“The thrill of walking through someone’s sick and twisted course of corn husks
seemed far to inviting to not attend, but we pressed on…”
Whangamomona to Waitomo
The remainder of the “Forgotten Highway” was an interesting scenic ride, yet we were both fixated on our hungry hungry hippos and the dashing sheep that were straggling on the road.
Passing through narrow roads topping jagged hills, we descend towards Stratford, eager to find any service station. The petroleum gods shined on us, the heavens opened and premium gas rained down and filled our tanks. Well thats how it felt, in reality we found a dirty “No-name” service station and filled our tanks, and got the F outta dodge headed towards Inglewood for the ever needed coffee stop.
Inglewood was an amazing town all painted up to bring some warmth in the surrounding area. A town that seemed to burst at the seams with heritage pride. We stopped at MacFarlanes caffe, which was a quant restored heritage building, serving up a delicious cuppa. Caffeine levels replenished we head towards New Plymouth for the coastal highway SH3.
Riding along the west coast offers eye popping ocean views, while taking you on a sedate relaxing ride. All of this changes as the highway turns inland from the small seaside town of Mokau, and carves its way through tunnels, river bed, small rocky foothills.
We emerge on the other side back at Te Kuiti, stop to fill our tanks, have a quick drink and ride on to the Waitomo Holiday park where we are camping for the night, before starting our trek towards the Eastern side of the North Island.
We arrived at the Waitomo holiday park around 6ish and the friendly staff quickly showed us our tent site. We went to work, bags and bits and pieces exploded out of the panniers in complete chaos. Setting no speed records we erected the tent, had showers, and proceeded to the restaurant next door for a quick bite before turning in for the night.
Waitomo to Gisborne
We must not kid ourselves. We are not campers. Not for lack of effort, or sorting out the issue of attempting to charge our infinite growing pile of electronic goods that we pack mule with us. Last nights camp was lets just say, well, not horrible, but really in the end we fell asleep only due to the fact that we had very little sleep the previous night. We failed in our attempt to get anything charged, and as a result, our headsets were playing up half way through the trip. But we will come back to that later.
We rise at the break of dawn, and scrape the layer of dew off everything that lay in the vestibule overnight. Luckily we covered the boots, so they were nice and dry. It took us a while to go single file to the toilet block to brush the teeth and hair before we embarked on our intended track. Humming the Tetris song in my head as everything found its way back into the bag it sprung from, this time not fitting in as tidy before. Our camp was situated down a hill, and unable to let the bikes idle for long, we slowly opened the throttle up the grassy slope as to not annoy any of the other holiday makers in the campground. Our departure time advantageous; early enough to beat the tourists to their daily activity and before the locals had time to rise from their late night partying from the holiday weekend.
The clouds threatened us as we sped down the open road. The bitumen bare between the lines with only the rustling of cattle flocking the grassy fields flanking the road. Signs appeared for Maze’s Mazes, which seemed to be the most popular tourist attraction in this farmland country. The thrill of walking through someone’s sick and twisted course of corn husks seemed far to inviting to not attend, but we pressed on, eager to ride coast to coast in one day. As the hours passed the traffic slowly thickened. Locals hurried to their holiday engagements and we were pylons to their whim as they raced off in the Holdens and Ford overtaking where ever they could. Fine by us, as long as we weren’t in the mix. We don’t look good in Red.
We were making excellent time and pulled into Rotorua for breakfast. A healthy feed from the Fat Dog was what we needed. Our foggy heads craved caffeine and we ravenously sipped the hot liquid when it was delivered. A nice bowl of muesli with fruit filled our bellies and we pressed on to the next leg of our journey that took us around the bottom of Rotorua and slingshot us around to lake Rotoiti and towards the coast to Whakatane. The grey skies that threatened us all the way to Rotorua were stifled by the hills east of Lake Rotoma, unable to travel any further east, catching their bellies on rugged tips and desperately trying to escape. We managing the KTMs through the final pass before the road slowly unravelled into sweeping turns and then eventually into dead straights as we approached Whakatane.
Whakatane, is a small seaside town located along the river, it’s town center bunching up at its mouth as it purges into the ocean. Full of cafe’s and happy holiday makers, its crowded scene is what we were trying to avoid. We managed to hunker down in a small cafe and take some time to rehydrate before refueling to head east to Opotiki. This ride was by far the most congested of the legs, and we were biding our time as we patiently waited for the string of cars pulling boats, trailers ATVs and toys to turned off to their respective destinations. Our headsets began to play up, the volume non-existent and connecting erratic. We again stopped in Opotiki to refuel, despite only being 50 kms from our last stop, but we wanted lots of fuel for our next leg and wasn’t sure of the fuel situation on the way to Gisbourne. The cafe owner, despite the fact that we only bought water, was kind enough to let us charge our headsets for a half hour while we admired the ghostly streets in town and chat with the locals about our bikes, never a dull topic.
The headset charge did wonders, all the issues vanished and we were in bluetooth heaven once again. Now we could go back to gossiping and riding! Bidding farewell to the friendly cafe owner we left Opotiki and set off on the final leg for Gisbourne, which is a canyon carvers delight, and for those that aren’t into the twisties, the scenery is top notch as well!
The road began straight, warming up with a few bends, then full on twisting along the Waioeka River as it carved it’s way through the gorge on SH2, we accelerate into a rhythm and the miles began to count up rapidly. Traffic was passing us by on the opposite side of the road, at a rate that made us thankful we were going the other way. We passed numerous bikes all enjoying their ride and the surreal road, even a few Gixxer’s that weren’t sure which side of the road they were supposed to be on…
We emerge from the pass on the dry rolling hills that gently descend into Gisbourne, the heat and distance were taking their toll. Our rest stops were becoming more frequent, and we both seemed to find more to complain about. It was at that moment the road stopped winding and we ran our remaining 50km on almost straight roads and could properly “zone out” or day dream, the occasional blast of wind reminding us we weren’t passengers on this ride.
Motoring our way into Gisbourne, we didn’t have an address for our hotel, yet in our fashion we went around a few blocks until we found it easily enough. Upon checking in we were informed that our room had been upgraded, and we were welcome to use the private loading bay to store our bikes. Later on the hotel manager even gave us some free drink vouchers to the pub down the road. Service that will definitely make us come back when we’re in the area again.
Armed with a map, and notes from the hotel manager of the “must sees” we are ready for tomorrows long windy coastal ride around the mystical east cape.