NZ has been battered by a huge storm for the last few days and cabin fever had set in. Seeing a promising temporary abatement in the awful conditions on the weather forecast the previous evening, it was time to get out on two wheels. What the forecast actually said was, "Long, fine periods with storm force winds abating". Good enough for someone who has been cooped up for the last 2 or 3 days though! The historic gold-mining town of Waihi was chosen as the end destination as it was a while since I'd been there and I had never seen the active Martha Mine pit which is only a few hundred metres from the main shopping street! A good destination and the 160km to get there via the east coast is virtually all bends and sweepers - magic.
There's a phrase which says, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger". Little did I know that this would be rather too close to the mark for comfort. Setting off from Coromandel Town in light rain, it was blowing a bit but was quite manageable. After half and hour, all that started to change. Pulling in for a quick photo at Kuaotunu Beach was decidedly tricky. The offshore gale was at least 40-50 knots and holding the bike up between the knees whilst taking the photo could have lead to tears!
Kuaotunu Beach - white everywhere
After one huge gust whilst parked and nearly going on my side, the notion of calling the ride off and going home for a decent cup of coffee had quite a strong appeal. Unfortunately, the dark side of the brain was saying, "Ya big girl", so the decision was made to press on. Actually, it wasn't too bad as far as Whitianga with a largely following wind and a fair bit of shelter but when turning south towards Waihi................ oh s*it!
Just south of Tairua on a short straight with a distinct lack of wind breaks, a gust was so strong and sustained that I was leaned right over and countersteering just to stay in a straight line, but was getting progressively pushed towards the edge of the road and a ditch! Had less than a metre left and was looking for a soft landing before the gust abated - a very close call. Interestingly, there was no fear or panic at the time, just concentrating on trying to get a good outcome. However, with the immediate drama over, I was a bit gun-shy and slowed right up, sticking close to the centre line. For a few minutes afterwards, any anticipatory skills were completely shot and it took a conscious effort to relax and start scanning again, including looking at debris swirling about as a pointer to what the wind was doing in corners and cuttings.
Just as I thought everything was under control, a curling gust in a blind bend pushed the bike just over the centre line - no time to react. Fortunately, the intelligent residents of the Peninsula had elected to stay indoors, leaving the road to a few congenital idiots (i.e. me), so it was fortunate that the road was virtually empty of traffic. This second fright caused another significant drop in pace, not that there were any illegal speeds previously and scanning for evidence of gusts became a preoccupation to avoid getting hurt. In some parts of the trip through the Tairua forest area, airborne debris in the shape of small branches was an additional distraction, but not really dangerous.
Arriving in the small town of Waihi, it became apparent just how tensed-up I'd become fighting the wind with aching wrists and shoulders, plus a sore ear and neck from the pressure on one side of the helmet; so it was up to the open-cast gold mine viewing platform for a look and the chance to get off the bike and stretch for a few minutes. The wind was fair screaming through but fortunately, a big display board provided perfect shelter for the Triple.
GPS was spot-on in locating the viewing platform
Waihi is an interesting place. Gold was first discovered there in 1878 and originally it was extracted by tunnelling. One consequence of this was localised subsidence and about 10 years or so ago, several houses collapsed into a sink-hole! However, most of it is now extracted from the Martha Mine open pit, just a 5 minute walk from the main street!
Martha Mine pit - several hundred metres deep
Drilling blasting holes near the pit bottom
Parked ore carrier - wheel over 2 metres in diameter
Old tunnel winch house from the 1800's right by the main street
Old winch tower at the end of the main street
The pit was an impressive sight, especially being part of town. After a bit of sightseeing, the intention was to grab lunch in a nearby cafe and look round the mine information centre (a mine of information? Sigh...) before refuelling and heading home. However, black clouds were looming down south and as the wind showed no sign of abating, discretion dictated a stop in the next town instead; some 30 km north where the nearby hills offered some degree of protection from the elements.
With the wind coming from the rear quarter, riding was pretty pleasant, although a bit of caution was required through bends and cuttings. However, Lady Luck decided to spring another surprise! Rolling into the gas station at Whangamata, the attendant strolled out with the news that the high winds had cut power to town so there was no gas, or food for that matter. Come to think of it, town did look kind of empty on the way through! My stomach was rumbling but of more immediate concern was fuel. Was it just Whangamata with no power or had other parts of the Peninsula been affected too? It wasn't possible to get home without refuelling and the attendant hadn't got a clue about the big picture so it was on to Tairua, a further 37 km north. A bit of short-shifting on this leg to conserve fuel was in order!
Rolling in to Tairua and my favourite cafe, it was obvious that the gas station opposite was open for business, albeit slow due to the lack of traffic on the roads - quite a relief. The cafe is in a sheltered area of town and it was delightful to sit outside in the sun with a large bowl of latte, home-made steak and mushroom pie with salad and re-gather my wits!
Fuel, good food and all is well!
Amazing what a break and some nourishment does and mentally refreshed, continued on my way home. Again, with the wind predominantly on the tail, it was an enjoyable run and even when turning west, having the wind right on the nose was a darned sight better than the earlier crosswinds.
Reflecting on the ride later, would I have gone out had I known what the conditions were going to be like? Probably not, but despite the odd stressful moment, the ride was great in that the Triple (and me) got tested in fairly extreme conditions and I now know how it will respond. Its lack of weight does mean that it will move around a bit more in wind than a heavier machine like my old Blackbird but by the same token; it's probably easier to get out of trouble if things do go pear-shaped. A full fairing would have offered more protection punching straight into the wind but in cross-winds that strong, the slab sides of a fairing might have been a liability. By crouching and leaning forward towards the Barracuda screen on the Triple, it was surprising just how much protection it afforded to the head and shoulders.
Next post in a couple of weeks' time - off on a road trip on Friday to Wellington and points in between (sadly, in the 4x4, not the bike!)