|Firstly apologies for the long silence, we have been so busy we just have not had chance to blog, also we have been out in the boonies for the last week so we have had little cell phone reception. This is obviously a bit of a catch up so bear with us.
On Christmas eve we were at Rhonddas anxiously waiting for a phone call to say come and collect your bike.
To take our minds off the waiting we both did a few chores for Rhondda as she has been so kind to us, I had started cutting the grass and edges when the call came, Karen was midway through vacuuming.
We were busting to get it out of customs before Christmas as a lot of people here take the first two weeks of January off and many places are shut until then. We dropped everything and dashed into central Auckland to customs and got our bike out of the docks at 11am Christmas eve, bearing in mind they were all knocking off at lunchtime. The fact it was so close to the holidays helped we think, the stevedores gave us a jumpstart as someone had unhelpfully turned on and left on one of the few things on the bike that’s permanently live. As a result both batteries were flatter than a very flat thing, so flat they wouldn’t make an led ignition light glimmer. To add to the fun we only had one battery isolator key left which I had made out of an old bolt in Mongolia. It is an extremely sloppy fit now and it’s hard to make the switch contact, the bike fired up with a jumpstart and the alternator was charging but when it died after a few minutes there still wasn’t a sign of life in the batteries. It fired up again with a jump but was running straight off the alternator power, that’s fine but it meant that if I stalled it I would have had problems considering I was in central Auckland traffic (although we are equipped with jumpleads).
To add to my stress levels because we’d had to empty all the fuel out for shipping the bike was running on a couple of litres of fuel in the rear emergency tank and the main one was empty. Also once I got moving I realised the front tyre was a bit soft so it was handling very oddly as well. I followed Karen who was in Rhonddas car out into the city, we pulled into a petrol station and Karen managed to put a few litres of petrol in the main tank without the attendant noticing it was still running (we were running on the petrol from the rear tank).
Karen put some petrol in Rhonddas car and went in to pay so I could keep the bike running. Fortunately I could follow Karen home and she had a good map and got us back fairly quickly but we still had to cross the harbour bridge. The bike made it back on what was in the rear tank but it was a scary and stressful ride. By the time I got back I just parked it up, walked away and went back to my chores to take out my stress on the weeds with the strimmer instead of Karen.
Next day was Christmas Day, Rhondda had her three kids over plus us two so it was a housefull. We had a nice lunch, swapped pressies and played ping pong on the dining room table so it wasn’t so different really apart from being about 22 degrees of course. It felt very strange having a summer Christmas, it’s not quite the same but it was good fun never the less. Her dog Bishop made it feel more like home getting really excited when he saw his stocking and going mad with his new squeeky toys until he managed to ‘kill’ them. Christmas afternoon Rhondda was having a tinker with her bike, I felt more in the mood by then so I made a start with the Guzz. My first priority was to try and get some life back in the batteries. Rhondda sent a few of her Ulysses mates an email to ask if anyone had a battery charger for AGM (absorbed glass mat) batteries. They evidently haven’t made it to these shores as no one had even heard of them so I put them on charge overnight on Rhondda’s normal battery charger and this seemed to charge ok. I had a fiddle with a few other things and inflated the front tyre, there was nothing else seriously wrong but I was a bit worried that the batteries might have had it as I had no idea how long they had been deep discharged for. Next morning the batteries both seemed a lot perkier so I fitted them back in and with a bit of wiggling got one of the isolaters to work. Vrooom off she went and sounded sweet, a nice reward for my hard work. Rhondda went out with some mates for a ride on Boxing Day but we spent it continuing to repack everything as MAF the biosecurity people had clearly turned the whole lot out and it had all gone back in here there and everywhere. Karen had been going through everything checking, washing and sorting and reassembling the tent etc. That evening Rhondda came back with some of her riding buddies, we had met them all at the Piha rally so it was nice and sociable for us too. We had a bbq and a few beers and a nice evening. Next morning we discuss routes and tactics with Rhondda who has decided to join us for the first day or two on the way to visit her brother. We are still packing stuff at midday but eventually we get going dropping in on another mate of hers on the way who has a wonderful collection of Ducati’s. After an hour or so drooling over 900ss’s Hailwood reps, Darmah’s etc we dragged ourselves away and got moving again. We met a couple more of Rhondda’s mates (Rex and Liz) at a filling station and set off together for Port Waikato on the West Coast. Everyone is on 250 dirt bikes apart from us as we are travelling down all the rural gravel roads to get there. Its a great ride down exciting windy roads with spectacular scenery. We hugged the coast for a long time before turning inland and riding down through a limestone valley, we could see the gravel track snaking beneath us as we descended. It was Liz’s first time riding on gravel and she did really well, it’s quite daunting for the uninitiated as the bike is squirming around on the loose surface quite a lot especially if it’s deep. New Zealands gravel roads are a lot easier to ride than most Mongolian or Russian ones we have encountered as they are better contructed with a proper compacted base. Because of this we haven’t had any problems riding them as yet,the only real problem with them is when they have been resurfaced which makes the gravel deep and scary to ride on, a bit like riding on marbles. Mongolian ones are constucted by people driving wherever the least corrugated and most navigable route is and that becomes the road until it’s too knackered at which point the cycle starts again.
We took a little off shoot to Te Akau wharf where the locals are surprised to see us as it is off the beaten track, from here we can look across the harbour to Raglan our next destination. We arrived late in town Rex ran out of fuel just on the outskirts but by laying his bike on its side he mamanged to get enough dregs to reach the petrol station.
By now we were all starving and had our hearts set on fish and chips we are not alone half the population of Raglan also wants fish and chips. Placing our orders we are number 23 they have just called number 6. Was it worth the wait! the best fish and chips by a long chalk, beer battered chips and such massive portions that we had to leave some, something unheard of with us.
We wave goodbye to Rex and Lyn they are heading back home to Auckland tonight. Rhondda leads us out of Raglan to a cheeky free camp. We are not the only ones with this idea but the others are in cars, we pitch our tents round a corner out of sight and have a beer before bed.