In the dozens of times I’ve visited New Zealand, I have never been more than a few kilometres north of Auckland itself; to be precise, only as far as the historic and visually amazing Puhoi pub, about 30km from the city itself. This was a situation that clearly needed to be rectified, so as soon as we had issue 72 off to the printer, Sue and I were on the big silver bird across the Tasman Sea. Our great friends at Yamaha once again came to the party, this time with the loan of a brand new FJR1300 – one of my favourite motorcycles – and our travelling buddies Bob and Lynne Rosenthal were supplied with a BMW R1200GS by my mate Martin Farrand – a committed motorcyclist, pilot and international yachtsman – who decided to accompany us on the first leg of our journey on another machine from his stable. Martin has flown light aircraft over the North Island for decades and knows every back road, so we hardly saw Highway One on the way up the east coast to the Bay of Islands. At this point he left us to our own devices and headed home, and we decided we couldn’t go this far north without completing the odyssey, so we rode right to the top – Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean – before heading back via the West Coast to Auckland. I am trying to avoid clichés, but this is motorcycling paradise. Whoever designed these roads knew how to radius a corner – every one a sweeping delight – and because the majority of the traffic, notably the logging trucks, stick to the main highway, these roads are largely deserted and incredibly well surfaced. And best of all, the Kiwi authorities have thankfully resisted the Australian disease to dumb down every decent riding road with a pathetically low speed limit. Most of these roads are 100km/h or de-restricted, so you can maintain a decent pace without feeling you’ll be arrested at any second. Compared to Oz, petrol is a little expensive but everything else is pretty much on par. There’s good tucker, some of the best wines in the world, comfortable accommodation, and super friendly people. And did I mention great roads? What’s more to want? Do yourself a favour. Take the Northland trip on a motorcycle – there are plenty of bike hire firms in NZ. We packed 1200 km into our five days which included lots of sightseeing stops, but we barely scratched the surface. A return is already being contemplated!
OUR COVER Brendan vandeZand’s SR500 at Lake Pedder, Tasmania.. See feature story on P58.