Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

Distance travelled 236 kilometres

When you have to travel, almost continuously, not every day can be packed with interest. We knew we had one of those coming up. Despite coming home at about 02:00, a time when even my largely “nocturnal” wife is normally in dreamland, we were both up quite early. Whether this was from an inner urge to move on, or from an nagging fear we might inadvertently incur one of the stringent penalties stated in our accommodation brochure for making a late check-out I cannot say. Lucie packed with her customary aplomb and, as always, we tidied up. On this occasion, we also thoroughly photographed our handiwork, because the brochure (“List of very strict rules” would be a more appropriate term) also threatened dire penalties for any mess. For all its modernity, Sky Rim Lodge was not “welcoming” and that would eventually reflect in our review !

We said goodbye to Lake Tekapo and retraced our steps from two days previously as far as the junction of the country road and the SH8 and then continued along the latter highway.

As we descended from the heights, Lake Tekapo is at quite an elevation, the countryside got a lot greener. I saw a cheese factory, which the New Zealand folk seem to think always warrants its own marker sign, but sadly, we could not stop.

We made our first stop at a BP station in the town of Fairlie, not to get petrol but to try and find an ATM because we had so little cash left, we could not even buy breakfast unless we used our cards. There was no ATM at the station, but the lady advised us where to find one and also where to find a good café once we had. We located the ATM and ended up having breakfast at the Little Red Fox Café (65 Main Street, Fairlie). In front of the café, we came across a statue of James MacKenzie and his dog. So many places in the area bear his name that we thought he must have been a famous explorer.

Not so, at all !! In fact, Mackenzie (sometimes spelled without the “a”) was an itinerant drover and an outlaw ! Although likened to Robin Hood, he seems to have stolen from the rich and tried to keep it ! In 1855, he stole 1,000 sheep from very prominent local landowners, Robert and George Rhodes and, as a consequence, after eluding his initial captors and being recaptured, was sentenced to five years on a road gang. Mackenzie then escaped a few times from custody and was eventually pardoned. His exploits won him the admiration of the common people and there are numerous legends about him. In 1856, as a nearby poster relates, “he departed from New Zealand and from our history”.

We rode onwards through the green countryside.The roads were long and straight and the views, in the clear air, were phenomenal.

Our next stop was in Orari, at the vaunted but, in reality, fairly unremarkable café, Mes Amis (Orari Station Road, Orari). Outside the café was a statue honouring local blacksmiths. Orari was just far enough from Christchurch for horses travelling south to wear out their shoes, so blacksmiths thrived there.

Then, it was on to Ashburton, where we got both petrol and a light lunch from BP station (where else had such good coffee and food ?). A lady with several children raved about the Softail – seemingly in the mistaken belief that, because of its styling, it was something ancient. For some inexplicable reason, she seemed completely hyper and obsessed with our safety and kept telling us to drive carefully. I said to Lucie “I wonder what she’s taking” – I would not have let her drive me anywhere..

We carried on through the greenery, stopping from time to time to simply enjoy the stunning scenery. It was really pleasant riding. Deserted roads, long views and, in the warmth of the sun, the scents of the countryside. Occasionally, the scents did become smells as we passed places designated for the collection of animal “effluent” – but you cannot have everything !

The last stop, at least on Lucie’s “prepared” itinerary, was at the Dunsandel Café & Store (7 Kanes Road, Dunsandel). Parked outside was a huge American car, a white Ford Fairlane. I swear it was nearly as big as our flat ! The V8 burble, as it drove away, was something to delight the ears of any auto enthusiast !

Sitting in the café, I discovered that there was a Harley dealership in Christchurch, so I asked the doctor to add it to her plan. We found it easily enough, Rolling Thunder Motorcycles (85 Moorhouse Avenue, Addington, Chistchurch) but sadly, there was no T-shirt for Lucie or shirt for me that we liked, so we bought nothing. On the way to the dealership, the way ran close to Christchurch Airport. I have mentioned that the SatNav could have used an update and, although the road was by no means new, it disappeared from the screen and the little arrow, that represented the Harley, moved erratically all over the screen. This ultra-weirdness lasted for about ten kilometres, then abruptly ceased. I wondered it the airport radar or beacons had interfered with it.

Then, it was on to our chosen lodgings, the Tuscana Motor Lodge (74 Bealey Avenue, Christchurch). This was another top-notch place, spotless, well equipped and with a friendly proprietress. It was so good I would not have minded living there !

We are not exactly city lovers, but on the road they cannot be avoided totally. Our journey around New Zealand was a planned about a year in advance and, when we booked the bike rental, we envisaged going from Auckland to Auckland and planned something like a figure of “eight“. Then, for logistical reasons at Bulrangi, involving a concurrent rental, it changed to Auckland to Christchurch. This tangled our heads a little and, most importantly, completely changed the original plans, fortunately relatively unprocessed, We had to arrange the flight from Christchurch to Auckland and, eventually, we added a motorcycle replacement for the last few days.

Although Ali had insisted that Bulrangi would come to us with the new bike anywhere, we had planned it so as to replace the machine in Christchurch near the end of the journey to prevent a “swap” in the middle of nowhere. The change had been agreed for 16:00, so I sadly said goodbye to the Softail and sat back to wait for the sound of a Harley engine in the car park below our windows.

At 16:20, when our windows still had not vibrated, Lucie looked at her WhatsApp only to find a message from Ali that the replacement was cancelled because the lady who was supposed to hire the Softail had been forced not to travel for health reasons. So, paradoxically, all our complicated plan changes has been unnecessary !!! Anyway, it did not matter and, I suppose that we could have been somewhere in the floods on the North Island ! I confess that, whilst I would never wish anyone ill, I was not at all displeased that I would retain Baz’s “Pride and Joy” for the rest of our trip !

In the evening, we identified the area with the highest density of restaurants (Oxford Terrace) and the way to it from Bealey Avenue. It was an easy walk, but not a particularly short one and, once there, we had plenty of options to choose from. They all looked promising so, because of its menu, we chose Delilah (122 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch Central City). 

We shared ceviche and fried squid as starters.

As my main meal, I had fish and chips with tempura batter and Lucie had Tiger prawns.

I was totally full, but Lucie (somehow) found room for the coconut and mango dessert, which she pronounced delicious (with a big D !)

Almost unbelievably, it was a Tuesday again ! Although it seemed like only a few minutes since we had sat in Fox Glacier Township and taken our Tuesday Night Drinks photo for our friends in Prague, it was time to do it again. The waitress obligingly took the picture.

Directly opposite the restaurant, spanning the Avon river, was an impressive Bridge of Remembrance dedicated to those from the Canterbury region who had given their lives in the two world wars.

We walked slowly home in the twilight and collapsed on our king-sized bed.