HK-AU-NZ-2018-D34-Mar25

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.

HK-AU-NZ-2018-D33-Mar24

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.

HK-AU-NZ-2018-D32-Mar23

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!!!

HK-AU-NZ-2018-D31-Mar22

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.

HK-AU-NZ-2018-D30-Mar21

So, with Milford Sound out of the way, what’s a boy to do?

Head to the west coast. Haast, Ho!!!

Weather forecast called for a break in the rain … no luck. I was due to travel from Te Atau past Queestown (hello again) by Wanaka to Haast on the west coast.

It rained for the first three hours of my journey I went by the Devil’s Staircase (for the third time) and it was unrecognizable.

Finally the weather broke as I got past Lincoln. Oddly it broke as I entered wine country. Lots of fields of vino. Unless I simply passed them in the downpour, it is possible.

My first photo of the day was as I documented some art of my bike seat left after I raise my wet butt from the seated position.

I planned to stop at the only slightly overcast Wanaka for lunch. A Burger bar with a spicy burger and lemonade set me up well.

I took a picture of my fingers from the morning’s ride. What can I say, my fingers looked very aged … like they had been soaking in Palmolive all morning.

The rest of the ride only had a small amount of rain. Most of my gear was dry by the time I arrived at my hotel in Haast. Victory.

The lakes between Wanaka and Haast were as stunning as those I saw on my trip to Twizel. The first lake was Hawea. I grabbed a shot and a selfie before I saw a viewpoint on offer. It was gorgeous as you will see when you look at the photos. The moody clouds did not hurt the view.

The second lake that I passed was the far west side of Lake Wanaka. These lakes are huge. At least the size of Lake Okanagon. I left the east part of Lake Wanaka at lunch. I did not connect with the west side until well over an hour later. Huge … and beautiful.

The Haast Pass area had a couple of picturesque stops. Thunder Falls was large and impressive … however, to put thing in perspective, it was the size of one of the dozens of falls that surround the tunnel into (and out of) Milford Sound.

I checked into my accom and headed out to the nearby Frontier Cafe and Bar. It served up a mean and spicy Goat Curry. Yumbo!!!

I headed back to my room and setup to do laundry. The washer was efficient but the drier was absurdly slow. I was laundry-chatted up by a friendly Auzzie octogenarian who frequently mentioned references to her (or a subject that we strayed upon) being Christian. Needless to say, I am now born again. Not my cup of joe.

I did head back eventually to my pad and plan a bit of my north island excursion.

It was a good day.