New Zealand South Island (2007)

I went back to NZ for my father’s 90th surprise party in Dunedin. Flew in and out of Christchurch.

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The stead

I rented the bike from a place near the airport. They are not there now and I can’t remember the name. I got the BWM 650 GS (ABS) with unlimited km.

Day 1 – Road to Fairlie

Picking up the bike in the afternoon, I had 24 hours to get to Dunedin for Dads birthday. I could drive directly there down highway 1 in 5 hours but where’s the fun in that? I headed South for a bit then inland to Farlie. By the time I got to Farlie it was getting below zero so I stayed in Fairlie Holiday park. There were hot showers and I setup my tent under a large pine tree to avoid dew and frost in the morning.

Day 2 – Dunedin or Bust

NZTour 049I work to a white frost and a cold start to the day. I headed down to Tekapo then through to Twizel. On the way I saw Mount Cook for the first time. I’d had enough of the black top and headed for the gravel heading South West via Dansey’s Pass.

Dansey’s Pass through Kyeburn Diggings was an great fun. A very windy gravel road following a river through a series of deep gorges. The only problem I has was the area is sparsely populated with no fuel stations.

I managed to keep to gravel roads all the way to Middlemarch where I got some much need fuel and some food.

The Southern Scenic Route

After Dunedin I would recommend heading South along the Southern Scenic route. There are great views along the southern coast with plenty of winding gravel roads. But I grew up in that area so wanted something new.

Day 4 – Dunstan range

NZTour 058A late afternoon start after Dad’s birthday left me little daylight. I headed for Cromwell via the Dunstan range. The road across the range is only open during the summer months so plan your trip to ensure you can get through. It was quite a rough road in places but with fantastic scenery. Parts of Lord of the Rings was filmed in this area probably cos it looks so bleak with tussocks large rocks.
NZTour 083It was dark when a cleared the Dunstan Ranges and well past my bed time when I finally found a camp ground in Cromwell. I stayed at the Cromwell top 10 Holiday park. It had nice facilities but was a bit boring being located in a residential area rather than next to the lake.

Day 5 – West Coast

NZTour 113I got an early start and headed to the West coast via Wanaka. The roads were all sealed but very windy so I had a great time. There were no many places to buy fuel and food so I did get a bit nervous about getting the the next town a few times.

NZTour 124I refueled the bike and me at Haast and continued on to Fox glacier. You can almost drive to the base of Fox glacier and get a fairly good shot of the glacier without even getting off your bike.

Heading north along the coast road I put my head down and traced a windy path to Hanmer Springs via Greymouth and Reefton taking as many gravel detours as possible. By the time I got into Hamner I had ridden 823km and been on the bike to 11 hours and 45 minutes.

Day 6 – Molesworth

NZTour 160From Hanmer there is two gravel tracks that lead through to Nelson. One through Molesworth station and the other back via the Rainbow station. This was probably the best day of the entire trip consisting of over 300km of gravel and not too much sealed road joining it up. The ride offers spectacular views of some very rugged country. The roads were very rough and windy.

Caution : This road is very isolated with no phone coverage or likely traffic along the way. Be prepared to walk out if you break down. Also note, there and many water crossings which will become impassable if it rains.

This day ended back at Hamner springs with the sun just setting when I pulled into camp. I would definitely do this days ride again but possibly go slower and camp along the way. There are plenty of great spots to camp at.

Day 7 – Back the Christchurch

I had to get back to Christchurch for an evening flight back to Brisbane so I got going before dawn heading East through Leader Rd to the coast. The road is rough and you have to open a few gates but it’s definitely well worth the effort.

NZTour 212Getting back to the main coast road south, it was going to be a boring road back to the airport. I had a few hours up my sleeve so headed back inland to ride the Lees valley. Half way through  I came across this river crossing. It was deeper than I was prepared for but I doubling back would have been no fun so I pushed on through. With wet boots I finally made it back to the rental shop and with no time to shower or dry my boots I rushed to the airport to catch my flight.

The Route

The route can be downloaded from Full track on interactive map.


Final thoughts

It was a great trip which I hope to do again taking more time to do more side trips and smell the roses. But next time what would I change;

  • Full face road motorcycle helmet with a visor. The dirt bike helmet was very cold and noisy.
  •  Motorcycle gloves
  • Proper sleeping mat. I had two Thermarest mattresses and sleeping on both of them was still uncomfortable. An inflatable air mattress would be great.
  • No ABS. Given the amount of gravel, the difficulty of turning the ABS off all the time, a bike without ABS would have been good. That being said the BMW 650 was comfortable.

Some of the things that worked out great were;

  • Heated grips. I don’t think I could have made it without these
  • Jet boil cooker. It was fast and easy to pack.
  • Columbia ski jacket with MacPac down vest underneath it. It was warm but I should have really form something with some protection.
  • Alpinestar Tech 10. Not great for walking but warm with substantial protection.