The Dual Sport Adventure

Reporting from New Zealand

Reprinted from May, 2000
Central Cal BMW Riders Newsletter

By Karl Drowse

Tour: Maori Meander - Dual Sport ride. Sponsored by Beach's Motorcycle Adventures and assisted by Te Waipounamu Tours of New Zealand. This was the first dual sport tour of the South Island and the first time that the three CCBR members listed below had taken an organized tour. The fourth rider, Jerry previously made a Beach's tour in Europe. A street only tour ran at the same time as the dual sport tour with one couple and three others on 4 BMW 850s plus two guides, one driving a support van. The couple had won the trip at the MOA rally in Missoula. Riders from both tours met for dinner the first night, met again in Queenstown and at the end of the tour.

Cost: $3200 US, excluding air fare; This included motorcycles, breakfasts, dinners, accommodations, two guides, a support vehicle and several special events. We paid for gas.

Riders: The same three CCBR members, seen to right, Jim McLean. Karl Droese, and Richard Huber) who made the Alaska trip last summer, plus Jerry Mark an ST I 100 and KLR 650 rider from Sunrise Beach, Texas.

Guides: Laurie Bycroft from Queensland, Australia and Rex Knight from Westport, New Zealand. Al Walker from Wanaka, New Zealand was originally assigned as one of our guides but broke his back the week before the tour when he crashed a Funduro into a truck full of canoes which pulled out in front of him on a blind curve. We met Al in Wanaka and he is doing fine. He should make a full recovery. The guides were great and by the end of the trip we thought of them more as knowledgeable friends and riding companions.

Bikes: BMW 650 Funduros equipped with trials tires and no bags. The guides traded riding a Yamaha XT 600 and the support vehicle (a Suburu 4X4).

Duration: 14 days and approximately 2000 miles.

Route: The southern two thirds of the South Island starting and ending at Christchurch. From Christchurch we explored parts of the Banks Peninsula and Akaroa Harbor (the eastern and South Pacific side of the Island). Then we traveled west to Glenroy, across the Southern Alps to Punakaiki on the West Coast. From Punakaiki we traveled south along the Tasman Sea to Fox Glacier. We then headed southeast across the Alps to Wanaka and on to Qeenstown and then to Te Anau. After a side trip to Milford Sound we rode to Clyde, Danseys Pass, Twizel and back to Christchurch.

Accommodations and Food: First Class; Beach's has established excellent relationships with a variety of establishments along the route. We stayed at a beautiful restored 1912 home, a sheep/cattle/deer ranch, a couple of restored gold rush era Inns, beach houses and several excellent hotels and motels. The first night the owners of Gunjah Country Lodge served us a meal that would rival a two or three star European restaurant. All the food was excellent. No mystery meat pies or other unknown substances. Also, New Zealand produces excellent beer and very good wines. Our only complaint was that our clothes were shrinking rapidly.

The pavement portion: Once you learn to think left and look right your chances of survival increase dramatically. Roundabouts are difficult enough when driving on the right side. Riding on the left and coming out of one in the correct direction can be a real challenge. Most of the bridges are single lane, some with railroad tracks down the middle. Arrows tell you who has the right of way but its really who gets on the bridge first The majority of pavement is rough chip seal mixed with bitumen. Generally we thought the roads were in much better shape than in California (with very light traffic). We would encounter occasional gravel or oil and lots of road kill possums but for the most part the roads were excellent. An abundance of great sweepers and twisties made riding a joy. The trials tires on the Funduros stuck like glue to the chip seal. Jerry, our Texas friend, loves twisties and was exceptionally fast through them notwithstanding two totaled motorcycles and a few broken bones (a deer and a slick spot) in the past two years.

The dirt portion: Most of the dirt portion was on primitive ranch or gold mining roads, both public and private. There were many streams to cross but bridges were extremely rare. The New Zealanders seem willing to use their vehicles as submarines as evidenced by several with high snorkels. One morning we made 27 stream crossings, some fairly deep. While we all had some experience at stream crossings on light dirt bikes, the heavier BMWs made them more challenging. On the first day of the tour (after a heavy rain) we encountered some really slick mud and ended up riding like slalom skiers on the downhill segments. Most of the roads were covered with pea gravel. Where the gravel was fairly fresh we felt like we were floating on marbles with very little traction or braking. This raised the anxiety factor substantially, especially on steep downhill grades along the edges of deep river gorges or on blind corners. When we encountered flat areas where one could see the turns or the gravel had been worn in, we were able to really crank up in relative safety. On pure dirt and cut rock we had great traction and would have liked to have seen more of these types of roads and trails.

Special events: (Included in the price of the tour):

  • Special dirt ride with Offroad Adventures (website: www.offroad.co.nz) in Queenstown. The four dual sport riders and one of the street riders attended. This was a real kick. Denis Columb, the owner, took us to a private ranch where he provided us with DR 350s, helmets, boots, and gloves. After observing us run a course, he provided general and individual instructions and then took us on mountain trails with magnificent views of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. It was fairly challenging terrain. We had great fun and no crashes.
  • Gondola trip to top of mountain overlooking Queenstown with dinner at the top.
  • By special permission we took our bikes on the TSS Earnslaw, the worlds only coal burning steamship from Queenstown across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak where we unloaded the bikes and rode 90km of dirt road.
  • Two nights at a private sheep/cattle/deer ranch "Crown Lea". The first day was spent at Milford Sound. On the second day we received a tour of the ranch including watching the dogs work sheep. A beautiful place.
  • Trip on Milford Sound on the Milford Wanderer, a large motor-sailor. The scenery was beautiful with many high waterfalls. It reminded me of a flooded Yosemite.
  • Breakfast at Lammerview, a private home surrounded by orchards and garden. The owner restores Jaguars and motorcycles. In addition to several Jags he had a Norton, a couple of Triumphs, a Matchless, a Laverda and a KLT.

Weather and scenery: Mostly warm and beautiful. We had occasional clouds and it rained on us for a couple of hours on two days. We traveled through rain forests, near deserts, high mountain passes, beautiful green valleys, and viewed many glaciers, rivers and lakes. The scenery was magnificent. We encountered a small amount of fresh snow from the night before on one of the dirt roads over a mountain pass. The weather gets cooler as you travel south and is much warmer on the northern tip of the Island.

Crashes, incidents, etc.: Jim, a fast and experienced dirt rider, was putting on a great show with high speed power slides and throwing large plumes of dirt when he came into a turn too hot, caught a false neutral on the downshift and crashed. He suffered bruised and swollen hands and knee. His bike suffered surprisingly light damage (scraped both sides and lost a mirror). He aggravated his knee later when he stepped in a hole while we were exploring an old gold rush cemetery. He aggravated one hand when he was stopped after breaking a chain on his DR during the dirt event and a parked bike fell on him. He was able to continue at nearly the same pace. Jim provided further entertainment when he center-punched a huge cow pie showering himself and the bike with smelly green stuff requiring a wash down at the nearest stream. Ray, another Texan originally signed for the dual sport tour, opted to go on the street tour instead. He crashed on a curve and suffered severe bruises. He spent the remainder of the trip riding in the support van with his bike. Cows and sheep were encountered frequently. There are 45 million sheep (down from 70 million the last time I was in New Zealand) on the South Island and only about a million people. Where cattle or sheep were being herded across the road you merely had to stop until there was a break or they completed their crossing. A greater challenge occurs when they are running downhill at full speed and trying to cross in front of you. We encountered a difficult transit on dirt through a very large herd of running cattle. It took us nearly a mile to get through them. The greatest danger is if a cow falls and rider and bike end up tangled around a wildly kicking beast.

Evaluation: Fantastic! We hated to see it end. We felt that we really got our money's worth and hope Beach's will continue the dual sport tour. We highly recommend this tour for anyone with dirt riding or dual sport experience. The Funduros were great on the pavement and adequate in the dirt. This is a beautiful country with great people.

Other events: Beach's and Te Waipounamu are considering a combined motorcycle/fly fishing tour with a popular fly fishing expert as guide. Since New Zealand is a world famous fly fishing area this could be a wonderful adventure for those of us who enjoy both sports. Also, our guide Laurie (email: lauriebycroft@hotmail.com [you may need to add a .au]) runs his own (1 to 15 day) off road motorcycle safaris out of Cairns in Northern Australia. I can provide information if anyone is interested. In addition, Laurie serves as skipper and guide for sailing in the Whitsundays, a chain of majestic islands (mostly uninhabited) located between the Great Barrier Reef and mainland Australia. Anne and I bareboat chartered there with Australian friends a few years ago and it is one of the unique places in the world. If you enjoy sailing, diving, snorkeling, fishing or exploring magnificent beaches and tropical islands this is the place.

Post tour: Richard and I stayed 2 extra days and rented BMW 850s from Te Waipounamu. We switched bikes to get larger windscreens and I regretted the change. My large frame fit the Funduro better and the larger windscreen did not reduce turbulence. We rode up the East Coast along the ocean to Picton and took Queen Charlotte Road (great twisties) to Nelson at the top of the Island. We returned to Christ Church on an inland route. More beautiful country. On the day we left, I shopped and Richard kept his bike and rode in the mountains on Banks Penninsula.

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