Return to The Other Down Under: Again With The V-Strom in New Zealand

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by skyguy, Jan 20, 2019.

  1. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Arlington, VA
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    I said I’d be back.

    Hello again – it’s me, skyguy. You may remember me from such ride reports as Iceland… Scotland… Canadaland… Eclipseland… and others.

    But it all started with New Zealand.

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    2011

    A couple of years after I started riding motorbikes, I decided to give myself an adventure for my 50th birthday: New Zealand by motorcycle. You can read all about it at that link. Suffice to say, it was the adventure of a lifetime and really confirmed that riding motorcycles in amazing places was a thing I wanted to do more of.

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    My 2011 New Zealand trip introduced me to this wonderful country, but two weeks was short enough for me to realize I’d only scratched the surface of the spectacle. Every day, I’d add another NZ destination to my “next time” list, knowing I’d be back some day. And it only took me 7 1/2 years to get back.

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    2011

    Finally, in the middle of a two year long project at work, I promised myself: At the end of this project, I’m going back to New Zealand. That gave me ample time to get my bosses used to the idea of me disappearing for three whole weeks in a row.

    Once the employer was on board, I started figuring out the exact dates. It worked out that late October / early November was going to work, and the arrangements began. Remember the seasons are swapped down there compared to up here, so it should feel like our April/May.

    Springtime in New Zealand. What’s not to like?

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    #1
  2. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

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    DAY ZERO – 26-28 October, 2018

    I’ll skip over all the planning and routing and reserving, because it would end up being a picture of me sitting in front of my computer. Planning is only interesting to the planner.

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    2011

    So let’s jump ahead to launch day. Out of tradition I decided to use the same pair of red duffel bags that I took to NZ in 2011. It was just easier to divide up the load. This will become significant later, I promise.

    Work was on hold, home was properly shut down, all Ts were dotted and all eyes crossed. Rainy Friday weather taking off from DCA.

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    Travel tip for Washington National: Sit on the right side outgoing, left side incoming for the best view of DC.

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    If you time it just right, you can get the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean, and WWII Memorials, plus The Washington Monument, White House, Capitol, and most of the Smithsonians all in one photo.

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    Don’t judge. I’m not a kooky germophobe or anything, but I’ve managed to pick up a cold the last couple times I had a long flight, and I really didn’t want to take chances. I’ve seen the Ebola movies: 200 international strangers in a metal tube for 15 hours is asking for trouble.

    Bonus: when you’re wearing a mask, reading glasses, and noise-cancelling headphones most people will leave you in peace. It helps if you talk like Bane.

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    First hop is “only” cross-country to Los Angeles. Now for the long one: LAX to Sydney, Australia. Lined up for flight #73 under the sadly informative monitor.

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    First time on a 787 for me. I even splurged on “”Premium Economy” seats for the two long flights. Nice! The big windows have fancy electronic dimmers instead of sliding shades. You also get an “amenities kit” with an eyeshade, slippers, toothbrush, etc. and a couple of terrible-tasting Gummi-bears that I realize now were probably earplugs.

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    Some sleeping happened, between Seatback Cinema and eating strange food at odd hours. They offered a “midnight snack” in the middle of the night – some kind of stromboli(?) and chocolate gelato. Ah, Premium Economy.

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    We’ve been flying west away from the sun, but it finally caught us just before Sydney. That’s the Harbor Bridge and the Opera House way back there. Oh, and it’s Sunday now. Somebody owes me a Saturday.

    Australian Customs eventually allowed us into their country. Didn’t have to deal with my bags; they’re checked all the way through. Spent the next few hours hanging out in the international terminal, which is like a big high-end mall. Because what could be a better bargain than a Rolex purchased at the airport?

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    Found my little Qantas plane for the last hop “across the ditch” to New Zealand. A mere three hours over the Tasman Sea.

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    And finally, there it was – right where I left it. Hello, New Zealand! You don’t remember me, but I remember you. Raining, huh? Yeah, I remember how much you like doing that.

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    Then the fun began. Normally, when one checks two identical bags to the same destination they are the very first and very last bags to come up on the carousel. Got the first one, but then… no second bag. Waited until the belt stopped and realized it wasn’t coming.

    Found the luggage office and filed a claim. “What does the bag look like?” I held up its twin “Exactly like this.” They’ll put the word out. If I’m lucky, it’s in Sydney, because there are still several flights coming in from Sydney today. If I’m NOT lucky, it’s still in Los Angeles.
    Or in DC.

    Nothing else to do now. Went thru NZ customs (nobody stamps your passport anymore) and hit the ATM for some kiwi kash. The first “Lord of the Rings” movie came out 17 years ago, but they’re still embracing the whole Middle-Earth thing. Here’s an oxymoronic giant dwarf in the Auckland airport lobby – "On Loan from Middle-Earth."

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    Cabbed to my Auckland-adjacent motel. As with my 2011 trip, I’m renting a motorcycle from Auckland Motorbike Hire. Randal Brown runs the company out of his place in Maraetai. I called him and let him know about the lost bag. He suggested that I still pick up the motorcycle tomorrow as scheduled, because he was about to go out of town himself (off to MotoGP in Kuala Lumpur, the lucky sod) I could then ride back to the motel and wait for my bag to show up.

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    I did an inventory of the bag I DID have to see if I might be able to start without waiting. No such luck. I have my riding jacket, but no pants. I have my helmet, but no boots. And perhaps worst of all, my street clothes are in the missing bag so I get to keep wearing the same clothes I’ve had on since Friday morning.

    Spent the evening watching NZTV and calling the airport for updates. No news. Guess we’ll figure this out tomorrow...
    #2
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  3. Kiwi Canuck

    Kiwi Canuck Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2012
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    138
    Location:
    Langley, BC
    Hey, hasn't tomorrow already happened?

    Looking forward to your ride report.

    David
    #3
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  4. amsterdamned

    amsterdamned Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    18
    Location:
    northern va usa
    Gummi bears...I was laughing for minutes. The wife in the other room must think I'm insane. Always love your ride reports.

    Should've taken my bag again,...always makes it's way to the destination...everytime it comes back from England it's full of Cadbury chocolates...no gummy bears....look forward to "more to come"...
    #4
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  5. oldbeer

    oldbeer Grandadventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2017
    Oddometer:
    856
    Always enjoy reading visitors views of where i live. Im assuming you are posting after the event again? Can underdtand why you dont want to spend valuable trip time uploading stuff but hope you got to meet some of the local riders while you were here.

    Be interested in your views on the bike as an NZ road tourer.

    Cheers and rhanks for posting
    #5
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  6. Dudelookslikealady

    Dudelookslikealady Somewhere Else

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2006
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    81
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA (DC area)
    I imagine your bag wasn’t late but arrived at the exact moment it intended to. Looking forward to the updates.
    #6
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  7. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Arlington, VA
    Thanks, folks! Another chapter coming right up. This one has an actual motorcycle in it!
    #7
  8. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

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    You live in a fantastic country! Yeah, I take pictures and notes while I'm traveling, then organize everything properly once I get home.

    I guess I did miss out on meeting some local riders, but everyone I DID meet was great!
    #8
  9. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    Not much riding in this ride report yet – sorry about that. That changes today. A little bit, at least. Called the airport first thing in the morning – still bag-free.

    Walked back to the Botany Town Center for breakfast. I’m getting to know the road between the motel and the shopping center fairly well, but I was really hoping to see a little more of New Zealand.

    Finally got a baggage update: My bag will be coming today, probably around mid-day. The bad news is that they still need to walk it thru customs so they’re not sure when it’s going to be getting to me.

    Randal came by around 11:00a and drove me over to his place to pick up the bike.

    Here it is, your rental Suzuki V-Strom 650!

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    It’s a 2016 model; the last year with the dual headlights. I don’t really care for the new Cyclops look, and I do like red, so I was happy to ride this one.

    We’ve got some sidecases around here somewhere.

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    And I see that Randal has added a helpful advisory to the rearview mirrors…

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    After completing the paperwork, Randal loaned me some riding pants and boots and I rode the empty bike back to the motel in Botany. Sunny when I left Randal’s, then rainy, then both… but sunny when I got to the motel. Then rainy.

    No bag yet, but at least now I had a plan.

    I’d purposely made the first day kind of short, kilometer-wise – just a quick hop up to Whangarei; about 200 kms north of here. If my bag shows up before 4:00p, I can probably still pack up and make it up there before dark and get back on schedule.

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    In the meantime, I pulled the bike up under the overhang in front of my room so I could pack what I could without getting rained on too much. Yes, it’s raining again. Got the GPS cradle mounted, and the tank bag harness, too. Then waited. And waited.

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    The bag showed up around sunset, FINALLY, with a stack of customs papers stapled to it detailing its adventures in the Land of Lost Luggage.

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    I didn’t really want to ride three hours in the dark in the rain (on the left, don’t forget on the left). Guess we’re leaving tomorrow morning.

    TOMORROW: Day 1 for real!
    #9
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  10. Tomaso

    Tomaso Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 8, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Looking forward to "for real"! Even without you having hit the road yet, I'm enjoying the heck out of it.
    And isn't that wee strom a great tourer? I loved my '08 and imagine yours was +
    #10
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  11. amsterdamned

    amsterdamned Adventurer

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    northern va usa
    Can't wait to catch up and hear the rest of the adventure. See you soon.
    #11
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  12. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
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    Arlington, VA
    Love the weestrom! I ride an '09 at home, almost identical to the one I rented in 2011. That's why I keep going back to Randal's - he rents V-Stroms!
    #12
  13. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    DAY 1 – Tuesday, 30 October 2018
    378 kms

    North To Jail

    Finally! Just about 24 hours after I’d planned to, I was ready to roll. I was hoping to just zoom right along the motorway and zip right through downtown Auckland. But it’s a big city, and it’s Tuesday morning, so of course they have rush hour traffic. And it’s raining. So I’m afraid I don’t have any pictures of the motorway (crowded!) or crossing the Harbour Bridge (scenic!) and really nothing until I was well north of the city and the rain let up a bit. Normally I’d prefer to skip the motorways, but I was trading scenery for speed this morning.

    Once safely out of town we got off the motorway and joined the “Hibiscus Coast Highway,” a nice secondary road that runs right along the coast.

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    Stopped for a quick beach photo. This is Hatfields Beach.

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    Still raining off and on.

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    Took a short detour over to the “Puhoi Historic Village” to get out of the weather for a moment.

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    Nice little village with a general store and coffee shop.

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    Another Lord Of The Rings reference – “Lothlorien” wines.
    And a tiny library (but not the smallest one we'll see on this trip)

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    Shortly after that visit, a little surprise from the GPS.

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    I remember routing myself on the less-traveled side roads whenever possible, but I guess I missed the fact that this one is gravel.
    Adventure!

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    Once the side roads were depleted, I found myself back on the “Great North Road” – NZ1. But even the main motorway is not without some scenery.

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    Hit this little scenic overlook for a (cloudy) wide shot. New Zealand!

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    As noted, I’d planned the first day to be a short one, and I arrived in Whangarei around noon. (“Wh” at the beginning of a word is pronouonced as “f,” so this place sounds like “FONGa-ray”)

    I’d originally planned to use Whangarei as a “base camp” then spend the next day making an ambitious loop up into the north end of North Island. But with the 24-hour lag from the delayed baggage, I’ve got to come up with a new plan. Since I still have about eight hours of daylight left today, I’m going to ride some more.

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    We came up here to see the north, so let’s go north. After a few more kms on NZ1 I found the turnoff for Helena Bay.

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    Now, this is more like it! The rain was taking a break, leaving only the pretty clouds for now. This is the New Zealand riding I came back for: Twisty, empty roads, surrounded by beautiful scenery.

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    Found Helena Bay and exercised the camera a bit.

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    I was there, too!

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    Continued on up the coast. Just terrific riding; didn’t stop as often as I should’ve to take pictures.

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    Hit the town of Russell.

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    This is the “Bay of Islands.” It got its name by being a bay with islands in it. You could easily spend several days just exploring all the little roads and towns around here.

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    Tanked up in Russell, then figured I’d better be heading back.

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    Was pleased to discover that part of the route back was on a little ferry, because I do enjoy riding bikes onto boats.

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    The sun and the rain couldn’t decide who was working this afternoon, so it was both bright and wet for awhile.

    Rolled south on NZ1 back toward Whangarei. Still had some daylight left so I turned off to visit the Whangarei Scenic Reserve, which has a nice waterfall...

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    Whangarei Falls, of course.

    Then back into town to tonight’s accommodations. Tonight I’m staying in jail.

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    It’s true – “The Cell Block” is the old city jail that’s been converted into a nice hostel (they call them “backpackers” down here).
    I had my own solitary cell room, and they’ve moved the door locks from the outside to the inside, so that was nice.

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    I did, of course, take a shiv with me to the shower because you can never be too careful.

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    Great to be back on the road in NEW ZEALAND!


    TOMORROW – Weird things in the hills
    #13
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  14. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    DAY 2 – Wednesday, 31 October 2018
    335 kms

    South to Hobbiton

    So, the original plan was to dash up to Whangarei on Day 1, then use Day 2 to make a big loop all the way up to Cape Reinga, the tippy-top of North Island. Then I was going to head down thru the kauri forests and check out the Ninety-Mile Beach. But to get back on schedule, I had to miss all of it, thanks to that one dumb missing bag.

    Though in retrospect, now that I’ve seen some of the northlands I’m kind of glad I didn’t try to rush through it all – it wouldn’t have been fair to the scenery to zip thru it all at 100 kph. So Cape Reinga, Ninety-Mile Beach, kauri forests… you’re at the top of my next “Next Time” list. I’ll just have to come back again. Dang.

    But for now… I’m back on schedule, the sun is shining, and NZ1 is calling.

    Escaped the jail and rolled back to NZ1.

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    Here’s a little South African outpost – almost stopped for some biltong. We’re heading back south today, and after a brief stint dodging the lorries on the motorway we turned off onto route 16, aka “The Kaipara Coast Highway.”

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    SO much nicer! Lovely scenery, and nice roads all to myself for the most part.

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    I believe that’s Kaipara Harbour way back there – the largest harbour in the hemisphere; also a well-known “ship graveyard” thanks to the shifting sandbars.

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    And all of it surrounded by lots of classic New Zealand landscapes.

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    At one point, I noticed some large thingies atop the nearby hills. No signs or anything to indicate what they are or what they’re for. Well, when it doubt, call it “Art” and move along.

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    Turns out they are indeed big ol’ sculptures – This is “Gibbs Farm,” and their primary crop is large art installations.

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    Closer looks are by appointment only (it’s private property) but you can see a lot from the road.

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    A few kms later I hit the Omeru Scenic Reserve…

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    …which appears to be reserving squiggly ferns...

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    ...and this shady little waterfall.

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    Took the opportunity to shed an under-layer and open up some jacket vents – it’s actually getting a bit warm for the first time this trip.

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    More roadside art… I hope…

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    The route found a few more fun roads as we approached Auckland: Peak Road > Old North Road > Deacon Road > Riverhead Road, then we’re back on 16.

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    Found lunch at a place with a nice outdoor patio for dining, but there are some risks…

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    The word you’re looking for is “cocky” – opportunity missed.

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    The Sky Tower poking up in the distance lets us know we’re nearing Auckland.

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    Either that, or I’ve grossly mis-navigated and we’re approaching Toronto.

    We’re actually sneaking around the west side of Auckland so we don’t have to go thru the middle of the city. Route 16 has turned into a proper motorway, which put us back on NZ1 as we roll south. The terrain flattens out into farmland and the air carries the aroma of agriculture.

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    My photo stops got farther apart as the day went on. Here’s a quick rest stop. Calculated I had exactly enough gas to get to tonight’s destination, and just made it.

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    This V-Strom doesn’t have a center stand, and the bike has to be upright to check the oil, so I ended up using my cameraphone as remote eyeballs at the fuel stops while I sat on the bike to keep it vertical.

    Tonight’s destination is Matamata, aka Hobbiton.

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    I think the last time I came through here there was a hobbit or a wizard or Gollum or someone else in this little purple niche, but apparently we can’t have nice things.

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    The actual Hobbiton film set is a few miles away, and we’re not visiting it today. But Matamata has really embraced its Lord of the Rings legacy, including a very Middle Earth-looking information center. And many local merchants are trying to capitalize, too, like “Hobbit Sushi.”

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    Is that sushi FOR hobbits, or sushi made FROM hobbits?

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    “Strider Footwear & Accessories” may just be a coincidence.

    Stopped in the McDonalds to, uh, ask directions or something (okay I wanted fries).

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    Their “Tastes of America” poster shows they think Americans like to eat donut balls dipped in hot fudge sauce.

    They’re not wrong.

    I'm staying at the “Horse & Jockey Inn” tonight, in a room over the pub. A witch signed me in. It’s October 31st. I wasn’t sure if they did Halloween down here, and it turns out they do. Little kiwi kids in costumes were attending a party at the pub – Where else would you have it? But they wrapped up early so the only thing keeping me awake was the weather forecast for tomorrow.


    TOMORROW: The Forgotten World Highway
    #14
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  15. squonker

    squonker Stupid is the new norm

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Love it! I would dearly love to go to NZ, but know that I never will because I detest flying and could never do so for that long. I'll make do with British Columbia instead, but your photos sure do whet the appetite...
    #15
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  16. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
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    DAY 3 – Thursday, 01 November 2018
    378 kms

    The Forgotten World Highway

    Slept like a rock in my over-pub room. Saw the sun first thing this morning, but it was quickly swallowed by clouds. Rolled out around 7:30a into light showers which turned into a steady downpour as I got to the main road – NZ1. So not many pictures for this stretch, I’m afraid.

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    This is farm country, but farms = trucks, and this is the main highway down here. Trucks – sorry, “lorries” – bring a wall of spray with them, so when they pass it’s like being rained on horizontally as well as vertically. The new Klim Gore-Tex suit seems to be working, but I notice that the rain has managed to sneak in at my neck, so that’s disappointing. And it’s not warm. I’ve got thermal tights and a long sleeve T-shirt underneath, but it’s definitely chilly riding this morning. Heated grips to the rescue.

    My rain face.

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    Not far down the road we came to a small town. I was quite ready to get out of the rain, so I was happy to hit Tirau (Maori for “place of many cabbage trees”). Spotted a breakfast place and pulled in.

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    Their sidewalk featured some commemorative handprints – Did the Right Honourable Helen Clark (former NZ PM) really stop by? She grew up near here, so I suppose it’s possible.

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    Across the street were a couple of buildings covered with corrugated metal sculptures of sheeps and a sheepdog. One of them is a “Sheep Information Centre,” but I don’t know if it’s ABOUT sheep or FOR sheep.

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    Breakfast. That’s a whole lot of bacon.

    Stayed on the main highway, in the rain, with the lorries, for another hour or so – then the day turned much better. Turned onto a smaller road (Hwy 32) right as the rain stopped.

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    This is the good stuff! Twisty, turny, up-and-downy (I need a better word for “up-and-downy”) and virtually empty. All for skyguy!

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    And terrific scenery, too – several times I found myself zooming along, then catching sight of some amazing scene and slamming on the brakes and hanging a quick U-turn to come back and shoot some pictures.

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    Saw sheeps of course, and what’s that up on the hill? Deer?

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    Yep, somebody’s got their own herd of deer.

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    These two were posing nicely, so I grabbed a quick shot.

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    “Wait! I was baaing! Take another one.”

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    “Thank you.”

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    At one viewpoint, I noticed a large body of water in the distance. Pacific? Tasman? No, we’re in the middle of the country, miles from the coast. That’s Lake Taupo.

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    It’s the largest lake in New Zealand so it’s hard to miss.

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    The sun came out now and then, but the rain wasn’t finished with us yet – there would be sprinkles, then showers, then sun… rinse and repeat.

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    At one point, I followed a small gravel road up to a “scenic overlook.” Always got to check out the scenic overlooks.

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    The little tower revealed an excellent view of… clouds. Rolled back down and got back on-route.

    Around midday, I hit a mid-sized town: Taumarunui.

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    Raining hard when I got there so I stopped for a little bite. After that big bacony breakfast I wasn’t really hungry, but I wanted to get out of the rain.

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    Let’s check our supplies: I think we’ve got plenty of diced goat, but we can always use a few more pork heads.

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    Taumarunui was also notable to me because it marked the start of one of the top “next time” items from my 2011 trip: The Forgotten World Highway.

    The Forgotten World Highway (aka NZ43) is known to be very scenic and entertaining, but there’s about a 12-km stretch of gravel in the middle of it. It was part of my original route on my 2011 trip, but back then it had been pouring rain and I was worried that the 12 kms of gravel would be 12 kms of mud so I bypassed it. Not this time.

    The rain had stopped (for now) when I saw the sign. Let’s do this!

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    Oh, tank up in Taumarunui of you haven’t already.

    I think I’ve found my new all-time favorite road! Riding this road was like skiing – left, right, left, right, only with the added up-down component as well. Excellent!

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    And enough scenery to stop every five minutes or so for pictures.

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    With the constant threat of rain, I left my big cameras under the rain cover in the tank bag. Still too pretty not to take pictures, so I put my iPhone in the (hopefully) waterproof pocket in my pants. But this means that every time I want to take a picture I have to stop, remove one glove, unzip the pocket, drag out the phone, wake it up, take the pictures, then put it all away and ride onto the next photo op. The things I do for you people.

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    As the road squiggled on, I had a little epiphany: I made the right decision 7½ years ago when I skipped this road. As terrific as it is, I really wasn’t ready. I’d only been riding for a couple of years at that point. I was okay on a bike, but by this time on that trip I’d already dropped my rental bike twice, destroying one of the side cases. But now, in 2018, I have 7½ years and thousands of miles more experience – I kind of know what I’m doing now. I’m sure I would’ve survived this road in 2011, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it like I’m enjoying it now.

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    And then, the much-feared gravel. As noted, there’s about 12 kms of gravel in the middle of the Forgotten World Highway – Guess they “forgot” to finish paving it.

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    ACTUAL GRAVEL

    Honestly, it was really no big deal. It was wet, and there were were some muddy potholes here and there, but I just kept chugging along and before I knew it… Pavement!

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    The pavement returned just before a bridge over the Tangaraku River.

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    The other side had a restroom and a small plaque commemorating Joshua Morgan, who died surveying this route back in 1893 and was buried here.

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    He was 35 years old, so he had a pretty good run.

    Feeling chuffed about defeating the evil gravel, I rode around the corner and found… more gravel. Apparently they pave the road for about 50 metres on either side of a bridge, but then it’s back to gravel. That’s alright; I’m getting the hang of this.

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    Soon the gravel ended for real, and it was back to the roller coaster. Was surprised by a skinny tunnel, blasted out of the rock and barely a single lane wide.

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    This is the Moki Tunnel, also known as the “Hobbit Hole,” and I was through it before I realized that I’d forgotten to take a picture. This one’s stolen from Wikipedia.

    Topped another set of hills. This is Tahora Saddle.

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    There’s a train that runs out here from Stratford, (see the tracks?) but it tunnels through the mountains rather than squiggling over the tops.
    More fun for us.

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    We’ve dropped out of the hills into a small valley and the crossroads town of Whangamomona.

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    Whangamomona is an interesting story: In 1989, the new government wanted to re-draw the district lines. This would’ve put Whangamomona into the home district of their hated rugby rivals, among other injustices. Rather than submit to this madness, Whanga decided to break away from New Zealand and form its own Independent Whangamomona Republic.

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    The Whanga Hotel is the "Home Of The Republic," which will stamp your passport and celebrates “Republic Day” every other January.

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    They’ve elected a variety of leaders in their 30 years of existence: Three humans (the third was a Czech who was run out of town after just two days); a poodle named Tai (who stepped down after an assassination attempt); Billy the Goat (who won by eating the opposition’s ballots); and Murtle “The Turtle” Kennard (who died after ten years in office). The current President is a human woman – Vicki Pratt – who was elected against her wishes while she was in the kitchen.

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    This is Ted, who tends bar and claims to have no political ambitions.

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    Got the t-shirt and rolled on, passing the sign on the way out of town “Now leaving Republic of Whangamomona – Welcome Back to New Zealand.”

    Realized I forgot to get my passport stamped so I’ll just have to come back someday.

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    More 3-D fun roads, but the wind has picked up considerably. It’s that kind of crosswind that feels like a giant hand pushing on the side of your helmet, trying to shove you off the road.

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    Summited a few “saddles” over the hills heading west, each with its own excellent view.

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    Eventually hit Stratford, the town I’d passed thru in 2011 when I’d skipped the Forgotten World Highway.

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    Going the other way now, back on the main road heading south toward the ocean. Despite the high winds a bird managed to bulls-eye my visor, which I then got to look thru all the way to Hawera.

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    Stopped for the night in a nice motel close to a good Indian restaurant. Once the miserable morning was out of the way, this turned out to be an excellent day! FWH FTW!


    TOMORROW: Winding our Way into Wellington
    #16
    MrKiwi, Saso, KiwiPewe and 3 others like this.
  17. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    207
    Location:
    Arlington, VA
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    DAY 4 – Friday, 02 November 2018
    301 kms

    Wellington, ho!

    Not as many pictures today, I’m afraid. Today was less about the scenery and more about the gittin’ somewhere. Didn't get rolling until around 8:30a or so, but this is a short day. I did this ride once before in the opposite direction in 2011 and it’s much as I remember it.

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    Found at the main motorway and zoomed along at 100kph for much of the day. Of course, main motorways = lorries, so I had plenty of company.

    We’re going across the south coast of North Island, but we’re a couple of kms inland so you don’t really see the ocean.

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    I did stop once or twice to photograph the scenery – the terraced hillsides are always so pretty in the morning light. Chillier than I would’ve imagined for November 2nd (Northern Hemisphere equivalent – May 2nd) and there’s a brisk wind, but at least the sun is shining.

    Quick stop for lunch in Levin, then continued on our old pal NZ-1.

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    Could’ve taken it all the way into Wellington, but the “New Zealand Motorcycle Atlas” recommended a nicer, less-trafficked twisty road through Upper and Lower Hutt (Rt. 58, aka Paremata Haywards Rd.).

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    It was surprisingly vertiginous (thanks, Word-A-Day calendar!) and squiggly and fun.

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    Soon enough I was deposited in the city proper, and I quickly found tonight’s hotel and checked in. The lobby was full of school kids, here for a spelling bee.
    They still have spelling bees?

    Stashed the motorcycle in the garage and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the city.

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    The last time I was here I really didn’t have much time to explore, but I do remember this monstrous spider-projector creature.

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    Found the harbor…

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    …(public nudity doesn’t seem to be an issue)…

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    …and a little marina, then the rain started up again and it was back to the hotel. Tomorrow’s my first rest day (well, my first PLANNED rest day) and I’m going to pay a visit to Welliewood!

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    TOMORROW: A Visit to Welliewood
    #17
    MrKiwi, Saso, Robthekiwi and 3 others like this.
  18. Dudelookslikealady

    Dudelookslikealady Somewhere Else

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    81
    Location:
    Alexandria, VA (DC area)
    Enjoying the ride report! More!
    #18
    skyguy likes this.
  19. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    207
    Location:
    Arlington, VA
    Thanks! Tonight's installment will be about the rest day in Wellington. Some cool stuff in Wellington!
    #19
  20. skyguy

    skyguy Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    207
    Location:
    Arlington, VA
    DAY 5 – Saturday, 03 November 2018
    0 kms


    Wet Walking at Weta in Wellington

    REST DAY in Wellington. If you’re just here for the motorcycle stuff, feel free to skip ahead (although tomorrow honestly is as much boat stuff as bike stuff). Today is all nerd stuff.

    It’s a rainy Saturday in Wellington. The wind was really howling last night, to the point of waking me up. I was glad not to be riding in it.

    Late start, hotel breakfast, then sploshed to the bus to Miramar.

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    We’re touring The Weta Cave today, the public face of Weta Workshop. This is where Peter Jackson’s team created the amazing effects for the “Lord Of The Rings” and “Chronicles of Narnia” movies, among many others.

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    (thanks, Wikipedia!)

    The name comes from the Weta, a type of giant New Zealand cricket the size of your fist. Though harmless to humans, young Peter Jackson was terrified of them and took their name for his special-effects company.

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    Please do not climb on the trolls.

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    Wisely, the waiting area is also the gift shop / mini-museum, which is film-geek Nirvana.

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    Here’s Theoden’s armour, among other artifacts.

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    They do a big business in collectibles, too – Here’s a quarter-scale Scarlett Johansson on sale for only $500(NZ).

    The tour was interesting, though this being a Saturday most of the workbenches were vacant. “Usually,” our guide apologized, “there’s a guy over there making swords.”

    We saw a lot of great props and models, but a lot of it was off-limits to photography. Not that they’re afraid of revealing movie spoilers or trade secrets; it’s just business. Weta is hired to create props and design visuals for many different film and TV productions, but they don’t necessarily OWN everything that they’ve created here. So we can look at the blasters from “Blade Runner 2049” or put on Thor’s helmet, but we can’t take pictures. But they’re good about telling when you can and can’t shoot.

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    We did get to handle some swords and armour, which we discovered are usually made of plastic. They’re painted to look like metal and are quite convincing on screen, but much safer in a grand battle scene.

    Of course, a huge clash being waged with plastic swords sounds like a thousand people fighting with Hot Wheels tracks, so all the proper metallic “chings!” and “schwings!” are added in post audio.

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    Hobbit feets.

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    Azog the Defiler is happy to pose for pictures. Since Peter Jackson is a partner at Weta, artifacts from his films are generally okay to photograph.

    The day we were there they were finishing up some bits for “Mortal Engines” (“…but we can’t show you that”) and they were deep into the “AVATAR” sequels (“…and we DEFINITELY can’t show you that”). But our tour wasn’t quite finished.

    If you were a kid in the 1960s or so, you may remember a popular TV show for kids called “Thunderbirds,” about a team of space-age do-gooders who traveled around the world doing do-goodery. They were shot live-action on miniature sets with marionettes (string puppets) as the actors (they called it “Supermarionation”). If you saw “Team America: World Police,” that was a parody of “Thunderbirds.”

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    Turns out that Richard Taylor, one of the founders of Weta Workshop, was a huge Thunderbirds fan, and arranged to re-boot the franchise with “Thunderbirds Are Go!” The marionettes are gone, replaced by CGI characters, but they’re still running around on miniature sets.

    And those miniature sets are here at Weta.

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    Many of the details are made of common household items, painted and re-purposed.

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    Those oxygen tanks, for example, were originally deodorant cans. And most of the pipes are cardboard tubes from rolls of toilet paper.

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    Here’s our tour group, for scale. I’m sorry I forgot our guide’s name.

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    There was a whole warehouse of sets. I think they’re still in production.

    If you want to see more, here’s former “Mythbuster” Adam Savage taking a tour.



    Fun tour!

    Back to the hotel for lunch, then a hike back down to the harbor for today’s second attraction, which is slightly related to the first.

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    Weta Workshop doesn’t just do movie effects – they get commissioned to make all kinds of things. Remember the giant spider-projector from yesterday? Weta.

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    They also helped create a remarkable exhibit at Te Papa Tongarewa – The Museum of New Zealand.

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    This year, 2018, is the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI. Armistice Day is coming up in a week, and all of New Zealand is marking the occasion. One of the more significant campaigns of that war was in Gallipoli, in NW Turkey, where troops from Australia and New Zealand (the ANZAC Corps) engaged in a long, but ultimately unsuccessful effort to dislodge the Ottoman Empire. There were thousands of casualties on both sides.

    The Museum commissioned our new friends at Weta Workshop to create an exhibit commemorating the Kiwis who fought and died at Gallipoli. We saw some pieces of this @ Weta, but here in the finished installation the effect is quite striking.

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    It’s a series of scenes from the conflict, focused on a single person or a small group – a three-dimensional snapshot of a moment. The figures, posed in mid-action, are all based on real Kiwis who went to war. And the scenes are meticulously detailed: the uniforms and weapons, the sweat and stubble and blood.

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    But these are no ordinary mannequins. The figures are giants: 2.4x human scale. Standing up, they’d be almost 15 feet tall. But every pore and eyelash is re-created perfectly.

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    Each scene is augmented with sound effects and a symphonic score performed by the NZSO. The final result is amazing.

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    The closer you look, the more you see.

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    I didn’t photograph some of them because they’re so real it felt like I was invading their privacy.
    This soldier is knee-deep in paper poppies. The museum provided poppies for patrons to write a name or a memory, then add it to the collection.

    He's a bit over-dressed for Gallipoli. That's because once the ANZAC troops were withdrawn from Turkey, the surviving soldiers got sent to France.
    From one trench to another.

    Since we already woke up Adam Savage, here he is again with some more background:



    Other parts of the exhibit included a re-creation of a trench (trench warfare was big in WWI) along with a huge diorama of one of the hills at Gallipoli, all honeycombed with tunnels and bunkers and populated with tiny soldiers. And a beautiful cutaway model of a hospital ship – all of it made at Weta Workshop. Really remarkable stuff.

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    Of course, that wasn’t the only exhibit at the M of NZ. Every museum needs a motorcycle or two – Here’s a hand-built Britten 1000, similar to the one that broke the “Flying Mile” speed record in 1993 at 302 kph (188 mph).

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    And speaking of speed, here’s a portrait of Phar Lap, a very famous racehorse down here. Born in New Zealand, he was kind of like the Seabiscuit or Man O'War of Australia. After winning a bunch of races, he died under mysterious circumstances (with a ton of arsenic in his system).

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    When you’re a winner, everybody wants a piece of you. Phar Lap’s hide went to Melbourne. His heart is in Canberra. And his skeleton is here in Wellington, because Wellington rhymes with skeleton.

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    There’s also an exhibit of extinct New Zealand wildlife, and the invasive species that extincted them.

    They’re flashing the lights, so it’s time to go.

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    Spotted this nice Maori-motif manhole cover on the walk back to the hotel. For a rest day, there was certainly a lot of walking.

    Back on the road tomorrow! Then on the sea. Then back on the road again.


    TOMORROW: Surf & Turf
    #20
    MrKiwi, Saso, B10Dave and 2 others like this.