March 9 - Wellington to Napier (381 k)

March 9. Odo reading 48868

395 km today. I was reflecting today on Wellington. We've come from the small towns of the south island, directly into the capitol. And it's very different. It's a big city, with all that that entails - there's litter, graffiti, beggars and traffic. We'll all be glad to see it in our mirrors. I dress in the rain pants today, just over shorts. I'll see how they work. As Chris points out, if I find out they're better than jeans on the 3rd last driving day, I'm going to feel a right burke (a loser).

We head through Wellington, to the Mount Victoria lookout. It's a lovely view of the harbour. From there, we make our way through the morning traffic, to Rt 2, east through Lower Hutt, on a 6-lane highway, to Upper Hutt, now down to 2 lanes with occasional passing lanes. We cross the Tararua Range (I'm looking for a mountain named "Jabba the Hutt") through another twisty uphill, like Whangamoa. We stop at the top of the pass for pictures. On the way down, half of us are caught behind a car. Suddenly Christian, who was in the lead, shoots past going uphill. I figure he's left something at the top. A few minutes later, he shoots past going downhill again. It turns out that there is construction at the bottom, and there is a long wait for a light. Christian has figured to get in a few more twisties while waiting. He is one happy biker.

At Masterson, we gas up, and then head north-east on Rt 52 (which isn't labeled on my maps), through Alfredton, Ti Tree Point, and stop for lunch at Wimbeldon. At the gas stop, I am once again suffering from schedule fever, since we're supposed to be at lunch by 1:30. I ask Christen what he forgot, and he tells me that was the last good twisty road we'll be on. Well, Rt 52 is secondary farm road, very twisty, and it's all I can do to average 80 kph. The road markings are not perfect - sometimes our lane isn't wide enough for a car. There have been many slips, so there's gravel on the road, and places where you can fall in. It strikes me just how stupefyingly dangerous this whole thing is - riding a motorcycle that's foreign to you, on roads that are foreign to you, in a country that's foreign to you. One slip of concentration, and it's all over. I try to put this out of my thoughts - these roads are narrow, the curves are tight and blind, and there's crap (some sheep, some cow) all over the road.

By the time we turn off towards Ti Tree Point, I'm exhausted from the turns. I'd pay $100 to the person who could put me on a straight road for 2 minutes. I start cutting the corners, straying onto the other side of the road. When we get to Wimbeldon, I'm beat. It's about 2:30, so we've been driving 5 hours to make 220 km. That's how twisty it is. Renee compliments me on my improved smoothness in the corners - hey, I'm working on it! Luncheon is served at the Wimbeldon Tavern, which is pretty rough (the tavern, not the lunch. The lunch is great - salad, bread, fish and chips, some sort of curried chicken ball), and once again the locals are friendly and curious.

We set out after lunch, still on Rt 52, towards Waipukurau. We run through 5 km of gravel. Urgh. The sun is casting deep shadows on the road, and we run into a herd of sheep blocking the road. Wow. It's a NZ cliché. We get pictures, and then the farmer and the dogs come along to move the flock. After 60 more exhausting kilometers, we gas up in Waipukurau. Jim had set out ahead of us, and we haven't seen him since. Christian decides to back to check for him, and the rest of continue towards Napier on Rt 2.

When we arrive at the hotel, Jim is there with the Austrian Peg-Scraping Twins, whom he caught at the sheep flock. A message is left to this effect on Christian's cell phone. I have a swim in the pool, and then check e-mail and start this update. Christian returns at 7:30 - he did get the message, but discovered another road that needed riding. We have another great meal at 8:00. I retire to finish this update. Yeah, I'm really tired.