New Zealand Motorcycle Adventure in prose
By Paula Keezer (copyright 2004)
Two passes across the center of the South Island
Via ducts and rock tunnels with water and rocks spilling from the mountains into the upper Otira gorge. Twisties demand much attention as Tiger paws grip the wet chip seal surface.
The Western born weather stirs the Tasman sea into a white froth that constantly beats the West coast. Hokitika is one of the few sunny spots and is home to a rich artists community. Pounamu (greenstone or jade) is carved here. Hokitika glass is blown here. I spent way to much money here!
Hokitika behind and the Glaciers ahead with a stop at Hari Hari to ward off the increasingly wet air.
Pouring as I pass the Okarito road where I hope to stop for the evening to unload. On to Franz Josef for supplies and a quick walk through the valley to the glacier rise. Soaked on return, I get to Okarito and the Strand where I pull my gear off and look like a wet rat.
The sun pours in and Fox Glacier glistens as I make my way to the southern most port on the West coast. Jackson bay with a population of 30 is as far south as one can go. I back track to a Neils beach campsite. Here I settle in with a beach wood campfire, and a new moon evening of sand flies and sky.
Facing south I waited patiently for the Milky way. The south became bright but not from the galaxies light. No way, I say, there is nothing between here and South Africa! Then the sky reveals itself as the white turns into shimmering curtains of light flashing impulsively 30 degrees into the sky. The Southern lights bespeckle the southern sky!
The next day I jet boat away up the Waiatoto river through rushing rapids into the southern alps. On return, we watch white bait fishermen net a paltry catch of transparent 5 centimeter fish, a delicacy to the Kiwi.
Half a day gone by I traverse Hasst Pass and stop at welcoming Wanaka, a miniature Queenstown without the Disney feel.
The next day, an obligatory trip to Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand and Australia at 3754 meters. A walk to Kea Point and gander at more glaciers (Tasman and Aoraki) then off to some well deserved dirt.
A fifty klick metal road beckons as I make my way through paved Burkes pass then gravel Mackenzie’s pass where the FreeBooter Machenzie was caught and escaped on the very same night (an old, barely readable monument stands in record of this event).
GPS in hand, the road I want is marked “no way man”. I was warned that it may be closed as a new Landlord may not allow passage. On to Haldon and Lake Benmore where a dead end turns me around and back over Machenzies pass 100 klicks later. To Timaru, a poor service town on the east coast.
A one night stay and I’m on my way with some local knowledge provided about another unmarked gravel pass. Fourty klicks of gated road, Meyers pass is a public way where only sheep and cattle have gone for many a day. Several Fords and a stone arch bridge with lots of gravel switchbacks and no tire tracks. Lose it here and I’ll be waiting quite a while!
On to Kurow and local knowledge about my next pass. Danseys pass, a way to Kyeburn Diggings and one of the oldest hotels in NZ. A low ceiling flat rock built dwelling with earnest creations from a bygone gold rush ere stands on this lonely road. The pass itself is spectacular with several rise and fall traverses of switch backs and single lane roads, water falls, grottos and sheep. Patches of forest are dwarfed by green fields. Did I mention sheep?
Out of Kyeburn diggings and into Naseby where the lines of polished bikers go no further. My sheep shit mud encrusted dust covered tiger makes its way through spit polished Harleys where the tar seal begins once again and tourists flood this tiny old gold mining community.
Queenstown is in site as I pass through Kawarau Gorge. A backpackers for one night and off to an adventure on the old lake locked ship the TSS ERNSWELL where I tuck my Tiger between some posts on this passenger only open crankshaft steamer.
The captian drops me off at Walter Peak Station where I make my 100 klick way along old sparsly traveled gravel roads through winding green and gravel river valleys and dusty rock strewn ridges. Streams cross the road with gravel bottoms hinting at traveled tracks. The first traverse I cross with Tiger and flying colors. Stopping, I do a dance by an abandoned farm hut amongst 200 year old planted Eucalyptus.
The streams become rivers and a 30 meter crossing stops my progress. There is only one way out of here but the melting snows in the bright sun and the previous day’s wet weather have swelled this crossing.
The first ten meters look shallow and sandy gravel, much like the road surface, then three meters of fast moving water 25 centimeters deep. Bowling ball size rocks seem to be the only think lining the bottom. The last 26 meters or so is also shallow and slow moving with a dry island of gravel road in the middle.
“No Way” I say, “I’m packing my stuff across before I take the tiger and risk a toss” So off go the Givi and dry bag and tent and maps. Tiger looks naked as we both stare across this abyss. “okay, its time to pass, remember the mantra, give it some gas”. Through the shallows into the deep. Front wheel wobbles and grips as I take a route along the last tire track. A little bit of a bog down and I hit the juice. The rear wheel breaks away and the swift current makes its play, Down Tiger goes with a splash as I step aside and quiet the gas.
With some twisting and turning and the water churning, Tiger is in the opposite shallow no more then one meter from the island. Gripping the crash bars and givi rack I dig my feet into the gravel and push Tiger up to 45 degrees. All I need is one little step with one foot, I think, as the gravel beneath my feet slips. One final gasp and a new gravel foot hold pushes the Tiger upright. With deliberate motions I prepare the Tiger for a motorized walk to that beautiful dry patch of road.