Buller Gorge 18th – 19th March Blog 154


We visit Jan this morning, her husband is away in Christchurch but she makes us very welcome and we spend a nice couple of hours drinking coffee and eating Pikelets (a bit like a drop scone) and looking at some of her paintings as she is a talented artist).
She recomends we double back a bit and visit “Top House” a historic hotel and pub that we passed by a few k’s back. The weather today is fantastic and the views alone are worth it she says.
We say thanks and good bye and promise to pass on their regards to Karen’s mum and dad.
Pulling in to the car park at “Top House” I go to push down the side stand and miss and hit the gear lever instead. There is a clunk as you would expect and the bike lurches stalls and the rolls backward on the slope. This isn’t meant to happen it’s in gear another stir of the gearbox confirms it is indeed in gear but there is no drive, bo#+*#ks!!!
Firing up the bike and popping off the front of the universal joint boot confirms there is drive out of the gearbox so the bl##dy driveshaft has snapped again what is going on !
There is nothing for it but to disect it here, first we look around take some pictures, order a coffee and explain our predicament. Top House has only reopened in the last few years after a long period of closure and it has remodelled itself as a smart tourist character restaurant/hotel as there are not too many locals that live nearby to patronise it and the stagecoaches it was originally built for are long gone. I am a little nervous about how disecting our slightly scruffy motorcycle right by the entrance is going to go down but they are fine about it even allowing Karen to sit in the front room next to the fire to blog while I lay on my back in the gravel.
Now I know what it is it doesn’t take long to strip, I just take the back wheel out (a 10 minute job) and then undo the four nuts which hold the bevel box to the swing arm and voila there is half a driveshaft attached to it. A quick look at the broken end reveals that I obviously made two originally (one for a spare) and it has exactly the same problem of weld penetration as the first one because of course it was made exactly the same way. My original Kazakh repair job was still going strong in Japan I only changed it because the Mongolian corrugations had taken their toll on the splines and they were badly worn on one end.
The only tricky bit is how to retrieve the other end which is splined into the universal joint at the other end of the swing arm up a long tube about 30mm diameter and about 200mm long. With a torch I can see the end of it (blowing raspberries at me) but it’s way beyond the reach of a pair of fine nosed pliers. I wrap a bit of rag around my long socket extension bar and squirt a bit of carb cleaner on the end. I can then rub it against the end of the shaft to get the oil off it. I then try a few spots of superglue on the end of the extension bar press it against the end of the shaft and count to ten before trying to withdraw it. It doesn’t work so I try again and again it breaks away as the end of the shaft is too rough. Racking my brains for a minute I suddenly remember the blu tak the lady on the mobility scooter in Blenheim gave me to stick the St Christopher on the bike. There was a bit left over which I put in my jacket pocket, after picking the fluff off it and kneading it a bit I stick it on the end of the extension bar and after a couple of tries bingo !  (mental note I must buy one of those extendable pen magnets somewhere)
Karen has been chatting to some of the people having lunch in the restaurant who are amazed by how unfazed we are by this setback and they kindly drop me the 5k up the road to the local mechanic as they leave. It is a typical bush mechanic and there are bits of cars, bikes, boats, tractors, quad bikes you name it everywhere. It might look like a junkyard but outfits like this are clever at fixing something with nothing and they keep remote communities like this moving. They have a small mig welder but we can’t find anything the right size to make a jig out of. In the end the mechanic there tacks it back together as the two ends fit exactly and then cuts back into the shaft with an angle grinder in stages refilling it back up with weld. A quick bonk with a hammer in the right place gets it running amazingly true, it’s easy to check just by removing the circlips and rolling it on a flat surface.
Job done I say my thank you’s and one of their sons who frankly doesn’t look old enough to drive drops me back in a subaru, he drives with the confidence and skill of someone twice his age but then I expect he has been driving on the farm since he could reach the pedals.
Shaft welded it’s just a case of putting it back together and half an hour later she is mobile again.
It’s taken about 3 hours start to finish including a ride to the welder and a bit of hanging about, so much quicker when you know eactly what to do.
I must sort out a spare lengthened driveshaft from home when I get the chance as I expect this repair won’t last forever.
Although it’s been a quick repair it is now a bit late to get too far today so we head to a free DOC camp a little way into Buller gorge at the site of an old railway.
We explore the old bridge and tunnel in the morning which like so many of our disused railway tracks in the UK has been turned into a walk. Like the UK it always strikes me as a waste of infrastructure not to mention the massive amount of work it was to build this in the first place. There was a small town here to cater for the workers and their families while the tunnel was dug, there are panels showing what life was like for the workers who dynamited their way through this mountain and cleared away all the spoil with shovels and wheelbarrows completing it in 1927.
Its time to get moving, we head to Westport pausing briefly at Murchison for fuel and Lyell for a look at the info boards about the old gold mining settlement that used to be here. There’s gold in them there hills ! or there was anyway.
While we are here we briefly meet Grant a local guy out for a ride on his Buell Ulysses, he tells us he has read a little of our escapades in the Horizons Unlimited Ezine. We only realised we were in it ourselves a few days ago. We pose for a piccy as we are heading out and bid him a good ride.
New Zealand is motorcycle riding heaven in our book, little traffic amazing roads and awesome scenery.
The road through the Buller gorge and beyond is just magic and far too soon we are in Westport. We stop briefly at the i site and for fuel as we are on a 150km dead end then it’s on to Karamea.
Quite a few locals have told us not to miss it as it’s a little off the main tourist trail and is a hidden gem…..can’t wait !

P.S I hope people appreciate we could have easily glossed over these breakdowns to save face but we have always strived to tell it exactly like it is.

  1. #1 by Jane on May 7, 2011 - 11:20 am

    Hi Guys
    So your adventures have their ups and downs but as long as you are still having a good time. This story reminded me of the time James took the engine out of the 4cv in a French square, the locals looked on in amazement as I took my deckchair out and sat with my book completely unfazed as he took out the relevant bits and went off to find a blacksmith! Hope you are currently having ‘ups’, happy travels Love Jane x

  2. #2 by Mark on May 7, 2011 - 12:53 am

    the shafts are still available new .do you want one ? how about a spare worn one out of my sp . let me know Mark

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