Quarter to six is a bit early to be getting up on a Saturday morning (especially with the alarm set for a bit later than that) but with a decent ride on offer it didn’t hurt too much. Come 7am and Mark & I were down at the Cloverlea Tavern signing in along with a crew we know from the Bay (Warren: BMW R1200GS Adventure, Brett & Alistair: VFR800’s, and an older guy (67 – did his first Grand Challenge last year!) on an old BMW R100S). By 7:15 we’d signed up, found out where we were heading and said gidday to other guy’s so there was nothing stopping us from tearing off.
Off we headed on a reasonably cool morning towards Wanganui. Not far out of town we caught up to a cop who pulled over (without indicating) and then tucked in behind us to follow us for a while. Not a good start. At Turakina I threw a few gestures at Mark suggesting we get off the main road and eventually he clicked on and we turned off and went through to Fordell on the way to Wanganui. As we dropped into Wanganui we could see mist rising over the river – I hate riding in the fog!
We didn’t hit the fog until on the Para-para’s just after I had taken off after a guy on a Hornet. The mist put a stop to that but we were able to resume play once over the top of the hill and back onto some flats. I stopped at Ruakawa and quickly grabbed my camera to get some photos of the guys coming past. Then it was back up the road to catch the other guys who had stopped at the falls for a look.
Back on the bikes we were soon onto the boringly straight roads up through National Park to Taumarunui – our first check point. A quick top up to get the necessary docket and we were off again. Had another play with the guy on the Hornet and another guy going over the Waituhi Saddle before waiting for the other guys and leading them onto Whakamaru.
At Whakamaru, Warren took the lead onto Tokoroa and when we pulled into the petrol station there was quite a few of us all lined up. After this second stop for a fuel docket he then took us on a great little back road into Taupo. By now we’d also picked up another guy (Richard – BMW R1100) who stuck with us until the finish. We had a quick stop here to remove excess clothing (getting pretty hot by now) before heading off over the Taupo road to Napier. Great fun on the hills but my tongue was definitely hanging out by the time we got into Bayview.
This was our last checkpoint so we got fuel, had a drink & a snack before heading off back to Palmy via Highway 50. Very hot riding conditions – I was riding with my visor raised slightly to let more air in but this dried me out pretty quickly. Hung in there until Palmy where I realized that we were going to be under the 800km mark. Decided we’d see what happened when we got there before worrying about doing a couple more k’s. In the end, Mark & my bikes said 791.9k, the 2 VFR’s said about 780 and the BMW Adventure 760km – who was right?
In the end the guys running the event weren’t too worried and we got our badges, had a well earned drink and a nice meal. All in all a great ride on a perfect (if a bit hot) day and good practice for the Southern Cross. Interestingly (considering we’d never met 2 of the guys), all in our group of six are doing the Southern Cross so we’ll be catching up again at Cape Egmont come April 23rd.
More photos here.