Blog 163 Manapouri to Invercargill 28th to 30th April

Blog 163 Manapouri to Invercargill 28th to 30th April

After brekky we go for a wander around the campsite, there are old cars and vans all over the place (in a good way).
The place has character and we like it, there is a row of Moggy Minors parked together at Mowog creek and more in the sheds up the top. Also there is a Triumph Dolomite and lots of old vans and trucks dotted around. Cars last well out here as they don’t use rock salt on the roads in winter just grit. We have seen lots of old British cars in regular use out here that we haven’t seen since we were kids at home.

It’s time to hit the road, our destination tonight is Invercargill, I text Ani and Trev the couple we met at puzzling world and they say it’s fine to come and stay for a few days.
So now it’s just a case of riding and seeing what we find on the way, it’s misty initially but when we get to Blackmount the sun burns through and it turns into a beautiful day.

We crack on and get a few km’s under our belt but down the road apiece we spot a sign to Clifden caves that looks intriguing. It’s a few km out of the way but it’s so worth it, there is a map on the roadside which shows the caves are more than just a tourist poke your nose in look. If you are interested here is a link to the DOC PDF guide to the caves which of course we found after we had been through them.…

The sign warns us to take two forms of lighting and that the caves will take a couple of hours to traverse. Karen is a caver’s daughter and is up for exploring so in we go.  She is amazed how much like real caving this is for an unsupervised public access cave. There are some real squeezes and signs warn that the caves flood in heavy rain. We are okay today but it’s good there are two of us and we have spare torches.
The Limestone formations get more impressive as we get further in with curtains, stalactites, stalagmites and pillars where the two have joined. There are a couple of aluminium ladders to bridge where the climb or drop is too great between chambers (this is about the only token to the public from normal caving), sometimes we are on our hands and knees, sometimes we are stood in big chambers that our head torches struggle to illuminate. We have reflective arrows to follow placed in strategic places without this we would get hopelessly lost. About 3/4 of the way through we get to a pool that’s directly in the way and too big and too deep to climb over (not without getting very very wet anyway and we aren’t dressed for that).    
There is a small ledge around the pool but it’s wet, narrow and slopes into the pool. Pressing myself against the wall and finding a couple of handholds I just manage to slither round without losing my balance. Karen’s not too keen at first but with a bit of encouragement and a helping hand she gets through. We just hope that there is nothing else impassable beyond or we will have to try and do it in reverse especially as we can now hear lots of running water. The next section is challenging but manageable and the river we can hear is off down another passage, eventually we emerge blinking in the daylight.
The walk back to the bike takes 10minutes as opposed to the 2 hours underground but we know which was more fun..

There is a suspension bridge and picnic area back on the main road so we decide to stop there for lunch, the suspension bridge is a listed monument and no longer in use. The road to it is now a dead end and the local scouts have made a nice picnic area and free campsite with water and a toilet. The bridge is photogenic and is a bit of history in itself, opened in 1899 originally to horse drawn traffic, it has coped with traction engines and then cars and trucks as things progressed. It remained in regular use until 1978 when a modern bridge replaced it. It is still the longest single span suspension bridge in NZ at 111.5 metres, 366 feet.

After lunch and pictures we get back on the road and get to Invercargill around 4pm. We stop at a supermarket to pick up a few supplies including a few beers, I wander around the supermarket twice but can’t find any……
I ask an assistant and it turns out that they don’t have an alcohol licence. Invercargill and Gore it seems has it’s own licensing authority and you can only buy alcohol in bottle shops. They direct us to the nearest one and we stock up on the way, it’s bad form to turn up without a few beers or a bottle of wine when people have been kind enough to put us up for free.

Now we punch Ani and Trev’s address into Doris our GPS we just have to ride the last 2km to their house or so we think. Barely a kilometre away I pull away from some lights a little too vigorously and feel the all too familiar twang as the driveshaft lets go again. Karen has to jump off and quickly push me to safety round the corner and over the road into a car park.
This is getting embarrassing, I should point out this has all been the same driveshaft just welded up repeatedly. There is a monumental amount of torque going through that shaft in both directions, under power and under engine braking, not to mention the shock going through it when hitting bumps and potholes. The weld is the weak point and it’s clear I need to find an original one piece shaft to replace ours but there isn’t time now.

Our more immediate concern is what the heck we are going to do right now, it’s almost dark and everything’s shut so we don’t have much choice but to call Ani and Trev and see if they can suggest anything. Fortunately for us they are both bikers and have a pickup and trailer they can use to rescue us with. A short while later they pull into the car park we are marooned in, Trev couldn’t rustle up a ramp as it’s out on loan so we have to use the trailer tailboard which is obviously mega steep as it’s short but using the winch we manage to get it up on the trailer bed.Trev bought some big tie downs so that’s not a problem and quarter of an hour later we are back at their place and reversing the procedure. The winch allows us to lower it back down in a controlled way which is a lot safer especially on a ramp that’s steep and slippery .

Fixing it can wait until tomorrow, tonight we have dinner with Ani and Trev and crack open a beer or two. Quite a few of their friends and neighbours pop in and say hello and they all make us very welcome. We can tell we are going to be alright here.   

Fortunately Trev also has a workshop and in no time at all the driveshaft is out repaired and back in. (it’s not as if we haven’t done it before). We also change the oil and fix the speedo cable. All in a mornings work.
Ani has been busy organising a reporter from the local newspaper who turns up just after lunch. We tell him some of the stories of our travels then head outside for some photos with the bike. After a few conventional shots he tries a few different angles and eventually ends up sprawled out flat on his belly prompting Ani to take a sneaky and quite funny picture of him doing so.

Later in the day we all pile in Trev and Ani’s way cool Dodge Challenger and head down to Bluff which is the end of the road in the South Island. Next stop is Stewart Island which is quite close and clearly visible from here after that the next landfall is the Antarctic. We get some pictures with the sign that tells you how far away the rest of the world is, this is the twin of the one we visited at Cape Reinga in Northland six months ago.

  We can see the Aluminium smelter in the harbour from here, most of Manapouri power stations electricity is used to power it and any excess is put back into the grid. It uses so much power that it has its own high voltage power transmission network straight from the power station.

The sun is setting when we get up to the observation deck and it’s a spectacular sunset as its so clear, the sun sinks over the horizon like a glowing orb. It sets so fast that you can almost see it moving and in 10 minutes its all over.

Heading back in the Dodge it’s just burbling along at the legal limit, that big 7.2 litre V8 sounds gorgeous at any speed but pulling away from a junction on a deserted road Trev plants his foot to show us what it will do when you wake it up. The result is extraordinary, suffice to say that you find yourself re-emerging from the seat upholstery when he lifts off.

Back in Invercargill  they take us for a tour around the town centre and I bookmark a couple of things that we want to come back to tomorrow on the bike. Then it’s time for tea we treat ourselves to takeaway fish and chips and back at the ranch Trev knocks up a local delicacy to go with it. It’s the first time we have tried whitebait fritters and they are a good accompanying dish and very nice.

  In the morning Ani arranges for us to have a personal tour of Southland Fire Museum. She knows the guys that run it as she used to be a paramedic and they shared the same station. They have some great exhibits and we get some good pictures dressing Karen up in all the old uniform. Our guide is a long term reserve fireman so we hear some good anecdotes and stories as he shows us around. It takes a couple of hours to go right around and it’s an interesting museum.

Next stop is every petrolheads must see, Burt Monroe and the film the fastest Indian has put Invercargill on the map but surprisingly if you want to see the bike you need to go to a shop not a museum. E.H. Hayes and Sons is a tool and hardware shop that has to be seen to be believed. It is the ultimate man cave and Karen has to virtually drag me out once she has had enough. We are in there a few hours though, there are bikes displayed throughout the shop including of course the streamlined Indian.

A while back Marty told me its not quite the real thing but it’s as close as you are ever going to get.
Apparently Burt went out to the Bonneville salt flats about seven times, afterwards he would ship the engine home to be fettled and then take it back out next year to drop back into the bike. As a result the original frame and tinware all but rusted away and the bike we see here was reconstucted in the USA using period parts and the original engine. It was used in the film and certainly looks the part. If you haven’t seen “The Worlds Fastest Indian” treat yourself to a copy, its a great story superbly acted by Sir Anthony Hopkins.

E.H. Hayes also boasts a 100metre long tool wall and being a bit of a tool addict this is dangerous territory. I am very impressed with my self control as I manage to walk all around the entire shop((six times in three hours)(Karen added this bit)) and only buy one telescopic pen magnet for $10. Surely I deserve a medal or a certificate or something ?

I almost think I have found a replacement for our lost outrigger wheel but nothing is quite right, during this process I go outside to offer a couple up and one member of staff gets a look at the bike. This is then followed by a tag team of the rest of the staff as no one can quite explain and they just end up saying you need to go and take a look.   

Our last treat before we go is to hear the’ bits n bobs’ engine run up, this was built by Norman Hayes after a wager that he couldn’t make an engine using only the junk at the back of his workshop. Take a look at the pictures it is quite incredible. It has a wooden camshaft and bits of pressure cooker, bicycle, garden tap, you name it it’s there somewhere. It still runs quite happily if a little smokily as there are no rings on the piston and it’s great to see it run. We say thank you to the staff and head back to the ranch.

After setting up some more pictures to upload we settle back and watch a film for our last night. Invercargill is not really a tourist destination it’s more of a farming service town but thanks largely to Trev and Ani and their friends we have have had a good time here.

  1. #1 by Kev & Karen on June 8, 2015 - 9:58 pm

    So glad you loved our blog it’s lovely to get feedback from local people.

  2. #2 by Sally on April 5, 2015 - 7:21 am

    Loved your blog. I’m from Manapouri and used to work in tourism the places you visited I always advise travellers to call into. Have travelled a bit ourselves and welcome overseas visitors mostly unknown to our humble abode. So glad you had a great time

  3. #3 by Lyn&Arthur on May 29, 2011 - 10:16 pm

    we are impressed with your caving efforts! Sounds really good & slightly scary. We are glad you made it to the Hayes “Shop”, from the accounts we have heard & read about it, it seemed well worth a visit. It must seem strange still writhing about NZ now you are in OZ — hope you have the bike back with you by now! love M&D

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