Heading for the West Coast

It’s adventure time.

I love adventure time, especially when it’s on 2 wheels.

I find travelling by motorbike so easy and freeing. I love the simplicity of having limited luggage space.

Our bike is packed. We are ready to go. For the next week, it will just be us and our 2 wheels as we explore the West Coast of the South Island.

The Plus lounge on the Interislander Ferry is a great way to start our trip. It is comfortable, quiet and fully catered. This is excellent as we are on an early crossing and have not yet had breakfast. The Plus Lounge makes it easy to sit back, relax and watch the world go by.

As we start to slip into holiday mode, I realise just how tired we both are. Daniel has been really busy doing long hours at work and I have spent a lot of time painting the exterior of our house. I think it’s fair to say, we are both in need of some down time. I have activities planned for this trip, but have been much more controlled. Normally I plan action packed days, trying to squeeze in as much as I can, but I have toned it right back this time. Hopefully it will be the right balance of fun and rest.

The Marlborough Sounds are looking stunning today, as usual. The water is always so calm and peaceful, the landscape pure and untouched. I am privileged to have done this journey a few times in the last year, so instead of battling the wind outside, I enjoy the views from the comfort of my armchair in the Plus Lounge with my cup of tea and scones.

We disembark in Picton and I am surprised at how hot it is. Even on nice days I usually layer up under my motorbike jacket – when you are moving it can get quite cool, but today, a t-shirt is all that is needed.

We are heading towards Punakaiki (also known as Pancake Rocks) The most direct route would be to head towards Blenheim , but the journey is all part of the adventure. We prefer to get off main roads, so instead choose to take Queen Charlotte Drive and head towards Nelson which offers some beautiful views. We stop at a look out and enjoy the sight of Picton, soaking in the sun. The cicadas are chirping and little boats bob up and down in sage coloured water.

Magical.

We carry on, passing a gorgeous little campsite. It looks simple and very relaxed, the quintessential kiwi summer holiday.

By the time we make it to Nelson, we are definitely ready for a late lunch and find ourselves sitting down at Burger Culture. It’s a funky place and lots of people are outside enjoying their food. Daniel gets a burger but I am so intrigued by the sweetcorn ribs that I have to give them ago. As it sounds, they were rib’s made from corn on the cob, smothered in sauce.

Wow! These were sensational and I enjoyed how messy they were to eat. Such a cool concept. Some people are so creative!

With our bellies full, we carry on, we have one of our longest riding days today and I am keen to arrive late afternoon so we have some time to explore. Our journey takes us through The Buller Gorge.

Oh my. It is stunning.

It is so lush and green and I can smell the forest. The road is windy, following the river – great fun on 2 wheels! Unfortunately I don’t have any photos as we didn’t make any stops.

We carry on riding. It’s near late afternoon and I am thinking we should be nearly there. I pull out my phone to check directions and realise that we have taken a wrong turn.We should have headed towards Westport and then down the coast, but instead we are still travelling inland, on our way to Greymouth! We have traveled in the wrong direction for so long that it’s quicker to carry on and head up the coast, than turn around and backtrack! Apparently I was on navigating (No idea why – Daniel knows I have a terrible sense of direction!)

The route we took
The route we should have taken!

We finally make it to our destination, 13 hours after leaving Wellington! It has been a really long day and I am ready for a sleep! We are staying at Te Nikau Retreat. What a sanctuary to relax in. Set among tall nikau palms, our lodge is nestled into the trees and looks out along the canopy line. I feel like I am in a tree house.

We have arrived just in time to watch the sunset so we shoot down to the beach. Conveniently there is a path from our accommodation that takes us right down to a viewing platform. I can hear the powerful roar of the ocean well before we even get there. I have heard the West Coast gets some pretty spectacular sunsets and tonight it doesn’t disappoint. There are unusual rock formations dotted about in the ocean and a warm golden glow from the setting sun. It is so stunning, I forget all about our long travel day.

Lobster krill anyone? E-Ko tours part 2.

We leave the Hectors dolphin’s behind and continue the search for other dolphin species that we can swim with. While searching all the bays and inlets of Marlborough sounds, 2 notable things happen. First – someone spots a shark. I didn’t see it, apparently it was just a baby but in that moment I was quite pleased we were not out in the water. I have a huge fear about being attacked by sharks!

We also pass large patches of red sea water moving with the swell of the ocean.  Our skipper explains that is it thousands of lobster krill. Tiny little crustaceans. We are then asked ‘Does anyone want to eat one?’  and Daniel pipes up with ‘yip, I’ll try one’.

Hundreds of tiny krill turning the ocean red

The skipper puts one in Daniels hand – a little bright red crustacean with long slender nippers. Not the sort of thing I would want to put in my mouth! Then it looks at me. Right in the eyes and we have a moment (can you tell I am an animal lover?) and I can’t let this little creature be eaten. I beg Daniel to put it back. Fortunately for this little critter, lobster krill is off the menu today and he is returned to the big ocean to do whatever it is that lobster krill do.

This lucky little guy was taken off the menu

As we are nearing the end of the tour, it looks more and more likely that we won’t be swimming with dolphins today. E-Ko tours have an 80% success rate of getting clients in the water with dolphins but it just wasn’t for us today. But seeing as we are all kitted out in wetsuits and masks, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity to go for a little swim. We dock in a quiet bay and hop into the water. The wet suit keeps me surprisingly warm and buoyant. Fish food is then thrown out around us and in moments we are surround by schools of fish darting left and right, picking up the food as it lands in the water. The visibility is excellent – there are just so many fish!

We then pile back into the boat and make our way back to shore. Although I didn’t get to swim with dolphins, it was still an excellent tour. Part of the thrill of having encounters with wild animals is that it is never guaranteed, but when it does happen, oh, how special it is!

I know I will be back for another go at this bucket list item.

Picton Harbour

It’s time to board the Interislander Ferry, our trip has nearly come to an end. This time, motorbikes are the first to load which is excellent as we are booked into the Plus Lounge.

Um, wow!

We will definitely be doing this again when we take the ferry. Big comfy seats, magazines, wifi, huge windows with great views (tinted so passengers outside can’t see in.) It is also fully catered; all food and beverages are included in the price. We head straight to the bar where the staff pour us some wines to taste before we make our selection.

There is so much food, hot, cold, savoury and sweet. What I am most excited about is the large plate of colourful macarons. I may or may not have sampled one of every colour.

Motorcycling is such an unforgettable way to travel the country, but it is tiring and at times uncomfortable. It is such a treat being able to sit back and relax in the plus lounge for the last leg of the journey.

It is a great end to our trip.

As we pull into our driveway I’m filled with excitement and can’t wait to get off the motorbike. Our dogs, Frank and Ed are there waiting for us. I have missed them so much.

Anywhere with these two is the place I call home.

1 Motorbike. 11 days. 1935km.

What an adventure.