Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Distance travelled 431 kilometres

If you are looking at the above title and you have even a rudimentary knowledge of the geography of New Zealand, you might find it strange, because the highway does lead directly from Christchurch to Kaikoura. In short, there is no need to go anywhere near Blenheim at all ! That is the difference between simple logic and what goes on inside of my head ! When we came into Kaikoura, we had, basically ridden all of the way around the South Island, except for the 130 kilometre stretch between where we were, filling up our tank – and the point in Blenheim, where we had headed west to ride down the west coast. Need I say more ?

Lucie is well used to my crazy ideas and knows how stubborn I can become when I have one. All to often, something that seems self-evident to me is often greeted with open-mouthed amazement by others. When I first mentioned it, she did point out that she had humoured me with visits to the northernmost tip of the North Island and the southernmost outcropping of the South Island. However, knowing me as she does, she must have already known that resistance would be futile. She is my “partner in crime” and in it for the ride – quite literally, in this case. She also knew, as I suppose I did, that, with the upcoming holiday weekend and the extra traffic that was sure to bring, it was probably then – or never (not that “or never” was ever really a part of the equation).

In the morning, when I had got up, even I was having second thoughts because, even by my pretty low standards, it was a bit mad. Lucie, of course knew that if we did NOT do it, I would brood on the lost opportunity for all of eternity. She said she was up for it – and packed in record time.

With only 180 kilometres between us and Kaikoura, we set off at quite a leisurely pace, made more leisurely by the heaviest traffic we had so far encountered anywhere. The fact that the schools were back – and the flat, spread-out nature of suburban Christchurch, both contributed to that. When we finally got clear of the town, we came to a stretch that was actually labelled as “Motorway” with central barriers and everything – but the speed limit was still 100 kph and it returned to normal highway long before the Softail got anywhere close to moving at a three figure speed.

The weather started a bit gloomily, but those Apps did promise it would clear up soon.

Up the good old SH1 highway we went. It was nearly deserted and we hardly saw any traffic until we came a petrol station. Sadly, it had only diesel and 91 octane petrol. Luckily, it did also have a tea stand where the lady was kind enough to laugh at my quip of “Like my women, hot, white and weak!” in response to her query regarding as to how I would like my tea.


Our next stop was in the cute little town of Cheviot. We had breakfast in the Number 8 Café (8 Hall Street (the SH1), Cheviot). It was our normal breakfast, but my bacon had been crisped, which gave them an extra bonus point.

Directly opposite was a cute little church, also sporting an “open” sign ….

We wanted to take petrol at the local pump, but we again found ourselves in one of those areas where there was only 91 octane or diesel – or pumps that operated only on the costly card pre-payment regime. After the “Lake Taupo incident”, there was no way that I was going to take any kind of risk. We came to the final petrol station before a long stretch of highway with no indicated garages at all. It was also card only, but did have 95 octane, we decided on a bit of bullet-biting. Needless to say, not one of our selection of cards could bring the machine into life. In the end, we paid the attendant a $NZ 5 “handling fee” (which must happen regularly as they were geared up for it, despite notices stating the roadhouse and fuel service were unrelated entities). Sadly, despite the lucrative nature of the service, it was done with a sullen bad grace. Of course, as we did not have to pay OUR card fee, it did actually save us money.

We arrived in Kaikoura, without further incident, after a glorious section of road that ran along the fringes of several, rocky bays and sometimes dived through the headlands in tunnels.

We filled the tank to the top, entered Blenheim into the SatNav and set out north along the beautiful road that still hugged the coast.

On the way we encountered a train, which was a great rarity,. We had seen and crossed a lot of track, but only seen one train in the distance – ironically, just before entering Kaikoura. The tracks were sometimes just inland of the road, with numerous tunnels, or between the road and the sea, on trestles. Who can resist the “train” shot ? Certainly not me ! I chased it along the road, with Lucie snapping away as we went. Luckily, one or two of the fifty or so pictures she took came out nicely !

I finally got ahead of it for a full-on shot !

Traffic was surprisingly light, the road was wide, sweeping, as opposed to winding, in most places and, overall, well surfaced. It might seem an odd thing to say, considering the staggering beauty of all the scenery we had seen, but I enjoyed that ride up to Blenheim and back as much, in terms of “pure” motorcycling, as anything up to that point on the whole trip. I could simply concentrate on just riding and enjoying it.

We came over the final pass and there it was, Blenheim ! I pulled the Softail onto the grass in front of the “Welcome to Blenheim” sign. Lucie took a snap and we shook hands to mark a “challenge” completed. What a trooper my lovely wife is !

We stopped for refreshments at the first Roadhouse on the way back, which we could not even locate on a map. Then we wound our way back through the rolling hills and back down the coast. It really was a nice piece of road and seemed, to me at least, very different in the opposite direction.

We halted again, sixty kilometres later, at a rather upmarket and stylish café called The Store (5748 State Highway One, Kekerengu). Lucie could not resist enjoying the orange and almond cake with her espresso whilst seated on a terrace above a magnificent beach. She had certainly earned it the hard way !

When we came to the traffic light where we had earlier snapped the oncoming train, we had to stop again. On the beach, only fifty metres away, numerous Fur Seals were lying on the shingle and rocks. We had not noticed them the first time and we suspected that most people do not spot them at all.

We arrived (back) in Kaikoura and easily found our very nice lodgings, the Kaikoura Quality Suites (154 Beach Road, Kaikoura).

Quality was a very apt description ! The proprietor was friendly, the room fabulous and with not only an outside terrace, but also a balcony, from which we could not only see the ocean but also hear the soothing hiss of the swell.

On our way out to get something to eat, we paused on the beach. The surface was unpleasantly stony above the tide-line, but with soft grey sand in front of the crashing surf. Of course, I could not resist drawing in it, as always.

Swimming in the sea is forbidden, because of the severe undertow, but those were some serious waves.

We ate a little differently. There was a Trip Advisor recommended place, about ten minutes walk from the Suites. Cods & Crayfish (81 Beach Road, Kaikoura) looked a bit like a slightly down-market fish and chip shop that you could find in any seaside town anywhere in the world.

Luckily, what came out of the very busy fryers was something a bit special. We ordered a dozen fried scallops, a dozen fried prawns and spicy potato wedges. They were quickly prepared and we ate them, OUT OF THE PAPER THEY CAME WRAPPED IN (!), on a wooden picnic table in front of the shop.

We were not the only ones doing that. Lucie said we had finally become “real” Kiwis ! Gulls lined the rooftop, but we disappointed them. The few scraps of batter Lucie could not eat, we put on the beach, some distance way – I do not expect that they were there long.

We returned to our lovely room, but I had, for once, a bit of difficulty dropping off to sleep. The only thing in the world that I am genuinely a little bit afraid of is the sea – and my trip out onto it, in a boat of some kind, was what I had to look forward to when I woke up !