ACROSS THE DITCH: Queenstown to Hamner Springs 13/03/18 to 19/03/18

ACROSS THE DITCH: Queenstown to Hamner Springs 13/03/18 to 19/03/18

2018-03-21T22:12:10+00:00March 20th, 2018|General, Lee & Paul Update, NZ Ride|

Queenstown has been an idyllic place to take a break, fix Paul’s bike and spend some valuable time with our daughter, Chelsea, but the West Coast is beckoning and it’s time to move on. Unfortunately for Paul, after 140,000 kilometres on the clock, it’s time for his clutch to move on as well! The mechanic was unable to fix it so we need to head to a main centre – and the most logical place is Christchurch.

The iconic Cardrona Hotel on the Crown Range road

The Crown Range is the highest “main” road in New Zealand and ascends rapidly after Arrowtown in a series of really tight hairpins. It’s well regarded in the motorcycle community and the views are stunning with the half-way stop to the ski-fields the iconic Cardrona Hotel, a perfect place to meet for a beer with my cousins Keith and Carolyn. Fifteen helicopters are sitting in the paddock opposite that have flown in a bunch of builders from Aussie on a conference – so the pub is buzzing.

Just down from the Cardrona Hotel is “Bradrona”, a spectacular permenant breast cancer installation

We stay the night in Luggate, a small town just out of Wanaka, on a property where we are able to sleep in an old retro caravan out the back. The mountains rise up all around us and a new suburb out of Wanaka makes you appreciate “views” as these houses are on flat land but everyone has a view “up” – something you don’t think about when you have have mostly lived on a hill to get a view of the water. The scenery is jaw-dropping as we head north and once again, New Zealand just keeps delivering.

Great light over beautiful Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea is a visual treat and the cooling weather casts a wonderful mood over the lake with every corner presenting another “shot” – but you just can’t stop for them all! The road twists and turns and then we are riding beside Lake Wanaka.

Lake Wanaka en route to the Haast Pass

The mountains seem to be all around us again – still no snow as yet, but it may not be far away. It’s a pleasant 18 degrees C and sunny so we have lucked in again with the weather. The ride through Haast Pass is just glorious with views of Mt. Aspiring – which does have a snow cap – and the alpine rivers are all wonderful shades of turquoise. We come out at the coast and are now in Westland….

Another stunning bike road round the West Coast

The trees are once more slanted by winds but the weather is not too bad for a region which hardly has a day without rain of some kind. The coast road is interesting and winds it’s way north to Glacier Country. We come into Fox and meet a biker from Australia who is the runner for a group of cyclists who are riding from Dunedin to Christchurch in a loop. There are two support vans and this guy on the motorbike rides ahead and sorts out cafes and accommodation – what a cool job! We can see the top of Franz Joseph Glacier as we ride past but both glaciers have retreated substantially over the years…and it reminds me of another story… The weather is holding but the overnight low expected is only 4 degrees so we check into a backpackers behind the pub at Harihari and have an interesting night talking to the locals. Paul’s clutch is NOT happy so we need to limit the stops and hope he makes it into Christchurch. The weather is fine through the Arthur’s Pass and it’s so cool to ride this stretch again (what a blast), then straight into the workshop in Christchurch. The parts will have to come from Austria so we leave both bikes, hire a small car and catch up with Philippa and Mark, who we met at New Year.

Smash Palace with Philippa and Mark Nicklin who we met at New Year

They take us on a fabulous tour around the city showing us sights we wouldn’t have found on our own and we have a few pints at Smash Palace, a wonderful pop-up bar that started after the earthquake and has become an institution. It’s Bike Night, so motorbikes are riding right in amongst the patrons!

Bike Night at Smash Palace, Christchurch

Christchurch Cathedral is a very sad sight

Evidence of the earthquake seven years ago is very evident but Cantabrians are getting on with it. AMI Stadium sustained massive damage and devastatingly for Christchurch, it was just prior to the 2011 Rugby World Cup, so all the games to be played here were moved to other locations in New Zealand.

Severely damaged AMI Stadium, still to be demolished

We walk around past C-One, an eclectic cafe where sliders and fries are delivered through a chute system, and then dine at Little High, a wonderful funky food court with a great assortment of food. There’s an Argentinian Grill, Mexican, Pizzas, Japanese and live music is being piped through the place. Our South American food and wine was to die for. We drove to Little Regent, a precinct of quaint cafes and shops with a refurbished top facade and had the most amazing gelato with such unique flavours.

Gelato flavours with a creative Kiwi flair

Everywhere you look, there is old and new. After the earthquake they commissioned street artists to do massive murals to distract onlookers from the chaos. The vibe in this city is one of massive refurbishment but done with a careful and creative flair – Christchurch will become a city like no other!

The Nor’west Arch is a weather pattern peculiar to the east coast of the South Island.

We take the Dyers Pass Road over the Port Hills out of the city and can see the Christchurch Adventure Park which boasts the most extensive lift-access mountain bike trails in the southern hemisphere. It has the longest chairlift in New Zealand and world-class zip-lining, the design of which came from the owners of a similar park in Whistler, Canada. The $24million park was forced to close only eight weeks after it opened due to an extensive fire which destroyed all the forest but they reopened this summer.

Banks Peninsula from the Dyers Pass Road

We head to the Banks Peninsula which was formed by several volcanoes and was once home to many Maori people. A French whaling captain negotiated with the Maoris to purchase the whole peninsula but when the colonists returned, they discovered the Treaty of Waitingi had been signed giving the British sovereignty over the whole of New Zealand. The French settled anyway giving the tiny settlement of Akaroa the French flavour it retains today. Fish and chips down by the wharf are a wonderful treat with our first try of fresh warehau, a moist white fish caught locally.

The quaint French-flavoured settlement of Akaroa, Banks Peninsula, from our campground

Akaroa Harbour has many visiting cruise ships which fills the town with tourists

Cute villa in Akaroa, Banks Peninsula

We spend a day visiting peaks and bays and getting the essence of the area, which although quite remote is less than two hours from Christchurch.

Akaroa Harbour from the Summit Road, Banks Peninsula

Footy practice at low tide in Duvauchelle, Banks Peninsula

Okains Bay, Banks Peninsula, where we camped on the foreshore for a night

Little Akaloa, Banks Peninsula

Original farmhouse, Banks Peninsula

Friendly local, Hilltop Tavern, Banks Peninsula

Show Me A Sign

Beauty Parlour called “SAY NO TO FUR” in Christchurch that specialises in waxing!

Favourite of the Week

On the Banks Peninsula we drove down to the Purple Peak Reserve on a little gravel track and just on the ONE corner was a “Careful Blind Corner” sign – we thought we must be in Ireland because every corner was a blind one!

There were many native birds up in this reserve, like the massive wood pigeons, and you notice their sounds, as bird-life in New Zealand is so quiet after Australia.

Story of the Week

We spent New Year in Whiritoa with Paul’s brother and his family and it was good to spend some quality time with our niece Mary, and her fiancé, Christian. Both Mary and Christian’s families have been going to Whiritoa for years – and this is how the two met. We have drinks with his parents and family and discover that his Mum, Philippa, was raised in Colac Bay at the bottom of the South Island – and my cousins came from down there, and it’s a very small settlement. It turns out that while my cousins family owned the store and school bus run, Philippa’s owned the pub! She remembers my cousin, Aynsley, looking after her on the bus to her first day of school!

My cousin Aynsley on the left (check out the gloves!) and Philippa in the middle on her first day of school

Philippa and Mark invited us to visit them if we were in Christchurch and as we are having bike issues and need to stay over in the city, we contact them. Aynsley also happens to be touring the South Island so we all arrange to meet and after 54 years – these two get to see each other! What a wonderful evening we had sharing many stories of the south and growing up in a tiny community…and how there’s always someone in New Zealand that knows someone, that’s related to someone – and on it goes!

Phillipa and Aynsley – 54 years later!

Story from the Past

Back in the late seventies, Paul and I did a tour of the South Island in a car and checked into a campground at Fox Glacier where the reception asked us to pay a “noise” bond. While we were putting up the tent, we discovered everyone was charged a bond, but at different rates – depending on what – no-one could ascertain! Was it the length of Paul’s hair, the colour of our skin, our age? I wrote a letter to the TV network on the return home and we appeared as guests on the Fair Go programme which screened live right around New Zealand. The host had a great time questioning us as to what sort of noise a young couple in a sleeping bag could really make!




  1. Alison March 25, 2018 at 4:03 am

    Love the family stories Lee and of course the great pictures.Hope you both have a great easter, still remembering that great easter last year.xxxx

    • Lee March 26, 2018 at 5:02 am

      It was a good one Alisonfay! One of the best! Happy Easter to you and we’ll have to do it again xxxx

  2. Kelly March 23, 2018 at 4:45 am

    Great read! You kids crack me up! Getting closer to Nelson …… whoop whoop

    • Lee March 24, 2018 at 3:12 am

      Thanks Kells! We’re having fun at Sandy’s right now with a crew and everyone’s looking forward to seeing you…roll on next week! xxxx

  3. Mal March 21, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Another very informative blog with excellent pix. The road from Arrowtown through Cardrona to Wanaka is just fantastic – it is a shame the clutch in Paul’s bike is not so good! Love the pix you captured at Akaroa and Banks Peninsula.

    • Lee March 21, 2018 at 10:02 pm

      Hi Mal, it’s interesting really because the only bit of flat (not necessarily boring) roads are in Canterbury – every road is awesome for motorcycles! Dyers Pass Road over to Banks Peninsula and the whole area were wonderful bike roads – with a lot of bikers around (weekend riders) who seem to head to the Hilltop Tavern! We’re trying to cope without our trusty steeds, gave the rental a total workout over the Molesworth Road yesterday…but that’s in the next blog! Cheers xx

  4. Beryl March 21, 2018 at 6:46 am

    Stunning pics Lee.

    • Lee March 21, 2018 at 9:58 pm

      Thanks matey, looking forward to a big catch-up session on our return xxxx

  5. Shazza Dazza March 21, 2018 at 2:28 am

    As expected Lee and Paul deliver an exciting journey throughout a beautiful land . The places the food the stories and well the scenery, thanks for the wonderful blogs of your amazing adventures . Miss you love you both 😘👍🌈

    • Lee March 21, 2018 at 9:57 pm

      Hi guys, thanks Shazza…glad you’re enjoying it. We’re having an epic journey and it’s funny because people said we had far too much time here but there is so much to see and do. We’re a bit envious of the mobile homes sometimes…but only when we’re not riding!! Love and hugs xxxx

  6. Hilda Pye March 20, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Great photos Lee! Christchurch definitely has a vibe. Looks like you guys are having a real “epic” journey!

    • Lee March 21, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      Hey Hil, for such a small city population-wise there was an awful lot going on there. I was quite jealous of all the creative flair and all the cultural happenings. I’d love to go back to a place called Groovy Glasses – just for the gorgeous frames! Big hugs xxxx

  7. Susie March 20, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Awesome stories as usual Lee and Paul. Keep ‘me coming.

    • Lee March 21, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Thanks Susie. We met a lady from Darwin yesterday talking in a camp kitchen and she reckoned they were looking for somewhere further south to settle for retirement. I said what about Maleny…”ooh no, it’s on a ‘ridgeline’ and you wouldn’t be able to escape in a bushfire”…we had a good laugh over that one!! Love to you both xxxx

  8. Susan Hird March 20, 2018 at 7:59 am

    More wonderful stories & photos Lee. Was so pleased to see there was another blog!
    Especially love the footy training photo. That really is a beaut!

    • Lee March 21, 2018 at 9:50 pm

      We stood transfixed watching them, it was a pity they were just finishing. Every now and then we get enough service to see snippets and it looks like you guys are having heaps of fun too. Looking forward to loads of laughs and family time next week xxxx

  9. Sue March 20, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Love that you are meeting old friends and family everywhere. What’s the name if the place you grew up in Lee? And Paul? I’ll find it. I found the Christchurch pics and comments interesting too. I was at work that night (parent /teacher probably) and had gone to move my car. The news came on the radio with the Christchurch earthquake the headline. Unforgettable. Keep enjoying xx

    • Lee March 21, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      Hi Sue, we’re saving the best till last!! Not really…but we’re yet to do the North. Isn’t it interesting how we always remember “where we were” when big news happens. You really can’t get too far from family and friends in New Zealand and we’re totally loving it. Love and hugs xxxx

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