|Leaving Napier riding down route 50 we crack on until we join route 2 which is the more scenic route to Wellington, only stopping to fuel up at Masterton and buy a flasher relay as our indicators come on but no longer flash. I suspect it’s the relay which is an electronic led specific one but Battery Town the local auto electrical dealer come up trumps and at a good price, I buy some spare NGK spark plugs here too. Back on the road again we make reasonable progress, we would have liked to explore around the southern coastline some more but there is no coast road as such just lots of little dead ends or loops and we are now on a deadline for Rocky’s 50th. All of a sudden the previously straightish road starts steeply climbing and becoming very very twisty. It’s a great ride and quite unexpected, we learn from the sign that we are riding over the Rimutaka range. It must have been a challenge getting the original coaching road across here and it must be hairy in the winter even now. There are roadworks in a couple of places straightening some of the sharper corners out ( boo hiss !) Anyway it’s all good fun and once we are over it we follow the main dual carriageway into New Zealands capital city.
It is very compact as citys go, it’s size is limited by the geography as it sits in a bowl surrounded by hills and the sea. We are on our way to meet Barry and his family who responded via Horizons Unlimited.com when we first got to NZ. We phoned him yesterday to warn him we were on our way and to see if it was still convenient to stay, he said it was fine so we entrust Doris our GPS with the job of leading us there which she does a good job of. Well done Doris. Parking is a bit of a game however as the street is on a steep hill and there is a massive camber drop off by the kerb but I manage to slide it into an empty car space without embarassing myself too much.
Barry and his wife Belinda are lovely and live in a old house by NZ standards 1886. They make us very welcome, we are introduced to the rest of the family (they have a son and daughter) and shown to the spare room which is our temporary home.
We are treated to dinner which is delicious and a real treat whilst we tell them about some of our adventures. Barry has a BMW F650 and Belinda pillions when they go touring. Later conversation turns to what’s coming up in the South Island and some things not to miss. It’s a weekday and the rest of the world has to go to work tomorrow so we retire around 11pm having had a nice evening.
Next day after breakfast we head into town on foot which gives us a good chance to look around Welly as it’s affectionately known, it’s a got a laid back anything goes feel about it.. Our destination Te Papa which means building of treasures is NZ’s national museum similar to the UK’s science and natural history museums rolled into one. It is on 6 floors and is vast, we know it will take us all day! Our first stop is actually minus one floor to the basement. There is a room here where you can see the revolutionary shock absorbers this entire building is mounted on, to protect it from earthquakes (Wellington is overdue a fairly big one). They look like giant rubber anti vibration mounts which of course is exactly what they are with a few special features and there are hundreds of them. Back upstairs we start the tour, there are exhibits on natural history, earthquakes, maori history, the european pioneers, kiwiana (all things kiwi), photography, ceramics, technology you name and it’s here. It’s a brilliant museum and you really need several visits to do it justice. Karen and I lose each other for about an hour in the Maori hall but luckily bump into each other again before we head out to find some lunch. As predicted it does take us all day but we did it justice I think. Highlights for us included the photography exhibition by Brian Brake
he worked on assignment for life magazine for many years and was a fabulous photographer.
The natural history section was interesting for us too as so many animals are different here to what we are used to at home. There are displays of skeletons of whales, dolphins and just about every other animal you can think of together with life like recreations. We are museumed out by the end of the day and we walk back to Barry’s with sore backs from standing too much but we have had a good day. Back at the ranch we collapse with a cup of tea and I get chance to have a play with Barry’s guitar, I am not very good but I enjoy playing, there was no room for a guitar on the bike although I did contemplate a mandolin for a while. Later Belinda treats us to another lovely dinner which together with conversation and a few glasses of wine makes a nice evening of it. Next day we are up with the rest of the household having breakfast, fortunately Barry doesn’t need to be in a suit today so he offers to escort us to the ferry terminal as it’s a little tricky to find and a long way before you can turn around on the dual carriageway if you miss it. We say goodbye and thank you to Barry outside the port he is a nice guy and he and Belinda have been great hosts.
We roll into the port area and park up with the other bikes about 15 in total, most of the assembled crowd come over for a look and a chat then we start to board. The bikes are all together, we have been told the crossing can be quite rough sometimes. All the other bikers have their own tie downs, we don’t have any but we put it on the centrestand, chock the wheels and tie it down with our rope as best we can. It looks like a giant spiders web by the time I’ve finished but hopefully it will stop it going over. Not that I am that worried about the Guzz that’s big enough and ugly enough to look after itself I am more concerned about it landing on the row of expensive looking Harley Davidsons next to it.
Up on deck we wave goodbye to Welly and watch it grow ever smaller as we head out into the Cook Straits. The South Island is visible as we clear land but the crossing still takes 4 hours as it takes a long time to travel through the Marlborough sounds to get into Picton. Apparently they have been having to re educate some visiting world cup fans that there isn’t a bridge between the North and South island. A lot of people are also under the misconception that the Tasman sea from NZ to Oz is a little hop on a ferry when in fact it’s a four hour flight in a jet aircraft.
The last hour and a half sailing through the Sounds is a treat for the eyes, rolling hills come down to the sea and there are lots of beautiful hidden beaches a fore taste of what’s to come. We are slightly disapointed not to see any dolphins on the crossing as they sometimes follow the boat.
Docking at Picton we unstrap the bike which hasn’t moved at all but then we were blessed with a very smooth crossing and nice weather. Rolling out of the dark hold and out into the bright sunshine we are in the South Island Woooohooo !