I'm privileged to have some great mates whom I've been riding with for a long time. We love each other's company and the wives and partners all get on really well too. Riding together is magic as we have identical styles and that total trust makes it just so easy whether riding at pace or just pootling along. Trouble is, getting everyone together at a single moment in time is like herding cats with all our differing commitments. However, the lads all try and get together for an outing once a year or thereabouts and the weekend just gone was it!
For this outing, we tried to choose as much territory as possible that we hadn't travelled on and one which would be both scenic and technically challenging whilst riding at a reasonable clip. I should mention at this stage in all sincerity that we don't ride like idiots and speeding tickets would not be a good look. The scary part would not be the encounter with the law, but having to front up to our better halves when we got home. Craven cowards, the lot of us! Consequently, the choice was to go for roads with a low (almost non-existent it turned out) vehicle density for the times when we did want to press on a bit.
Gentle Annie and Forgotten World Highway
Day 1 - approx 430km
I leave home in Coromandel around 0900 and ride about 50km down the coast to meet up with Aucklanders Andy (BMW K1200R), John (Suzuki VStrom 1000) and Dave (Honda Blackbird) at Kopu. I lead down the back roads to the town of Taupo to meet Richard (BMW 1200 GS) who has travelled from the south west of Hamilton. Refuelling in Tokoroa en route, we meet another rider (Pete) at the gas station who has been waiting in vain for a friend. With the no-show of his friend, he asks if he can tag along for the 200-odd km to Napier just for the fun of it, then turn round and head home again! This is something rarely seen outside of motorcyclists and isn't it just great ? All about the journey, not the destination! Pete's a really nice guy, very experienced and is very welcome.
Introducing Pete with his Beemer in the background
The township is on the edge of stunning Lake Taupo which is some 620 sq km in area. The lake is actually in the crater of a supervolcano which is now hopefully extinct! A great place to sit at a pavement cafe on the waterfront for lunch.
The lads - Andy, John, Richard, Pete and Dave
Pavement cafes are great for people-watching and whilst we are eating, a Honda Goldwing converted into a trike pulls up. A beautiful conversion, not my cup of tea but vive la difference! Love the personalised number plate....
Rear of Goldwing Trike
Next door to where we are eating is the inevitable McDonalds. This is a bit different from the normal sanitised, instantly recognisable everywhere McD premises. The difference is a DC3 as part of the restaurant, right in town! Here 'tis:
Will that be fries with your boarding pass sir?
Time to get underway and Andy takes the lead down to Napier. The road is very much one of two halves, long straights through farming country to start with, often inhabited by the Highway Patrol looking for people who are daft enough to succumb to excessive temptation! However, not a peep from our radar detectors on this stretch. Virtually no traffic and as we enter the first set of twisties cut through the ash of the volcanic plateau, it's a wonderful sight being at the back of the group to see all the bikes following identical lines at a nice pace - almost an art form!
As we climb into the mountain ranges to the west of Napier, down comes the rain and in places, the road is pretty slick with not much chip on top of the tar in places. Andy does his normal highly professional job, riding superb lines and doing smooth, well-planned overtakes to take the stress off the followers. Fortunately, the rain backs off for the final 20 minutes or so into Napier city and we say goodbye to Pete and check into our cabins in the Top 10 chain camping ground. Seriously nice accommodation at a very reasonable price.
Cool self-contained cabins
Nice interiors too
Chilling after a decent ride
Richard, Dave, Andy, John, me
Andy's parents live in Napier and have generously invited us round for dinner that evening, which is a lovely gesture and anticipating a few convivial glasses of wine, a taxi is ordered! They live on a hill overlooking the gorgeous Art Deco period buildings of town and have stunning views out to sea.
View from the deck - pity about the misty rain!
Andy's parents are wonderful hosts - a fabulous meal, great conversations, many laughs and we all turn in very happy and dog-tired from the day's activities. Tomorrow will be the big day with a fair bit of new territory to be explored!
Day 2 to follow shortly....