Sunday, June 01, 2008

Winter Waioeka Wanderings

After missing out on doing the Waioeka Gorge on our way home from the Mini's Return and seriously needing to get out for a decent ride, Mark & I started talking about a one day assault on the Waioeka Gorge. A quick play with Google Maps showed that it was also going to be a 1,003km ride so that was also a bit of a bonus.

The only problem was the when: Mark was in the process of selling his house and with the time of year and distance to travel we wanted to try and pick decent weather. in the end we decided to try for Queens Birthday weekend - that gave us 3 days to pick from to hopefully get the good weather we were after. As it turned out we kept a close eye on the forecasts and Saturday looked like the day - date sorted, now to encourage some others. In the end we managed to rope in Brian on his Connie and Chris on his Hoggley Doggley.

I hit the hay with the alarm set for 5:30 with the plan being to meet Chris at Ashhurst at around 6:15. In the end I woke up an hour before the alarm went off and got up at 5 and started fluffing around getting ready to go. Just before 6 as my bike was warming up and I was getting ready to put on my helmet this woop, woop noise came up my drive and it was Brian all ready to go - good timing.

We quickly headed off towards Mark's and had our first incident: riding along in the dark on Fairs rode I had to swerve quickly to avoid someone's fuel can in the middle of the road. Looking in my mirrors I saw that Brian had seen it too and was pulling a similar move on his horse. Never mind, our timing seemed to be pretty good - as we pulled into Mark's driveway he was coming out - no sense mucking around so off we went.

Pulling into Ashhurst it seemed that even Chris had his act together (unusual for him too) and he had beaten us there and already gassed up. The two Connies quickly topped up there tanks and we were out there by about 6:15.

No sooner had we hit the gorge and we were plunged into thick fog - no fun in the dark. Naturally the temperature dropped as well - the hot grips got turned up a notch. Never mind we kept trucking on feeling our way through the gorge and into Woodville. Unfortunately the fog stayed low and was to hang around until just north of Norsewood.

Out on the plains it was nice to be out of the fog and into the sun even if it was still quite chilly. Turning up Highway 50 there was frost all around so we took it pretty easy not trusting any damp bit of road or shaded corner. Just before the turn-off to Hastings I noticed we seemed to be missing a pair of headlights - where were Brian and Chris. Mark & I pulled over and parked up waiting for them. After about 5 minutes we finally saw them coming and they pulled up. It seemed the Harley was having some trouble running in the cooler temperatures...

We pushed on through Fernhill and at the Links Road turn-off we noticed a couple of bikes missing again - and then we saw them go past missing the turn-off. They quickly turned back and yes, the Harley was in difficulties again. They pulled up again and decided that they were going to cut their ride short and head through to Taupo and home so that they didn't keep holding us up.

On the road again and it was just Mark and I that headed out through Napier and onto the Napier-Wairoa. This is a great ride with plenty of windy roads and some nice hilly bits for carving but again we took it pretty quietly due to the temperatures (it was still only around 8:15 when we passed through Bayview) and road conditions. We also hit another bit of fog going through Tutira but nowhere near as bad as earlier on.

Coming into Wairoa at 9:30 it was time for fuel for the horses and the riders. We ended up stopping at a very busy cafe and having a quick bite along with a very nice hot coffee.

On the road again we left Wairoa and noticed that the temperature was starting to get a bit more friendly the further north we went - no complaints from us. It was another really great ride through to Gisborne - this road is more open than the Napier-Wairoa but has some great hills and corners to negotiate. Awesome riding though still requiring some care on those damp/shady spots.

Leaving Gisborne the weather was getting better all the time and we were getting nearer to the objective of our ride - the Waioeka Gorge. The road out of Gisborne starts off with some pretty long and boring straights but pretty soon you start hitting some nice corners and small hilly sections. It was about 30km out of Gisborne where we had a bit of luck - we caught up to a white station wagon and no sooner did we than the driver started flashing his brake lights and gesturing for us to slow down. Ok, so I button off and sat behind him. Around the next corner and here's a van in the grass with some expensive photographic equipment in the back of it. Very lucky! The guy in the wagon got a friendly toot and wave as we passed him.
And then hit the picks after coming across 2 cattle - one on either side of the road. Never mind we were starting to get into the really good stuff. After pottering through Matawai you start to get into the Waioeka proper.

Great winding roads with bush all around and the river on the left. Best to keep your eyes on the road and enjoy the ride. Once again we had to take a bit of care with the wet roads and there was still frost in the grass in places so it was better to be safe than sorry. Still enjoyed ourselves immensely and only stopped the once for photos just to prove we'd been there.

Coming into Opotiki along the big long straight I was lucky again to get stuck behind some cars as we tootled past another radar buddy. By 1pm we were stopped again in Taneatua for some more gas before heading to Rotorua. We swapped bikes for this short leg and it was really hard case being back on a Bandit. The bikes feel very different when you swap from one to another but it was a hoot following my bike for a while and then zapping past on one of the winding roads into Rotorua.

We had a quick stop for a bite in Rotorua and then the next little incident happened. We were pottering down a narrow street heading for the main road out of Rotorua when I went over a big judder bar. I must not have been expecting it and the bump made me step on the rear brake. I didn't realise this yet but the bike felt sluggish and was not pulling away cleanly. By the time I crossed the main road and parked I'd worked out that the brake was somehow locked on. On inspection it looked like the lever had gone through all of it's available travel and then jammed under the footpeg. Luckily it popped straight back out and never gave any more trouble. Disc got a bit hot though...

We took it pretty quiet through to Rotorua and then onto Turangi as there was a bit of traffic and the road does attract the odd cop. The Desert Road was really nice and for once no cops around. Another stop in Taihape for our last top-up and then home via Vinegar Hill in the dark.

I pulled up my drive just before 10 past 6 after about 12 hours, 8 minutes away having an absolutely fantastic ride. Can't let the lower temperatures put ya off this sort of thing...

More pics here.

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