To Infinity & Beyond – 29th Oct to 5th Nov ’20 - A trip thru the top of the South Island with a group of 4 sidecars & 5 solos. I’d booked 2 weeks leave at the beginning of the year, in anticipation of a weekend away. However, as a result of the announcement of the GS Rallye dates, our informal trip schedule dates got moved forward a week into late Oct. That caused me some grief with my boss, because the required leave conflicted with a collegue’s. So some unashamed grovelling was necessary. Eventually (with some persistence), it was allowed that I could have the Thursday/ Friday off (but not the Wednesday), together with the following 2 weeks, which I’d already booked. I wonder if she’d have relented if she knew how much time off I’d eventually need... The timing meant that I’d need to take the 2am sailing Thursday to link up with the main group at Havelock on Thursday morning. The Bluebridge cabins had already gone (& experience tells me I don’t sleep in them anyways), so I booked the cheaper & faster Interislander. Packed & ready to go As it happens, it was a slow work week, so my boss (probably feeling somewhat exasperated) let me go at 12.00 noon Wed. I quickly changed the sailing times, & booked a cabin in Waikawa. I was slightly surprised to meet with Ken, Norbert & Bassman1 at the 4.00 pm Interislander ferry. I hadn’t paid too much attention to what the others plans were – given I expected an early morning start. Very smooth crossing, but late docking. They all had accommodation organised at Renwick. Interesting vehicle on the ferry The Waikawa cabin was maybe a mistake. The receptionist mistook me for someone else & gave me a bollocking about a mucked up booking. But she’d misheard my name, & settled down once she took on board I wasn’t who she thought I was; They’d had some water infrastructure issues, so the shower I was looking forward to wasn’t to be, as it was all turned off; The cabin was a Portacom, with a slightly strange (spongey) floor. Partly mitigated by a TV, & a made up bed (I was expecting to sleep in my sleeping bag). Cabin at Waikawa Meet time at Havelock was 8.00-8.30 am, so allowing for a 50 min. cruise thru Queen Charlotte Dr required a 7.00am leaving time. Not a hell of a lot of traffic. Queen Charlotte Drive Misty low cloud. Atmospheric, & promising rain a bit later on. Breakfast at Havelock’s ‘The Sneaky Beach Cafe & Bakery’ – scrambled eggs on toast, & a large Latte. Havelock I may have been the last to arrive. The group comprised MD (Ural sidecar with BMW drivetrain conversion), Ken (Dnepr sidecar, with BMW drivetrain conversion), Norbert (R60 with Ural sidecar), me (R100GS with Chang Jiang sidecar), Chris (F650GS), Andy (R80ST with F650GS suspension & 21 front wheel), Ed (KLR 650), Bassman1 (DR650), & Bill (R1200GS). Led the convoy out from Havelock. Wasn’t keen to put on the wet weathers, because I didn’t want to do a ‘boil in the bag’ running over the Maungatapu Track. A little bit of drizzle from time to time, but with a bit of speed, it wasn’t creeping into my gear. Passed a truck. Dunno who the on coming traffic was annoyed with. It must have been Bassman1. Stopped just after Pelorus Bridge to regroup, & ensure everyone took the right road. Then had another stop for photos just before the turn onto the Maungatapu Track. Pelorus Bridge regroup At the turn off I briefly split from the group to reduce some weight (I blame the coffee), thinking the road beyond would be empty. Nowhere to duck into the bushes, so the road side it’ll have to be. Just getting down to business, when a council truck with 2 blokes turns up, checking for slips & culvert damage. Doh! How embarrassing. Good job I had my shovel. No Freedom Campers here...(over sharing, much? I blame the drugs). Bassman1 The Maungatapu Track has been closed to 4WDs for some time now. Small, unladen solos can still squeeze thru the 2 gates – otherwise you need to get the gate key from Nelson CC. This needs to be collected in person, & a $100 bond paid. The key allows for a group of up to 10 vehicles. There are only 3 keys, so it limits the numbers of heavier vehicles on the track. Jatz did this for us, & then found out he couldn’t join us on the day, which was an arse. But thank you so much for your efforts there James. I led through the beginning of the Maungatapu track. My memories of the track (from riding this on a solo 2015 trip) were that it was an easy ‘farm’ track, with a good base. But we were coming from the other direction, & of course sidecars have two wheel tracks, not one. That can be an advantage, in that we can straddle ruts, but at other times... Getting traction & keeping momentum are the key. Ken, being very tidy Parts of the track are quite steep & loose, & towards the top of one difficult section (not far from the summit) I stopped to take some photographs of the group coming thru. Unfortunately I hadn’t thought about what messages that might send to those behind me – there is a camera; this must be a tough section; it may make a better photo if I fall off; here’s a great opportunity to show how it can all go wrong. Norbert, exploring the limits of traction Ed, creating a team building opportunity. Damned decent of him, wouldn't you say? At the time we’d initially planned this trip, we were all taking solos. Then I decided I’d take the sidecar, & the group was going to split into solos & sidecars, with sidecars taking the road route. I’d decided that I could muscle the sidecar thru the track, & suddenly we were all going to do it. So there’d been no assessments as to the relative capabilities of the bikes & riders. Unfortunately the track became a steep learning curve for a couple of riders. Regroup just after that section, & then again at the summit. We needed to complete some running repairs on Norbert’s rig. The track had snapped the bottom rear clevis. We re-situated the threaded portion, & that was enough to allow us to continue on. There was a further uphill loose section on from there, where MD needed a couple of goes to get up. Good job I didn’t immediately follow him. If the back end breaks traction, the inertia of the tub will rotate the tug around it. It was interesting watching his 2nd attempt, with the handlebars going from lock to lock during the climb, but having no impact on the direction of the rig. That was more controlled by throttle. Of course it was now very wet, & I’d not yet pulled on my wets. Too late, because I was soaked. Off to find Nelson CC to drop off the key (that was a mission in itself), then gas up & off to Zoom for coffee & a donut for lunch. The objective for the afternoon was to get to the Triobilite Hut in the Cobb Valley. But not by main roads. So after the motorways to Richmond, MD led. Just by chance, we passed the Moutere Inn. Be rude not to pop into the oldest continuous ‘on license’ in NZ. Shared space with some older cyclists sheltering from the rain. We won’t talk about the electric assists on their bikes... Bill, in front of Moutere Inn. Over the Takaka Hill, still suffering from the impact of a storm from a few years ago. There is an up to 20 min wait to allow one way traffic thru. Fortunately the Hyundai driver let us all thru 1st. And was very patient when the rain & low cloud meant visibility was non existent. Ed seemed resistant to adopting the patented Box’a’bits method of braille driving in these conditions. I stopped just before the descent to Golden Bay, to admire the view (there was none) & to let Ed go ahead. Regroup at the base of the hill, & head towards Cobb Valley. I have to admit it’d been a long day, & I was looking forward to getting to the Hut. The concern was whether the Hut was occupied. Andy Very scenic ride, which I didn’t fully appreciate until the next day. I do know that there were some filling removing corrugations, & I looked at the sidecar mudguard several times to see if that was still attached (it broke in similar corrugations last trip). There is a long steepish section after the Cobb power station to climb over, & then you hit the Cobb Valley. Regroup at the summit. I was tail end charlie, & my GPS route had a section going over the Dam, & along the opposite bank. I can report that was as rough as part of the Maungatapu track, & it ends at a carpark for another walking track. I was a bit surprised to see a Toyota Echo there. Rental? Then back on the main road, which seemed fairly aggressively potholed. Getting towards the end of the Cobb Dam reservoir, I could see some smoke from the Triobilite hut, & when pulling into the car park I could see there were already a couple of cars there. Uh-oh. Fortunately the occupants appeared to be long gone, & we (as a group) had the hut to ourselves.