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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Trouble in Paradise

A while back, I made a post about the proactive measures being taken by the NZTA, the country's national highways agency to make one of the country's great motorcycling roads, the Coromandel Loop; safer for motorcyclists by involving them in the decision-making.  That post is HERE .  I then made a subsequent post with photos showing the damage to the Thames-Coromandel section of the Loop from some particularly nasty storms and this is the link: HERE .

Since then, there have been more temporary road closures caused by short duration heavy rains.  The problem is that the storms earlier in the year seriously weakened both the soil bond on the rock cliff faces and even opened cracks in the rock structures.  The result of this is that every time it rains, there's a good chance that previously weakened rocks, trees and clay are going to come down onto the road in many places and the road will be closed for several hours whilst the landslips are cleared. There is another route off the Coromandel Peninsula but from where we live, it adds between 1 - 1 1/2 hours to any journey so the normal preference is to stay home and wait for the road to be cleared unless the trip is absolutely necessary.

Big boulder fall near Thames
(source: Stuff news website)

Not what you want falling on your head whilst riding
(source: Stuff news website)

However, even with the coast road open, there's currently another hazard for motorcyclists.  The clean-up crews are still in fire-fighting mode getting rid of the slips and other materials which come off the cliff faces and haven't had time for any proper remedial work.  The normal drainage channels at the bottom of the cliffs have become blocked with silt.  What this means is that rainwater picks up clay from the cliffs and floods straight across the road in numerous places, often round blind bends. Wet clay has bugger-all grip and even with traction control on the most sensitive setting and care being exercised, I've had a few puckering moments in the trouser region.  Even when it's dry, the clay granules still present a potential sliding hazard.

What this means is that for riders, most of the initiatives which the NZTA roading authority was initiating on behalf of riders is pretty much on the back burner until a semblance of normality returns to this stretch of road which is likely to be months away.  No big deal in the scheme of things and no point in getting worked up about Mother Nature.  In the meantime, residents of the area can get regular updates of road closure status to their phones on an almost hourly basis or log directly onto the NZTA website to avoid getting turned around.  

Typical live on-line road hazard map for the Coromandel Peninsula

The inconvenience to motorcyclists is exceedingly small in the scale of things. The impact on local businesses which rely on tourist trade in particular are enormous when faced with road closures. Here's a link to a video and article which appeared today on a news website concerning the impact on business: LINK .  Sadly, events like this affects the economy of the whole region.  

Let's just hope that we get a decent run of fine weather as spring arrives and everyone can get back to normal for the main tourist season, as well as making my commute for IAM coaching to be a whole lot more pleasurable.  Getting clay off the bike after every ride is also getting a bit tedious!