Panini Tour: Trip across Kiwi-country
What’s enroute from Australia to Alaska? New Zealand – an origin paradise for motorcyclists: landscape that is rich in variety, curves, curves, curves, hardly any traffic, delicious food and an extremely relaxed population, by the way the most peaceful around the globe.
The KTM 1190 ADVENTURE Rs were equipped with new oil, air filters and tyres so that we could start straight from Auckland. New Zealand´s Chris Birch, who is an ace at Rally racing insisted in showing us the most wonderful offroad tracks in his backyard. On the Coromandel peninsula we spent a whole day riding through red blooming Pohutukawa forests (New Zealand´s Christmas Tree), along rugged coastal landscapes, overgrown rocks right to the northern end. In the evenings we were rewarded with regional specialties: smoked mussels and New Zealand white wine.
A little bit more to the south Rotorua the capital of the volcanic region is located. It’s like the Journey to the Center of the Earth: smoking crevices, bubbling mud pools and geyser, holes with boiling water – along with toxic yellow sulfur smell. It´s a true pleasure to chill out in a pool of hot thermal water after long day of riding!
The North Island is populated by Maori. It’s a good place to learn about the culture of the indigenous people. The war and welcome dance, called Haka, with powerful body movements and horrible grimaces seems entertaining but formidable. Very interesting were the Maori tattoos, which tell you about the family history of the tattooed person. In many villages one can see splendidly decorated Maori assembly halls (Marare) – tourists are not allowed to enter most of them.
In general we experienced big differences to the Australian Aborigines, that very often live on the margins of society suffering from isolation and alcoholism, whereas the Maori in New Zealand live well-integrated and confident and attach great importance to the preservation of their language and culture for a few years even by their own TV station.
In the Maori language New Zealand is called “Aotearoa” (which means “country of the big white cloud”), what is entirely comprehensible, because in New Zealand there is definitively no lack in clouds. But getting wet is not an obligation, if one is planning the trip neatly and flexibly. The most Eastern point of New Zealand presents itself cloudlessly and our short trip to this point pays off even more. A lonely lighthouse at the wild coast looks at the nearby Date Line and the pretty faraway Chile.
Heading to the south we enjoy some typical New Zealand stereotypes: bendy highways across grass-green hilly landscape with thousands of sheep and cows; lonely beaches that are just waiting to be plowed up by our stubbly rear tyres; original but very British pubs with beer to draw yourself appear in the middle of nowhere and finally the village with the world´s longest name.
From “Windy Welly”, how is called New Zealand´s windy capital with the recommendable Te Papa Museum (that includes an earthquake simulator), we ferry over to the South Island. It´s dominated by the Southern Alps for which we arranged enough time to look at and which is said to be a wonderful backdrop along the western coast road. Wedged between the highlands and the Tasman Sea, the western coast road winds past strange looking rock formations, sea lion colonies and dense fern forests up to the highest mountains in New Zealand.
The highest point is called Mount Cook (3754m ). For two hours we traded our ADVENTURES with the cockpit of a helicopter to see the icy summit of mount Cook.Big and broad the Franz Josef glacier rolls in the direction of the sea.
After the exciting flight we enjoy the sunset in the local pub of the dozy village, where we got served ´Whitebait´ a specialty of the South Island. Whitebait are small fishes which are entirely (with head, eyes and fishbones) stirred with eggs and after that fried. New Zealanders really like it!
We continue our trip on the bendy roads across the Alps – from west to east. In the direction of Queenstown, New Zealand´s adventure capital, we pass gorgeous lakes capes. There is no adrenaline sport that couldn´t be tried here. We enjoy ourselves during a tough off-road tour in the nearby mountains including countless water passages. By the way, at this spot the KTM 1190 ADVENTURE R was presented to the New Zealand press a few months ago and is in it´s element.
After one day of recreation we spontaneously traveled to the sunny East coast, instead of the rain-swept south. A funny penguin colony welcomes us in Oamaru and marvellous tracks wind over the Lundis and Burkes pass to Christchurch. The biggest town in New Zealand experienced two earthquakes (2010 and 2011) and therefore appears heavily destroyed but cleared from the rubble. It´s a depressing feeling to walk through the no longer existing town center where shops, banks and coffeehouses are now located in containers and every inhabitant can tell another even more dreadful story about the earthquake.
Not far from Christchurch the Banks peninsula is located, a dead volcano, which windy crater edge panorama street is a real highlight for every motorcyclist. But what should one focus on? The hairpin bends or the beautiful view? From a narrow swathe one looks left and right on a frayed, fjord-like coast. Right inside Akaora, a piece of France in the British country – très charmante.
On our way back north we cross Molesworth on diversified routes, New Zealand´s biggest sheep farm which is with photo points a half a day trip. In the evening we reward ourselves with a wine tasting in Marlborough the most famous wine-growing region in New Zealand.
Before sailing back to the North Island, we spent one day exploring the fringed fjord landscape at the Cook Strait where narrow and almost overgrown single trails guide the visitors from bay to bay. Here, the New Zealanders spend their holidays preferably – in plain wooden huts.
An actually unscheduled but weather-related trip brings us to the Taranaki peninsula, which consists of a huge copybook volcano. Along the coast winds New Zealands Surfhighway 45 from one lonely, black and windy beach to the next.
What´s the Route 66 for the USA is the “Forgotton World Highway” for New Zealand – a motorcycle classic that we certainly do not omit. Unfortunately most of the highway is already tarmacked but at some places the highway guides across several small passes through green grass- and scrubland. On every occasion we stop to enjoy the beautiful view. That much green – indescribable. A real curiosity is the Republic of Whangamomona, a small village that declared its independence a few decades ago and still has its own entry stamp.
On our way back to Auckland we cross the oldest national park in New Zealand: Tongariro is an alpine plateau, where three active volcanos protrude from the plateau. That´s what makes New Zealand so fascinating: Only a short ride and the landscape has again changed completely.
Where are volcanos, there are craters. Needless to say, the biggest lake is of course a crater lake. Therefore we made the day a bath day, take off the motorcycle gear and jump into the crystal clear and cool lake Taupo. The next days we have to hurry to not miss the northern part of the country.
The Bay of Islands is not only a beautiful bay with countless islets, it´s also of historical importance. Here the first Maori settled, the first Europeans debarked and the social coexistence of the ethnic groups was contractually arranged. Around plenty of romantic beaches and pleasant little villages with superb restaurants!
At coast we visit the remains of New Zealand´s Kauri jungle which is a real natural highlight. The oldest Kauri tree is 2000 years old and has an extent of nearly 14 metres. An outstanding museum pays tribute to the natural history.
Photos: Barbara Kenedi