NZ - you can bury me in Whanganui!

26 December 2017

The club, Featherston

For some people the word “provincial” can have negative connotations, or perhaps more correctly denotations, but my first impressions of New Zealand is provincial in the very best sense of the word. What we’ve seen so far sits very comfortably in its own skin, not rushing headlong into the current millennium, but instead weighing up what’s actually worth doing and what’s worth doing well. There’s a lot to like here.

Our journey starts in Featherston just north of Wellington where we were so warmly and generously welcomed by very dear friend from the “University student days”, John Phillips and his 40 square metre house. We’re indebted to John for helping us to source a motorbike and to get the Ducati set up for us ready to ride for the next 2 months.




Our welcoming committee, thank you Mr Phillips

We left Featherston and managed to navigate Ok down through Upper and Lower Hutt and on to Highway 1 where we stopped at lovely Paekakariki for morning coffee. On to the north and the scenery got pretty interesting at Stony Point Lookout with the glorious snow capped Mt Ruapehu on the horizon. There were more great views to come as we threaded the throbbing Ducati across the “Rangipo Desert” with astonishing views and a surreal atmosphere. All the while the weather was warming and it was a bit of a sweaty slog into Taupo, after some refreshment for both the bike and us at Turangi. Bobs Hostel in Taupo was somewhat less than refreshing, but nevertheless a good experience to add to our trip. The excruciating vomit stinking out the hallway up from our room was a challenge for the first 24 hours, after which the smell was gone but the stain remained. Nevertheless, the youth in the hostel remind me of the great value in spending time with people younger than yourself, although hopefully without the vomit from a night in the turps.

We had a great walk to Huka Falls from Taupo, along the glorious garish glacial green and crystal clear Waikato River, with trees lining the banks, mostly backed by very steep cliffs. The roaring Huka Falls are quite a sight, with water raging down a narrow channel in the river and making a short cascade down to the river again as it widens and flattens out. We enjoyed an ice cream, a few ooh and aahhs, and a selfie or two before venturing through some very beautiful cathedral like plantings of Redwood (Sequoia) trees before we were ejected on to the road in suburbia and into Taupo.


Taupo Redwoods

Aftre a less than fully satisfactory sleep at Bobs fleapit we hit the road out to Orakei Korako, a super 30 minute ride north of Taupo. The geysers, hot springs colourful bacteria and algae and bubbling mud were awesome. Cruising back into Taupo we stopped off at the thermal springs on the edge of town and joined all the others bathing in the hot outflow into the freezing Waikato River, it was a social occasion with everyone corralled up together in the hot shallow water on the edge of the river.


Taking in the warm geothermal waters in Taupo

Leaving Taupo to a smudgy sky we took the loop around the northern end of lake Taupo via the Kinloch road, great bends and super views everywhere, then the clouds and the rain set in, putting an end to our desire to visit Whakapappa, near the summit of Ruapehu. Still the roads remained awesome with very little traffic and so we were able to make good time despite the constant drizzle, and yeah did I say the road was awesome? Nevertheless we were a bit wet by National Park and a hot coffee was in order, from there it was a fabulous dry run down toward Whanganui on the main road. Just a pity the road was wet in patches and the surface variable, otherwise we would have scraped the side stand off completely, on both sides! I can see we’re going to enjoy the New Zealand roads.


The cinema, Whanganui

But why would you want to bury me in Whangaui? I imagine Whanganui is perhaps not on the list for many Kiwi’s as a place to visit, let alone a desirable resting place. It does however have many similarities with our home town of Gawler in South Australia, an old main street with some lovely historic buildings, way too many empty premises, a few attempts at rebranding to try and perk the economy up, but it’s a losing battle for the moment. Nevertheless a town which sits quietly and without anger beside its river namesake. But it does have something that Gawler hasn’t, the historic Cemetery Road Races, when for one day of the year motorcycles tear around the city streets, cutting right through the middle of the old cemetery! I could imagine being roused at least once day a year by the enormous thumping sound of an old Moto Guzzi, Norton or Triumph, or the howling scream of a modern superbike tearing its way through the middle of the cemetery while admiring spectators perched on the edge of the old graves, take it all in. Not that I really want to be buried in Whanganui, or anywhere else for that matter, where my remains go will be a matter for those left behind to decide.


Hanging out at the Cemetery Road Races


Entering the Cemetery


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