with their young, so I interrupted and asked if they could share the details.  Apparently there is a walking trail next to the stream so people can walk up to see the seals.  We made a note to go past our stop for the night to check out this gem.  When we got to Kaikoura we enquired at the front desk about the true location of this stream with seals and baby seals, and were sadly informed that due to the earthquake that happened 2 years ago, not only the road but the stream in that area was wiped out as well.  Luckily the gal at the front desk was able to tell us about their own seal colony out at the end of the peninsula.It was a quick drive down to the car park (parking lot). We then walked far out onto the rocks and were able to get really close to where dozens of seals were just hanging out and sleeping. It looked like it was low tide while we where there, but it was hard to tell as there was a mixture of mud, rock, maybe shale and seaweed that we trekked over.
Even though we had rain almost all day, and I had some gear issues, we called the day a success!   We stayed on the left side and we hadn’t crashed, which Clive told us is most likely to happen on the first day of driving on the left side of the road.
Our basic route for the day:  Ashburton-Methven-Mt Hutt-Oxford-Cust-Rangiora-Amberly-Weka Pass-Waikari-Huruni-Culverden-Rotherham-Waiau-Kaikoura
  • Airport Security
  • Raining already
  • Go Pro plus rain drops
  • We found the Shire


Leave a comment
  • OMG, NZ is on my bucket list.
    Keep the blog going so I can dream of riding in NZ one day.
    The Wee-Strom is an excellent choice. I owned one for as couple of years… should have kept it.

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