Kia Ora - 13 days in Paradise - New Zealand's south island

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Lovin' it Strom, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    Well, the tears have dried since returning Stateside from New Zealand. Skittles and I have been planning to go to New Zealand since planning our wedding 8 years ago. Took a while but for my 40th, we celebrated the rest of my birthdays, her birthdays, our honeymoon, and every anniversary we have remaining.

    Now to get on with the story:

    Your cast of characters:
    Skittles
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    Lovin' it Strom (yea, I know)
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    Luckily, I will not subject anyone to any more pictures of me. :deal


    Oh, our rented steed - a V-Strom because I am all about wild, unpredictable variety.
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    Our trip, in summary:
    Cuddle Couch, sharp mountains, good food, laughs, skills course grade roads, wind, rain, penguins, ice burgs, tall mountain tops, helicopters, boats, whales, more good food, rain, Dutch dudes playing Techno from their minivan, friendly locals, awesome roads, Jurassic forests, roadkill, flightless birds, steep tunnels, waterfalls, sea lions, albatross and glow worms.
    #1
  2. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    We flew out of Phoenix to LA, where we discovered the City of Angels doesn't seem concerned about putting it's best foot forward for international visitors. None of the terminal appeared to have been cleaned since Obama was elected. We stopped for pizza at the fancy pizza joint in the international terminal and started the trip off right. Skittles ordered a Pesto Pizza, but I didn't quite hear that right.

    clerk: "You wanted the Pesto?"
    Me: "Huh, no. We want pizza."
    clerk "Pesto?"
    Me: "PIZZA!"
    clerk: "Pesto?"
    Skittles: "Oh sheesh - I am getting PESTO on my PIZZA."
    Me: " Oh - yep, pesto."

    The pizza was so-so.
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    We opted for the much touted Air New Zealand Sky Couch. They call it Cuddle Class. When you buy two seats, they will sell you the third at half price. A couple custom seat belts and lifting the footrest up into a flat position, and you can lay down across the seats like a bed. It looked awesome and we decided to try it.

    What they don't tell you, the models posed in the seats on their web site were extras from the "Hobbit" and two full grown, American adults don't really fit very well.

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    We have nothing else even remotely negative about Air New Zealand. The staff was professional and friendly, the seats were actually roomy and comfortable (in their normal position - not the sky couch) and the entertainment and meal options were perfect for the long flight.



    Grades:
    LAX - F
    US Air - D
    Air New Zealand - B+ (would have been an A if it weren't for the couch)
    #2
  3. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    The international terminal in Auckland was pristine. Even the bathrooms looked like they were cleaned and mopped after EVERY occupant. We were also greeted by our first taste of Maori culture with speakers pumping out chants and haka and a gateway into the terminal. The immigration staff was professional and it was the first time on the trip that airport security actually seemed to know what they were doing and cared about their job.
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    We then flew from Auckland to Christchurch and admired the young, razor sharp mountains of the island we would be riding on for the next days.
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    We caught a cab that oddly enough revealed the bad American stereotype of the Pakistani cab driver was alive and well in New Zealand. The driver got lost going to the bike rental place.

    We rented from www.nzbike.com
    The young lady who greeted us was friendly, and cute, but didn't take time to go over the bike with us for inspection. She made good conversation and was a rider herself, but didn't actually seem that interested in the business end of the program.

    The bike was a 2009 DL650, I rented a 2011. hmmm. The bike checked out with very little damage and I was very happy it came farkled with crash bars, hand guards, madstad and a fork brace. The bike looked in good condition and all lights, switches, and other do-dads worked. I did find a loose wire under the seat, I was going to find out what that went to later.

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    Now we change into our motogear and cram all this luggage into three hardbags and a water proof duffle we tied to the top box
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    Auckland airport = C (would have been an A if we didn't have to walk a mile to the next terminal for our connecting flight)
    Christchurch airport = B (Under construction)
    Taxi = C
    NZBike = C
    #3
  4. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    Our rented GPS helped guide us to a nearby gas station, where we put about two liters in the bike to top it off. We found the Kwik Kiwi Takeaways.

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    We enjoyed our first New Zealand food. We found the Beets in the burgers interesting and the bacon was unbelievable - very thick and perfect.

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    After topping off our tanks, we headed out for a ride across the island via Arthur's Pass. While crossing through the farmland, we noticed the Kiwi must have issues with standard fences or low walls.

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    These hedges were amazing. Many were so tightly trimmed they looked like someone grew them restricted in a box. Some were very tall and it was actually very impressive. The hedges proved to be part of Kiwi culture in a funny advertisement we found later in a bar.

    As we crossed the farmland, the Southern Alps were revealed to us and the sky began to clear and warm.

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    As we entered the mountains, we came across the Castle Rocks area and took a look at the Cave Spring.

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    #4
  5. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    From Cave Spring we continued up to Arthur's Pass...where we were warned about the dreaded Kea.

    Our first bird was this life-size statue of a Moa. These used to have range of the island, until man first appeared and hunted them to extinction - not to say you'd expect to see something like this pop out of the west coast's forests. This giant bird took the Haast Eagle off this planet with it, as the Moa was the eagles only food source. Overspecialization is a bad thing people.

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    (That's Skittles under the thing)

    We also discovered one lane bridges on our way. I can't even begin to image the chaos if we had these in the states.
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    #5
  6. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    We descended from the pass and into the West Coast region of the island. It is clearly a rain forest environment and we were prepared for rain...but only got some light misting.


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    This was weird, a blind view, long one lane bridge...shared with a train!
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    We rolled into Punakaiki and found the holiday park I was planning on staying at appeared closed and for sale. It's too bad really. We ended up riding to the north end of town to the Punakaiki tavern and Accommodations. We discovered just how laid back and trusting the locals were.
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    I entered the bar and walked up to the bartender to inquire about a room. He told me the rate and tossed me a key from across the room.

    "Go take a look and let me know."
    OK

    The room was small but looked clean and nice. There was an extra bed packed into the little room, but it had a nice sized dressing area and shower.
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    I returned to the bar.

    "I'll take it."
    "OK then, we'll square it away in the morning."
    "Huh? Don't you want a credit card or at least know who I am?"
    "Naw - you look trustworthy. No worries."
    "OK, thanks."
    "Yo! Are you Regular or Trim?"
    "Huh?"
    "Regular or trim?"
    "Do I look trim to you?"
    "Regular it is."

    The bartender then removed a small bottle of milk from under the bar and set it on the counter.
    "Ummmm? Huh?"
    "It's milk."
    "I can see that, I didn't order it."
    "It's for your coffee and tea, comes with the room."
    "Oh, cool. Thanks."
    "Fookin Americans."

    The room was warm and the bed comfortable after a long day of riding.

    We were already in love with the area and the locals' attitudes.
    #6
  7. Steve in NZ

    Steve in NZ scared/cheap

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    there's only one thing worse than a whinging pom. A whinging yank. Geez you complain about the distance between the international & domestic terminal. Catch the shuttle they keep mentioning over the pa and also b4 ya land.

    ok ya left the big smoke of chch, get ready for things go get real laid back.

    welcome to nz, enjoy the ride. Don't forget to stop at the cardrona pub and go to milford, enjoy the scenery. Also the road from haast to makaroa is nice. Take ya time and keep left. Left I said, put a sticker on speedo. Keep left.
    #7
  8. TheMuffinMan

    TheMuffinMan Forest Ranger Magnet

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    :lurk
    #8
  9. Pete-NZ

    Pete-NZ Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    798
    A bloody seat eater :cry..
    Years ago a few of us went for a ride over Arthers pass...
    stoped went for a walk... when we got back... there was foam rubber
    everywhere & a dam great hole in me mates CB550 seat..
    They love window wipers as well...
    You can't leave a car or bike unattended anywhere near them
    they will find something to wreck... they will rip tents up as a few hikers
    have found out...
    #9
  10. Skittles

    Skittles Adventurer

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    Sorry for the delays all. LB has been on a travel case since we have been back and now we're evacuating due to a wild fire nearby. Hopefully we'll get caught up Thursday or Friday.
    #10
  11. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    We woke after a good sleep feeling good. We were happy to see that the long ride on a stock seat the prior day actually did not leave either of us sore.

    Our accommodations:
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    We walked to the tavern and ordered breakfast. Skittles decided to try the ever talked about, somewhat dreaded Marmite - rumored to be the local version of jam on toast. It was a thick black substance, not unlike road tar.
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    I think her face says it all.
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    I tried it. It was very salty and did have the consistency of roof repair. I wonder if that is what it really is. Some Aussie was working on a leaky roof and got some in his mouth and said, "Hey, this would be great on toast." :lol3




    It was still a little misty and chilly in the morning, plus we got up a little later than anticipated. We decided to skip the cave rafting we were planning. With the 4 hours of wet time in an old tire floating through caves out of the way, we opted to change our route and head to Nelson.
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    We stopped in Westport and got fuel. While in town, we stopped at a pharmacy to get some heartburn pills and to satisfy Skittle's curiosity about the local pharmacies, as she works in one in the states.

    We didn't take any pictures inside out of respect, but were surprised to be greeted by young women dressed in black t-shirts and white lab coats. The place was all white with a lot of makeup and perfumes on the walls. It actually looked like a department store fragrance and makeup section. I braced to be squirted with a frangrance that either made me small like musk ox - or attractive to bees - but it didn't happen. We discovered the pharmacies in NZ are basically a drug store tucked into a corner of a Dillard's feminine purdy stuff section.

    Skittles, the official photographer for this trip, was still waking up and taking in the sights. So much so, we forgot to get a lot of local pics of the pancake rocks. We'll take care of that in a couple days.
    #11
  12. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    For those of you waiting for the update, I added pics to the above post, you can scroll up.


    Thanks for your patience. :D
    #12
  13. antipode

    antipode Wanderer

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    Thanks for sharing.

    Looking forward to reading more of your adventure!
    #13
  14. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    I found the plants very interesting. They were very similar to some of the plants one would find in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona.

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    Met by the official -anywhere near a beach - greeting party
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    And his flightless friend - a Kewa bird. Mant tourists confuse this guy to be the famous Kiwi bird. But he didn't fool me, I is smert! He seemed friendly enough, but I was told by a local that if fed, he will turn violent and then multiply when touched by water.
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    We stopped at Tauranga Bay to enjoy the beach. As Skittles wondered the sand taking photos of beached seaweed, I located a small trailer parked in the lot selling "milkshakes." I soon discovered NZ milkshakes are really just flavored milk...shaken, not stirred, I presume. There was no ice cream in it and I was disappointed, although it was very tasty. :1drink

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    Buller gorge was beautiful. We have only been here a day and already ran out of favorable adjectives to describe this place. The island itself, in geographic terms, is very young. It looks like the foliage is still back in the Jurassic period, lot's of ferns and tall trees - all looking like something out of a dinosaur movie. Every corner we carved revealed new and interesting trees and landscape. I felt as though I actually would not be shocked to see a Tyrannosaurus around the next corner.

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    Sorry - Had to post one more of me to please the family units.
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    More one lane roads - this one actually had a signal light.
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    #14
  15. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    I don't know why, but I really like this pic:
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    We found this thing, cost us $5 to get the privilege to walk across NZ's longest swing bridge. The water below was gorgeous, the bridge was solid, but didn't take much to make it start a good bounce.

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    After the swing bridge, we stopped in Murchison and had lunch in the 2-story hotel just in town.
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    Skittles had the fried things pulled from the ocean platter...she enjoyed all of it, but had some issue with the mystery green thing...looked like a small green clam or something. Anyone know what it might have been? (Sorry, no pics)

    This is the beer ad I mentioned earlier about the hedges:
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    As we neared Nelson, the forests and mountains gave way to large flat areas filled with grapevines.
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    In Nelson, we stayed at the Palms Motel - which has been deemed recommended! We rolled in just after five and the woman in the office was just closing up. She said they only had a family suite left, but since we were nice we could have it at the single price. :clap It even came with a jacuzzi tub....and MILK!

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    We went out on the town that evening and found everything was pretty well closed. I bet if we were here on a weekend it would be hopping. We enjoyed Indian (dot) food, but didn't get any pics.

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    #15
  16. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    Well rested, we packed the bags and headed to Kaikoura. There was a friendly looking little coffee shop we decided to stop at for Latte and famous NZ meat pies!

    We entered the tiny restaurant and I ordered a "Vanilla Latte with Hazelnut." The woman at the register just looked at me with a brief blank stare as the woman in the back immediately stopped what she was doing and turned to look at me.
    "What do you think this is...STARBUCKS?"
    "Umm, well. I'll take a regular latte"
    "Yes you will."

    The woman then noticed I was a Yankee and felt somehow endangered by our universally known political correctness and longing for suing anything that moved across our path.
    "I'm so sorry, didn't mean to offend."
    I explained to her that I wasn't one of the standard whiny pansyasses from the states and was not offended. She smiled and warmed our pies. Apparently Americans have a reputation.


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    My "real man" latte. :1drink
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    We left Nelson with our tanks topped off and headed for the east coast.

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    We stopped at a little park area just opposite one of those one lane bridges and were greeted by some seriously clear, yet green colored water.
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    And a sign on the bridge with wise advise...and I thought only Americans pointed out the obvious with stupid warnings, like, "This plastic bag is not a toy" or "Don't use this hair drier while showering."
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    By the way, Skittles says, "Howdy."
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    (inside joke) :rofl
    #16
  17. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    We stopped in Havelock for the world famous Mussel pot. We wanted to drop by here since Skittles spotted it on a food network show or something.
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    I just figured out why they are called "Green Lipped muscles."
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    The muscles were awesome! We later discovered that the shells of these guys are desired for their high content of glucosamine chondroitin.

    On toward Picton via a recommended "Queen Charlotte Drive." Many parts of the latter half of this road weren't unlike a technical motorcycle skills coarse. I spend a few turns repeating in my head to feather the throttle and rear break.

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    Sorry we didn't get many pictures of the road, it was early in our trip and the corners were sharp enough that Skittles was keeping her arms in and staying still.


    We rode through Picton and toward Blenheim, which was a very uneventful looking town. It wasn't long out of Blenheim that we experienced something the locals called a Storm Bomb!

    The wind was outlandish. We later learned there were 120 knot winds clocked in that area and I felt all of it. Keeping the bike upright was a real struggle. At one point, while leaning into the wind, it felt like it was scooting the bottom of the bike out from under me. The bike straightened up and I again tried to get it into a lean into the wind when I realized, for what was probably a nanosecond - but felt like 3 hours - there was NO resistance on the front wheel when I tried to counter steer. A quick tap on the rear break to put weight on the front wheel grounded me...and the crap in my pants warmed me. :deal

    We made the first stop so I could reconsider my spirituality and resumed riding.

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    We found the first hotel as we entered town and got a room. After taking a hot shower, we went into town to find food...and another sign with wise advise
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    Calamari
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    Crayfish (aka Spiny rock lobster)
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    Venison
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    Desert!
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    We finished dinner and went back to the hotel for bed time.
    Sorry there weren't too many pictures, Skittles was little uncomfortable on this day between the challenging roads and that crazy storm.
    #17
  18. MKJ

    MKJ Married w/ Children

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    Yes they do. I have been traveling to NZ since 1986 and saw attitudes, in general, change a lot over that time. Satellite
    TV, internet and excessive tourism were the driving factors, I believe.
    #18
  19. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    I'm not! I'm not! I'm not! :waysad
    #19
  20. Lovin' it Strom

    Lovin' it Strom High functioning sociopath

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    We woke to a pleasant morning, still slightly over cast but the wind was gone! Very light rain. We enjoyed our breakfast delivered to our room.

    Check it out...Skittles got Spaghetti on toast....who'd have thought of that?
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    And the MILK! :D
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    We got packed up, geared up and headed to down town to browse the area. We met a nice guy, hard to understand with some accent I couldn't discern - some kind of mix of Kiwi, Aussie, Welsh, and crackhead. He was a friendly chap and enjoyed talking to us. I heard him say something about Billy Connolly touring the US on Route 66. We basically just smiled and shook our heads up and down as he carried the conversation. Sorry, no pics of him.

    After doing extensive t-shirt shopping, we went to the Kaikoura Whale Watch - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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    What is that? Out there by the other boat?
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    SCHWEEEEET! A Sperm Whale.
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    Yarrrrr...I'm a Pirate! Now where's my Harley. :evil
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    #20