Dear Readers – prepare now to jump forward in time 1 month, which is the beauty of the modern technical era, and wonders of post-dated blogs.
After working my fingers to the bone for 1 month in Sri Lanka for bread, gruel and tuppence a day, while my Tiger was being shipped from LA to Melbourne, I had ingeniously devised a cunning new plan! My bike actually arrived in Melbourne on 4th May but was going to take a week or potentially more to clear customs. Therefore, what better plan could there be than to fly to New Zealand (NZ) whilst I waited for the tedious paperwork to be completed? I have been very lucky in the past to have traveled most of the World for work & pleasure, but the one place left I’d never been to and REALLY wanted to go to was NZ. I had previously enquired how much it would be to ship my bike from Australia to NZ & back, and it was surprising expensive. Weighing up the options, it seemed to me the best thing to do was to fly to NZ and hire the same bike for 10 days, which was much cheaper than shipping my own bike, and would also save a lot of time. Perfect! So, that’s what I did.
I have to mention here that Mike and Trevor at PARADISE MOTORCYCLE TOURS in Auckland provide a FIRST CLASS bike hire service, and I fully recommend them for all your touring needs. True to my usual late planning handicap, I had only emailed them 2 days before arriving to enquire, but Mike was quick to return my email and had everything efficiently arranged for my arrival, and at a significantly lower price than his competition quoted. With my flight’s late landing and my subsequent near strip-search by NZ customs (looking for ‘alien’ imports such as grass seed, bugs or dinosaur eggs hidden in my camping gear), I walked out an hour late but was still met by a smiling Trevor to collect me and take me to my hotel – “all part of the service!”
I soon learned why Trevor was always smiling – all he does all day is ride beautiful motorbikes up & down a beautiful country. Even when he discovered that I didn’t actually have a hotel, he was still smiling (well, almost), and I was frankly amazed when he offered to help me find one. This took a little time, as I’d happened to land in Auckland at the same time as a famous rock band and practically all the hotels were full (as I was told by the first full hotel I tried). For someone who loves music, I have become ridiculously behind with the modern music scene ever since I starting working abroad and traveling in 1998; I think the last ‘new’ band I heard of was The Spice Girls. Anyway, I ‘googled’ it and found out they were ‘Tool’ – quite a big heavy rock/metal band in the US it seems, and they were on my flight from Melbourne to Auckland. I remember the long haired one came and urinated next to me in the loos while we were waiting for our luggage, but of course I didn’t know who he was then, and he didn’t know who I was – it’s been a while since ‘Sonofhibachi’ recorded anything, and I like to keep a low profile of course.
Anyway, not to be defeated that easily, Trevor soon spotted a ‘Backpackers’ as we drove around the city centre, which is the Ozzy/NZ name for a Youth Hostel. The only bed left was in a mixed 4 person dormitory, and I had the top bunk above this girl who looked like the possessed girl from The Exorcist. No wonder that bed was still free! She was lying as though dead in a coffin with red eyes, a green nose and as white as death, surrounded by a pile of snotty tissues and making a strange gurgling/wheezing noise through her snotty nose. I took one quick look at her, threw my bags on my bed, and ran out as quickly as I could, witnessing one intense sneezing & coughing fit that filled the room with green sputum and left her levitating attached to the bottom of my top bunk. I was not looking forward to my return, imagining scenes of her spinning around the room firing green vomit projectiles at me.
Luckily Trevor was waiting outside to rescue me, and I certainly owed him a beer or two. If I was homesick at all (which I wasn’t), it was instantly cured when we walked into O’Hagans Irish Pub on Viaduct Harbour sea-front. I could have been anywhere back home in good ol’ Blighty, so warm, friendly and welcoming the ambience, so cold and refreshing the locally brewed draught ale, and so delicious the warm steak and ale pie with mushy peas! In fact, Trevor (himself an Englishman moved to NZ years ago) explained how life in NZ was still very British in many ways, except without the rubbish weather, crowds and traffic jams. The more I heard, the more I liked. And the more I liked, the more I drank. And the more I drank, the more I liked hearing and drinking (repeat several times).
In the morning I was pleasantly pleased to find I hadn’t been baptized in pools of snotty sputum from Exorcist Girl and had actually slept amazingly well, no doubt due to my demonically possessed girl antidote of copious amounts of beer, and my new found hostel-survival kit of earplugs and eye mask.
After a healthy Burger King breakfast (yes, I’d left America, but America hadn’t quite left me!), I jumped into the luxury transport arranged by Paradise and set off to collect my bike for the next 10 days – a 2012 Triumph Tiger 800. However, there were only 2 things wrong with it:
1. It was Yellow
2. It wasn’t the XC (cross-country) version
Thankfully, I am an adaptable fellow (and it was otherwise a superb machine) so I soon had my luggage transferred and packed, hoisted the sails and sped off on my new NZ adventure!
Shortly after I stopped because I suddenly realized I didn’t know where I was going, and thought I’d better make some kind of plan. So, I tossed a coin and set off North, thinking (ambitiously) I could ride ‘tip to toe’. This plan soon changed when it started pelting it down with rain and all my clothes suddenly decided to not be waterproof anymore. Cold and wet I pressed on for 30 minutes hoping it would stop, but it got heavier, so I decided to execute Plan B. But before I could execute Plan B, I first had to make it, and so I decided to stop for a late breakfast/early lunch and dry off.
Trevor had shown me this really good weather website that accurately (as can be) forecast the rain & pressure system 3 days in advance, and sure enough it was forecast to rain heavily in the north for the next few days. So, south was the answer, to the volcanic swamps of Rotorua via the east coast of Waihi Beach and my favourite town – Bowentown (named after an early governor of New Zealand, Sir George Bowen, who is thought to have camped in the Bay c. 1869). From that moment on I planned my entire route around the weather forecast on this website, and it never once let me down (www.metservice.com).