More than 40 motorcycles left from outside Motorcycle Replacements premises in Dunedin just after 7am on a recent Saturday to make a day journey right across the South Island.
Clear sunny conditions made for comfortable riding on the early journey 120km north up an uncrowded State Highway 1, then west over to the Southern Alps, through the Lindis Pass and on to Haast.
The trip was organised and promoted by MCR, which fielded several riders and provided back-up vans for dealing with unexpected repairs or emergencies.
Travel was broken up into manageable bites of roughly 120km, meaning all riders and pillions could stay well-fed, hydrated and refreshed. First was up to Oamaru for petrol top-ups and breakfast at the Detroit Diner (on the right at the town's north end) where people could get caffeinated at a leisurely pace, waiting for late stragglers to catch up.
Most riders enjoyed a sweeping perusal of eveyone else's machinery, mostly of fairly substantial displacement, some calmly calculating there was several thousand horsepower on tap in the parking area.
Firing up those motors it was back on the road out of Oamaru in single file again and left at Pukeuri to head west past the braided Waitaki river, its hydrodams and lakes.
The SH83 roads are in good shape with a high grip surface and plenty of undramatic corners between the long straights past Lakes Waitaki and Aviemore through to Omarama.
There it was more tanks top-ups and morning tea all round. By that stage the sun was strong enough that people were removing jacket liners and seeking shade to savour some thing cool.
Comparisons between bikes' fuel consumption became a point of conversation and by then riders were finding out who else they were comfortable
riding with _ occupying their patch of road with riders of similar pace and predictability.
Lighting up the mounts again it was off up SH8 towards the Lindis Valley and heading into the tawny brown textures of the mountain pass.
That road has a snaking series of terrific tight turns, many carefully cambered, and steep mountainsides of awesome height. The road surface is grippy, there's plenty of elevation changes _ a motorcyclist's delight.
On and through SH8A, it's over to Hawea for a long lunch break, enjoying a light breeze overlooking the azure lake surrounded by mountains. It's an area people travel around the world to see. For us it's an easy ride from home.
Bad news arrives just as the first batch of riders get their lunch: a Ducati rider misjudged one of the 65kmh-signposted Lindis Pass corners and left the road, flipping off his bike and landing hard on his back. He was attended by emergency services, who didn't want him to endure several hours' bumpy drive to hospital in Clyde, so the rescue helicopter was on its way. He apparently cracked a few ribs and vertebrae and by that evening was ``comfortable'' in Dunedin Hospital.
A reminder that you cannot get away with being over-optimistic with corner entry speeds.
After everyone had caught up in Hawea, lunched and refuelled we were off again on the last blast, about 130km to Haast. That SH6 is wonderful terrain to cover.
The run up the side of Hawea, through along the edge of Wanaka is sublime for corners, changing elevations and delivers sweeping lake and mountain views.
Better still, there's Haast Pass taking you from Otago into the West Coast District. Steep elevation and tight twisties, interpersed with beautiful straights through cool, verdant corridoors of native beech and ferns. The panoramic views of pristine native New Zealand bush define that West Coast feeling.
The western side is a classic downhill run which crosses the river gorge just be fore Thunder Creek Falls. They run just a couple of minutes' walk from the road through high canopy rainforest to a serene lookout, well worth a visit.
Back on the bikes and it's on down the pass to the flat Haast riverbed. Still plenty of nice corners, flanked by lush forest on both sides as the valley opens out to become more expansive. There are many of the one-lane bridges that characterise routes through this neck of the woods.
It's up lifting to experience untouched New Zealand forest and breathe the clearest of air with just a whiff of the sea in it. Haast itself is at the river mouth and the group overnighted at a coastal lodge 20km further south, returning to Haast for a generous hotel dinner.
The about 50 diners ate heartily, watching the sun set over the sea, with full bellies and a satisfied smile.
After a sleep we were up early for a check of the bikes and the weather, mostly getting going promptly, triggered by clouds looming over the distant mountains.
Riders took a variety of circuitous routes home, many taking extended tours up the West Coast or through the lakes region.
This was MCR's first organised bike rally, and attendees felt like fortune favoured the trip with ideal weather. We were certainly luckier than the many tourists who go to see the famed Haast Pass but get to view nothing but rainclouds _ at very close range, from in side them.
A great camaraderie ensues from together navigating those uncrowded, high country roads that allow us access to what's got to be one of the planet's best recreational back yards. - Peter MacKenzie
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