New Zealand 2012

Sunday 5th Feb we flew into Christchurch in preparation for our trip around the South Island of NZ. Marty & I spent the afternoon looking about downtown Christchurch, which has been devastated by earthquakes.  Although it was a unique opportunity, I hope never to see another earthquake damaged city in my life – it’s really pretty depressing.

However, out of the red zone a shopping precinct has been created using shipping containers. They call it a ‘pop up mall’ and it’s great.

Christchurch must have been a lovely city, with the Avon River and extensive parks right on the edge of the Downtown area. Still some nice things persist!

A lovely Vespa (my very first bike was a Vespa and I love them still)

Punting on the Avon River

Monday morning a chauffeur in a limo collected us from our motel and took us to the pick up point for the motorcycles. We rented from a company called Paradise Motorcycle Tours mainly as we were able to reduce the damage excess to $500, where as the other companies had a $2,500 excess and generally older motorcycles. We had a safety briefing from Trevor and packed our gear onto the bikes. Marty had opted for the BMW F650 (800cc engine!) and I had an F800GS, which, even with the “low seat” (850mm) option, I struggled with a bit when parking for the whole trip.

Day 1 (470kms) Christchurch, Kaikoura, Picton, Queen Charlotte Drive to Nelson. Great sunny weather and brilliant roads.

Kaikoura beach

Marlborough sound

Day 2 (440kms) Nelson, Collingwood, Murchison to Westport – one of the very best days of motorcycling ever!! Sensational scenery and weather.

Collingwood waterfront

Views from Mt Hope

Scenic roads and virtually no trafficMurchison area Friendly motorcyclists. Just about everybody an a bike waves here!Day 3 (420kms) Down the West coast from Westport to Haast via Hokitika, Franz Joseph & Fox glaciers. Again, magnificent scenery, twisty roads and great sunny weather. The highlight of this day was without doubt a helicopter flight over the glaciers and Mt Cook, with a snow landing to view Mt Cook – I’ve run out of superlatives!!

I could crash several servers with the spectacular pics from this day! Great ocean side twisties.

Pancake rocksGlacier countryTarsnakes on top of the world!

Tarsnakes & Marty posing in front of the Hughes chopper

Day 4 (370kms) Haast to Te Anau via Wanaka, Cardrona and Arrowtown. The forecast was for rain and we rode Haast Pass in drizzle, but it was still spectacular and extremely enjoyable. Haast Pass was one of Marty’s favorite sections so far.

Views from summit of Crown rangeArrowtownA big thanks to Mary & Rennie at the Arran Motel in Te Anau. Bikers themselves, our bikes were safe in Rennie’s garage having displaced his car. That friendly service, reasonable prices, a spotless room and high speed broadband make the Arran a motel that I highly recommend to International travelers.

Day 5: (415kms)Te Anau to Milford Sound, back to Te Anau 7 hrs later, then we took the Southern Route to Riverton – the digs that we had booked there were  terrible so we rode on to Invercargil. Stange weather today, sunny and warm at Milford Sound (I hear that occurs about 10 times per year), then sunny but freezing cold (8C – 12C) between Te Anau and Invercargil (one rain shower though).

On the road to Milford Sound

Day 6 : (375kms) Invercargill, Bluff, Invercargill, Great Southern Route to Alexandra.

Yep, it’s the genuine article – not the movies mock up.Lots of other historic bikes there as well.Bluff is the southernmost mainland point on the South Island, hence the ‘Lands End’ comparison.

Day 7: (392 kms) Alexandra to Methven via Lindis Pass. It was around 6.5C and sunny when we headed off from Alexandra and although it remained sunny, it got colder through the valleys. I saw 3C ambient at one stage and much of the ride was at or below 10C. I wore layers of Icebreaker Marino wool garments, but was still a little, actually a lot, cold. There was some irony in that as the area we rode through had signs boasting that this area was the home of of Marino wool for Icebreaker garments, though they neglected  to mention that the Icebreaker range is now largely made in China, unlike some other NZ specialist Marino garments.

They really do street racing here!Day 8: (458 kms) Methven to Hanmer Springs, via Arthur’s Pass and Lewis Pass. Again we set off in drizzle which became rain and some quite low temps. We were both thinking that the prudent thing may be to quit riding today and go straight to Christchurch and a warm motel room. However, we persisted and by Lake Pearson the drizzle and fog had lifted and the temp rose. When we reached the West Coast it was a warm sunny day! We had a brilliant ride along Lewis Pass and it reminded me a lot of parts of BC in Canada.

Lake Pearson, lots of folk camped lakeside here.

Avalanche protectionBeware the Kea, (look at that beak)  they are incredibly destructive birds – like a gang of vandals who attack anything rubber on a vehicle or bike. I saw a parked car having its wiper blades torn up & a bicycle with its hand grips shredded. We actually carried extra insurance against them tearing up the seats on our motorcycles, which they love to do! That evening we enjoyed happy hour at the Heritage Lodge – their only customers!

Day 9: (140 kms) Hanmer Springs to Christchurch to return the motorcycle at 9.00am as arranged. A highlight of this little early morning ride was being stopped by a large flock of sheep on the road and watching the farmer and his 3 dogs herd them through a gate into a nearby paddock. An iconic rural NZ situation. The traffic and weather going into Christchurch were terrible, pouring rain and stop-start traffic for about 5 kms.


Marty planned a sensational route for our trip through the South Island, and full credit to him for that and also for being an easy going traveling buddy. Thanks mate! We had ridden the four iconic South Island Passes – Arthurs, Haast, Lindis and Lewis – as well as ridden from Collingwood in the north to Bluff in the south. We were in agreement, this was our best summer trip ever. All up around 3,500 kms without mishap on some of the best and most scenic motorcycling roads available. As the young kids say “Living the dream”!

Also, a very big thank you to Mrs Tarsnakes for being so supportive of me taking a motorcycling trip like this – I’m a very lucky ‘fella!


I’ve had a couple of emails commenting on the quality of some of my pics which I appreciate very much. I’d like to recommend to all of you who are beginners with outdoor photography a great new eBook regarding camera choices and beginners’ tips for outdoor photography. It’s put out by our friends Frank & Sue at “Our Hiking Blog”. Here’s the link to their eBook Outdoor photography – beginners.


11 thoughts on “New Zealand 2012

    • Roger it’s been brilliant so far. Riding NZ’s roads in around 22C and sunshine is hard to beat. As I’ve just posted above, I’ve run out of superlatives to describe it. We had a light sprinkle of rain today, but nothing to get fussed about. We are off to Milford Sound tomorrow. Cheers Jules.

  1. Glad you’re both having a great time Jules – those chopper rides are sensational eh? We had a friend visit us from the UK in 2003 and we covered 3000 km in 2 weeks. He only did the north island but he said he’d have to go home because he’d run out of superlatives, haha!

    Love your Cardrona pub shot too – we parked at exactly the same spot!!

    Shove more pics up when you can….

  2. Mate looks like you had a great time it’s a great place and so close to us. Pity about some of the weather. You travelled some great roads

    Now your back you should check out the Eildon to Jameision road it’s a great road


    • G’day John

      I saw your post on Pashnit re the new road – it’s now on the list!

      I’d been to NZ many, many years ago but had just forgotten how good the riding there is. The banked corners and very little traffic make it a sought after destination. We met a group from Switzerland who were on their 2nd NZ motorcycle tour in 3 years. Beat the minus 15C at home they said!

      Cheers Jules.

    • G’day Chiller, yes it is an amazingly scenic place. The lack of people that you have to share the tourist attractions and the roads with is pretty attractive, not to mention our dollar running at around $1.30 NZ!

      The other thing that struck me about the South Island was the civic pride. The towns are beautifully clean and well maintained, as are the roads. The roads there make our in Victoria look positively 3rd world!

  3. The read deal, Jules. What amazing roads and scenery. I keep desiring to get down to that quadrant, but as each year passes, I am beginning to lose hope! I’d definitely have to plan to arrive in the dead on spring as the cold would likely kick my arse.

    Wonderful read and gorgeous photos.

    • Hi Donna, thanks for the feedback. There were certainly parts of NZ that reminded me of the beautiful scenery that you have in CA. For example, the road to Milford Sound was kinda like Tioga Pass, Lindis Pass is a bit like Hwy 395 (ie. alpine desert) and we couldn’t help but compare the Marlborough wine area with Napa.

      There were tourists from all over the world in NZ, escaping the Northern Hemisphere winter. We spoke with folk from Switzerland who were also riding rental bikes. They thought the transition from -15C at home to +15 C in Christchurch was great. We’d come from 34C in Melbourne to 15C and were freezing!

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