Archive for » January, 2010 «

Well, they say things come in threes…… the third thing in this case was Louise’s Road Code theory test which she hopes to take tomorrow.

Every other minute was a question on the Code, about the Code or a request for questions on the Code. Having said that, it was not a problem. Louise did very well on her reading, and it taught me quite a bit that I had no idea of – even though I transferred my bike licence straight over into a NZ one!

When not dealing with the Code, I was finishing off updating my CV. At the last look today, there were about another 8-9 jobs awaiting it’s completion….

Louise had arranged to do two courses today – “Learn To Ride” and the “Basic Motorcycle Handling Skills” course and test. So, we were up with the sparrows, and in to Wellington to drop Louise off at the Victoria Street car park for 845am. Good luck for the day Louise! (She didn’t want me hanging around to distract her).

It promises to be a sweltering day! Louise did have a cold drink and lunch with her though, so she should have been ok.

I popped in to see Graham and Jayne just after 9. We chatted for a while until Sian convinced Jayne to let her drive to the shops. While they were out, Graham and I played Scattergories with Bethan – very hard game on a short timer! Bethan was doing really well!! Better than me I think….

Decided to go back home for a few hours, rather than hang around in Wellington. I met Alec and Liz (landlord and lady) when I arrived back and we started to have a chat about the bikes – they were fine with us having the two. Mostly they were dead impressed with Louise for giving it a go!

Popped back in to Wellington to pick up Louise – left at 3:20 and got there at 3:59, so 40 mins to the centre of Wellington, but that was with hardly any traffic, on a Saturday afternoon and keeping to the speed limit.

Found Louise propped up against a wall sat next to another girl who had been on the 2 courses as well. She’d PASSED! Evidently it was a close-run thing with the cone slalom bit, but she got it in the end. To be fair, you don’t often meet a cone slalom out on the road, although arguably you can quite often end up in a slalom on some of the roads, avoiding possums, gravel, rocks, landslides, trees…… that sort of thing!

Training day (3) Training day Training day (2)

Out of the 7 hours on the courses and test, Louise had managed about 10 mins for a very quick sandwich. On such a sweltering day Wellington had dropped all the wind normally found, so when she removed her helmet at the end of the day her hair looked like she’d just gotten out of the shower!!

We went for a few well-deserved coffees on the front at Petone. Luckily I’d taken the car to pick her up – she was fed up to the teeth with bikes and was pretty close to never wanting to ride one (except as pillion, and even then not for a while) ever again….

We headed home for a well-earned rest for Louise!

Left the house just after 9am to have a nice leisurely trip up to Waiouru to pick up Louise’s bike. We stopped for a coffee opposite the Route66 on SH1 cafe at Foxton – sorry Fitz, we’ll go back on bikes for a picture, it’s just not the same parked there in a car!

We got up to Waiouru and as I was texting Amelia, she phoned me LOL.

Picked the bike up with no stress and parked up at the petrol station in Waiouru to fill up and take a few piccies.

Waiouru (2) Waiouru Waiouru (3)

We stopped a couple of times on the way down to the Kapiti coast, first stop was Mangaweka Hill. The bike was proving to be pretty cool, once it was up to 100 kph, although I quickly decided not to overtake anything unless they were stopped LOL.

Mangaweka hill

The next few stops were quick ones, and it only took 4 1/2 hrs to get back. It was a lovely gentile trip in beautiful weather all the way. However, I’m nadged now!!

The weather was wet and windy today…. nope, not going to pick up the bike today!

I carried on with updating my CV and looking for jobs to apply for….

We talked to Mitch on Skype this morning, lovely to catch up with news after a week or two. Don’t really get a chance just to chat on RPG mornings (well, ok, RPG evenings in the UK)!

The weather was lovely on the Kapiti coast, but still nasty up North. I had a look at the forecast and decided Friday would be a good day for the return trip from Waiouru. Texted Amelia and let her know.

We set off instead on a bike ride to Paekakariki to have a more in-depth looksee – didn’t take long, and still not that impressed – then on to Plimmerton. A bit like Babbacombe beach/harbour, but more houses, sunshine and without the steep cliffs!


What a gorgeous little bay there! The beaches are pretty good and the houses look extremely expensive!

We rode to the south end of the inland lake to Pauatahanui, following a Ute with no petrol cap. I didn’t notice the first spill, but rode through the second corner spill and saw it spraying everywhere on the thrid corner! I tried flashing the owner – difficult to do on amotorbike I can hear you thinking, but I meant the headlights of course – but he was determined to drive on regardless of his ever-dwindling fuel load. We stopped for coffee in Pauatahanui and then rode off to have a look at the Upper Hutt City Centre in the Hutt Valley.

Nice shopping centre, and maybe worth a trip back if we’re bored of Wellington, but otherwise a small city centre if you know what I mean.

Louise remembered seing a sign on the road to the Rimutuka Road towards Kaitoke for a place called Tunnel Gully (a recreational area), so we thought we’d go have a look. The road turned into gravel halfway there, and nice sharp hilly turns but the mood was with us. As it turned out, I’m glad we persevered. There was a lovely picninc area at the end of the road. We found the tunnel, an old railway tunnel through the mountain range.

Tunnel Gully picnics (3) Tunnel Gully picnics (6)

The tunnel was long, very long…… we didn’t even see the alcoves dotted along its length the first time we went through. It was very spooky to see them on the way back through, they were even darker than the main tunnel! Don’t let the 2nd photograph fool you, the flash was extremely bright – we couldn’t see a damn thing!

Tunnel Tunnel (2)
We decided to take the Akaratawara Rd back to the west coast – it’s quite a road, so we stopped at the summit for a break. We were gazing at the view, having pulled up alongside a camper van. Nothing unusual in a camper van parked up, but then a guy came out and started chatting followed by his wife. We chatted to Eddie & Rose for nearly an hour swapping map details (he mentioned the Cave Beach, Forgotten Hghway and the blue/green/black lakes around Rotorua). He’s ex-Dutch, she’s ex-Maidstone who came over to NZ with her parents when she was 11. They travel all over in a camper, have done Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia and all sorts. Nice people, who live in Napier. We picked up their details and a promise to call them if we were ever around Napier and pop in for a coffee, or the night, and a tour around Napier proper. Lovely surprise!

We took it nice and easy back down the other side into Waikanae and headed home.

Spoke to Niki on Skype this morning, her last night. Still impressed on how easy it is to keep in contact and actually see faces rather than just writing letters – not a strong point of mine, writing letters…

Checked the mail on the way out – we now both have valid NZ driving licences – not only that but they’re “clean” too!

Something that Louise had asked me to wait before posting here was her decision to make the most of the time we have available here to maybe look at re-learning how to ride a bike. We’d already had a long talk about her trying to learn on mine, and had decided that it might be asking a little bit much for her to take on! We’d looked at a couple of bikes in the local area – Suzuki GN 250s – and they seemed a bit over-priced in comparison with the rest of the country. Having checked out the good old TradeMe website though, we did find a more sensibly priced one in Waiorou. I mailed the owner, and asked if we could come and have a look – no worries!

So, we packed up my wets n stuff in the car and headed North. It’s probably fair to say that the weather conditions further north today were not very promising – the lightning symbols and black clouds on the weather map sort of gave it away. However, never to be shy of a little rain, I agreed to think about bringing the bike back down if she bought it. We left about midday to go up to Waiouru, agreeing to maybe stop in Levin for a coffee etc on the way.

We didn’t stop at Levin after all, the weather was good so we pressed on. We got as far as Flat Hills, Mangaweka, before the rain started, so we pulled in at the Flat Hills Cafe for a spot of afternoon beverage.

We set back off and straight away the promised thunderstorms appeared. Not so bad in a car though, so we pressed on and arrived at Waiouru an hour early. We stopped for a coffee in a “chinese come cafe” opposite the military museum. The coffee tasted of burnt coffee beans, so we won’t be taking a stop there again. As we left, a couple turned up on a Suzuki DL1000, like mine, quoting greasy, wet and windy condition on the Desert Rd just to the North.

We took a trip around the military base quarters, passing two house moves – literally, two houses on the back of transporter lorries – going on. They had just unplugged them from the ground and lifted them onto lorries – I did wonder if they’d packed first… We found Amelia’s house, the bike owner, and arrived just before Amelia and Michael getting back home from work. They were a lovely couple – she’s a NZ Army Sgt training new recruits at the base. We had a little chat and a looksee at the bike, which wasn’t quite in an “excellent” condition, but pretty good all the same. I went off to road test the bike, leaving Louise to chat. I just popped onto the first bits of Desert Road to see if the engine sounded as good as it looked, and confirming that it was wet, greasy and none too safe at the moment – the road, not the bike!

We chatted over a coffee when I got back and managed to knock off a fair few dollars from the reasonable price already asked for. Agreed and paid a deposit, got a receipt, and decided that the thunderstorms rolling south weren’t exactly nice to ride in! We agreed to phone later in the week when the weather was a little more promising. If it helps set the scene, you can normally see Mt Ruapeho from the quarters, but I could hardly see the end of the road 50 yds away! Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the wet conditions, or the cold (I was prepared for that) and don’t see myself as that much of a warm weather biker given the easily changeable weather in New Zealand, but the concentration to get down off the mountain plateau was not something to look forward to!

Typically as it turned out, after an hour or two of thunderstorm conditions, the weather from Levin onwards was pretty good, just a few small showers! However, I’d have been leaving at 7pm, in the wet, so decided it had been the right decision anyway. We also got home in about 2 1/2 hrs – a lot faster than it would have taken on the 250 bike!

We stopped in Bulls for a pee on the way back. The sign quoted “Relieva-bull” facilities, but obviously I didn’t use the “Disa-bull-ed” toilets!

We didn’t get back in time for the cinema tonight, but got to watch the first two episodes of the new series of House (less the first 20 mins) – great!! We had wondered how he was going to get on in the mental asylum….

Despite the weather picking up again – thanks to the Australians for passing on those lovely weather fronts by the way – lots of new job advertisements appeared today, so I stayed in and started working my way through.

Louise popped out to Paraparam and picked up an inflatable mattress, picnic chairs and a humongous cast iron frying pan to replace the $5 one we bought when we arrived – it’s looking like a pan from a refugee camp with the scratch marks from kitchen implements turning into rust spots normally found on the keels of ocean-going ships! The old one can go back in the cupboard for a while now, just in case we want to use it to poison any local wildlife by cooking with it again.

Luckily, I had unwrapped the new frying pan on top of the cooker. I say luckily, because having tried to lift afterwards, I’m fairly certain it’s staying up there. We’d both need a couple of body-building lessons before being able to put it away every meal! Having said that, it was a bargain – and I’m pretty sure Louise got some poor unsuspecting shop assistant with a sack trolley to help her load it into the car! Talking of which, I should really check the car suspension unit now that the pan is inside the house….

As it turns out, Louise has been quite lucky with the shops today – it’s Wellington Region Day which appears to mean another day off for many Kiwis in the Wellington region (every region has its own celebration day evidently)! The main shops were still open though, so after a quick chat about the options for any visitors we have when they sleep, we decided that sleeping without any bedding would just be cruel. The inflatable mattress seemed lovely after a swift trial, so off Louise popped to the shops again. Just as well she doesn’t mind going shopping then…. She’s only got to get bedding anyway…..

Just before I was going to send out a search party a few hours later, Louise turned up. Obviously she had only been to one shop, and only had the bedding that she had gone out for. Methinks I see a sly “satisfied shopping” smile though, so am convinced she may have been telling porkies….

So there you are, come on visitors. Bring it on!

The weather man was right – wet and windy.

We could easily have gotten out and about still, but there seemed little point really, other than a quick trip to the local shops for milk.

We stayed in reading, doing job applications and I started checking up on how New Zealanders do their CVs – just in case I could further improve mine.

Okay, so New Zealanders prefer their CVs a little longer than in the UK – about 5 times as long in fact. No problem. Personally, I don’t think it matters from what I’ve read, but I made a start on “stretching” mine out a bit to include all the niceties.

After thinking I might get away with the sandfly bites when I didn’t get the same reaction as Louise – I was wrong!

Not much sleep last night, spent most of it lying on the settee wrapped up with sellotape. Which, to be fair helped an awful lot with the itchy sensation – it seems to “restrain” your skin from expanding so stops the itching that a skin explosion causes. Well found Louise!

Having said that, it looks like its going to be a bit of a windy, wet week ahead for us – although still warm – according to the weather outlook. So, itching aside we just had to make the most of it!

We had a quick look at the map and decided we’d head off for Martinborough – there is a New Zealand Wine trail in that area too! Margaret, take note!! We probably won’t visit the wineries though, as I’ll be driving and its asking a lot of Louise to stay on the back of the bike over the Rimutuka road (that’s the link “road” over the Tararua Ranges) whilst under the influence! We’ll probably go back and stay over methinks! I’d seen a picture of Castlepoint on the East coast a couple of weeks ago and thought that might be somewhere nice to visit.

We decided to go over the Akatawara road – its a challenging one Fitz! – and via the Hutt Valley to go over the Rimutuka. We passed through Featherston and turned off for Martinborough. A lovely view out in to the valley as we crested one of the few hills.

Martinborough Ahead

Martinborough is a town founded by a bloke called Martin, obvious really. We both decided he must have been a bit of a square, as the whole town is centred by a square (more so than anywhere else we’ve been) and everything radiates out in straight lines or parallel squares! We stopped off for a coffee at the “Village Cafe” in the sun –  no surprise there then! It had a lovely selection of wines and some lovely food, so we had some lunch too.

Martinborough for a coffee

I checked our fuel (just under half a tank) and decided it was easily enough to get along the back road to Carterton…… Given the ease of road-following, that would have been true. Lesson learned on the new bike, never again assume that you’ll get straight there!

We set off East out of Martinborough, I’m fairly sure it was a heading of 90 degrees on the compass too, good old Martin! Unfortunately, I missed the switchback turn off for Gladstone which was the back road we were aiming for and we headed off blithely unaware further East knowing that the Pacific Ocean at some point if I got lost! When the road turned to an unsealed one (gravel again) I should really have not been so confident in the direction we were taking.

However, it was such a gorgeous day and we were in a “whatever, lets go see” mood.


When the road turned to gravel and we descended into a lush valley I quickly looked at the fuel gauge – it had disappeared down to flashing reserve. Ok…. as this was the first time I’d taken the bike to reserve, the question is how far can you go? We stopped by the Bush Gully Station – sheep-shearing station we presumed – to try and suss where we were exactly, but our sturdy pocket-map wasn’t quite up to detailed analysis and we couldn’t quite work out exactly where we were. I decided we’d travel onwards to the next junction – if there was one – and sort it from there.

We got to a junction about 5 mins later which allowed us to work out exactly where we were! Guess what? Yep, you got it, in the middle of nowhere with not much likelihood of a fuel stop anywhere near. Executive decision time, so we headed back for Martinborough with a slightly sweaty trip as the fuel indicator counted down to “not a lot mate, you’re on fumes”!

However, we did make it back and filled up with fuel. I was all for carrying on to Castlepoint, but after taking a quick visit to the I-Site was convinced that maybe Lake Ferry on the South coast was worth a visit. They did suggest Cape Pallister, but there’s a LOTR trip near there that I would prefer a day to do. Off southwards then!

The road, true to Mr Martin, was almost dead straight to the coast. Boring…..

We did find a lovely pub/cafe in Lake Ferry though, so we had a couple of drinks – non-alcoholic of course, well, almost I had a shandy! It was a lovely spot, well worth another visit soon.

We headed back up the Featherston road this time which was far more fun and off home for a rest and recuperate, via Battle Hill Rd!


306 km (190 miles) today

Back to the job hunting again this morning. Finished just after lunch, so we thought we’d pop up to Paraparam for some driftwood for some flower arranging for Louise.

Parked up on the seafront, then went for a walk on the beach. We picked lots of small pieces of driftwood, being very careful not to pick up or disturb any Katipo (or Driftwood) spiders – although you only have to watch out for the female ones cos the males aren’t poisonous. Personally, if I see ANY black spider with a red stripe I WILL NOT be waiting around long enough to check!!

katipo spider

We thought it would be nice to pop in to the corner cafe for a coffee before the threatening clouds gave us some drizzle to cool down the afternoon. In hindsight, the coffee was lovely but the sandfly attack waiting for us on the promenade was something we should have been ready for – given the way Louise reacted last time. This time though, I seemed to be the target and I managed to kill off quite a few. I got away with their bites in Wellington, but not so here! I ended up with some lovely itchy ankles and feet…..

However, the drizzle only lasted minutes and had cleared up by the time we got home. So the remainder of the christmas flowers (the flowers themselves thrown away about a week ago – they lasted well) got a freshen-up.

Louise's flower arranging1 Louise's flower arranging2