A sunrise, 2 seals & vintage aircrafts

I am up early for the sunrise, but it is not a sunrise sort of day; grey and drizzly. There is so much fogg that the Kaikoura ranges I could see yesterday from the beach are completely hidden.

I am the only one on the beach, the town is not awake yet so I am left with the sound of the waves rolling back and forth across the stony sea bed. The birds are also quite lively at this hour of the morning.

10 more minutes and the sun should start appearing above the horizon. Some pink hues appear in the distance, this could be promising, but as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared again.

No beautiful sunrise for me this morning.

Another time.

My next stop is to the seal colony. It takes me about an hour to walk there. It’s an easy walk along the waterfront. I arrive, ready to spot some seals, but it’s actually a bit disappointing. I manage to find two, but they are both sleeping, so I decide to take a short walk up the hill to the lookout point which has some pretty sweet views.


I head back to the backpackers, we pack up the motorbike and continue our journey north heading to Picton. The ocean is sage green and the day is very grey, such a contract to what we rode through only 1 week ago. 

Again, from the motorbike I am able to spot seals playing in the waves and sleeping on the rocks.

I actually see way more than I did at the seal colony.

We stop in Blenheim for lunch and then make a trip to Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre. We visit both exhibits, Peter Jacksons, ‘Knights of the Sky’ a WW1 exhibition and ‘Dangerous Skies’ WW2 exhibition.

The displays are incredible.

Huge, realistic and dramatic. Also very informative.

The collection includes some original aircrafts, such as a Caproni, and replicas recreating very realistic scenes.

There are even some artefacts that once belonged to Baron von Richthofen, also known as The Red Baron.

There is some sort of aviation event happening just outside the hanger while we are here, which means we are viewing the displays with the sound of old aeroplanes flying overhead.

It really adds to the atmosphere.

I found the very early models fascinating. They seemed to be made of nothing more than wood and canvas – so fragile and vulnerable.

Another fascinating but awful fact I learnt was that pilots in the Royal Flying Corps during WW1 were not supplied with parachutes, even though they had been invented by this time. Aside from the cockpit being quite small and not a lot of room for a parachute, it was thought that supplying parachutes would encourage pilots to abandon the plane at the first sign of trouble, rather than stay and fight and try and save a valuable plane.

I can’t even begin to imagine what this would have been like.

This is an excellent exhibition and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even though I am not really that interested in aviation. I highly recommend it.

There is also a vintage car exhibition at the same site. We didn’t have time for this, will have to check it out next time.

And for those who are vintage aviation enthusiasts, you can enjoy the views of Marlborough from the air in a Boeing Stearman.

We arrive safely in Picton but pretty dirty. There are still lots of road works happening around Kaikoura. Combined with rain, it made for a pretty muddy trip.

Our old fire blade will definitely need some TLC when we get home.

Motorbiking, the best way to travel

Today is a traveling day. No plans other than get from Geraldine to Kaikoura where we are staying for a night.

It is another windless, sunny day. Daniel chooses the route we will be taking – state highway 72, the inland scenic route through the Canterbury plains. Just out of Geraldine, Mr. ‘never gets lost’ takes a wrong turn. He realises pretty quickly though and we are back on track in no time.

I’m not complaining, it’s a rather pretty wrong turn.

Heading north, we pass golden pastures (aka, hasn’t been any rain in a while and everything is so dry) framed by mighty mountains in the distance. We pass over Rakaia gorge and stop to take some photos (and awkwardly try to ignore the 2 women having a very loud argument in the car park) There is also a walkway at Rakaia Gorge, that according to Google, is an easy 2 hours walk which you might like to check out.

The rivers and lakes in the south Island are so mesmerising. The colours are incredible and I am speechless every time I see them. The photos don’t really do them justice.  I don’t recall seeing rivers this vibrant in the North Island. (Might need to do a bit more exploring)

Carrying on, we pass lots of small country towns, some so small you would miss them if you blink. We make a stop in a place called Oxford for some lunch. I had a rather delicious tomato and herb soup.

I think motor biking has got to be one of the best ways to travel and explore a place. You have the convenience of a vehicle, but are far more engaged with the environment around you than you are in a car. You experience the elements; the sun, the wind the rain. You can smell the forests and feel the warmth of the sun in the air coming in through your helmet. I feel far more connected to my surroundings on a motorbike than I do in a car.

Arriving in Kaikoura we check into our backpackers and have a bit of a rest before heading down to the beach.

It’s quite a wild beach.

Stony and rugged it has an untouched beauty about it.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kaikoura is famous for its marine life. Tourists flock here to go whale watching, swim with dolphins and seals. We have chosen not to do that this time.

On our South Island trip back in 2012 I really wanted to do the whale watch. We had an early evening ferry to catch so we didn’t have time for the boat trip and instead choose to do the Wings over Whales flight, a short 30 minute flight with amazing views over Kaikoura. Unfortunately we didn’t see any whales on this trip (still and awesome experience though) and have since learnt that the best time to see a variety of whale species in Kaikoura is during winter months when they are migrating up to the warmer waters of the pacific.

We are staying only a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach so I decide that tomorrow, I will get up early to watch the sun rise. I am not sure I have ever watched the sun rise before. (We tried to at Lake Bled in Sloveina, but that was a bit of a fail)

Exploring Geraldine

Today is a pretty chilled day; a sleep in and then we take Daniels grandma out for lunch. We head to a place called The Stables. A lovely café set in a pretty garden, it was a great setting to enjoy a meal together and catch up, sharing stories over some good food.

Our trip today is short, only about half an hour, so we are in no rush, we take our time and meander up to Geraldine, Daniel’s hometown. It’s a pretty little town, I always enjoy coming to visit.

The next day, Daniel is keen to forge a knife with his uncle, so that leaves me free to do some exploring. I start at the information centre. I want to do a bush walk, but need something local as I don’t have a vehicle. (I don’t ride a motorbike myself)

There are lots of walks you can do in Geraldine, forests walks, heritage trails and if you have a vehicle, consider checking out Peel Forest. The Geraldine Visitor Information Centre is a good place to start for maps and information on the different tracks.

I choose one that starts down by the river. It is an easy walk, it winds its way alongside the river bank and through forest.

The next part isn’t so scenic as it’s right next to the road, the traffic sounds are quite loud, but it doesn’t seem to stop the birds. They are pretty noisy too.

I then reach Talbot Forest Scenic Reserve and walk the Matai Track. Small birds are rummaging around in the leaf litter looking for grubs and the pigeons are cooing. As I get further into the forest, the traffic noises die away and are replaced by the sounds of the forest. One particular sound I always enjoy is the heavy whooshing sound of the berry gorged Kereru flying overhead. I have no idea how they can fly, they are so fat! (but beautiful)

The Matai trees I pass on the walk have an amazing hammered texture to the bark. I don’t recall seeing anything like this before.

My walk then takes me to the Kahikatea track, also in Talbot Forest. I am so captivated by New Zealand. The more I see of it, the hungrier I become to see more. There have been so many wow moments on this trip.

I then head down the main shopping street looking for some lunch. I decide on Verde Cafe, I have been there before and I really like the garden setting. There are shady trees, manicured hedges and roses. Alfresco dining, always so good.

Next on my list is the new Barkers Food Store, recently opened, just a few months ago. Barkers are famous in New Zealand for their jams, preserves and cordial. I am so impressed with this shop, so many different things to taste. I try the Seville Orange fruit spread – a tangy orange taste, the Dulce de Leche – rich, decadent and oh so good, along with a few more delectable treats.

My favourite part though is the drink station. I have grown up with Barkers Blackcurrant cordial, but had no idea they made so many different flavours, and not just berry flavours, how about redcurrent, rhubarb and rosehip or lemon, lime, cucumber and mint or dry cola. You grab a glass, choose your syrup then add either still or sparking water. I really enjoyed trying these.

There is also a café here and I couldn’t resist trying one of their sweet treats. It took me a long time to decide what I wanted though, it all looked so good. I loved how each item showcased one of their products. In the end, I settled on the mango and vanilla bean fruit silk Danish pastry.

There is also a condiment bar with a huge selection that you can help yourself too. And of course, all the items are available to purchase.

I then make my way back to check out the progress of the knife forging. It’s fascinating to watch. An intricate process that requires a lot of skill, patience and knowledge. Stabilized Wood makes beautiful, hand crafted, knives.

Tonight we are heading out to the local Geraldine Cinema 1917 is playing. Built in 1924 it still oozes charms from the past. There are couches and blankets and orchestra music is playing as we enter the theatre. Step back in time and enjoy the flicks in this gorgeous little cinema.

Discovering Lake Pukaki

The start of our trip was a bit touch and go for rain, but really, we have been so lucky with the weather. (Especially since we didn’t pack the rain gear) It’s yet again, another beautiful day.

We don’t have much planned for today, we are starting to make our way back up country towards home. But we are only half way through our trip; we still have a few stops to make first.

Today, our destination is Timaru to catch up with some friends and family. To get there, we ride over Lindis Pass in the MacKenzie Basin.

Encompassed by mountains, the landscape is vast, wild, and covered in tussock. We stop at a couple of lookouts and and my attention is drawn to how quiet it is.

I think living in the city, I am so used to a constant hum of cars and trains and planes that I don’t really notice it.

Until it’s not there, and then I am captivated by the stillness, the silence.

It is so energizing.

Further on, I insist on stopping at another scenic spot, next to a lake that is perfectly framing Mt. Cook. Quite often the peak of Mt. Cook is hidden,  surrounded in cloud or fog, but not today.

And wow!

Just Wow, what a sight it is. Then I realise, the stunning lake that we are next to, I have no idea what it’s called. Google Maps inform me that it’s Lake Pukaki. I have heard of its neighbours before, Lake Tekapo and Lake Hawera but never Lake Pukaki, which is bigger, how have I never heard of this place?

Up behind us is LakeStone lodge. Before we had even left, I was looking up the lodge. Quite a big price ticket, but it is definitely a place that has gone straight onto the bucket list.

Here, you feel a world away from everything, I can only imagine the beauty you would see, staying here for a few nights.

It’s time to stop day dreaming about staying in luxury lodges and carry on with our journey.

On our way to Timaru, we make a stop in Fairlie – we have heard they are famous for their pies so decide to check it out for ourselves at the Fairlie Bakehouse. Bacon and salmon, pork belly and apple, venison and cranberry, are just a few of the flavours on offer. 

We have arrived mid-afternoon so unfortunately there were no vegetarian pies. I had to settle for a custard filled cronut instead. What a shame.

Buttery, flaky goodness with a rich creamy filling. Oh so good. (Daniel said his pie was pretty good too.)

And then we arrive in Timaru.

One of the many things I love about New Zealand are all the little hidden gems you stumble across on your journey. It does mean that a 4 hour trip can end up taking the most part of a day.

But really, the journey is all part of the adventure.

The road to Glenorchy

The weather is looking a lot more promising today as we head out to Highlands Motorsport Park for our second attempt at a fast lap. Unfortunately the Ferrari isn’t running today, they have the Porsche out instead.

I really wanted a ride in a Ferrari.

I am given a helmet to wear, and then get into the car and seatbelt up. Before we can do the fast lap, we have to do a slow lap around the track. I assume this is to warm up the tires and check for any potential hazards that may have found their way onto the track.

The track is 4.2Km long and the design takes inspiration from some of the world’s most famous racetracks. It was a very quick drive, only a couple of minutes but thrilling!

I was told we reached speeds of up to 220kph!

We have quite a powerful motorbike, so I am used to fast acceleration, and found the acceleration in the Porsche a similar experiance, but the corners are quite different. Braking happens far later than you expect so there were several moments where I thought we might not make it around the corner.

My favourite part was going over the bridge, we went flying over and I am sure the car left the asphalt for a moment. It is a unique experience and a must for any speed lover or automotive enthusiast.

After all that excitement, we decide to grab a quick coffee in the café while we check out Google maps and decide where we want to explore today. We settle on Glenorchy and The Crown Range.

We head towards Queenstown and then carry on straight through.

It is so busy!

Queenstown is known for being pretty touristy and expensive. We rode past the crowds of people, the traffic and straight past the famous Ferg’s Burgers, with its queue going out the door and down the street. We past more tourists taking selfies on the lake front , and then..

Wow!

What a ride. Spectacular scenery and an empty road. 

Just beautiful.

This easily ranks in my top 5 most favourite motorbike rides I have ever been on. The road is in good condition and follows the lake edge of Lake Wakatipu, twisting and turning along the way. There were so many wow moments on this trip, so many photo worthy spots.

We reach a sign that says ‘Glenorchy, Welcome to Paradise’ I believe it. This place is gorgeous! Glenorchy is a peaceful lakeside town, quite a contract to its flashy Queenstown sister. The mountain ranges are dusted with snow, the sun is shining, no wind, cool fresh air, the place is quiet and relaxing.

At Glenorchy we find a pub to have some lunch and sit in the sun warming up. We sit by the lake for a bit, watching the tourist head out on jet boats and then go for a wander to the old boatshed and jetty. There has been recent flooding; the water is up to the top of the jetty, giving the sense of walking on water.

Daniel was happy to be here!

Honestly, this place is just amazing.

Inside the boatshed are a series of old photos and information about the area. Tourists began visiting Glenorchy in the 1860’s, however the road didn’t open until 1962. Up until then, the only way to get passengers, mail, food, cattle and more to and from Glenorchy was by boat, one being a twin-screw coal-fired steamship, the TSS Earnslaw, which you can still take a ride on today.

This place really is paradise. I wish we were staying here longer. It’s certainly a place I wish to visit again.

On the way back we make a stop to get some photos across the lake of The Remarkables and they are just that  – remarkable!  Long, jagged and pointy, they certainly have a presence! Even when they are not covered in snow.

On our way back to Alexandra we take a couple of detours. The first being up the Crown Range. A series of hairpin bends, twists and turns, leading up the mountain side. There are uninterrupted, spectacular views of the Queenstown basin. It is well worth the little side trip.

Queenstown Basin

We also make a stop in the historic little town of Clyde for a fruit yogurt ice cream, which we eat in the shop courtyard amongst the lavender.

The Leaning Tower of Ice Cream
Clyde

A perfect ending to another great day.

The Details

The SuperCar Fast Dash at Highlands will cost you $179. It is usually in a Ferrari 488 GTB but this can change from time to time. You can book this experience online.

The ride out to Glenorchy takes about 45 minutes from Queenstown each way. The road is in great condition and the scenery along the way is magical. On a motorbike, this was amazing. It would also be great in a car.

Race Cars, Wild Lands and Excellent Food

It’s raining in Alex this morning.

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed. We are booked in to do a Supercar fast lap in a Ferrari 488 GTB at Highlands Motorsport Park.

I have been in a Ferrari before, a 2019 California. We pre-booked a test drive in Maranello, Italy last year and had the heaviest rain I think we have ever driven in. Daniel was driving and barely got it above 30kph due to the weather. The rain was causing surface flooding,  he had limited visibility and tree branches were lying across the road.

So disappointing!

Such a beautiful car. And that engine! I can only imagine how it would sound driven as it was designed to be!

So that experience was a little disappointing and I was really looking forward to a fast lap in a Ferrari in Cromwell.

We decide head to Cromwell to Highlands anyway; it’s a 30 minute drive and were hoping we might see a change in the weather.

No such luck.

They won’t take you out on the track when there is standing water on it, so the ride today was off.

They do have a museum so we spent about a hour looking around there and re-booked our fast dash for tomorrow. The museum is definitely worth a look, especially for race car enthusiast and creative types who appreciate beautiful design.

There are a lot of old race cars on display and I noticed just how vulnerable those race car drivers were back in the day. They had very little to protect them.

There are also some pretty flash looking modern race cars, McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin, but my favourite, the Lamborghini Diablo. I never used to like Lamborghinis, but what can I say, they have grown on me!

In the virtual race machine, you can select your driver and head out for a spin around Highlands track; it’s not the real thing but still cool.

And a little bit random, but I guess we are in wine country, there is a wine room where you can smell a range of wine essences and then select from a list what fragrance each wine demonstrates.

Well, let’s just say, I won’t be giving up my day job!

After Highlands we head out with Daniel’s Aunt and Uncle for some 4 wheel driving. It’s a great way to get out and explore this area. We head out to Duffers Saddle, a high mountain pass with an elevation of 1275 meters above sea level. It is one of the highest roads in the country.

The landscape is wild, remote and gorgeous. Alpine plants, grasses and tussocks cover the open, exposed land. Schist rock formations are scattered about.

Thanks Daniel for another great photo!

The air is cold and fresh.

I feel so alive!

We head into The Nevis Valley. There are beautiful misty cloud formations over the tops of the hills. I watch the wind sweep through the mass of tussock grasses giving the appearance that the hills are alive and moving. We are on the other side of the remarkable and even in summer, there is a dusting of snow on them.

Along the way we pass evidence of lifetimes lived long ago in the form of old settlement remains. I can’t help but wonder how people managed to survive in this type of climate. It is harsh, remote, and wild.

But Wow.

So powerful and just spectacular!

One thing’s for sure, those early settlers were made of pretty tough stuff!

All this sightseeing has caused us to build up a bit of an appetite. Unlike the early settlers, we don’t have to go out and catch our lunch; we head to Brannockburn Hotel for our meal. (No longer a hotel, it is now a restaurant and bar)

The perfect place to sit back, relax, warm up a bit and share an afternoon of stories and good times with a glass of wine and some beautiful food.

Brannockburn are known for their tapas. Sharing platters that allow you to try a little bit of oh so much. My favourite was the goat’s cheese croquets with honey and almonds.

Delicious.

The service here was fantastic. I hope we come here again.

On our way back home we stop off in Cromwell and take a wander down the old historic Cromwell Precinct. It’s like stepping back in time as we walk past the old shops; The Cobb & Co Store, Jolly’s Seed & Grain Store, London house stable and more.

I can imagine men in top hats, waistcoats and fob watches and women in their full length bustled dresses walking past the shops, going about their day. It’s an interesting glimpse into 19th century New Zealand.

Situated next to Lake Dunstan, it would be a lovely place for a picnic.

Central Otago is rich in history, blessed with immense beauty and I can’t wait to continue exploring tomorrow.

The Details

Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell has a range of activities to enjoy. Tickets to the museum are $30 per adult, but I pre-purchased mine off Book Me for only $5 each. Not always available, but worth checking.

Nevis Valley is a great place for 4-wheel driving, walking, tramping and mountain bike riding. There are seasonal restrictions and conditions can be harsh. Always make sure you are properly prepared for the environment you are entering. If you are interested in 4-wheel driving, there are companies that will take you out in this area.

Brannockburn Hotel, also in Cromwell serve a range of tapas and cater for vegetarians, vegans and gluten free. If sharing plates aren’t your thing, you can also order full meals, but by ordering a selection of tapas you get to try lots of delicious things.

For a free attraction, check out Cromwell Precinct. A great place for a walk, a picnic, or grab some lunch at one of the cafes.

Stunning Lake Tekapo

Day 3 and we are heading to Alexandra. It’s a bit of a grey day, no wind, but rain looks imminent. Fortunately, once out of Christchurch, we are blessed with another beautiful day and bright blue skies.

I have to say, the ride from Christchurch to just before Geraldine is pretty boring – A long straight motorway, a reasonable amount of cars and not much of a view.

We are travelling on our Honda FireBlade – that’s been turbo charged!! (Totally unnecessary, it was already fast enough! Although my mechanic husband would disagree!) She’s a bit old and rough our FireBlade, but, wow, have we had some epic adventures on her!

The best way to roadtrip!

I have been really looking forward to being back in this part of the country. Last time we came down on the motorbike was the first time I had seen the lakes.  I was totally captivated; they are most vibrant shades of blues, framed by snow-capped mountains.

They leave you speechless.

As we approach Lake Tekapo we ride up over the hill and then…

WOW!

It leaves you breathless

Brilliant blue water contrasting against the dry land, it is breath taking. Tekapo is a very popular tourist destination, but despite the number of people and tour buses, the place still has a beautiful stillness and tranquil feel to it.

The beautiful blue waters of Lake Tekapo

We get off the bike and head to the water’s edge. There is sound of lapping water at the shore, the buzz of insects and alpine flowers growing. I am mesmerised.

The faithful sheepdog keeping watch over the lake
Another one of Daniel’s stunners!

We head over to the Church of the Good Shepherd to get some photos. We are just making a quick stop today, I plan to come back again when we can spend more time. This is such a photographed church and an image I have seen many times before. It’s quite a feeling though when you lift your camera and see that same image through your own lens. I distinctly remember having that same feeling when I took my first photo of the Taj Mahal in India.

Church of the Good Shepherd. I had to wait quite some time to get a shot with no one else in it!

The rest of our ride is through quite barren land, rugged hill sides with splashes of brilliant blue rivers and lakes. We arrive in Alexandra feeling rather sore after a full day riding.

We are greeted by family, who we are staying with for the next few nights and after our hellos, we are all sitting outside in the sun with a glass of wine.

Another great end to another great day in this beautiful country.

The Ride to Christchurch

Today we are heading south to Christchurch. Our focus for this trip is to spend most of our time in Central Otago and South Canterbury, visiting family. Picton to Alexandra (Central Otago) is a long ride, almost 10 hours and while we could do it in one day, we decided to break up the trip with an overnight stop half way, allowing 6 days with family.

I choose where our overnight stays will be and book accommodation but I always leave it Daniel to decide the routes we will take. Each morning I tell him what city or town we will be staying in that evening (he has no interest in the details prior, unnecessary information he calls it.) He will then take a quick look at Google maps and decide how he wants to get from A to B. Most of the time, he is looking for the back roads; the twistier the better. 

Lucky I don’t really get motion sickness.

For the first part of the ride we are heading towards Kaikoura, through Marlborough and towards the coast. It is almost a cloudless day, perfect for a ride. Heading through Marlborough region we pass a lot of vineyards. Marlborough is known as a wine region and it reminds me a lot of the Wairarapa, another well know wine region. There are hardly any cars on the road making it a really nice ride. As we approach the coast the landscape changes. We move away from grape vines and flat plains to rugged rocks, flax and tussocks.

And then we see the ocean.

Beautiful turquoise water in one bay and then in the next, stunning aquamarine water.

Even from the motorbike, I can spot seals out enjoying the surf and sunning themselves on the rocks. Kaikoura is known for its marine life.

Whales, dolphins and seals oh my.

Along the coastal route we have to make a few stops for road works. There was a big earthquake in Kaikoura in 2016 causing major damage to roads, including SH1 and also caused the seabed to rise quite substantially in some areas. Work to repair SH1 is still underway, so if you are traveling on this route, be prepared to travel slowly and be stopped for roadworks.

On the bike, stopped at road works

We reach Kaikoura, a very popular town with the tourists – it’s pretty crowded, but we decide to stop anyway for a rest. We head to a funky little cafe call Bean Me Up Coffee and sit out front in some old car seats!

We depart Kaikoura and Daniel, AKA super navigator (honestly I am in awe at his sense of direction, he can get us anywhere with minimal effort) decides that we will move away from the coast and take the inland route for the next part.

The Inland Route

We pass deer drinking at a river, hillsides that are every shade of green and gold and have long stretches of glorious twisting road all to ourselves. The scenery today has been awesome. I can’t understand why the roads weren’t busier (although I am pleased they weren’t!)

The Inland Route

As we approach Christchurch, we also approach grey clouds and notice a change in temperature. I begin to regret my decision to leave the rain gear at home. It’s quite bulky and to have taken it, would have meant leaving quite a lot of other items behind. But it’s summer and we are heading for Central Otago so we felt confident we could leave it behind.

And so we got wet.

And nearly ran out of fuel.

Our motorbike doesn’t have a fuel gage, so there is always bit of guess work required in knowing how far we can get before we need to fill up. Luckily we make it to the petrol station just in time! Note to self, we can get approximately 180km out of a tank of petrol.

We check in at our Christchurch accommodation, All Stars Inn and collapse onto the bed after a long but fun day of riding.

The Details

I was really impressed with All Stars Inn, the rooms felt more like a hotel. The bed was huge, the room modern and quite spacious and the backpacker location is really central. There is also a nice pub on site. A double room with shared bathroom starts from $70.

Cruising on the Interislander

In February, my husband and I packed up the motorbike and headed out a road trip adventure around the South Island. I have been really looking forward to writing about this, but at the same time, putting it off a bit because I just don’t know where to start. It was such an epic trip, in such a beautiful part of the country; I want to make sure I do it justice!

Our trip began on the eve of Waitangi day, we were on a 5pm sailing and at 1pm, I still hadn’t packed. Packing for a motorbike trip can be quite quick, you don’t have a lot of luggage space so there isn’t actually that much to pack. On the other hand, it can be quite a challenge deciding what is really essential and deserves a space in the small side pannier.

Between us we have 1 set of panniers, a small backpack and a tank pack. Somehow, I managed to fit all of this:

Into this:

Packing completed. Time to head to the ferry.

While waiting to board, we got chatting to another motorcyclist. One of the things I love about travelling on a motorbike is that you are instantly in a club. When out on the road, other riders will give you a nod or a wave, and when you’re parked up, they will just start chatting to you, sharing stories of the adventures they have had on their bike.

Wellington had put on some nice weather for us, thankfully. I don’t really have an issue with motion sickness, but the cook straight can get pretty rough. I have been on one of those rough sailings and I don’t wish to do it again!

Beautiful day to set sail

The ferry ride is around 3.5 hours, about an hour of which is through the picturesque Marlborough sounds. We had a pretty smooth sailing, apart from a rough 30 minute patch after we left the shelter of Wellington harbour.  It was a full sailing and the motorbikers were last to board, so all the inside seats and the outside seats at the front were taken by the time we got on board. We ended up in the only available seats we could find, which happened to be outside in the smokers area, but also in the centre of the boat. Now here is a tip from my mum to you – ‘Stay in the centre of the boat, it’s more stable there’. Yes the boat was rocking and we watched the horizon going up and down, but neither of us had any sea sickness. When I went inside to get some food, I passed a lot of very ill looking passengers. Excellent advice mum!

It’s near impossible to get a photo of Daniel smiling. He pulls a face every time the camera comes out (unless he is standing next to a Super Car, then he will smile!)

We then entered the calm waters of the Marlborough sounds. It is so picturesque and beautiful. A flock of birds effortlessly glide through the air, following alongside the boat. The water is so still and the setting sun casts a golden glow across the hills. I watch as birds feed on schools of fish that have risen to the surface.

What a way to start our holiday.

We arrived in Picton, a quiet, peaceful town and drove a couple of minutes down the road to our accommodation. Tonight we are staying at Sequoia Lodge Backpackers,  a pretty place, with tropical looking plants, a spa pool and giant chess set. The rooms were simple but clean. All we needed.

We then decided to head across the road to a local pub, Crow Tavern, to grab some dinner and a wine. The pub has a bit of a kitch, kiwiana feel to it, the staff are friendly and there is a really chilled out atmosphere.  This  place feels  like it is a bit of a community hub, reading the notices on the board I learn that Kerri-oke is cancelled this Saturday as Kerri is away.  

That made me smile. 

But now it’s time to get some rest. We have a decent ride a head of us tomorrow we want to be feeling fresh for the next leg of the journey.

The Details

There are 2 ferry companies that operate between Wellington and Picton, The Interislander (which we traveled on) and Blue Bridge. Both companies have multiple sailing times during the day.

Our return trip for 2 adults and a motorbike cost us $336. (You need to take your own tie downs for the motorbike)

Sequoia Lodge Backpackers is in a convenient location and only a couple of minutes drive from the ferry terminal. Linen, towels and breakfast is included in the price. There are a variety of room types to suit all budgets. We stayed in a double room with shared bathroom for $76.

Cemetery Circuit

Boxing day.

In some families, there is a tradition of hitting the shops. Grabbing a bargain from the many sales, or picking up what you actually wanted for Christmas.

For others, its a day to relax and unwind from the hectic few weeks leading up to Christmas.

But in our family, Boxing day is race day.

Cemetery circuit, Whanganui.

For those not in the know, the Boxing Day races are a series of motorcycle races. You will see pre ’89 classics, super bikes and even sidecars racing around the circuit. I quite like the side cars.

Its always an early start, no sleep in, the post Christmas rest doesn’t start for another day for us. From Wellington, it takes about 2.5 hours to Whanganui. We have great weather so decide to take our motorbike up.

Its a beautiful day for a ride.

As we approach Whanganui the amount of motorbikes on the road increases. Everyone has had the same idea as us. We find a park (much easier on a motorbike), pick up a program and head in. Fumes, noise, engines revving seeking attention from the spectators. There is a buzz in the air, excitement for the days racing ahead.

Today we have tickets to the VIP section. Seating, shade, catering and a big screen so you don’t miss anything. What else could you ask for. Oh, and they even supply earplugs. Trust me, you want to have earplugs! You get so close to the track with street racing that the noise is quite intense.

We stay in the VIP section only long enough to say hi to a couple of people, grabs some drinks (and several chocolate brownies) and then we head out.

Daniel’s favourite spot to watch the race is the inside of turn 1 so this is where we go. It’s a difficult corner (sharp turn) and also exciting as it’s right after the start and the riders are still all bunched together. Often the winning riders will pull victory wheelies down this stretch of road too.

We may have left the comfort of our VIP stand, but we are where the action is and fortunately there are trees here to provide some shade. It’s a hot day. We spend most of our time here at turn 1, only popping back to the VIP section when we want food or drinks.

Speed. Adrenaline. The odd crash (These often happen at turn 1, I think that’s why Daniel likes that spot) A distant buzz gets louder and louder as the bikes approach the corner. You feel the rumble through the ground. The crowds heads all turned left, waiting, watching. Who will be in the lead? The motorcycles whip around the corner, and in synchronised fashion, all heads turn right following them.

Zoom.

They are gone. Blink and your will miss it. Wait a few minutes, then repeat.

And so the day goes on like this. Its a fun family event and a great day out. I have learnt to enjoy motorbikes and watching motorbike racing. There is something quite thrilling about it and Daniel is so enthusiastic and passionate, it’s hard not to like it too.

This is how we spend our Boxing Day. How do you spend yours?

The Details

The event traditionally happens on Boxing Day in Whanganui. Cemetery circuit is made up of 1.5km of closed off roads through the streets of Whanganui. The circuit passes the old town cemetery, which is how the track gets it’s name. This annual event has been happening since 1951 and hosts NZ and international riders.

There are different tiers of tickets, ranging from $25 for general admission to $275 for VIP tickets. For more information, you can check out the website here. Cemetery Circuit