We wake around 8am and after breakfast start packing the bike. The weather isn’t great but it is improving, it’s another tardy start and we aren’t away until about 11.30am. Jeanette and Ernie are leaving at the same time so we say goodbye to them and Phil and promise to look out for them in the south island. We should be able to spot each other anyway.
Heading out of Rotorua on the Taupo road we are searching for a hot spring called Butchers Pool.
Our directions are a bit vague and it’s in the middle of nowhere so inevitably we can’t find it. While we are stopped on the side of the road working out where to go, a local farmer pulls up in his Ute (pickup) to have a look at the strange motorcycle. We ask him about Butchers pool and he gives us good directions, we are not too far away so we are there at lunchtime. It’s a free hotpool out in the bush and we are surprised to find it has changing rooms and a toilet. The water is muddy looking but oh so nice, not as hot as Japanese spas more like hot bath water and big enough to swim in. It does us both the power of good we are both suffering from grumbling backs and a nice hot soak helps relieve aching muscles. Afterwards we eat lunch under the shade of a Pohutakawa tree and the German couple in the campervan who were here when we first got here take the plunge.
Back on the road again we are heading to Gisbourne and the East cape but rather than take the main road we go through Waikaremoana, this is a lake and a national park accessed by 90km of gravel road through the bush. The sign on the approach road says it’s closed but the guys in the last petrol station say people have just started getting through. The weekends heavy rainfall has caused landslips and washouts and a team of earthmovers is carving a way back through. As we are not in a rush we figure it’s worth a try, there is camping in a few spots along the way and this is wild enough country that we can freecamp somewhere if necessary. The forecast is also good for the next few days. The first part of the track is tar seal and in fairly good shape. Further on down the road we see the evidence of some of the slips and in places machines are still clearing up the
destruction. There is a coating of mud from the landslides in places but it’s worth it as the track is spectacular. I have never seen so many different shades of green, I only recently found out that there were no bees here until the Europeans introduced them so there was no need for plants to be colourful to attract them. We are about ready to camp as the tar runs out and we know there is a DOC (department of conservation) camp not too far away on a gravel offshoot.
We have been on a few gravel sections and because they are so muddy they are laying more gravel down and grading some sections.
This isn’t great news as that’s when it gets a bit scary to ride on, they leave it for the traffic to pack down over time and it’s really deep and loose.
We find the un manned campground next to the river, it’s simple but perfect for our needs and better still free ! The river is in full force and we can see evidence where it has partially flooded the campsite, we judge it to be safe however as the weather is improving and the water level has dropped. Karen cooks dinner for a change and I set about fitting the outriggers, in the deep gravel they will help stop us falling. I get them all fitted and go for a test spin around the campsite and up the road.
We would like to have a fire tonight not because it’s cold but that it would be nice to sit out in this amazing remote place and watch the night sky but the wood is all still too damp to get it going.
After a lovely sleep we wake to another perfect day it will be another hot one. We head back up the track after a little way Karen smells burning rubber so we stop to investigate, a little tweek to the wheels and I zoom off to test them. They seem to be working ok but then I notice that the plates that hold the control arm on the right hand side have become loose and are hitting the crankcase. I did notice this at Stratford and got Cameron to put a little spot of weld on it to stop it moving. What I didn’t realise is that it needs a little bit of movement in it hence why the tack has broken. It’s easily fixed all it needs is a little line of weld behind the plate to act as a stop but of course I can’t do that here so annoyingly I have to concede defeat and pack them away again. It’s not worth the risk of punching a hole through the side of the crankcase that really would be game over.
About midway the track starts to get a bit more tricky, they have been re laying gravel in sections and it’s deep in places. We have a couple of hairy moments but manage to stay upright. The road is twisty and the views are spectacular especially later in the day when the lake comes into view. The road is much higher and winds it’s way down to meet the water so it offers some great vista’s of the lake which is huge.
Winding our way down to the lake edge we plan to stay at Rosie’s bay a free DOC camp right on the lake shore. The road hugs the shore for some time but then we peel away from it and the track starts descending again. Studying the map on my back Karen says we have gone too far, neither of us saw anything but we turn around for another look. About 4km back we spot it but overshoot again as it’s a blink and you’ll miss it track right on the apex of a bend. Just as I am committed to crossing the road and turning into the junction a local comes hooning round the blind corner at a rate of knots in a huge cloud of dust. I have no choice but to bang open the throttle to get out of the way not knowing that the first part of the entrance is really really deep gravel where it’s been pushed out from the corner. When we hit it we have no chance and over we go fortunately without injury to us or the bike. The car carries on in a cloud of dust totally oblivious and we are left to pick it up on our own. It’s only gone over onto the crashbars so it’s not too bad to right it, once she’s upright I swing a leg over her and Karen walks alongside holding the roof upright to steady me until I get out of the foot deep gravel. She then hops back on and we trundle down to the campsite which is just a strip of grass alongside the track on the lake front with a bush toilet. It’s a beautiful spot and we are pleased we came back and found it. Having been a scorcher of a day we are both melting so once the tipi is up we decide to go for a snorkel in the lake as it’s beautifully clear I go first as we are sharing the snorkel, the water level is well up from all of last weekends rain and it isn’t until I am about 50 metres out that I find the boat launching ramp that you could normally drive down to. It’s funny to read the signs underwater on the posts which run down the side of the concrete ramp. I come quite close to a beautiful big trout but don’t see any other fish. Afterwards I cook tea whilst Karen has her go and we have a nice evening with a few drinks watching the sunset over the lake.
It’s a another beautiful morning as we pack up and we send a blog as it’s the first phone signal we have had for a few days, the road is still gravel interspersed with the odd tar seal section. It winds along the valley alongside the river and there is sand and mud on the road in many places where it burst it’s banks at the weekend and completely flooded the road this quite something as it’s a wide river at this point and several metres below the road. Eventually we reach tar sealed road again and wind our way along the coast road to Gisbourne the biggest town for miles in these parts. We ride through the town heading roughly for the centre, spotting a sign for the i site we stop there and find out about campsites. There is a choice of two, the first is a top 10 holiday park which we suspect is going to be too expensive for our budget and we aren’t wrong, the second is behind the swimming pool and is half the price and a short stroll from the beach, sorted. The campsite is gearing up for a hot rod meet at the weekend and they are erecting the marquee so we pitch up near the edge incase we choose to stay another night. After dinner we go for a walk along Gisbourne’s massive sandy beach, it’s dark by the time we get back so we have a couple of beers and blog a little before hitting the sack.