Welcome to my New Zealand South Island tour on this:- '94 Honda VFR750 Internationally voted best all round sports tourer 1988 – 96 Perfect for autobahns, the French Alps and shopping. Excellent roll on between 3000 and 4500 rpm, hyperspace zone 7000 to 13000rpm Pulls 3 rd from 1700 rpm (useful on gravel or State Highway 1) Top speed – adequate 0kph to New Zealands maximum limit - about 3 seconds, but let the passenger know first. Braking - 100kph to 0kph in 35 meters; grip that tank if you want more children. Handling – well beyond my limits governor. Economy – 40/45 mpg cruising. Range - 340 to 370 kilometers South Island tyre wear – atrocious but worth every mm Modifications – heated grips and +90% Hella front halogens.
Motorcyling. I've been riding since a teenager, the first bike being a Honda CB160 way back in 1971. I remember my first ride as if were yesterday. One of the great joys motorcycling was taking off for weekends, sometimes to France – and further. A big wakeup call was being a despatch rider in London for almost three years. Despite 10's of thousands of miles experience it was a huge step up riding 5 days a week every week to keep your family in food and lodgings in what is acknowledged as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. A car seeks to isolate from the outside, a motorcycle integrates you. The smells of dawn, alpine flowers and wildlife create imediate awareness of the enviroment. The motorcycle itself becomes an extension to your body and mind. Lower your left shoulder and the bike turns left, it's telepathic, feeding you detailed road and weather information, challenging your mind and giving sometimes - a glimpse of beyond. Motorcyling is more a way of life than a means of transport, an adventure in every journey. We don't wave to each other for nothing. It means many things but to me mainly freedom, freedom to go and to return, to be part of a group or not, to be myself or not. J. P. Satre came to realise that freedom was the journey as opposed the end goal and so founded one of the great cornerstones of modern philosophy.
Leaving Wellington Harbour swinging around Moaning Minney, the buoy marking Barrets Reef. The reef is to the left and the inshore pasage is safe enough for a yacht but definitely not a ship. The QE2 had only a few feet underneath at this point whilst visiting Wellington
Navigating the Tory Channel entrance. Not to be done in a yacht during a southerly gale. The rocks are full of birds with a grandstand view of humans attempting this passage. In a yacht there are more pressing distractions.
After a pleasant two hour evening ride, albiet against the sun, St Arnaud and the only DOC campsite open – for both humans and sandflies. Apprarently it wasn't summer season yet. This site was well appointed and clean with an above average shower.
Pancake Rocks blow holes – still raining. These show a major “unconformity” in the stratigraphic column. Unconformities are referred to as “periods of non-deposition and erosion” which in this area stretches from the Paleozoic era, around 400 million years BP to the Eocene coal measures found locally (about 47 Million years BP). This means that the entire Mesozoic Era is missing, consisting of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Source: Thomas Joseph Brown
Until reaching Franz Joseph Top Ten campsite. I rode straight past here thinking it too civilised but there seemed no other campsite and the dampness was becoming all pervading. They had dryers for riding gear, cover for the bike and were very accomodating. This was despite me dripping water all over their reception, guest book and almost shorting out their efpos swip machine
The only spot not inches deep in water and the only tent. There's nothing like the sound of rain on a tent at night especially when you know you're down in a campsite and not going be blown off a mountain and with the bike safely under cover.. This was a borrowed US made three person tent and proved really good once I figured out how to keep the inside dry(ish). The extra space meant all the gear could be kept inside, dried out and insect proof. A few intrepid insects had hitched a lift from St Arnaud. I cooked in here rather than the clinical communal kitchens The 'lump' behind is actually a fallen beach tree not a rock.
On the following day the Lord created - Franz Joseph Glacier
Prompting a Heli trip over this on the way to a landing on the summit
Fox Glacier – geology in action. Both glaciers are in retreat but having ice this close to sea level is highly unusual at this latitude, so maybe they are retreating to 'normal'. My gps was showing only 120 meters of altitude. This is as close as the unguided were alllowed to get due to unstable rock conditions above. Indeed it was hard to spot any stable rock formations. It was all crumbling and moving.
Fox Glacier. Glaciers build in bowels high in the mountains. The compressed ice is forced out and down, carving out whole valleys over thousands of years. They move inches or many feet a day. A glacier in retreat provides a great oppurtunity to study the effects and time scales, especially one as acessible as this, 5 mins off the main road.
Fox Glacier valley wall showing vertical strata formed by the alpine pressure plate pushing up This strata closer up showing horizontal scratches caused by the glacier carving out the valley
This boulder was shimmering in the sunlight. I've yet to determine whether it's a metamorphic rock such as schist or gneiss. From it's rounded shape it looks as if it's been carried down, as opposed to fallen. The place is a geologists paradise. The inset boulder shows glacier wear scratch marks and more rounded through water erosion.
A helicopter ride and this – more paradise. Even though the bike is only ticking over at 3-5500 rpm, it provided plenty of fun, mainly due to its flat torque curve and impresive roll on power in this rpm band. This is just as well because it spent most of its time here.
Hannah's clearing – I think! This is a DOC reserve with some salt marshes behind.
Cammeron Flats looking back to Haast Pass Wanted to camp here but it was only early afternoon so dried the tent and made coffee. The distant snow peaks looked great climbing and very accessible. Thought there were climbing tracks on the distant peaks but they were only boulder drops.
Crossing the divide towards Lake Wanka. Huge transformations between west and east coasts with the prevailing maritime westerlies dropping most of the moisture on the West Coast. These valleys would be prone to dry katabatic winds in the evenings.
Straight through Queenstown and up by Lake Wakatipu. Wasn't sure where I was going but I wasn't going to stay in Queenstown, besides there were more corners to be ridden. There was plenty of accomodation available so don't know how it all works the other 48 weeks of the year.
After some 40 minutes of great riding along the lakeside I ended up here. Happily horses, dogs and motorcycles can't read. Oddly the sign faced inside the camp and only viewable after checking in.
Heading south to Te Anau and Milford Sound and a few twisties to keep the mind busy and loosen the body early in the morning. Despite it's size the VFR's agility and fun factor through these corners was impressive, even at 7.30 am.
The tunnel exites onto this hairpin desent where only the day before Transit NZ had kindly resurfaced with fine loose gravel. In this situation I used a low gear keeping to 20/35 kph, using engine braking and a touch of rear brake to help kill the rear wheel inertia. Front brakes were a no no of course.
I don't think anything really prepares for this, especially after such a spectacular approach. This was one of the subjects I had to paint for a film when first arriving in NZ. The weather was closing in fast so I didn't stay long, especially in view of the road conditions experienced on the way in.
The summit of Mitre Peak 1,692 metres (5,551 feet) Mitre Peak was first climbed by in 1910 by Lieutenant James Robert Dennistoun. For years the approach was considered impassible Today it's considered a relatively easy, though exposed, climb in good conditions. The summit approach leads along this ridge and it's really five peaks in one.
Deer Flats Campsite, towards Milford Sound. There are so many good campsites along here, but this is one of the best and as usual impossibly crowded. The river faces the bike.
Coming across this camp left over from 1960 except for the sat dish. This is the week before Christmas and I'm the only traveller. How do people make a living - or should one ask! Didn't stay.
Then on down through here. This is a better camping area than Te Anau. Pick up your supplies there and camp here.
And on south via route 99 I saw no other vehicle on the road for over 40 minutes
The southern most point of route 99 You can see an approaching weather front on the horizon. Time to move on.
A quick visit to the Harley Davidson parts center near Aveimore The buildings (empty) behind had just been completed including a cafe (closed) and dam resource center (also closed) behind.
Setting camp below Mt Sefton. It was great listening to rumbling avalanches off this over night. Some 'voice' told me to take the camera when going to the facilities block first thing – I didn't (well you don't do you!) and had to scamper back to catch this rainbow.
Leaving Mount Cook National Park, just ahead of the rain