Another Rusty Ride done and dusted, this time the Southern Cross Road Rally, touted as the longest Rally in the Southern Hemisphere….that is, until they hold the 10,000Kms in 10 days next year.
This ride is held every two years and I’ve wanted to do for awhile but haven’t been able to and I put off entering this year due to the cost, but when Ann won $1,000 BP Gift Voucher and I only needed to buy accommodation for 3 of the 8 days….well I had no choice.
Preparations were made, gear assembled, route options planned and discussed with my riding buddy, Steve, accommodation and ferry sailings booked, ….waiting…..waiting…..bike cleaned and packed the day before and we were off.
DAY 1 – 22/03/09 – Wellington to Tokomaru Bay:
The day dawned overcast and cool at 12°, but I was up and away from home before 0900 to meet Steve at his place in Trentham. By the time I got there it was starting to drizzle and he had gone to fill-up, as he obviously had itchy feet waiting, then he required a nice cup of tea to settle himself down. We donned our ‘wets’ and hit the road for Caltex Rimutaka for my fill, finally leaving Wellington at 1005 and due to the rain and late start, we decided to leave out our foray up Route 52, instead opting for SH’s 2 & 50 to Napier. Steve led out and fortunately we took it very slowly over the Rimutakas, because there were a couple of patches where I could actually smell the diesel on the road it was so bad. However, we weren’t far into the Wairarapa before the weather had cleared and we eventually had to stop South of Woodville to get the ‘wets’ off as the sun was out and the temp was steadily climbing. At this point we took a wee diversion through Bluff Road, Hopelands & Jackson’s Rds to emerge again at Oringi. From there it was up SH50 and lunch in Fernhill before stopping for gas at Bay View.
My economy gauge was telling me that the ride so far was very tame (at 19.9 k/Ltr) but we were about to embark on some of the best roads the North Island has to offer, as I led out and endeavoured to ride on ‘the pace’, maintaining our favoured touring speed at between 110 & 120. The Napier – Wairoa road, as always, lived up to expectations and we were soon fueling in Gisborne, which would get me all the way round to Opotiki (or Rotorua if I needed to). From Gisborne it was a short hop up to our cabin in Tokomaru Bay, just stopping briefly for a photo op’ in Tologa Bay. We arrived a 1755, just before they closed, settled in, then went down to the pub for dinner where we met up with Malcolm, Max, Mike and a couple of other riders who were also on the Rally. A pleasant meal and evening was had before retiring for the night.
645 Kms for the day at 19.5 K/Ltr Total Kms: 645.0
DAY 2 / Leg 1 – 23/03/09 – Tokomaru Bay - East Cape - ?:
Leading up to the trip I had been monitoring my tyres and tried to get a new Storm for the front but they wouldn’t be available until late April. The tyre only had 12K on it and should have lasted the trip, or at least half of it, and as it was a mid-week ride I left it on. Bad Move! We got to Tokomaru Bay and it was down to the marker strips on the left hand side, so I decided I needed to find a new one. I contacted Ann to get me Bike Shop phone numbers for Rotorua, Hawera and New Plymouth, then started ringing around Rotorua……no luck, much stress, but one guy suggested that I might get one in Tauranga and fortunately, Smiths in Durham Street had a Metzler Z6.
After discussing it with Steve, we decided he would stick to the planned route from East Cape to Hawera via Rotorua, the Western Side of Lake Taupo and the Paraparas, but I would scoot up to Tauranga, then decide what to do and we would meet up in the morning.
Steve topped up at Tokomaru Bay and we headed for the cape in wets and steady drizzle, pootling along to conserve fuel as there was plenty of time. There were heaps of bikes at Te Araroa, so we loitered there for a bit then casually made our way along the gravel out to the Cape, arriving about 1030 in the hope that the Rustys might start us off early, but no such luck, so once again we just chilled out and ‘chewed the fat’ and fortunately the rain had cleared.
I had told the chap in Tauranga that I would be there about 1600, so when the briefing/greeting was done and the books opened, I managed to sign in quick and get away in the first 30 odd. I sat in behind another chap and we managed to pass many of these riders along the gravel and once I got to Te Araroa I upped the pace, passing a few more on the wet roads until I was in front with just one or two riders following. I was trying to ride as quickly as possible but at the same time going easy on the tyres, so the guy behind me must have thought I was a bit off my game with the wide lines but I was soon stripping the wets off in Opotoki and gassing up.
The sun was now out and the temp climbing to 20° as I made my way around to Tane Atua, then up the coast. I choose not to have a Radar Detector but at times like this, it would have come in handy as I tried to keep the speed under 115kph, and despite lots of major roadworks, I finally got to 153 Durham Street at 1605….whew!!! ….and my front was now buggered. The guys at Smiths – Motorcycle Mad were great and they had me back on my way at 1700, scrubbing in my nice new tyre along SH29. That was done by the time I got to the Kaimai’s and the traffic was keeping a nice pace at around 120kph, but that was when I got my next wake-up call. Riding with my visor up near dusk was inviting the largest bumble bee in the province to take me on and I watched him zoom toward my screen at a closing speed of around 130, then at the last minute, shoot over the top and onto my left temple…..Bastard, he got his just deserts as the last thing that went through his mind was his arsehole…but man did it hurt. He stung me a beauty and my eyes were watering.
I made great time through Cambridge and Kihikihi and with the sun getting very low, I decided to make another convenient stop for fuel and food at Te Kuiti. I was surprised when I got to the BP to see about 20+ bikes around the pumps and café because although my diversion didn’t add much in the way of Kms, I had been at the bike shop for about an hour. I filled, then joined Richard & Malcolm for a snack before hitting another of the North Islands special roads, the Awakino Gorge.
Richard and Malcolm happened to depart just after me and seemed happy with the pace as they tagged along, enjoying my first ‘pucker’ moment of the tour. I was South of Piopio, exiting a left hander at 120 and as the road dropped away down a ½ Km decline, I noticed that the whole surface from side to side and the full length of the hill was unrolled gravel. With what seemed little more than 10 metres notice, I was still leaning and angling out of the corner, so I stood it up, hit the picks and entered at an angle still doing about 110. As soon as I hit the gravel I let the ST have it’s way, swimming about on it’s big radials, but as more speed washed off, it became easier to manage and, as I was on the right side of the road and there were three riders ahead of me about half way down, I just stayed on that side of the road and eased it down, catching the last of the other group at the bottom.
That little moment over, I decided it would be nicer to get ahead of these guys (and guyess) before the gorge so I did that and pressed on. The Awakino gorge is in great condition at the moment and the best part of all this is I would get to do it again the next day….in daylight. Malcolm was stopping the night in Mokau, but Richard stuck with me through to Bell Block at 1005, where I would now stay the night after changing from sister-in-law in Hawera to niece here.
751 Kms for the day at 17.3 K/Ltr Total Kms: 1,396.7
DAY 3 / Leg 2 – 24/03/09 – Bell Block - Cape Egmont - Awanui:
I had a great nights sleep, not requiring my MP3 as I couldn’t hear Steve snoring from his pad in Hawera. I got up about 0800, packed, puttered around New Plymouth, filled at Spotswood, then headed out to the Cape with a wee diversion around one of the bays after a recommendation from a chap at the Service Station.
Once again it was a matter of killing time until we were released so I took a couple of pix and chatted. Once again, we were away reasonably early, following the Bandits and Meanie out in a group of a dozen bikes. It was slow getting through New Plymouth and about Urenui, Steve finally led us past Andrew to lead me over Mount Messenger and the Gorge…..which was Bloody Marvelous.
After that we were passed by a Z14, two ‘Busas & a Blackbird, doing up to 140, so we latched on and let them drag us through to Otorohanga for our first fuel stop and snack. We filled and the forecourt was soon packed with bikes as more arrived. Then it was back on the road at a more sedate pace, catching and following a Beemer boy (on 1XENA) to Huntly, where we caught Malcolm and Mike at the lights and I took the lead by scooting to the front of the queue. From here it was all expressway, and we eased through the traffic, getting to the motorway at 1630, just in time for peak hour, and as the traffic thickened, I found myself riding alone, so while heading over the north Shore, I sat with the traffic until Steve caught up and we were soon in Whangarei (1820hrs) for our next fuel and dinner stop, to await the sun set.
We filled and headed down the road for a feed, but it was too dear, so we kept going, looking for an open café and in the end, decided Kawakawa would be the best option. At this point we were caught again by the Busa Group so, once again, we latched on until we reached our feed bag, which turned out to be a ‘mighty’ burger (about 10 cm tall and requiring a flip-top head to eat), followed by a visit to the world-famous-in-Kawakawa Bottle toilets.
Back on the road again with Steve leading and we were heading for ‘pucker’ moment number 2. This was similar to the night before, but on this occasion, Steve had his lights on dip and we entered on a straight tack, but once again it was a long, unrolled section of big round rocks and the ST was swimming on it, taking me any which way. ie across to the right side of the road. I managed to get back in my track when Steve started to wander and braked as cars started to rise toward us from the other direction, but there was no way I was touching my brakes so I sailed past, venting a few expletives into my helmet, in thanks to the dickheads that left this mess.
I was now leading as we came upon our next ‘sweet’ strip of macadam….the Mangamuka Gorge….Tena Choice!!! I hit my straps and had a blast, catching the 1XENA Beemer Boy about half way through, following 4 cars at a crawl. With plenty of Rimutaka tight-passing experience and the Beemer letting me through, I was soon gone and let out a whoop as I exited the last vestige of this joyous road then slowed to between 80 & 100 for Steve to catch-up. We were soon filling in Kaitaia, then onto our digs, 15 Km up the road at the Top 10 Holday Park in Waipapakauri Beach (the entrance to 90 mile beach).
We had advised the owners that we would be late, so they left our key in the door and a note on the reception window. We found our cabin and as we were settling in, the Bandit Boys turned up, but they weren’t so lucky and fortunately, we had a set of bunks spare so they joined us….which allowed Steve and Andrew to harmonise, so the MP3 was back in service.
795 Kms for the day at 17.9 K/Ltr Total Kms: 2,206.0
DAY 4 / Leg 3 – 25/03/09 – Awanui - Cape Reinga - Wellington:
This was our big day out and the plan was to try to get to Wellington between 0100 & 0200 the next morning. I arose about 0700, cleaned up and tried to notify the owners about our squatters, but they were shut when we departed at 0815, to meet with Meanie in Houhora. I had checked my tyres and the front was down 5psi to 37, with the back down 2 at 40. The boys advised that Meanie had a compressor so after a pleasant pootle through the Far North countryside in a less than pleasant 8°, we were soon stopped and I felt much better getting the pressures up as the ST eats soft tyres. We decided to stay there for a big breakfast with IanF, who popped an effortless wheelie as he departed on his ST, and by the time we were ready to move on, the temp was up to 18° and rising.
The road into the Cape was as dusty as, so I dropped back to preserve my air cleaner and future economy, and we were among the first to arrive, so had another long but pleasant wait as the Rustys weren’t into early releases. I discussed with Steve that I wanted a quick departure to avoid the dust melee that would no doubt ensue and fortunately, we were among the first away. I passed Steve and a couple of others, as well as a few cars and campers and soon had the road to myself. I avoid gravel on the ST but if I have to ride it I do and I was soon flying away from the Cape at 80 - 100 kph and had a blast.
Once Steve was with me, we settled into a 120 pace to head for our first fuel stop at Kawakawa. I had another nice fang through the Mangamuk’s, and as Steve led us toward Kawakawa, we came upon a 5 metre long strip of roadworks, right across the road. I decided to get out of Steve’s track and headed across to the right side of the road without slowing, but as I entered the gravel, I noted the exit presented a three inch step and I had time to think…”Bugger”!! I hit it at 120 and it felt like both tyres flattened onto the rims and the jolt was so violent that my right hang mirror cover, flew off, snapping the safety-strap in the process and thumping it to the ground. I had to stop for it and was relieved that the good tyres hadn’t blown, stuck the cover back on and carried onto Kawakawa, (1413hrs) where we fueled, snacked and taped the cover up to ensure it didn’t stray again.
After departing, we hooked in with a couple of Beemer boys, who dragged us through to around Warkworth before getting ahead through the traffic. We weren’t too far behind them when we got to the motorway at 1645 and ended up passing them before Spaghetti Junction (where I might note that even I got stopped twice by impenetrable traffic). We were soon out the other side, where I filtered past a cop in a most seemly manner, and down the expressway to Ngaruawahia for our next fuel stop. I had lost Steve again but he pulled in just as I was stopping at the pump and it was 1755. We were going great.
From here I led out toward Otorohanga, turning off at Pirongia to go via Te Awamutu, Kihikihi, Whakamaru and down the Western Access (SH32). It was a few Kms longer than via Te Kuiti – Taumaranui – National Park, but we figured it was a different road to try, less traffic, less revenue collectors and therefore quicker…..and this proved to be the case. I had forgotten how delightful Waipapa road is as it winds around the Mangakino Dam and we were able to sit on 140 virtually all the way from Ngaruawahia to Turangi. What a blast! The road also led us away from the sun-strike as it was setting, but with that came a big slump in the temp and we had to pause at Whakamaru for an extra layer, then after Steve leading, we paused at Turangi for him to clear the bugs off his visor.
The desert road was a bit of a mess with large square sections about 2 inches deep, removed but we were soon filling in Waiouru (2108hrs) because the pace meant that Steve’s ‘Busa might not make Taihape (I was down to 16.3K/Ltr for this leg). From there it was straight down one and I finally pulled into home at 2352 after an awesome day in the saddle. (1100Kms in 11¾ hours)
1,202 Kms for the day at 18.4 K/Ltr Total Kms: 3,392.9
DAY 5 / Leg 4 – 26/03/09 – Wellington - Picton - Christchurch:
I had packed two lots of gear for the trip, with sleeping bag, wets, liners and spare gloves in one pannier and clothing etc in the other. (Camera and travel docs etc in the top-box). When I got home I swapped North Island maps for South, threw in the strops for the ferry. Took the clothing pannier up to the bedroom, threw out the dirty washing and put in the clean gear I had packed in a shopping bag. I was all ready to go.
The next morning, rather than clean the bike, I headed over to Boyles to secure the mirror cover. We replaced the tie-wrap, tightened the spring grips and packed out the bottom one as it appeared to be short on reach to secure properly. This done, I headed down for the 1025 ferry to meet Steve and the Beemer boys we had followed the day before (Kevin & Tommo I think).
After a pleasant sailing we got to Blenheim for a fill at 1410 and hit the road for Christchurch, following a couple on a Goldwing. About half way along the coast to Kaikoura, we passed them stopping for a coffee in Kaikoura before continuing. The trip up the rest of the coast and over the Hunderlees was rather droll with the reduced speed limits, and we finally got to Christchurch, filling in Hornby at 1802, before grabbing a couple of wines and heading out to my mate’s place at Lincoln for the night, where we had a great meal and relaxing evening.
365 Kms for the day at 18.5 K/Ltr Total Kms: 3,758
DAY 6 & 7 / Leg 4 – 27/03/09 – Christchurch - Catlins – Invercargill - Bluff:
Another easyish day, we got away from Christchurch at 0836 with the temp at 11°. The plan was to latch on to the fastest car, but there was too much traffic so we hovered around the 120 mark and made our boring way to Timaru, where we had morning tea. I tried to keep myself amused by calculating our distance over time every 15 minutes and we paused at Palmerston when Steve went on reserve, but we decided to carry on so he slipped in behind me and I reduced the pace to 110 to ease him through. Even at that speed, we caught a bunch of Harley riders on the Kilmogs, and followed them into Dunedin, where Steve commented, “Why would you want to ride with those guys”? I must admit, they were even holding-up the cars. We gassed, then carried on to Balclutha where we stopped for another drink before attacking the Catlins…..Yeah right, that was definitely not to be the case.
By this time, it wasn’t raining, but the roads were wet, so we took it easy. The roads also had slick tracks on them so I was opting to ride the hump and about 20 Km in, just before we got to Owaka, I had my major scare for the trip.
We were only doing about 110 and caught up to a ute on a long straight, so I decided to pass. As I eased off the hump, for no apparent reason, the bike suddenly started lurching violently from side to side as the back wheel raced from side to side on the slippery seal. The gyroscopic forces from this caused the whole bike to rock from side to side and the front wheel to go into a tank slap. There were 4 or 5 slaps before it settled….then it did it again…..and again ….and again. I was in full ‘pucker’ as I readied to kiss my sorry arse goodbye (each time) and remember thinking, ‘Oh No, this is it”! but miraculously I managed to stay upright. I’m sure that effort used up another two Guardian Angels, not mention my ‘Dear Old Dad’ and a raft of other ancestors and I raised my eyes skyward in thanks. I then stood on the pegs and made a show for Steve of shaking the shit out of each trouser leg and a Km up the road, I had to stop because I was feeling the effects of shock, like somebody just stepped on my grave…or perhaps that was off it! My heart was racing, I had a cold shiver pass over me and felt like crap, but a few moments and I was off again. Steve commented that his bike had twitched and as he looked up, he saw me going to town and thought, “Oh No…he’s a goner”! and he was amazed that I came through it.
Shortly after that we hit a squall with 50 knot winds and horizontal rain, so we put the wets on and the Catlins wasn’t my favoured section of the trip.
We got to Invercargill by 1725, where Steve headed on to Bluff to stay at the Lodge while I stayed with another mate. That night was another pleasant catch-up and the next day I headed over to Bluff at about 1000, stopping at the eagle where I signed in and collected my badge and T-Shirt before nipping to the end of the road and back, to settle in for the day. We had a few beers, a great feed and whiled away the day, chatting by the fire (it was wintery) and by that evening, there only seemed about 20 – 30 riders left in Bluff.
30 Kms for the day Maybe Total Kms: 3,790’ish
DAY 8 – 29/03/09 – Invercargill - Picton - Wellington:
The Last Day, another biggy and a goody. We were supposed to travel via the West Coast & Buller Gorge, but the weather forecast was for constant drizzle and rain all the way up the coast so we opted for the middle route.
We were up and away from Bluff by 0635, fueled in Invercargill and got away from there at 0700, to head for Gore, Tapanui and on to Cromwell for fuel. My stomach was playing up so I avoided anything but a little water and led out, using the early hours to make a bit of time. It was a Balmy 16° when we left Bluff, but it dipped to 8° as we passed through Tapanui, then the sun rose, bringing a little warmth and a lot of glare.
We maintained a good pace to Cromwell where Steve had a snack (while I watched, then went for another dump), then we filled and headed for Tarras, the Lindis Pass, around the Lakes and into Geraldine for Lunch and another fill. The temp had risen to 15° by Cromwell and was 25° by the time we finished lunch (where I manage a pepper Steak Pie). It was 1330 by the time we left Geraldine, so we were making good time, and from there we took the inland scenic route up SH72, but missed the turn to Oxford, so came out through Darfield to Christchurch. From there it was up SH1 to Amberly for another top-up and snack before turning at Waipara and taking more inland scenic stuff via SH 72 to Kaikoura., then on to Picton to see if there was an earlier ferry, (which there wasn’t) and dinner. We had to be in Picton by 2130 for the check-in, so targeted to be there by 2030 to allow for any contingencies, but we actually arrived at 1917, doing the 1130Kms in 12¾ hours, which included 2¼ hours of stops…so I guess we did pretty well, only meeting 3 cops, one by Omarama, one South of Ward and one on the curly strip north of Seddon.
We got on the boat, found a comfy seat and slipped into a coma, only to be awakened by the announcement to go to our vehicles and I was home, showered and in bed a little after 0200.
In the 8 days I managed a Total Kms of 5,518, spending $478.65 on gas, $85 on accommodation and probably not much more on tucker, thanks to Andrew shouting breakfast in Houhora in thanks for the bed and Steve shouting dinner in Picton. I managed to shed about 4Kg over the week as well, but did cough $325 to have the Z6 fitted. (I would have been happy to pay $400 in the circumstances but!!)
What another awesome Rusty Ride. Travelling the length and breadth of the country certainly makes one aware of the inconsistencies of Road Contractors and Speed Management people as some corners marked at 35kph were taken in excess of 110 while others were taken barely quicker than the rating. Roadworks were marked at 70, 50 & 30 kph and some rated 30 had not the slightest bit of rough or loose stuff, while others had us extending ourselves to maintain control. The Far North and Deep South had lots of Slip-Slidy patches (if wet) and SH1 along the Kaikoura Coast is poor. But all in all, I had a blast on a great bike, with great mates. We pootled and we pushed the boundaries……Bring on the next adventure.
These blogs were posted on the KiwiBiker forum but I decided it was time for a change.