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Gremlin's Tall Stories

TT2000 Break: Day 4 (25/02/2012)

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Danseys was much easier than Hakataramea, except I rounded one corner while we were still on the seal to find Whatastoner picking up his bike. I go to help, but heís off up the road almost as quickly, so I hop back on and follow him. All action in this ride so farÖ We photograph the cattle grid at the top with our bikes side by side. Next up is the Danseys Hotel and Naseby Fire Station. We find those, photograph and carry on. Itís excellent that weíre like minded, stopping only for a photo before continuing on.

Itís time for a refill of our tanks, weíve done some 500km since setting off in the early evening. We reach McLarens Transport in Ranfurly at 1.10am. I mention to my riding companion that I want to take a break now, to eat and drink. Heís going to continue, but the official ride always ended at Ranfurly, so I wished him luck and he continued on his route. I ate an OSM bar, had some powerade and left at 1.30am, initially getting a bit lost in town as the GPS got confused, but then finally got it right and got back on the open road.

The Hyde Hotel and Old Dunstan Rd were my next photos, so I turned off and headed south on Kyeburn-Hyde Rd, and found some of the best riding Iíve come across. I have no idea what the scenery was like as it was pitch black, but one corner flowed into the next and I was absolutely in my element, barely any straights, just linking one corner to the next, focusing on position and throttle control. Through Middlemarch, down the gravel Rocklands Rd to come out behind the mailbox for Old Dunstan, I ticked it off my list at 2.30am.

Back to SH1 and the drag down past Balclutha. Passing through Milton Iím tempted to stop as Iím feeling cold again, but carry on through. By the time I reach the outskirts of Balclutha I definitely want to stop, but I have to find somewhere sheltered out of the strong wind Iíve been fighting. The first servo with a canopy between pumps and building serves my purpose just fine and I make an unscheduled stop at 3.30am for 20min. All the outer gear comes off, the Revit Jacket still wet, again Iím hopping around freezing my arse off, but I pull out and don my heated vest, making sure to leave the cord for it out as well.

I havenít used the vest since a test back when I had my KTM. Iíve used it as a normal vest, but not as a heated vest since it left blisters on my back (I did think at the time it was rather hot, but only realised when I got home and checked). I decided the controller was necessary, so had it installed on the BMW. I managed to suck in, and get the jacket done up (Skinz, thermal, heated vest, armour, jacket, then the rain jacket on top). For good measure I threw the balaclava on as well, felt like the Michelin Man, indeed had the range of movement of one and used my mirrors to find all the zips and straps to adjust.

It took only minutes of being on the road again, with the vest at Level 3 of 9 to feel warm again and it felt really good. The temperature had dropped to 4-5 in the passes, but closer to sea level was hovering around 6-8 degrees, which isnít really that cold, but for some reason (possibly the wet jacket) it was biting very hard. Itís only when Iím back on the road that I remember why I donít use the balaclava much. It does restrict my head movement which isnít a major, but itís also got a couple of loose threads in it, which tickle my eyes, make them water and generally drive me nuts.

Iím in no mood to stop again to remove it, so I try to push the threads out of the way and carry on. Cannibal Bay is next at 4.20am, then Owaka Town Sign at 4.35am, but I had to double back as I passed it the first time. From there it was a photo I remember, Slope Point, from last year. As soon as you leave the Catlins Rd itís gravel all the way out to the point, and then back again, but since it forms part of the Compass Bonus (Cape Farewell, Fighting Bay, Tekapo, Slope Point, Lake Hauroko) worth 10,000 points, it has to be done. As I was photographing it Whatastoner pulled up behind, and I let him leave ahead of me as clearly he wanted to ride a little faster than I did. It was just before 6am and the sun was trying to peek out from between all the clouds (but at least it wasnít raining). The heated vest had also gone up another notch, to 4 and I was enjoying the warmth.

It was time for another break, so instead of the chopper ride from Bluff I had chosen to stop in Invercargill. It was very peaceful and quiet for 7am, but then thatís to be expected I guess. Before the stop was probably some of the mentally toughest riding I had on the TT (tired, boring, cold etc), and had completed 400km since Ranfurly.

A fuel stop, time to clean the bike (holy crap, it had dirt/mud/sand all over it Ė shaft, front forks, mudguard, boxes, plate, everywhere basically) have a quick bite to eat, back to the tinted visor. I sent an update txt to Toto to let him know Iíd completed all the passes and was safe. I was musing whether or not the news of the dangerous TT ďraceĒ had reached these far reaches of the south, and if even so, if they suspected one of those riders was already on their forecourt at 7am on Saturday morning. Nevertheless, with the gas paid for and agreeing with the attendant it was a nice day for a ride, I had a No-Doze to make sure concentration remained high and headed off on my 2nd leg.

The temperature remained low with a surprising bite in the air, so all my gear stayed on, but I did finally have the chance to remove the balaclava as Iíd had enough of it tickling my eyes. Heated vest providing the warmth, I headed west to photograph the Clifden Suspension bridge, but a camper blocked the best photo, so I had to make do with one a bit further back. It was on to Lake Hauroko, a 500 pointer, but probably had some of the worst gravel yet. I saw a comical combination of a cruiser, scooter and I think a VTR1000 returning to the main road. I wasnít too far behind, so I figured I should try to use the gravel to my advantage.

Finally reaching the end just before 9am, the lake was beautiful. I took the required pictures and had a brief toilet stop at the DOC provided one. Heading back to the main road I saw Whatastoner heading in, so I was ahead of him again somehow. I had to re-trace my steps all the way back past Clifden and up to Ohai to get the fire station, then north through Wreys Bush to Mossburn to get the stag. The roads were still very quiet and I still used the heated vest as although it was around 10 degrees I still felt cold.

Passing through Mossburn at 10.30am, I took another No-Doze as a precaution and I finally found the trio of bikes stopped outside a cafť, gave them a wave as I passed by, and continued north, stopping briefly at Fairlight for the uhÖ train station, although itís more of a tiny historic building (but who knows, there could still be trains). I hadnít done SH6 north to Queenstown in the daylight for years, but what a treat. The clouds were burning off and the views of Lake Whakatipu were really stunning. At some angles the lake appeared to shimmer, giving it a sense of magic. I yearned to stop and continually take pictures of the beautiful vistas, but the downside of going for diamond was that you had to keep the wheels moving.

It certainly makes the valid point for taking it a bit slower and stopping and photographing whatever you like, like Toto is doing. I made a promise to myself as I kept seeing stunning mountain and lake views that once diamond was achieved, future TTís would be spent doing the basic, or adding on the scenic bits, and having more time as a luxury to photograph whatever I wanted.

I kept the wheels turning and the momentum up. This time, unlike last year I didnít want to pass through Queenstown proper, even though there were checkpoints up Glenorchy way. I found far too much traffic trying to get through Queenstown, so this year gave it a miss, turning right at the roundabout and heading straight back into the country. To get to Wanaka I had the choice of the longer but more boring SH6, or the more exciting but twistier Crown Range. I liked the twists and turns of the Crown Range so it was no contest.

It turned out to be really perfect. There was a cycle event on, but only one cyclist going in my direction at the bottom of the hill, and the rest oncoming. Jessica was in the same mood as I. We raced up the switch backs, each upshift so smooth it could have sounded like an auto. The multiple blips and downshifts into the switchback were perfect, then back on the gas and up another incline. The road in good condition, the sun beating down from above, and only two cars going up. One dispatched on a short straight using my power to weight advantage, the other moved over after a switchback, just as I caught up.

I had a huge grin on my face cresting the top, but itís only half the story, as you still have to go down the other side, and again, Jessica was in the mood to play. She hid the quarter ton weight, plus myself and luggage well, and would have given the casual day rider a run for their money. Fuel consumption would clearly have not been the best, but wow, that road is well worth it. I did have one close call, when an oncoming van tried to overtake a pack on a left hand corner for them, as I was sweeping through the right hander, but a strong handful of brake, followed by a line re-adjustment to the edge of the road gave me a nice safety margin.

It was definitely sad to have finished the road, but I still had plenty more good ones to do. The weather was warming up and now sat in the mid-teens, so the jacket was off and I was debating when I should remove it as I felt a bit warm. I made a quick stop on the outskirts of Wanaka for the leaning tower at Puzzle World at 12.30pm, and had an Asian bloke giving my bike the very careful once over.

It was time for the halfway break on this leg (having only stopped at Lake Hauroko for a toilet stop), so a short jump to Lake Hawea to re-fuel both body and bike for half an hour. I removed the heated vest, put away the winter gloves and pulled out the still-wet summer gloves and liners. Iíd put them in the left case, to try and get the heat of the exhaust to dry them, but clearly it hadnít work. Still, the temperature was now hovering around 20 degrees so they would be dry soon enough. I sent an update txt text to Toto, to let him know I was safe and was back on the road at 1.10pm.

It was time for a bit of mileage to be clocked up. Photos were few and far between, with only one in Haast Pass by the bridge, and then over to the west coast. The ride definitely rates in my Top 5 in the country. Itís a couple of hundred km passing through a combination of the most stunning scenery in the country. The weather was still playing ball, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I turned off SH6 at Haast as I had to photograph the Cray Pot in Jackson Bay.

The road was quiet (natural since itís a dead end), but incredibly bumpy at times. I tried alternating the suspension between comfort, normal and sport, none could iron out the bumps in a sufficient manner. Comfort wallowed too much and sport just about had my teeth chattering (except I wasnít cold). Kindly enough, a straight or too later an intelligent road worker had put up a sign stating uneven surfaceÖ well I never! The only problem was that the road managed to get even worse. My arse wasnít in the best condition after 1000km+, so the bumps were not welcome and indeed it bloody hurt if I landed back on the seat. I could have probably slowed down, but it quite straight and I was sitting at the limit eating up some kilometres.

The scenery was particularly stunning out here, so I broke my rules a little, stopping a few times to take a few photos. Just before arriving at Port Jackson at 3pm I saw Forklift Driver coming the other way so gave him a wave. I hadnít seen many bikes for a few hours, so it was refreshing to see the odd one. Photo taken, with the odd bemused tourist looking on it was back down the bumpy road, stopping for the odd picture and when passing through Haast I saw the trio of bikes again, so gave them a cheery wave.

All that was left was a few hours of west coast, heading north and collecting mainly 100 point photos and the 500 for Fox Glacier. The roads were surprisingly quiet, bar the odd slow moving vehicle my way so I had to slow occasionally. Stopping at Knights Point I saw LBD, so said ďFancy meeting you here Ė nice day for a ride!Ē to which he only grinned and said ďUnless youíre sick as a dog like meĒ with a cough and splutter. Heíd been doing the whole route in the opposite direction, going north on Friday, so it was likely Iíd have glances of other riders as well.

We were both on a mission so after the photo we both headed off. A brief stop at Bruce Bay for the Post Office, I was nervous I wouldnít see it as it was pretty simple, but I found it without having to turn around. I also spied the ZX14 from previous GCís and TTís, as he flew past the other way, with just a whistle of his tyres.

Fox Glacier was worth 500 points for a very simple gravel road so it was a natural choice for me. I got stuck behind one of the Glacier Walks transport busses crawling out the road, but once on the main road I could pass. Somewhere along this stretch I came across the trio again, who pointed at me and grinnedÖ probably wondering how on earth I could still be behind them after Iíd passed them at Haast. Itís the beauty of such a route. Everyone is doing different things, so youíre never quite sure who is where and you just concentrate on your own plan and timings.

The road north of Fox Glacier is quite fun, with a lot of tight winding roads, but I could see the startings of road works to eliminate some corners which is disappointing to me at least. The last photos for the leg were simple affairs, the bushman centre in Pukekura and Lake Mahinapua Jetty, except I couldnít find the jetty and didnít feel like riding my bike all over the grassy area interrupting couples doing romantic stuff like looking out across the lake. I took a couple of pics that were hopefully unique enough to prove Iíd been there and pointed the bike for Greymouth.

I arrived at the pre-booked accommodation just before 7.30pm, having been on the road for just under 25.5 hours and covered 1860km ish. It was a bit of a slow pace really, given that Iíve covered more distance in less time before, but reflected a lot of gravel work including the passes. Toto was already there, as Iíd hoped, being his usual brilliant self, having checked into the accommodation, arranged keys, knew where to park the bike etc.

He shoved the camera in my face just to see how ugly I can look after a long time on the road, but I was happy to be there and feeling reasonably good. Parking the bike was a bit of fun, as it was a narrow alley. The panniers had to come off, but I still couldnít get in, as there were rubbish bags lining the alley, so we moved those as well, and then I could just squeeze the bike down, couldnít use the side stand so used the centre stand (very delicately I might add). Once the bike was parked I had to somehow squeeze back past, Toto delightfully documenting the whole lot with photos (bastard).

First order was unpacking, so Toto was kind enough to help get the entire panniers upstairs which were bloody heavy given that the whole thing had to be carried. Iíd booked two singles, but apparently someone had messed one of the rooms the previous day, so I was upgraded for free to a double. Booked in, changed out of the bike for the first time in what felt like a long time, it was dirty already, with a lot dust and dirt from the passes on the legs. My body was yearning for some real food, having already felt it try to reject the several OSMs already. The backpackers offered free soup each night, this time it was chicken and vegetable, so we had a bowl full each, but I needed something more substantial.

We had a stroll of the town, the selection somewhat limited, and settled on a takeaways, which turned out to be cash only, as the EFTPOS was broken. Toto withdrew some cash, we retrieved our food and went back to the backpackers to consume said food. Toto had sweet and sour pork on noodles and I had roast pork fried rice. Weíd also been given vouchers for buy your first beer from the bar and get the second free, which also worked on soft drinks, so I had a couple of L&P and Toto had diet cokes.

We ended up chatting (or is that talking shit) for an hour or two, before turning in for the night. I had a shower and got into bed just before midnight. Thankfully this backpackers was much better than Christchurch, with clean showers (bit more pressure on the water would have been good) and the bed was excellent. I felt like I could definitely sleep for hours, but wouldnít get that luxury.

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  1. gijoe1313's Avatar
    Ahh the joys of the open road, its that time constraint that makes it a bit of a mission! Glad to see all the research and effort into getting your equipment is paying off!

    When you mention some of those roads and locations, it fair makes me nostalgic for them ... bloody magic riding those roads! (though, you have found the adventure section well!)