Saturday, 16 June 2012

Leaving New Zealand

With the tail end of a storm that had ravaged Fiji and the islands blowing in, my ride down to Christchurch was swift and fairly non-descript, rain and driving wind don’t make for memorable riding conditions, you just get your head down and keep moving as much as possible. Arriving a few days before friends Allen and Kate from England arrived, I took an apartment type room in the Christchurch suburb of New Brighton whilst the last of the poor weather blew itself out. The only chance I had to go for a ride as the clouds broke was around the Banks Peninsula which proved well worth it as I tried some different roads to last time and found them all fun to ride with stunning scenery.

Riding past Auckland on the way south before the weather
Riding through Auckland with the Sky Tower ahead
Autumn colours coming out on the Banks Peninsula
Riding quite roads near Christchurch

Hills and lakes as is much of New Zealand
With almost unbelievable timing, Allen and Kate stepped off the plane late at night to find the following day blazing with sunshine and autumn colours as we took a walk around Christchurch until their camper was ready.  On Tuesday 17th, with camper van loaded and my bike packed and ready to go, we met outside a supermarket in Christchurch ready to make the mammoth 480kms journey to Queenstown, just before the heavens well and truly opened. Unusually for New Zealand the east coast of the South Island was getting deluged, however almost exactly half way across, just in time for the best of the scenery, we rode out, almost literally, of a wall of water into bright blue skies and within two minutes, dry roads and warm air saving what could have been a terrible first day on the roads.

Ongoing demolition work in Christchurch CBD
I’m always happy to find myself anywhere near Queesntown, to me it’s the most perfectly situated beautiful small town anywhere in the world. Booking two nights in the YHA, with Queenstown bathed in warm sunshine and golden yellow trees I set about writing some job applications whist Allen and Kate set off on another monster, almost 600kms ride to Milford Sound and back. As it was a washout last time I was there, anticipating the same again I wasn’t too hesitant not to go, however it turned out to be the most beautifully clear day, and was such a beautiful spot that Allen had proposed and my returned the future Mr & Mrs Brindle.
With the poor weather behind, the ride across the South
Island is as scenic as ever
Beautiful Queenstown
Autumn colours just outside the YHA

A couple enjoying the view from Queenstown's small
pebble beach
For the next few days we split our itineraries heading north as I was trying not to ride at night as it’s no fun on a bike, but the camper could manage it with few problems. Meeting up again in Wellington we spent a night on town eating in a nice restaurant where the talk was of Hobbiton,  the one remaining ‘in-situ’ set from Lord of the Rings, and of the ‘Hobbit’ films yet to be released. I’ve heard it derided as over-priced and underwhelming, by most, something that would prove to be unfounded. We travelled up the North Island past Mount Tongaririo stopping for a brief night at Lake Taupo, before pressing on to the start point of tours to Hobbiton.
Allen and Kate driving up a hillside
Heading up the South Island
Parting company for a while as I write a job application
Heavy mist lifted as morning broke and our small convoy reached the hills around Hamilton where the farm which serves as the starting point was bathed in sunshine. After a quick coffee, a huge tour bus, totally out of place on a small rural farm arrived to drive us 5 minutes down a track through fields to the set. The set is protected fiercely by the film studio so nobody is allowed to drive anywhere near it, a fragile peace with the farm owners means they are allowed to run tours so long as nobody drives there independently everyone is supervised at all times. The camera crews can return at any time to film extra bits and pieces and the set must be exactly as it was left last time.

Our guide was interesting and as laid back about how long we took to get round as everyone in New Zealand is, we took hundreds of photos and moved from one hobbit hole to the next. The whole site had recently been spruced up for the new film and up to 6 gardeners kept it looking amazing, each hobbit house had its own character and rustic rural charm with beautiful planting and little props.
A small Hobbit house
Bag End, home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins
Hobbiton lake
Hobbiton watermill
More rustic charm
Kate, Allen and myself at Bag End
Hobbiton hill-side
Leaving the site which was a genuine highlight of my and our time in New Zealand, we headed up to Auckland where I’d stay and get my bike shipped home while Allen and Kate turned round to head back to the South Island and home.

What happened next flew bye, in just a few days in Auckland I contacted a shipping company who can send my bike home by sea for a fraction of the price I’d expected, and handled all the crating and paperwork completely stress free! Jenner Cargo – my friends and yours!

With all that tied up painlessly, and so quickly I pretty much forgot to take any photos or video of the momentous occasion that my bike (plus all assorted bits and pieces of riding kit) and I parted company after 11 months on the road together. Auckland being a large sprawling city isn’t the best place to be without transport, so I booked a last minute flight to Wellington, the most compact city in NZ and easiest to walk. Finding a decent hotel at half price (a hotel room for less than a campsite hut – bargain!) I stayed for a few nights just relaxing and strolling round the city picking up a few little gifts that would fit into my one remaining bag. The weather was a mix of strong winds and rain which ruled out much walking, however as everyone knows, the last few days of a holiday pass at a frightening pace, as these did!

The last day of my time on the road was spent with friends in Christchurch where I’d flown to ready for the 36 hour monster flight home. A meal out on town soon passed and an early morning ride to the airport saw the closing of eleven months on the road which have been the time of my life.

This post will be long enough, so I’ll take some time, have a flick through thousands of photos and videos and write a final post in a few weeks to close things off.

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