Chatty Michael at The BnB in Coromandel that I stayed at gave a running monologue throughout the continental breakfast that was on offer between 8&9. I tried at one point to make it a dialogue; however, that thought was well over-ridden.

I did manage to steer the conversation towards useful topic though. Michael Scott (no relation) was momentarily at a loss for monologue material when I mentioned that I was heading the milk capital of NZ, Hamilton, today. Obviously grasping for knowledge to impart, he settled to give me a blow-by-blow accounting of the waterfalls that I might see if I took the very, very long way to Hamilton. Useful.

Honestly more useful was his suggestion that I could see some amazing sights if I headed north to see Point Jackson. It would be paved road turning to hard-packed dirt for the last 25km. My day was hypothetically short so I wanted to add a couple of hours of riding-sightseeing.

The paved roads were decent but, like many of the roads in NZ, undergoing construction. In this case, it was what seemed to be about a kilometre of ball-bearings on the road. Super-slippery on a bike.

The one-lane dirt was almost welcome when it arrived. I quickly rationalized that I was “Working for Dad” as I had in mind to spread a little Dad at the north end of the Coromandel peninsula. It was a technical ride and, all in all, fun. Oddly coming back was easier.

When I hit Port Jackson, I saw that it was indeed worthy. The journey offered some of the most amazing vistas that I have seen and the beach at Port Jackson had a pleasant degree of tranquillity. Thus was Dad Resting Place #4 (NZ) determined.

I stopped at a recommended coffee shop at Colville on the way back south. A wee ham, cheese and tomato sandwich with Latte would put me in good shape to lunge to the interior south of Auckland.

My ride down the Coromandel was a mixture of “wow that is fun” turns and “damn you construction”. Mostly I was left with putting the Coromandel Peninsula on the list of excellent areas to ride. Big props.

I hit the secondary highways once I was off the peninsula and tracked a hither-tither path to what appears to be the milk capital of the north island. I passed two enormous milk gathering depots. I’m looking forward to my latte tomorrow already. I have to assume that the coffee will be crazy-fresh.

I settled my bags at the Quest Hamilton. You might have noted that I’ve made a habit of Quests. Nelson, New Plymouth and Hamilton have all done me well. All clean, relatively spacious and (most importantly) very well located near bars and restaurants.

My guidebook steered me towards some restaurant called “Gothenburg”. What kind of pseudo-Swede would I be if I didn’t head to an establishment so well-named. I would have been so very fortunate if they had decided to close for the Easter weekend. Damn you, Jesus. I’ll smoke a turd in hell for that one.

Victoria Street seems to be the main drag in Hamilton and it offered a couple of other options. Some good local beers from “Good George Brewing” were quaffed at “The Local Taphouse” which is disappointedly located in the local Casino.

I headed down to Palete, another of the Lonely Planet recommended restaurants. The first person that saw me was a gal that could have landed the role of Pippi Longstocking. She nailed the ponytails and dropped me into a seat. To my right was the Table of Infamy: a table surrounded by choice vino.

In the end, I had some very tasty lamb chops with a cheese board for dessert. Yummy. I grabbed a photo of me in a Dr Evil-style chair on the way out.

I took a leasurely walk home and knocked down some laundry using my in-suite laundry.

Another fine weather day of good riding.


To quote the Ramones: “Hey Ho, Let’s go!!”. It was time to leave Rotorua.

I sampled the non-Benedict breakfast fair and headed north. My inclination was to head onto the Coromandel peninsula and head for the town of Coromandel. Here is the rub: the town was booked out. Alex Axiom from earlier in the trip: reserve … especially on weekends.

So … balllsy or not? BALLSY! Without a reso, I headed north from Rotorua onto some fine curvy roads. The trip to the sold out town of Coromandel would be around 300kms. I figured that I’d seek vacancies and BnBs around 200kms into my trip.

The congestion on the roads surrounding the Easter weekend was almost immediately apparent. I got trapped repeatedly behind slow moving groups of traffic. However, I kept my cool and everything was tranquillo.

However, I did start a vacant/not-vacant tour of the Coromandel Pennisula. It’s surprising how many of these places do not change their signs to Not-Vacant. I guess I got to meet more nice and friendly Kiwis.

Low and behold, as I was pulling into the town of Coromandel, the very second property that I saw had an “Vacancy” sign hanging. I meet the friendly proprietor Michael Scott (no relation) and he showed me his clean, simple and pricy sleeping option in his 4 suite motel/BnB. I’m not fool … I said “Khe Ora” and settled my bags to the ground.

I was hungry so I headed into the surprisingly small town of Coromandel and grabbed a burger and beer at the
Star and Garter Saloon. Once again there was Smoking permitted on the patio. I moved inside and was quite satisfied.

I zipped up a hill that I had descended on my entry into the town and took some shots of the town. Then it was back to mi casa to organize for my (eventual) dinner.

Yum Cafe specializes in pizza but the chef put together a very tasty salmon dish for me. A bottle of wine and a wander home were a perfect cap to the day.

Once again, I had a day of warmth and next to no rain. Happy days


My phone gently woke me and I headed in the direction of my first mission of the day: Jet Boating. The walk to the lakeshore took me by various eating establishments. A coffee-chain named Robert Harris was worth a try. The latte was tasty and the scrambled eggs and bacon hit the spot.

The flaneuring this morning was interesting. There are more Maori folk in Rotorua that I have seen proportionally anywhere else in NZ. I suspect that this is due to the history that Rotorua has for the Maori. There is also a large Maori influence upon the stores and restaurants. There are various “Cultural Experiences” that tourists can join. Usually geared around a meal, these have singing and dancing and a great big Haka. They would need Maori for these “shows”. One way or another, many more Maori around.

My walk continued down to the lakefront as I sought the Kawarau Jet Boat Company. The young gentleman who was due to pilot our boat gave his opening schpeel and, via mumbling, quick speech and a rich NZ accent, successfully obscured his name and 80% of what he was trying to say. We headed out on the jet boat for the 30minute tour. We stopped off of Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua, which is the home of 30 endangered Bird species. We jetted over to another historic point where the female side of a Maori-style Romeo and Juliet took place. The mysteriously named young pilot pulled the requisite 360 degree turns to partially soak this three passengers. Good times. All in all, a pretty good experience.

Once I hit land again, I sought out coffee#2 and headed back toward the hotel via the Government Gardens. Some picturesque trees and some quarantined-by-earthquake Historical buildings were situated right on the sulphurous Lake.

The curse of the light-packed traveller is the ordeal of Laundry. I was due to do laundry today but I was thwarted early by the lineup at the hotel laundry. Delayed not defeated.

My second activity of the day was up. After many kms around the South Island and a brief therapeutic stay with the Cawthorn’s, I was due a massage. The hotel had an in-house spa and I was happy to make use of it. Once the massage started, there was some sort of time warp. It was an hour long massage that seemed to last for 1.5 hours. Best problem ever. The nice lady dug into my left shoulder which had been rather bugging me. Successful stress relief.

Laundry next, check!

Then it was time for my third activity. The bus picked me up at 5:20 for The Takani Maori Cultural Experience and Feast. I thought that it would be worthwhile to take in what was billed as “The Best Cultural Experience” in NZ.

The bus was mostly loaded with 25-ish people as I came aboard. The driver (whose name was 26 letters long and did not shorten it) was a very boisterous and chatty Maori gent who warmed up the bus with the meaning of “Kei Ora”, the NZ greeting that effectively means “to your health”. Impressively he then went to rattle off similar greetings in 61 other languages. Then came the next step: nominating a honorary chief. The driver was a hard core All-Blacks fan and said he needed a rugby player (former or present) to be the chief. I stayed quiet for a long time but there was no one else. I raised my hand and became the Takahe tribe’s honorary chief.

It wasn’t all glitz and glamour. The welcoming ceremony was considered a serious affair. I was taught how to accept a peace offering from a ferocious Maori warrior and how to do the traditional greeting with the village’s chief (maybe called the “hungi”: two touches of one-another’s nose with your own nose while right hands are clasped and left hands of one-another’s shoulders). No smiling and hands in front for the Warrior’s approach. It’s a shame that I could not get footage of this as I was front and center with another 3 bus-chiefs (one of which was the Tui tribe, so close!!!). After I took the peace offering (a silver fern) and greeted the chief, there was smiles all around and the serious portions were over.

We were led into the village to 5 different areas (that we rotated through). First was a stick-game where the kids would increase hand-eye coordination. I had to pick 4 agile folks. Next was the Haka training, where all the men in our tribe (including me) were coached and performed a Haka (of sorts, we sucked). Next, we learned about the ornate facial and upper-leg tattoos that the Maori have. Next was a discussion about the origins of the Maoris and the navigation that transported them. Lastly, was the “poi” game where the ladies in the crowd used effectively a one-ended bolo in a dance/martial art. All pretty cool.

Then the village chief asked us chiefs to led our tribes into a gathering place where the “hangi” was revealed. Basically it is a cooking pit full of yummy veggies, chickens and lamb.

Onwards we ventured to watch the men and women of the trip perform a few more songs as out food was put into buffet-form.

Lastly, we feasted. It was an all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Far too much good food and dessert. After food, we four chiefs were invited up to perform another flailing Haka. We still sucked.

The bus dropped us off and I quickly made the assessment that I wanted to experience soaking in the healing waters of the lake. Right by my hotel was the “Polynesian Spa” that offered 5 different temperature ranges (38/39/40/41/42 degrees C). I tried them all in the course of an hour. Brilliant.

Sleep definitely came easily.


I rose at my usual 830 and packed up my gear. After this many days on the road, I can do it quite efficiently.

My mission to start this day was “Petit Paris” (a French cafe across from the Quest hotel that I was staying at) and the Len Lye exhibition at the Govett-Brewster Gallery in New Plym.

They were two simple tasks easily accomplished. The omelette had Brie in it. The latte was strong and tasty. Len Lye proved to be exactly the funky artist that I heard that he was. The gallery, which I saw the exterior of on D36, was architecturally fantastic. The wood benches in the gallery were also tres cool.

The weather included a little “spitting”. I thought that my gallery visit might lead to drier skies … and I was right. My ride to Rotorua was occasionally spitting but it never came close to requiring my wet-riding gear.

The coastal beauty slowly gave way to the same interior sights that I had seen in the Mackenzie district on the South Island. Imagine a selection of hills ranged from small to large. Cover the entirety with green felt. Add the occasional clump of trees. Add a smattering of sheep here and cows there. BOOM! You have the gorgeous NZ rolling beauty.

After the scenic routes around Dunedin, Highway 30 from Te Kuiti to Rotorua was my favourite. Dry, windy and almost free from traffic. An amazing highway to ride.

A faint rotten-eggs smell of sulphur told me that I was approaching Rotorua before I could actually see it. The “Bay of Plenty” area is active volcanically. Much of the town is laid out like Vegas in a long strip leading to the “Lakefront”. My hotel, the Millennium, welcomed me and I decided to book for an additional day.

Inge the Danish front desk gal tossed me a free couple of drinks at the bar as my room was not quite ready. Talk about a good welcome. I grabbed a plethora of activity pamphlets and quaffed a local brew.

After I was settled into my newly cleaned room, I headed back down and Inge was most helpful in booking some activities for tomorrow.

I headed down to Rotorua’s “Eat Streat” (not misspelled) to see about dinner. They have a single car-free block (which is covered by a raised covering) and it is jam-packed with restaurants. I chose Brew, a craft beer pub, and tucked into a fine rib-eye steak paired with a decent pale ale called “Enduro”. The Croucher Brewing Co owns the Brew establishment and makes some tasty beers (including the enduro).

“Ponsonby Rd”, Bar in Eat Streat, served up a fine Pinot Noir from Nanny Goat Winery in Central Otago, NZ.

I decided that an eve chilling with Jennifer Lawrence was exactly what the doctor ordered. So I went to the cinema and took in “Red Sparrow”. Not bad.


Up at the crack of after-dawn. After a quick clean-up, I has down having toast and tea with Martin and Francis for the last time. They gave me some weather reports and pointed me towards my bike. The consensus was that … there would be no moisture on my ride. Considering that it was raining all morning that was a ballsy call. However, it proved correct.

The ride north from Plimmerton was dry and slick. I jumped off the “1” and joined the “3” west at Bull. I had a quick coffee and bagel at the Red Eye Cafe in Whanganui. Mmmm bagel and coffee.

Then it was on to the coast to New Plymouth. To paraphrase MLK “We didn’t land on New Plymouth Rock, New Plymouth Rock landed … on our top 10 of NZ towns”!!!! Great wee museum at Puke Ariki . Some decent restaurants. Beers and wings at GoodHome Restaurant.

Dash back to the hotel to change out of the grubbies and I was off to Social Kitchen for some decent food. Kara served me a Priscilla Sour to start the eve. Beef Tartare and Tomato&Boccocini Salad to follow. Some Australian d’Arenberg (remember my Adelaide tour?) Footbolt Shiraz red vino … hello!!!

It turned out that I was sitting in the area that the staff congregate in after work. The chef had a recommendation for a wind-down cocktail joint: Hour Glass. The advice was good. I had a well-crafted Moscow Mule.

Thumbs up to New Plymouth.


I was met for the stroll to the Wellington train by Isabella Cawthorn. We did the downhill walk in record time likely giving Bella considerable blisters as she was elegantly doing the high-heels and Kona bike combo.

I think that Tjabo/Sarah and Bella/Glen would really get along. She is a bike-use advocate and he is a super-cool coffeeshop proprietor. Neat folk, these Wellingtoners are.

Off the train, we headed right over to Glen’s coffee bar in the CBD called “Green Land”. A fine coffee#1 and a cheese scone were enjoyed and then Bella walked me back to the pickup for my first destination of the day: Weta Workshop.

I jumped aboard a tour bus and was informed by tour guide Jackson about all the sights to see en route to the suburb of Miramar & the home of WW.

An American from NYC named Mike was the guide at Weta Workshops. He steered us to a 25 minute introduction to the original creators of Weta. Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Tanya Rodgers formed the company on the backs of some b-level horror films and then matured into the tour de force that they are today.

The tour went quite deeply into the various facets of the process that Weta specializes in. Most interestingly, the armour-making, weapon-making, prosthetics and model making. A very good 2-hour tour.

I was deposited back at the end of Cuba street and walked up to the recommended Southern Cross bar and restaurant. I was keen to try their Poke Bowl but it was still “brunch menu time”. Three guesses what I had. They were good.

Next stop: Te Papa, the national museum.

One of the present focal points of Te Papa was developed by Weta Workshops, Gallipoli: The Scale of our War. It featured 3x size installations/dioramas of 9 notable people in the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign. More than supporting the dioramas were multimedia displays of the same subject. I spent more than 3 hour crawling thru this exhibition. It was amazing.

Eventually, I completed the Gallipoli exhibit and moved onto the rest of the museum. The modern art “wing” was very worthwhile (as my photos will attest).

Eventually I made my way back to Plimmerton and The Cawthorn residence. Francis was hosting a book-club at 7 and, after a wee late afternoon chat, Martin and I were purged during an the hill to the Taj Plimmerton, the local Indian food restaurant. Twas tasty. I introduced Martin to a decent Sag Paneer, something that he had not partaken of until our dinner.

We strolled up the hill to the casa and had another evening chat and called it a night.

Successful mission.


Tea and toast with Honey and Marmadale. Followed by a Good lengthy chat with Martin and Francis.

Eventually, Martin and I jumped on the train to Wellington DT at the local Plimmerton train stop. 25 minutes to get us down to the main railway terminal. From there we headed through the various busy Sunday streets until we found Cuba Street that was hosting the second day of CubaDupa, a street fest that shut the street to cars for a block of 6 or so blocks. The first performance that we saw was some young straight-armed Irish dancers. Then, turning around, there were numerous tents in the streets and open doors on the buildings. Street food, handicrafts, nicnaks and bustling stores of all ilk.

Brass bands were definitely in evidence; we saw no less than three of them, all were good. A funk-ish band was playing the main stage as we wandered all the way to the top.

Around the corner, a traveling caravan of vehicles made a pseudo-carnie Avenue. We got to the end and watched the end of a show of a 9-year old Magician and her Magician father. The little gal certainly had game and I have not figured out how she did the last trick. Good show-womanship!!

Having has a good gander at CubaDupa, Martin and I headed to the waterside and grabbed some refreshing beers at the ex-St John’s Ambulance Building on the patio of a well-shaded deck.

A walk to the nearby train-station led up by an urban climbing gym with some funky murals. Well done, street-artists!

We got back home in time to welcome a visit of Martin and Francis’ elder daughter, Isabella and her partner, Glen. She has the same wily and subtle sense of humour that her parents have. Glen was a charming, socialable chap that complimented Bella like hand & glove. The five of us chatted for an hour or two until Glen and Bella left us to partake of dinner.

Francis made a delicious red cabbage, red onion and red apple salad and some succulent baked potatoes. Martin was in charge of grilling up some excellent lamb steaks. Another delicious home-cooked meal.

Chatting after dinner took a couple of hours (as has become the norm) and we were all ready to retire before 10pm.


Well… I had not reckoned upon a 730 sunrise.

I was awoken in the middle of the night with a concern: I can’t bike in the non-light as my face-shield has a tint to it. I was asked to be at the terminal by 945 for the 1045 Interislander ferry between Picton and Wellington. It is 1.75 hours between Nelson and Picton. I intended to leave at 7am to give myself a good safety margin. With the late sun-up, I cut into the safety margin more than I wanted. I would simply have to push it and not dawdle.

To make matters a bit more tricky, the rain was back. It seems that morning were rain and the afternoons were (slightly) better. I headed out at 730 when I was comfortable with the light level & visibility. I would have been happy to stop and take some photos but I had concerns about timing … these proved to be unfounded.

I made it to Picton and found the right terminal by about 915. So I headed to find a coffee (success!) and returned to find a gaggle of bikers in attendance in the motorbike area. 6 chaps were returning from a South Island group ride. Another fellow, Jim, was coming back from a week-long rip with a Christchurch mate. There was some decent motorbike comradery.

With some of the fellows, I tore up the highway1 to Plimmerton and veered off into the home-neighbourhood of Martin and Frances Cawthorn. I found their picturesque abode overlooking a gorgeous bay. As I was settling the bike into resting position, up wandered a gent who I did not remember meeting. Here was a smiling Martin followed by his lovely wife, Frances.

It was great to bring my gear into the house knowing that I would not be in the bike for a few days.

I sat down and started the re-acquaintance with these folk. I thought that I would have last seen Martin when I was around 2 years old (the last time I had seen Frances). However, we mentioned that he had visited us when we lived in St Albert. I had vague memories until I recalled the “Helicopter Game” that he played with us to get us to bed. Being tiny, we would sit on his arms and grab his thumbs to “pilot” ourselves to our respective beds. Helicopter troubles inevitably occurred and the “helicopter” hit a couple of walls and crash landed into bed. Imagine the tales of laughter. So, I believe that Martin helped me remember one of my earliest vivid memories. So special.

Martin and I went out to explore the area around their house while Frances, who is recovering from a little ankle injury, whipped up a Chicken Katchatory with Wild rice. Yummy home cooked meal.

We chatted for ages and then wore ourselves down so that sleep was a requirement.

An excellent day.


No breakfast options again. And the rain was back! I layered up and hit the road north to Pukitaiki and the Pancake Rocks. Decent walk to various viewpoints got me all hot and bothered. The sights were pretty cool with the power of the ocean very much in evidence.

There was a cafe at Pukitaiki but I decided to keep pushing though. This turned into a theme of this day’s journey. Push through. That was all fine until I started getting tired and hungry … then there was a lack of lunch options.

Finally I pulled into Matheson and the Beechwood Cafe. My first caffeine of the day and an omelette were much appreciated. Note to self, have breakie if you are riding long distances.

I made it to the very hip little town of Nelson. My casa for the night was the Quest Nelson which is one street off the main drag. There is a good Brewpub chain called Sprig & Fern that was recommended to me by my new Brewtour amigos. They make a heap of their own beers. I thought I was going wine tonight … I was mistaken.

One odd thing, they smoke in pubs here. Not inside-inside but rather on the patios etc. How novel. Another oddity … retro muscle cars cruising the main drag and peeling out at intersections. What??

One remark about traveling here. It is remarkable how tropical this South Island is; even at the start of fall as it is. At times, the foliage reminds me profoundly of Maui. Most of the tourists are older. Average age seems to be 70 with the exception of the backpackers. They are kids from various countries that seem cut from the same early 20’s cloth.

Apart from the Smaug tunnel to Milford Sound, I’ve only had one “scare”. There was an enormous truck that inhabited the whole lane and kicked up tonnes of spray. Naturally, it was slower and raining. After keeping an eye on the oncoming traffic I pulled out and went for the pass. Bear in mind that the 1200 cc BMW makes passing easy. I’m rarely out of my lane for more that 4 seconds max. This time, I spotted the opening and went for it. With all that power, I was along side the trailer quickly. Then thru the spray, I saw an oncoming car … without running lights. Apparently that is a thing. Not everyone has auto-lights or turns their lights on in shitty weather. I started breaking hard; the truck could see this happening and started breaking. It all work out ok. I could break harder and I cruised back to my lane safe. However, it was my one chancy episode so far.

So, on another note, Stefano’s Pizza is right above the Nelson theatre. It came recommended as the best pizza in town. I’m game to see. I am having the house Special which included ham and blue cheese. Should be interesting.

The rain, which subsided in the mid afternoon, is back with a vengeance. I could almost call it “Chubby Rain”. Name that movie for extra points.

Head back to my casa. I have to leave this island tomorrow am!!!


No Breakfast? What the deuce? That’s not like the Alex that you have been seeing as he toured Aust/NZ. I couldn’t agree more. It turned out that Haast was lacking in breakfast options in my vicinity.

I headed north and came upon Knights Point with some great views north and south along the coast.

However, my stomach was calling to me and I met with success. Cafe Neve in Fox Glacier community (about an hour north of the 6) served Eggs Bennie. I am on a Bennie tour so … again!

After a bite, I saw a pointer saying “Mt Hood Viewpoint”. I had sadly failed viewing Mt Hood from the east side. Maybe I would have more luck from the west. It turned out that I did not. To be fair, some Kiwis have been to Hood a dozen times and not seen her (assuming the Mt is female for some reason). What I did get has an amazing view of the Fox Glacier and some impressive peaks around Hood. There was a neat viewing device that, if orientated correctly, would point out the various sites. I thought the detail photo of the location-dial (in lieu of sundial) was pretty cool.

I rejoined the 6 North and came across Bruce’s Bay. I rejoiced … Robert the Bruce in NZ? I’m in. I pulled over … grabbed my portable Dad and headed onto the beach. The beach was expansive and moody/powerful. I shot a selfie and then joined some of Dad’s ashes to shoreline. Then the Sand Flies attacked. They were feisty. I planned on communing with Dad a little but, in the end, I literally ran for the bike trying to fight off the 100’s of ninja-biting flies and slapped my equipment on post-haste and roared out of there. I think Dad would have been amused.

As I headed north on the 6, I encountered the winds that blow off the high peaks to the west coast. Impressive gusts led to profanity at 100kph. I was worried that the cross-wind would tear the visor off of my helmet. The bike was a leaning into the wind like I was taking a corner. Impressive and a little scary.

Hokitika was my destination for a pit-stop. I was almost going to stop at the artsy town for the night as it had a good rep. I parked the beast on the main drag and proceeded to walk towards the beach to see what it had to offer. It turned out that it had much to offer! First, great big waves crashing in tight sets close to the beach. Second, coffee. A nice coffee entrepreneur has a wagon set up in the parking lot. A latte and some wave-watching was in order.

There was some interesting beach art and a neat cement ship/viewing platform up the beach. A walk and photos followed. The Hokitika Regent movie theatre was a cool little repertory theatre with a cafe and bar in the building. We need more of these in Canada.

Then it was time to head to Greymouth, my home for the night. I found the Bella Vista hotel with ease and made a foray to downtown before everything closed for the day. It turns out that the shoulder season in Greymouth is dead’s-Ville.

There was a cool chaotic industrial space that I walked by. Somehow the place screamed to be used as a movie set. So busy and industrial. Perfect place for a drug-deal gone bad or something like that.

The only place with life was Monteith’s Brewery. I organized joining a tour and, while waiting, tucked into a South Island Lamb Backstrap and various Monteith Pale Ale offerings. Delicious.