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.
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.
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.
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.
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. We 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. The 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.
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.