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Monthly Archives: March 2017

New Zealand, West Coast, South Island

We headed across to the western side of the island to Te Anau after our visit to Cathedral Caverns.  The ride across is about 250kms and is easy riding with beautiful views of pastureland and golden fields with views of the mountains and glaciers of Fiordland National Park in the distance.  Arriving to town on Lake Te Anau we search for a campsite with views of the deep blue Fiord-like lake that is 2-3kms wide by about 60kms long.  The Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels fits the bill with campsite with good views and a shared kitchen and common area.

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View of the BMW 1150GS near Milford Sound

While we are cooking dinner, we see some kids cooking homemade bread, not a common site.  We start talking with them to discover they are friends with the son of a friend of ours in Heidelberg, Germany, where we store a motorcycle.  The previous summer we were in Germany during a birthday party for the son and these friends were at the birthday party. Small world.

After a great night sleep, we rode out the end of the road at on Milford Sound.  Milford Sound is part of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage site, a top tourist destination and described by Rudyard Kipling as the eighth Wonder of the World.  With a mean annual rainfall of 6,412 mm (252 in) each year, a high level even for the West Coast, Milford Sound is known as the wettest inhabited place in New Zealand and one of the wettest in the world.

The stunningly scenic drive to Milford Sound itself passes through unspoiled mountain landscapes before entering the 1.2 km Homer Tunnel which emerges into rain-forest-carpeted canyons that descend to the sound.  The Kea New Zealand Parrot, the world’s only alpine parrot, is native to this area and this curious birds notoriety stems from its appetite for the rubber around the windows of vehicles.  Mitre Peak is located on the shore of Milford Sound and is one of the most photographed peaks in the country.  The mountain rises near vertically to 5,560 feet (1,690 m), i.e. just over a mile, from the water of the sound.  A light rain accompanied us with creating a mystical, magical feel to the views across the sound.

By the time returned to Te Anau the skies had cleared a bit, so we took a boat ride across the lake to take a tour of the Glow Worm caves in the area.   The 12,000-year-old subterranean caves are a twisting network of limestone passages filled with sculpted rock, whirlpools and a roaring underground waterfall.  You are taken by boat deep inside the caves to a hidden grotto inhabited by thousands of glowworms that produce an extraordinary glittering display.  Photos weren’t allowed but try and picture thousands of tiny stars within touching distance in total darkness.

The next day the skies were a perfect blue for our ride to Queenstown along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy for lunch at the Glenorchy Café with outdoor seating with the sun warming our bones.  After lunch, we rode back down along the lake shore catching views of the TSS Earnslaw, a 104-year-old steamship taking tourists on cruises of the lake.  Leaving Queenstown, we saw a sign pointing to a bridge and took a quick detour to a cool suspension bridge, the Southern Discoveries Bridge.

Out of Arrowtown we rode the Crown Range Road a few kilometers down the road and stopped at the Cardrona Hotel for a look and a drink.  The Cardrona Hotel was built in 1863, during the gold rush, and is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most iconic hotels and is said to be the most photographed pub in New Zealand.  Inside the brass adorned historic pub they served homemade Sangria which you could sip in the flowered courtyard next to a fire in the old stone fireplace. Unfortunately, we had to keep moving so couldn’t enjoy more than one drink.  We found a great secluded camping spot for the night up above and overlooking Lake Wanaka, very breezy but great spot.

Waking early and headed to the coast down a twisting empty road with wonderful tarmac over Haast Pass.  About midway down the mountain we came across the Blue Pools. The walk down a gravel path winds through a native silver beech forest and leads to a swing bridge strung high above the Makarora River.  The glacier-fed water in these deep pools is the color of deep azure blue, and so clear that you can see right to the bottom.

We turned south from the Blue Pools to Jackson Bay, the end of the road heading south.  The scenery was bland and it was fairly windy, so around we turned north and followed the coastline looking forward to getting to our next stop in Franz Josef Glacier, the YHA Franz Josef Glacier Backpackers hostel.  This was a gem of a place with relaxed rainforest lodging, a hot tub, a bar and an outdoor communal eating area with picnic tables seating about 80 people.  It was pizza night so everyone joined around the tables and shared whatever pizza was placed on your table, as many as you could eat. Our table was represented by 5 different nations and conversation was lively and interesting for the couple hours we sat there.  An enormous fireplace was behind us providing the outdoor covered area a great ambiance.

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Greg at Franz Josef

The views were incredible with glimpses of the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Fox and Franz Josef Glacier to the east.  The Fox Glacier is about 13kms long, falling 2600 meters and is one of the only glaciers in the world to end among lush rainforest only 300 meters above sea level. The advancement of the Fox Glacier stopped in 2006 and it has significantly retreated since that time.

Cheers

2WANDRRs

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Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | 2 Comments

Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan border is complex, to say the least.  As we near the border we see the “helpers” milling about watching our arrival, then circling in for the kill.  It all starts off innocent enough.  They start helping you figure where to stop first.  We are trying to politely tell them “no gracias”, but they just continue to help, even if it’s not necessary.  This border between Honduras and Nicaragua is the most unorganized crossing I have ever been through.  Nothing is marked or in any kind of order.  One of the policeman needed for Gypsy’s paperwork was sitting in a chair in the parking lot.  The helpers work quickly trying to help you through the maze of places to visit and deal with each step, and helping you to part with your money.  Having a trailer being pulled by a motorcycle without a tag or registration, it’s homemade and has never been tagged or registered, threw a wrench into the system, something you don’t want to do at this crossing.  The day was clear with blue skies overhead and a gentle breeze moving the 40°C air and diesel exhaust fumes throughout the area and the buildings.  We had arrived by 8am and we finally left the area after 4 ½ hours of this running from building to building, handing over fistfuls of money for the “business”.  At one point as we were discussing Gypsy I said it the officials, “Just f%@k it, I’m going back to Honduras”.  Melanie calmed me down and kept me focused, as she has ulterior motives, which will be in the next chapter.

Our Nico stamp was for 30 days but we zipped through the country.  We stayed a night in Leon then headed for Parque Nacional Volcán Masaya, an active volcano southwest of Managua.  We rode to the top of the crater on our motorcycle and were told to back into the parking space to enable us to make a hasty escape if the need arose.  Hummm, OK.

The smell of sulfur filled the air as we neared the edge of the crater. Looking over the edge you could see smoke billowing out as the fiery molten lava below bubbled and crackled noisily below us.  The clouds of steam cleared occasionally giving us views of the lava which was quite the site.  To the left of us was a trial that would go to the upper observation area, but it was closed due to the increased activity of the volcano.

The next day we headed toward the island of Ometepe, in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. We wanted to spend a couple days there as the views are dominated by two large volcanoes. The island is the combination of two volcanoes, one on each of two connected land masses.  The winds are quite strong when we arrive forcing the ferries to stop running with a full schedule for a couple days.  We find a hostel near the water for the night and head to the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border the next day.  Same confusion and frustration at this border also but not as expensive. All total it cost me almost US$400 to get through Nicaragua with my motorcycle, pulling a trailer and with our dog, and 7 hours of my life. Not worth it, but had to get through it.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Horizons Unlimited, motorcycle travel, Nicaragua, Triumph, Volcanoes | Leave a comment

New Zealand, South Island

Sometimes you just get lucky to be able to ride in locations that you have only dreamed of. That was the way we felt when the opportunity to ride in New Zealand came our way. While we were riding around Europe, the bike trade we had arranged fell apart. Since our airline tickets were already purchased for a month of riding, we needed a bike to ride and rentals were so expensive that option was out of the question. We posted on several online forums and a man from the North Island came forward and had a bike available for us to ride. Unbelievable, because of people with huge hearts, it was going to work out. Thanks, Lindsay.dscf1932

Our flight through Fiji was flawless and an easy flight, although so long. I had been having many issues with my back and wasn’t sure how I would be riding the motorcycle for a month. As it turns out I can be in a riding position way longer than sitting or being in a car. We had rented an old beater car for a month for less money than the flight out of Christchurch to our destination in Dunedin and back.

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Christchurch 

Getting the car, we take our time getting out of Christchurch checking out all the damage from the 2010 devastating earthquake. Many buildings in the downtown area are being rebuilt but many more still sit empty as a reminder of the recent destruction. We approach the cathedral and look upon half a building. The Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament was closed after the 4 September 2010 Canterbury earthquake. The February 2011 Christchurch earthquake collapsed the two bell towers at the front of the building and destabilised the dome. The dome was removed and the rear of the Cathedral was demolished, some broken pieces of wall being supported by scaffolding as if begging to be rebuilt. There is a chain fence partitioning the entire property from the curious crowds. Pictures and memorials dot the square in front sharing the space with vendors. The destruction in the city was so widespread the insurance money and government assistance has run out. Chinese investors have now come in and are buying entire blocks of damaged, empty buildings for pennies and are putting the city back together, but at a price to the city.

Driving down the road south of Christchurch we are amazed at all the cows grazing in the fields. It seems the sheep are being replaced by cattle and the tall wind-breaking shrubs being removed for larger fields. Most of the meat and by-products are being taken to feed the growing population of China. They are having their problems also.

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We stop part way down for the night at a wonderful little Airbnb in Ashburton, the Home Away from Home, and the owner is a wonderful lady, Annemarie, and we stay up into the night drinking red wine and getting to know each other.

The next day driving toward Dunedin we pass the Steampunk Headquarters in Oamaru with large interesting displays set up on the property.

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Steampunk Headquarters

After a quick stretch and walkabout, we stop next at the Moeraki Boulders on the beach. From Wikipedia, ‘The Moeraki Boulders are unusually large and spherical boulders lying along a stretch of Koekohe Beach on the wave-cut Otago coast of New Zealand between Moeraki and Hampden. They occur scattered either as isolated or clusters of boulders within a stretch of beach where they have been protected in a scientific reserve.’ We head to the beach in amazement and climb all over the various boulders and capture a few memorable photos.

 

Further down the coast there is a seal colony on the beach and we check them out and enjoy the relative isolation of the beach.

Looking both ways all you can see are seals and white sand beaches void of humans. The town of Oamaru is home to a Blue Penguin Colony that makes their appearance at sunset after a day in the South Pacific hunting for food. We will come back here once we have the bike to camp and check these little guys out.

Arriving at the cute little town of Lawrence we are stoked to pick up our GS 1150. Lawrence is unique in the city provides free internet to the town, residents and visitors alike. We stop by Jean’s house where Lindsay and his friend and riding buddy, Klaus, are staying. We have tea and a great visit, super people. Headed out of town we take a back-loop road that has a little cable pulled ferry, the Tuapeka Mouth Ferry, for a shortcut back to the coast. dscf1905We pull up and realize the ferry is closed for the day so we must take the long way to the coast. Our stop for the night is a campground at the Whistling Frog Bar and Grill. On the way there we pass a cool curio shop called the Lost Gypsy, so appropriate, don’t you think?

After stopping and setting up camp, we headed about 30 kms down the road to Curio Bay to a Yellow-Eyed Penguin colony. dscn4075The Yellow-Eyed Penguin is native to southern New Zealand, can live up to 20 years and measures 62–79 cm (24–31 in) long (fourth largest penguin). Weights vary through the year being greatest, 5.5 to 8 kg (12–18 lbs). We are told that the colony is significantly smaller this year believed due to a recent change in the water temperatures in the Southern Pacific. There were only a couple pairs of the penguins on the rocks while we were there. A conservationist was also there keeping the tourists from wandering too close to the penguins and was full of information and loved sharing her knowledge with us. The shoreline and cliffs had a volcanic feel to them and for the most part the penguins just posed for pictures and ignored the few people there.

The following day we continued south to Slope Point, the southernmost point on the South Island of New Zealand.

There was a sign marking the spot in the middle of a sheep pasture on the chilly, blustery coast. Next on the way to Invercargill was a signpost making the distances to various places in the world. Seems I am always drawn to these type signposts, there is one right behind me as I type this at Angel Valley in Costa Rica.dscn4100

The next stop is at the home of the “World’s Fastest Indian”, a movie depicting the life of Bert Munro. Burt Munro was a native-born Kiwi with a desire to set the land speed record on a motorcycle. The bike he used was a 1920 Indian Scout ‘Burt Munro Special’ — the 1920 Indian Scout portrayed in the film started life as a 600cc motorcycle with a designed top speed of 55 mph. Munro’s streamlined record-setter was substantially modified; with capacity being increased to 950cc, and a recorded world record speed of 201.851 mph (324.847 km/h). His record setting motorcycle and a large assortment of beautiful motorcycles are on display at the E. Hay & Sons hardware store in Invercargill.

We headed back to Curio Bay to camp for the night on the bluff overlooking Porpoise Bay, known for the small Hector dolphin that like to interact with people in knee deep water in this crescent shaped bay with beautiful white sandy beaches. There is a rocky outcropping separating the bay from the nesting area of the Yellow-eyed Penguins.

The Hector dolphin don’t disappoint that evening and in the morning, we wake up to find a pair of Yellow-Eyed Penguins walking down the beach just in front of our tent. We watch in amazement as the sun rises giving us a beautiful sunrise to boot. Trying to get a picture our movement startles them and they disappear into the ocean. Some pictures must just be kept in your heart and mind.

The next morning we hiked down to Cathedral Caves. The Cathedral Caves are one of the thirty longest sea caves in the world, located on Waipati Beach. To get to these caves you must walk into the water, timing the incoming waves in a way so you don’t get smashed into the rocks you are trying to maneuver around. The two main cave systems join together within the cliff and one has a 30 metres (98 ft) high ceiling. Once around the rocks you are treated to incredible views looking out of the caves toward the ocean.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

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