Saturday - Stretching the legs
As Saturday was our planned "big day" it meant an early start which for me meant not much sleep - I find it hard to sleep knowing I've got to get up early and normally end up waking a number of times during a restless sleep. A small earthquake at around 4am also didn't help.
And so it was that we were up at around 5am, quickly breakfasted and on the road by 5:50. It was a bit of a chilly start so the screen went up and the hot grips came on as we made our way North out of Christchurch for a short stretch of SH1.
About 50km North of Christchurch we turned off SH1 and starting making our way towards the Lewis Pass and our first checkpoint of the day. It was still chilly and there was some misty fog in places when we arrived at the checkpoint in Hawarden. I probably shouldn't mention that Brian nearly rode past the checkpoint...
Back on the tar we continued into the Lewis and the deeper in we went the more sun we came across and less fog. The ride through to Springs Junction is fantastic with most corners being the nice, fast and flowing. The scenery as you make your up the valley is also pretty darn spectacular.
At Springs Junction it was time to leave the Lewis and head North for some fuel and our next checkpoint in Murchison. After noting my mileage at the gas station I calculated that the Connie had turned over her 90,000th kilometre right about bang on where SH65 hits the road that takes you into the Buller Gorge.
Our next leg took us through the Upper Buller Gorge (fantastic riding) and into Inangahua where we again turned off in search of another checkpoint called Misty Hills. We had been warned prior to the TT that the road had sustained some flood damage and to take it quietly but in the end it wasn't too bad with just a bit of loose metal here and there.
The road South of Hokitika is just fabulous and even though we had the odd bit of very light drizzle we still had a ball riding over Mount Hercules and past the glaciers before finally pulling off the road at Haast. We also had made very good time...
We had been dreading fuelling up in Haast as the petrol price there is generally the worst in the country. But, we were in for a surprise as it was $2.40 per litre - only about 20 cents a litre more than in Christchurch. This makes East Cape the official worst place to buy gas...
Leaving Haast it was time to head away from the Coast and make our way inland towards Wanaka. This meant a trip through the Haast Pass. By now you're probably sick of me going on about great scenery etc so I'll just say: if you're a bike rider, ride the pass!
We had a great run through the lower part of the Pass - in perhaps the best (hottest) weather I've experienced there - but by Makarora it was past time for a drinks break and Makarora was a great place to stop. We were able to sit outside on the decking and take in the fabulous vistas while slurping a cold drink.
At the bottom of the hill we were nearly home for the day with just a quick ride through the Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell and a ride along the Cromwell Gorge to Clyde for the night.
We were delayed a little by the traffic around the concert but it was nice to ride the Kawarau as it's the first time I've ridden it in a long time - I usually am always going from Queenstown to Wanaka and I always use the Crown Range!
In the end we rocked into our little motel at about 6:20pm after a reasonably long day in the saddle but still a lot earlier than I had thought we would. It was quite funny to tell the motel owner that we'd just come from Christchurch via Murchison and the West Coast - 1,075km versus the more direct 443km!
Parking up it was time for a well earned shower before we pootled into town to have a nice tea at the local pub, then it was off back to the motel for an early night after a long day.
View 2013 TT2000 - Day Three in a larger map
Back on the road again and it was time for some excitement. To reach the Hawarden checkpoint we had had to turn off the Lewis Pass road and now we had to get back on it. Now it is possible that with the arrival of an adventure bike in my stable that I may have fiddled with some settings in Mapsource that mean that Mapsource may possibly plan routes that take in a few interesting roads. Something like this may have happened when planning our route as we seemed to find ourselves on a dusty gravel road...
After a small roadside discussion and a look at the map on the GPS we worked out that we were not far from the main road so we decided to press on and enjoy 7kms of good gravel. I went first and chased the rabbits of the road for Brian...
After snapping our pictures we decided to deviate from our plan. The route on the GPS suggested a loop back to Inangahua but after our little adventure ride earlier we decided to go with what we knew and retraced our route into the checkpoint.
Now it was time to hit the West Coast, but not just yet, first we had to ride the Lower Buller Gorge - stunning scenery and plenty of delicious curves! Somehow it didn't seem to take too long and rather than drop into Westport for a visit we turned South to make our way down the coast.
The weather was great and this meant that interspersed between all the campers and rental cars was the odd bike heading the other way. We kept a sharp eye on them to see if we could recognise any TT riders but it was a bit hard to tell so they all got a way regardless.
Hitting Greymouth we had to slow up a bit but did not stop as our next planned stop was in Hokitika where we fuelled up for the next long leg to Haast and grabbed an early lunch.
The last bit of road through to Wanaka takes you past too fabulous lakes - Wanaka and Hawea. Riding in the direction we went meant that the views of Wanaka were not the best (yes, we could have stopped for pictures but we were on a mission) but the last section past Hawea was fabulous. The lake is a gorgeous blue, the mountains magnificent and the riding...
Out next destination (and our next checkpoint) was the Crown Range Road so we did not actually have to ride all the way into Wananka, we simply turned off and made our way onto the Crown Range.
This is another great biking road that takes you up to about 1,110m and in winter the road is often closed by snow and ice - definitely not today! After snapping our pictures we started the descent down the hill, this involves a number of 15km/h hairpin turns and the old brakes certainly get a bit of use.
On the way down we could see out across the valley to one of the vineyards where there was a rock concert in progress - it looked awesome from on high.