Driving round Banks Peninsula in a little clapped-out Hyundai Getz is nothing like riding the wonderful roads on our KTM’s but we are adjusting, slowly, and making a positive slant to our journey. Inside a car we can chat, keep warm and dry, carry different food and crawl very slowly up steep gradients! We always knew it was a risk taking our well-used motorcycles on a six-month ride and to be fair, it’s just a worn-out clutch! My worn out chain and sprockets are being redirected to Christchurch so everything can be done at once and while the LC8 engines are still purring, we will keep riding. As our mate Pete always says “You just can’t seem to ‘kill’ those bikes!!”
Hanmer Springs is our first port of call out of Christchurch and once more the Southern Alp mountains are all around us with beautiful views as we come into town. The natural thermal pools are a big attraction here but we enjoy the crisp alpine air and a walk up Conical Hill through the forest.
We’ve decided our next move is over the Molesworth Road as we hear it closes after Easter (purportedly it is one of the coldest places in the country) and we don’t have a date yet for picking up our bikes. The rental agreement for our little car doesn’t mention “no” for gravel – it just states that insurance doesn’t cover the underneath of the car and the roof! We head up the Jollies Pass and it has a 4 x 4 sign, but we know this is only a short part and the rest of the road is okay for cars. It’s steep and a little gouged in places but the little blue car copes and once we come down the other side of the pass we start to enjoy the experience of this stunningly beautiful and isolated road.
Molesworth Station is the largest farm in New Zealand and travelling through is a unique high-country experience with the craggy scree-scarred mountains, wide river valleys and tussock slopes.
The last part of the Molesworth Road is through the beautiful Awatere Valley which nowadays is full of vineyards as the climate here is slightly cooler than other parts of Marlborough wine country and is perfect for certain grape varieties. We arrive in Blenheim and set up camp with a balmy evening but during the night the skies open so our day off in town is a wet one…perfect weather for some wineries! We visit Wither Hills and meet the delightful Thibault from France, a young man who is very good at his job!
It’s Paul’s birthday so we find the Dodson Street Beer Garden, a perfect place to mark the occasion as they have one of the largest selection of craft beers and ciders on tap in New Zealand and the authentic German cuisine is just the ticket.
The Wairau Valley takes us to the small alpine village of St. Arnaud and the gradual ascent means cooler weather as we circumnavigate Lake Rotoiti and drive up Mt. Robert.
The Motueka Valley is very picturesque and full of surprises (like the sculpted bull in the middle of a paddock) and it’s home to my cousin Sandy. We are on our way to Nelson for a family reunion and as we get closer, it is time to spend time with cousins I haven’t seen in 30 years.
Favourite of the Week
My cousin, Fiona, is one of life’s gems who after working as a nanny overseas in the ’80’s came home to New Zealand and started a small business called Domestic Personnel, an agency which provides a range of domestic services. The business grew and Fiona sold franchises all over the country, an amazing legacy. Now she and her partner are living their dream doing bio-dynamic farming on a remote lifestyle block in Golden Bay.
After moving to Nelson, she was involved with fundraising for the Nelson/Tasman Cycle Trails Trust and then for St. John’s Ambulance raising funds and project managing the building of an ambulance station. She is now a business mentor so she “knows” most of the small business owners in the Nelson/Golden Bay area. Coming from a small business background myself, it’s always a joy to come across business’s that stand out – and it’s usually the people behind them that make them special. Fiona takes us to visit Zatori, a gorgeous retreat that overlooks the Collingwood Estuary and village, halfway between Takaka and the world famous Farewell Spit.
Tracy Walker has designed and developed the premises from an old rest-home and the detailing is exquisite. We share a few local beers from the Mussel Inn, and appreciate the view.
Down the hill from Fiona’s block on the way to the start of the Heaphy Track is Langfords Store which has a strong historic background and is thought to be the oldest operating store in New Zealand. Three generations of Langford’s have been behind the counter since it opened in 1928 and today Sukhita Langford runs the amazing little shop, full of antiques and her own delightful hand-made wares.
Show Me A Sign