April 28, 2015 at 12:42 am #8098
Rank: 650cc Rider
- Bike: 2102 Husaberg FE570 Rally Australia Bike, 2007 BMW 650 x-Challenge, 2009 Buell XP Ulysses Police Duty (1 of 137)
OK, I want to keep this short, but I decided to go off for a multi-day spin and incorporate visiting mates and riding. I left early Saturday, April 18th headed for Whangarei from Ahipara to meet up with the rest of the Northland dzr geezers and Dave on his big BMW1200. We followed Kel Rood along Ruarangi Rd gravel, through plenty of back road gravel, until we arrived at Tokatoka pub for late lunch and chin wag (Tokatoka is just outside of Dargaville, great wee pub too). On our return, we headed back over some other gravel roads to find BOBS track, which is only about 4kms of bush track, but a good challenge, especially with the big bmw. We had to push and take turns as not only was the big beemer heavy, it also had a nearly finished 80/20 road-oriented tyre. After plenty of mud and laughs we eventually got to the other side. Dave decided to skip the next track which was about 200m up a gravel road and 5kms long. It was more open, but did have some slippery clay and a bit of mud. We finished that track up happily and road Ormsby Road and a few others back to town.
I stayed over at Kel’s place that night in order to meet up early the next morning to watch the Rally of Whangarei, which is also an international rally race. Rob Searle, who was heavily into rally racing at one point in his life, lives on one of the rally roads and invited us to watch. We had to be there before 730am when they closed off the road. I planned to duck away and head further south to catch another engagement in Auckland and stay the night south of there. After a big breakfast, we watched the first round of rally drivers through a triple bend that snakes just in front of Rob’s boundary. Great fun and noise, with gravel spraying just out of reach from us (thankfully).
After lunch and some Northland ride planning, we went over the hill to watch the 2nd round from another vantage point. The round was a bit delayed with 4sweeper cars needing to drive through, and I had to get moving to be on time for the Auckland gig. I said my thanks and goodbyes, and had to run the 850m of gravel road between Rob’s house and where the road was closed off to get to my steed. It was a scary few minutes, as I knew a rally car could come screaming down the road at any moment! I got to a clearing of paddocks and safely hopped the fence to run the last 300m. Plenty of spectators there in the paddock and I got to watch the first 2 cars come through before getting on the road to Auckland.
The Auckland stop was for a documentary premiere that I was involved in. We sailed across the Pacific from NZ to California via Tahiti and Hawaii in 2011, and returned in 2012 via Mexico, Cocos Is, Galapagos Is, Tahiti, Aitutaki, Raro, Samoa, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Is, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and back to NZ. Much of the footage we took from gopros on deck of our traditional voyaging canoes (22m by 6.5m) and it was great to finally see everyone again in person and on the big screen. Keep an eye out for TE MANA O TE MOANA end of June on Maori Television. I was able to get away and crash at my mates that night exhausted.
Next day was up early and off towards Onewhero, Port Waikato, and Te Akau Coast. I got to a gravel road from Onewhero up the hill instead of turning direct to Port Waikato, and snaked around the gravel until I came back out on the main road. I turned in again on the well known Klondyke Road for a trip up and over the hills with great views. A couple of logging trucks were there but let me pass quickly, which was very nice of them. I got on to the Marama-Onewhero Road and kept snaking around mostly gravel for 30minutes. It then turned into the Marama-Whatipu Road and more gravel was spat out by me and my bike. Great fun and brilliant riding there. I came off that road via Baker Road to Te Akau Coast Road and carried on until I was at the southern end. Unfortunately there was fresh marble on the last stretch of gravel before Te Akau township, and I veered off the road into heavy grass and bumped a fence. It was a very minor off and in grass with no damage at all…or so I thought. The bike seemed fine, but I couldn’t get my throttle to move from idle. I pushed Coco, the Xchallenge, back to the road to see that the only damage was a kink in the throttle cable. Shit, that would stop me dead in my tracks with no reception on a very quiet road with little traffic. I had a play around and tried to pinch the cable back so it would move. No joy, and I proceeded to now lock the cable into FULL THROTTLE. There was no use, so I pushed 400m to a farm station, hoping to find shade and a solution. That was the bad luck.
The good luck began from there. Just 50m from the shade, a farmlands truck and trailer pulled up. The guy was very nice and offered to load the bike to Te Akau garage! So with a bit of work, we did just that. Turns out he’s a skipper as well and was happy to help out knowing the remoteness of the area. Sadly there was no way to safely reform the throttle cable which was pinched in two places. The reason for the pinch was because my mechanic fitted a new throttle cable that I had to order from overseas (hooray for discontinued german bikes), but decided it could be routed a different way. Not so, the sharp turn of my forks trapped and kinked it.
I tried ringing Sharn, but no answer, so this amazing guy said he’d take me to Hamilton with the bike instead of heading back to work…IN HUNTLY. As we were going he was concerned about the time etc, and asked if he could drop me at Ngaruawahia. I couldn’t say no, and it ended up there was a garage there with hire trailers. Sharn hadn’t left yet to meet me in Raglan for riding (which I couldn’t presently do), so he met me quickly at the servo and we were off with the bike and a hire trailer to Apex Brake & Clutch on Killarney St. They were quick and efficient, turning out a better cable than the OEM, albeit for a high price. But I was able to ride again! We returned the trailer and cruised back to Sharn’s for a kip before the big ride the following day.
We left Gordonton at 8am to meet Bernard Fletcher at Te Kuiti. Bernard had worked out a route, and I modified it to include kiwi road/moki road/kara road for the gravel and tunnels. After a very foggy ride and a coffee, the fog had lifted and we were off. First gravel bit was the Pomarangai saddle which was very decent forest track/gravel road winding up and over for a considerable distance. That merged into Mangatoa Road winding back south towards Awakino. We passed a very large house moving, which took up the entire carriageway in both directions. But after filling up, the procession just passed us so we had about 30minutes to go 15kms south towards Okau Rd to ride the famed Kiwi Road. It wasn’t too bad, and the house-mover turned off before we got to Okau. From there it was a brief wind to the beginning of the Kiwi Road/Moki Road/Kara Road adventure. This road is not particularly challenging, but the scenery is beautiful and the tunnels are a treat. I believe there were 3 or 4, some were several hundred meters, and we spent the time taking photos and video of our tunneling time. Kara road returns you to SH3 and we headed to Urenui for lunch and fuel. It was a brief stop since the cafe was shut, so we scarfed up snacks and returned to Okau Rd. This time we passed the Kiwi Road turnoff and took the winding gravel through Waitaanga all the way into Ohura. It was getting a bit late and it was at this point we decided to part ways. Bernard had a winding tarmac road planned ahead, but I saw an interesting gravel road that twisted back north back towards Te Kuiti. The road was called Waitewhena Rd, and I cannot recommend it enough. It reminded me of sweeping Northland gravel roads with lots of turns and twists to keep the throttle on. Both Sharn and I really enjoyed the 30+kms of well cambered gravel that brought us eventually back into Aria and Piopio. We rode the last stretch to Te Kuiti for a surprisingly excellent Indian dinner before night-riding back to Gordonton. A full day was fully enjoyed, and I suggested to Sharn that we might consider the next day to make up for lost Waikato gravel riding. He was keen, and we both slept well after more than 10hrs in the saddle.
Our last day would have us riding to Raglan for a quick catchup with a mate, and then off on Raglan Road via Ruapuke towards Kawhia. It was a slow road due to the potential for random tourists or surfers taking wide corners, but only 2 cars eventuated. We stopped for some photo ops, and then made it to the Harbour Road that twists into the Kawhia region. It was another fast road on white gravel, but not too dusty and the weather was really good. We found our way to Pirongia West Road, which I really enjoyed for an uphill and constantly leaning roadway. There were so many blind corners, I may as well have had my eyes closed! Thankfully we didn’t see one vehicle the entire time. The road was about to become tarmac downhill into Otorohonga, but I saw a familiar road called Kaimango which I knew turned into Hiwikiwi Road and finally spat us out on the other side of Pirongia Mountain. It was an excellent end to a gravel adventure I had been meaning to take for some time. There are still roads on my list for the next trip in that area, but I was happy to return and explore for only the 2nd time on some new roads. Sharn and I departed company, and I headed back to Hwy 22 in order to complete the Te Akau Coast Road that I bypassed for Klondyke and Baker Roads on the trip south.
I found my way back and proceeded to take a winding loop off and back on to Te Akau Coast Road. The Waikorea Valley Road and Matira Road made a near circular route back towards the coast road, but when I got to a 3way fork, I made a laughable mistake. There was a detour sign with cones across to the left, but some cones had been removed and tyre tracks could be seen. I figured that may be the way back to completing the loop and carrying on to the North. I went about 500m beyond the coned-off road and found out why. A large washout had occurred and there was no more road! It was much to gnarley to ride directly over with huge gaps between road and river and muddy rocks. However, there was an easier stream crossing just next to where the bridge used to be, and a gate not too far from either side. Afer walking it and making sure it was feasible, I unlocked the gate and brought the bike to just in front of the stream crossing. It wasn’t impossible but a good challenge. I made it across but the mud meant it was slow and slippery up the bank the other side. With a good effort I had made it and back on the road…what roadblock!?!
I then proceeded to ride 200m up a hill where I found myself back at the start where I first turned off. Oh dear. I didn’t even have to cross that stream and I now had to repeat the loop back to the 3-way fork! I laughed and rode the loop again for about 30minutes, since it was good anyway, but I lost valuable daylight. I made it back to the forks and turned right that time, making my way North back towards Port Waikato. It was dark towards the end, but I was still happy and riding. With some much needed signal, I made a few calls at the store, and then finished off for the night in Pukekohe. That was the end of my gravel riding adventure, and certainly one I’d repeat, minus the cable drama. Imagining that it could have been the end before most of the riding even happened, I was and still am grateful that I was rescued by a top bloke and able to repair and return to the rest of the planned riding.
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