Sunday, January 15th, 2023

Distance travelled 564 kilometres

We were up early again and, fortunately, I managed to eat breakfast without suffering any further injuries. Lucie has long since developed a method for packing the motorbike and we managed this in reasonable time, for a first try. By 08:00 we were stowed, helmeted and ready to start our big trip in earnest.

According to the plan, we had about 560 kilometres to ride. The first part was through Auckland, where even at its peak, the volume of traffic is not comparable to anything in our country, even at midnight.

There were hardly any other vehicles at all. We navigated our way out to the start of the northbound Highway 1 (SH1) and headed in the direction of Kawakawa at a brisk, but easy, pace.

The speed limits in New Zealand are fairly low, 100 kph on the motorways and the same on a lot of the major arterial roads – and nobody seems very eager to exceed them. I had already noticed that the Softail felt most comfortable at between 80 and 90 kph anyway and, on a bright and sunny morning, I saw no need to go any faster than that.The countryside was green and, for the most part, the roads were largely deserted.

Just north of Auckland, we encountered a stretch of motorway that incurred us a toll (a scary NZD2.4 (33 CZK)). The signs advising of the toll were accompanied by posters stating dire warnings of the consequences of non-payment. For locals, there is (of course) an App but, as foreigners that would have been both pointless and more costly for the transaction than the toll. It is possible to pay at some BP garages, but of course we could not find one when we wanted one. When we finally DID locate a BP station (some days later), they said we had no toll owing. It appears that Bulrangi have some form of automatic toll settlement that Baz forgot to tell us about (until we asked Ali, we were nervous …) Rent with Bulrangi Motorcycles – and save on your toll charges …..

We stopped to fill up with petrol and encountered another Harley rider, who was heading back north after a party in Wellington (700 km to the south ….) He rode with us for a short way but we were obviously going to sedately for him and eventually he pulled away and disappeared over the horizon.

When we reached the sign for Kawakawa, we saw a sign saying “Hundertwasser Toilets” which amazed us. We are big fans of the works of the Czech/Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (see other pages on this site for Germany and Austria). We had never had an inkling, in all of our research, that his works could be seen in New Zealand. At the start of the city limits of Kawakawa, even the sign had the familiar facets of “Hundertwasser” style.

The “Hundertwasser Toilets“, in the town itself are a sight to see (as well as a site to pee).

It seemed a weird thing to be walking around a Public Toilet with a camera – but we both did it …..

The toilets must be popular attraction because the city has installed a special railway (embedded in red concrete in the centre of the road) to bring people there.

Various familiar motifs appear on buildings nearby

and, opposite the toilets, was the Grass Hut souvenir shop – this had also been “Hundertwassered up“.

For my own devious purposes, to be revealed later, I went in and bought a nice postcard of our principal destination for the day, Cape Reinga. I mentioned to the proprietress that we were big Hundertwasser fans and she said that he actually lived in Kawakawa for many years, some time ago – and that she had known him well ….

As an aside, the name Kawakawa was the same as the bay we had been in on the ride the previous day. Lucie felt the urge to look it up and it appears to have a number of meanings in the Maori language. These include mourning and some important funeral rituals – but it is also a low tree of the pepper family which grows wild, rather abundantly, all over the place.

Soon after leaving Kawakawa, we turned off of the SH1 in the direction of Paihia. This took us to the Bay of Islands, reputedly one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. It certainly was a glorious sight even in slightly dull weather. In fairness, I suppose it is right up there …

As soon as we reached the beach, we decided to have a bit of lunch and we chose what was probably the first café that we saw. This was Alfresco’s (6 Marsden Road, Paihia).

We were both hungry, breakfast was already a distant memory and it was clear from the maps that the next decent café was a long way off. We both had fish chowder with homemade bread and butter which was really delicious although the only alcohol free beer they had was the seemingly ubiquitous Heineken 0. Nothing wrong with it – but not much right either.

We were in quite a hurry because there was still a long way to go, so we dd not dither, delightful as the Bay was. Our loop next brought us to Waitangi, which is the site of where the Maori people signed the treaty that effectively gave New Zealand to the British in February 1840. There is an exhibition, but time was far too tight for us to stop and view it.

The road eventually brought us back to the SH1 Highway at the town of Awanui. From the T-junction there, the SH1 continues north for just over 100 kilometres to Cape Reinga. They call it the Far North in those parts and the whole area seems to have a very strong “northern” identity. The roads were very long and very straight and almost devoid of other traffic for long stretches.

At the junction we were supposed to have a short break and get some petrol. As I was heading north, I took the right hand lane and thus failed to see, at once, that there was a petrol station about 150 metres to my left. Still, no matter, I could see a sign for fuel ahead on my right (no go, it was for lorries) and the SatNav indicated another garage about 30 kilometres ahead, so I just went on.

I will admit, here and now, that this was a BIG MISTAKE. The Softail had a few tuning modifications and ran on premium petrol of 95 or 98 octane. Baz had completely forbidden us to put in 91 octane. Having ignored the protestations from the back seat, I pressed ahead, what was 30 kilometres in a trip of this length anyway. Sadly, this almost proved our (well MY) undoing. Firstly, the next twenty or so kilometres of road had the worst surface we had so far encountered anywhere and it was not a pleasant ride. Then, when we came to where the petrol station was indicated to be, we initially could not find it and, when we did, it sold only diesel and 91 octane petrol. This, in truth, probably matched the needs of the local community, but unfortunately it did not work for the Harley We retired to a café across the road (the customers of which had no doubt been amused by our to-ing and fro-ing as we sought the pumps) to glare at each other and debate our next move. Two choices now confronted us. Go forward to where another petrol station was indicated about 43 kilometres ahead, or go back along that horrible road, fill the tank and then have to do the bad road yet again, just to get back to where we were parked. I am a bull-headed man, so forward it was. We took the road into the wilderness….

Perhaps predictably, the final chance to refuel turned out exactly the same as the previous one. It seems that, in the Far North, nobody has a vehicle that needs more than 91 octane fuel – it simply is not available. At the garage, there was an old(ish) Harley parked, but the lady on the till said it ran on 91 – but a promise is a promise and I calculated that, with a gentle right hand, we could make it to the Cape and back down to Awanui. Anyway, it was that option or, now, a 150 kilometre round trip to get back to where we were. Fingers crossed, we boldly set off on the last remaining kilometres of the journey to the north.

The northernmost point of New Zealand is at Cape Reinga. There is a headland and a light house, but which of the two is the furthest north is not certain. I thought the headland, but we visited both, they are only a short walk apart. The views along the way, particularly the very last part, were definitely worth the trip there, all by themselves. Neither of us can understand why this area is not higher on the list of places to see in New Zealand.

We eventually came to the end of the road, several uncomfortable kilometres (when you know you are low on fuel) further than the signs had indicated and parked in the walled car-park (it was VERY blustery).

We walked first to the headland. The views were simply stunning. No camera or iPhone can ever adequately capture what you can see with your eyes. We took some pictures, of course and had a few more taken by a pair of obliging tourists from Belgium.

Then we walked around to the lighthouse and repeated the process, with some tourists from India. People who were actually from New Zealand were in short supply in those parts – at least on that day ….

I have to say I did feel a little bit of trepidation as we set off on the last 100 or so kilometres back to civilization. The fuel gauge indicated that it was possible to get to Awanui and it proved to be correct, so there was no real drama . Mind you, that same indicator was on 37 kilometres when we filled up (almost NINETEEN litres) at the BP pump. We may have been almost running on fumes, but they were, at least, 95 octane fumes. This was not the very first time we have had this type of low-fuel drama on our travels, but I have been assured, by someone that I hold most dear, that it was the very last.

Apart from the breathtaking scenery of the return drive, there was one small incident of note. There are quite large numbers of birds of prey in evidence and these seem to be mainly a species of Kite (angled wings, forked tails, etc.,), the New Zealand Black Kite. I have not yet mentioned the amount of road-kill you see, but I think it is a lot, particularly if you consider the low traffic volumes and lower speeds of travel. Anyway, you cannot go far without seeing some unfortunate creature squashed into the tarmac. The Kites, although perfectly capable of hunting, are also scavengers and like to take the easy option. We had seen several, at a distance, either soaring on thermals or gobbling down pieces of some flattened creature before lifting lazily into the air as we approached.

Anyway, in the slowly fading light, we came around a corner and there was a big Kite. It was straddling a corpse in the middle of the road, but with its attention firmly fixed upon a car which was approaching from the opposite direction. On cue, it lifted lazily up, but it was not looking our way and I had to break quite firmly to avoid sticking my nose right up its bum. Its talons, which were scarily huge, particularly from about half a metre away, almost brushed my visor as, finally realising I was there, it veered sharply away. I am still grateful that it did not relieve itself when scared or I would still be combing something unmentionable out of my eyebrows …

New Zealand Black Kite
Milvus Migrans)

We spent the night in Kaitaia at a lovely little Bed and Breakfast called Gateway to the Far North (4 Mission Place, Kaitaia). This was a lovely little B&B, run by Sarah, an outgoing lady and her husband, Neil who, almost unbelievably, did a lot of his professional training in Luton, England – where I was born. Buy a lottery ticket today.

The Bed and Breakfast was only a few minutes walk from the Kaitaia town centre and Sarah made several recommendations for places to eat. There is one main street and all of them were located on one block about 200 metres long. Sadly, it was a Sunday night in rural New Zealand where rural has a capital R in bold type. It was only 20:00, but all the restaurants were closed. All that remained were fast food places which, during the course of our walk to select one, closed like so many falling dominoes. In the end we practically sprinted to Pizza Hut and managed to order a pizza at the very last minute (they were already mopping the floor). Lucie also bought a tub of Ben&Jerry’s ice cream and they closed the door and turned the sign around as we walked out. I would have liked a beer, but even the bottle shop was closed. We walked home along the now darkened street and ate our prizes in the little kitchen adjacent to our room. At least the ice cream was good.