My Kiwi-land Tour Part II
by Vic Paladini
Wow! Here I am on the South Island of New Zealand and it’s beautiful! Summer high temps here are about 70 with only 45 degrees at night. Except for the few really large cities, the countryside reminds me of east-central Colorado farm area mixed in with a small version of the Colorado Rocky Mountain chain.
For the record, I’m told by my host that there are about 4.3 million New Zealanders on both islands. But the Southern island only has about a million residents here with the odd fact that the sheep outnumber the residents! More importantly, its motorcycle heaven with lots of miles of great roads, wonderfully scenic mountain passes, glaciers abound, tall trees and thick forests (especially on the west coast where it rains a lot!), great sweepers (high speed turns), and all of this within one hours ride of a coast line! There are hundreds of dairy, cattle, and sheep farms with hardy settlers from Western Europe, Australia, and even the U.S. who settled here decades ago. And they are a hardy lot!
One morning, after coffee!, I was carving corners on the F800GS in the middle of no-where and I came around a tight curve and found an old English Ford parked half on the roadway and half on the shoulder of the road. No one was around. About 4 clicks (kilometers) up the road was this 50-something year old guy walking somewhere, obviously in distress. I stopped alongside of him, asked if needed help and he spoke perfect North American English! Whoa!! It seems that his son ran his car dry (the petrol gauge didn’t work), he flamed out about 6 clicks from the nearest town, and his cell phone was at home in the charger. It sounds just like my luck! This “yank” was from Oklahoma, immigrated to New Zealand about fifteen years ago, married a Kiwi, and bought a small ranch where they raise and train horses for ranch/farm use! He hopped on the back of my GS and I got him to the next town where, of course, everyone in the all-in-one grocery/postage/petrol/meat market/spirits (liquor) store (6 people) came out and laughed at him! They all knew him and started making fun of him that a “tourist” had to come to his rescue!
Almost without exception, each and every person that I have met loves “my (American) accent!” My accent!? I can hardly understand what they are saying! Anyway, where did these Kiwi’s learn how to speek? I hear them clearly, it sounds somewhat like our North American English, but I have no idea what the heck they are saying! I listen to them, think of what they are saying phonetically, and still have to ask, “What?.” They smile, laugh, and say something again.
For instance, they often would say “medgen dat”; I finally figured out they were saying ‘imagine that!’ Then there was “booger”; like “my V-twin Harley is booger than your F800GS”. Ohhhh Kay, I would say!
And Kiwi-speak applies to food too … “fooshenchoops” is ‘Fish and Chips’ and they cook it on a “guess stuve” – which is the flammable vapor used in stoves. Then, if Kiwi’s attend college and graduate they probably have a “buzyniss” degree while the “chick out chucks” (sale clerks) at the “mook-it” (grocery store) will “bag ya” (put your selection in the bag you brought to the store – you did bring your own grocery bag didn’t you?) And then there is “Ruck” … like they warn me, “Stay away from those ruck trucks, tey drop lots of rucks on the road.” What a hoot! Kiwi-ese is everywhere and makes life really interesting!
My tour actually started in the northern part of the southern island in the city of Nelson. Everyday my Self Guided Tour (SGT) has a ride plan that is easy to follow. I have a route of travel that lists places nice to see, places one should see, and some points a motorcyclists must stop and experience. Equally as important are the listing of unique cafes and coffee houses to try and places to get petrol before I flame-out on the next leg of the adventure. Neat!! Did I mention that the south island has 3,155 glaciers over 100 meters long? And I soon discovered that it also has more than 26 microbreweries … give or take a couple! Cheers! ;-)
Kiwis are very friendly and outgoing! As I rode the rental F800GS to Able Tasman National Park, in the far northern part of the south island, I stopped at a coffee shop for a java fix. The barrister saw my T-shirt with ‘ARIZONA’ blazed across the front and she yelled “Hey! A state-side bloke! He’s from Areezunaa where it neber gets below 40! Welcome mate! Your first cup of Joe is on us!” Wow, nice.
I soon I had had about half a dozen Kiwi’s around me asking me all about the U. S. - how I live in a state that “neber” gets below 40 degrees (centigrade they are talking about – hell, I have no idea how hot that is, I think a hundred and something? …), and about our price of gas and oil. Their petrol is about $5.00 / gallon (in NZ$ = $4 USD) and oil is $3.00 / quart (NZ$). Since I’m bald anyway and before I left Arizona I had my barber shave off the rest of what hair I had, I told them “Yep! It’s sooooo hot in Areezunaa that it burned all the hair off my head!” They laughed and I got second cup of ‘Joe for free!
Motorcycle wise, driving on the left side of the road is not that difficult to learn. I’ve been over to England and the Isle of Man a number of times and one just needs to “Think Left.” At an overlook in the National Park I met a bloke riding a Harley (he was an off-duty tow truck driver). He said the hardest thing for us U.S. riders to learn is to make U-Turns to the right. He said, “Motorbike riders from the States (as they call us) often make U-Turns to the left but very seldom to the right. So they fly here, rent a bike, get lost, and when making U-turns to the right the rear foot brake is low to the ground and they either grab the front brake and go down or they go wide and end up in a ditch! And then they call me and I get to lift the motorbike outa’ da ditch.” So, then he handed me his tow truck business card, but he never saw me again!
Me, being an MSF RiderCoach, did not have any problems with right or left hand tight U-turns even though the F800GS clutch was not really smooth in engagement. I told him, “I think I can make U-turns okay” and I started up the GS, went ten feet, did three handlebar lock-to-lock figure eight turns (all tighter than fifteen feet) and he just looked with his mouth open! He laughed, put his thumb up, yelled “Jolly Good!”, and asked me if I wanted a job driving one of his tow trucks! I shook his hand and said, “No way! I’m on holiday!”, handed him one of my SEAT patches, and roared off! Great fun!!
The New Zealand that I have seen so far is very modern in every sense of the word. They are well into the 21st century with Wi-Fi available almost everywhere. I saw many Kiwi’s tramping (a prolonged walk – their second favorite activity behind playing and/or watching their world famous All Blacks rugby team). Lots of them have the ever-present iPods and/or MP3 players stuck to their ears, carry state of the art Blackberries, wear Camelback packs, and they are into real outdoor sports – like bungy jumping. Did you know that bungy jumping started from Kiwi’s jumping off of bridges over gorges here on the south island. NO, I did not try bungy jumping – but I could have done it if I was interested. I’ll stick with motorcycling – it’s safer!
Nationwide in New Zealand, like all of Europe, there is a mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists and bicyclists. A motorcycle license doesn’t come easy for it takes lots of riding to pass the NZ m/c test. For us motorcycling tourists all we need to ride in NZ is a valid State-side license currently endorsed for motorcycle operation. When traveling about NZ I continue to see lots of brands of motorcycles: the big five from Japan, BMW’s, Harleys, and some Brit bikes as well.
As I mentioned, my tour started in the northern part of the south island in Nelson, and it’ll take me on the rainy west coast line of the island to almost the southern tip then over the central mountains of the island and into the eastern plains/coast line, which is their dry region.
Okay! Five days down … ten days to go and then I’m flying onto the north island to see how the most populous area of the nation lives (the rest of the 3 million + Kiwis!)
[Ed Note: More to come as Vic rides in and around Kiwi land. Check out the SEAT website for more pictures.]