Riding the Bottom Paddock
By guest writer: Julian Boyd
This is my first attempt at writing a ride report so bear with me. I have only been distance riding for about 2 years. My first attempt at an event was the 2019 TT2000 and it was at the Kaikoura checkpoint where I met Chris and Stella Wiltshire. My riding buddies were complaining that they were having to wait for me while I had a quick ciggy when Chris asked how we were going. I said I was loving it and he suggested that I check out the IBA website when I get home, well that was the start of a new friendship.
As Chris has explained there has been a lot of work on his behalf in putting both rides together, and finally getting them approved to be official IBA rides, I can’t thank him enough for the effort he has put in to make this happen.
So, as you may or may not know it took my third attempt to complete the Bottom Paddock, my first failed attempt was due to a flat tyre, which I was unable to repair and that could have been put down to my method of repair and the location of the hole in the wall of the tyre. The second failure was down to weather, the final obstacle in my way was a closed bridge due to high water from very heavy and persistent rain.
During the second attempt I had manged to ride through consistently heavy rain from about Greymouth heading south, through Haast where my mental determination was tested, at times I was thinking this is not where I want to be, I am no longer in my Happy Place, but at least the wet weather gear was holding together. My headlight was just about always on dip so I could see the white line through the surface water and off course average speeds were very low. One advantage is there were less insects and less wildlife on the road, of course as well there was less traffic.
Picking up my last check point Port Chalmers I headed back through Dunedin and north. The rain was intense, speeds very low but at least it was daylight.
There was very little traffic on the road and a lot of surface flooding. When I passed through Palmerston heading north there was no traffic heading in my direction but a lot of traffic heading south. After riding a few kilometres three police vehicles were coming my way and one gave me a wave by passing his hand in front of his chin which I took to mean that there was trouble up ahead. I decided at that point to head back to Palmerston and get fuel, as I could see that just about everything was very quickly becoming submerged.
I returned to the garage and it just so happened that the Local Civil Defence boss was there, he informed me that the bridge was closed to traffic and that I should head back to Dunedin while I can, I asked about inland and he said there has been vehicles heading that way but it will be closed soon.
A quick call to Chris with an up-date and we both agreed that getting back to my start point was not possible but I could salvage a SS3000, so I charged inland.
The first flooded section of road I came to didn’t look too bad, so I just crept my way through it staying on the centre of the road. The second section of flooded road looked a little more challenging and I stopped to decide should I walk it first, and then a car came from the opposite direction so I watched him go through it first. Since the water was so dirty you could not tell depth and it appeared to be about 20cm deep watching the car. The driver said that there were a few more flooded sections about the same depth and then said, “You are going to get a lot wetter than me”, so true.
I found that I had to sit on one side of my seat so that the bike cantered into the flow to avoid me getting swept across the road and off my intended line. After about 5 more flooded sections I came to one that had numerous fence posts and rocks across the road. It appeared to have reduced from what it was earlier and went into it with caution. It was the deepest I had encountered around 30cm and my bottom pipe was under the water. Keeping the revs up, slipping the clutch and using lots of back brake to maintain control and line, I felt like I was on an adventure bike. Bouncing over unseen rocks on the road surface and then having my back wheel hit by a fence post on its way downstream all added to the fun. I understand the risk I was taking and how pear shaped it could have been, but I have had some experience motocross riding and just brought back a few fond memories. The alternative was to sit on the side of the road and wait as my path was most probably blocked behind me.
Anyway, all turned out for the good and I managed to make it to higher ground and in the end hit my 3,000km mark around Cromwell.
So, it come to my third attempt. I had stocked up on tyre repair options and was carrying my normal distance riding pack which includes, First Aid Kit, spare drive belt, large shifter, two lots of Thumbs up repair kits with extra CO2 bottles, my new rubber plug repair kit, torch, Gaterade, tool kit, spare headlight bulb, fuses, visor clean, soft cloth, **90 degree tyre valve** (new), 3 pairs of gloves, battery packs, habitrol patches, eye drops, tape.
I started my ride at 11pm and headed to Lyttelton for my first checkpoint. I had decided to go in a clockwise direction this time hoping that the weather forecast would be more accurate and I could get through Milford and Haast dry. My first holdup was the tunnel at Lyttelton, they were actually cleaning the tunnel and it was one way, plus I got covered in cleaning products from the machine cleaning the walls, but only a small inconvenience.
Next checkpoint was Akaroa. Expecting it to be dry, I was surprised to encounter low cloud and drizzle going over the Port Hills, so I’m slightly damp as I didn’t have my wet weather gear on. I put it on in Akaroa, which was a good move as there stretched large banks of fog and drizzle as I headed out onto the Canterbury Plains. I used my first shortcut between Motukarara and Highway 1.
The drizzle and mist set in from Timaru to Invarcargill. This was not in the forecast, but it wasn’t too bad, more annoying. I tuned off Highway 1 at Waitati to head to Port Chalmers, my second short cut. I missed the correct road and ended up on about 3k’s of gravel road but I ended up in the right place.
Port Chalmers check point is pretty straightforward just park up where you can and get the photo, Since the street is closed at the southern end there is very little traffic so no problem parking on the yellow lines as there is a lane line in front of that and you won’t be there long. You can also park on the other side of the road and get a shot with your bike and building in the back ground.
Coming back into Dunedin is a long process if you come from the North, I would recommend coming in the way I did so as to save time, and if you are heading South then go out the way I came in.
Next waypoint was Bluff. I would stick as much as you can to the recommended highway, turning left at Clinton and joining back onto Highway 1 and onto Bluff.
From Bluff next shortcut was heading across to highway 99 via the Airport. Pick up McCracken’s Rest on the left heading south. I didn’t go onto the gravel, there is enough room to turn and park your bike next to the sign. Be aware, it is a high-speed road, indicate early if coming from the South and pull into the car park. Coming from the north you can pull into the other entrance on your right.
Next waypoint was Manapouri, pretty straightforward, followed highway 99 and took the next shortcut at Eastern Bush onto Southern Scenic Route, and enjoy a great road in all conditions. Well signposted all the way and a great ride. The road into Manapouri comes out right opposite the waypoint.
Manapouri to Te Anau is well signposted and a great bike road. There is 24-hour fuel just as you come in up a side street on the right coming from the South. It’s about 230km in and out to Milford.
Milford Sound road has a few challenges, there is a 24-hour crew that work on this road, be aware of little critters on the road as well as branches and rocks if the weather has been windy and very wet. Treat the surface with caution especially in wet conditions and when going through the forests. This road is policed as well.
Approaching the Homer tunnel during the hours from 6.30am to 8pm the tunnel is one way and controlled by lights. If there is no oncoming traffic move to the front, there is plenty of room in front of the white lines and you have a good view of the signal board and traffic lights. This stopping area has been moved back from the tunnel entrance due to the risk of rock falls.
Riding into Milford is pretty straight forward, when you get into Milford follow the directions into the car park on the left and proceed through the car park area to the end carpark for invalid-parking. This is also the area they would normally direct motorbikes to park, **do not follow the bus route to the terminus**. Get your checkpoint photo at the end of the carpark, if its dark just shine you headlight on the information board. **My advice is do not open your visor** when you are in Milford unless you are going to take your helmet off – and I wouldn’t advise that, the mosquito population is extreme and you will spend some time with them climbing and biting you all over your face as you ride out…
I topped my fuel up when I got back to Te Anau.
When I was approaching Fairlight I noticed my battery voltage dropping so I pulled into the old train stop to investigate. I turned my bike off to check the electrical connections and couldn’t start my bike again due to a flat battery. I thought my ride was all over, I rang AA to get a jump start and they were an hour away. I rang Sam at Wanaka Power Sports and they had the part I needed, so I said I would keep them informed. I rang Chris to let him know and made a plan.
I removed my seat to expose the battery to direct sunlight. I disconnected my GPS and phone charger, and the fuse out of my headlight. I waited about 20 minutes then tried a start. I was lucky, the rest and heat managed me to get a turn over and my bike started and I was charging at 12.5 volts.
I replaced my fuse and other systems and got on my bike and went for it. I had to stop twice to give the connections a wiggle to get power back into the system. I called Sam and he said he would meet me at Wanaka Power Sports. Shortcut number 5 through the Crown Range and my last, after this I had to follow all the main roads to keep my minimum kilometres up.
Great roads back through to Frankton for fuel, be aware that if it is warm the local council tend to lay gravel on the section of road around the lake known as the Devil’s Staircase. This gravel is exactly the same colour as the road surface and there are very few signs warning you. I had a little bit of a slide heading in there.
I made it to Wanaka Power Sports and Sam was waiting and dived straight under the bike to replace my regulator. I was out of there in about 30 minutes. Sam saved the ride. This was all after-hours; these guys are amazing!
Next fuel stop was Franz Josef, on this leg I took out 2 possums going through to Haast. I have never bothered going around them as I think I have a greater chance of falling off if I am not upright, so no damage to me. The bugs were extreme and I didn’t have any water to clean my visor so just hung in there until I got to Franz. It was great to see Tom there who had been following my track and came out to say hello, and took photos of my bug attack. Quick bite to eat and fuel and I was out of there, next stop Greymouth.
The West Coast roads have had some money spent on them and they are in way better condition. I didn’t notice it the last time I came through because it was very dark, with heavy rain. There were a few areas of road works and some longer stretches of fresh new surface, so take care.
Greymouth was a fuel stop with a hot pie, then off up the coast to Cape Foulwind, having to stick to the highway, no shortcuts left. I tuned up at the pub about 3am and took a photo outside the pub. A light came on inside so I had disturbed someone, so in future, use the signs over the road (ride documentation has been updated). I rang up latter on an apologised for disturbing them.
Blast out of there through Westport where the BP down the main street has 24hr fuel, then up to the Mokihinui River for the end of Highway 67. This was a very cold and foggy section, when I was taking the photo a local drove out of the fog to check I was Ok. I replied all good just getting a photo of the end of the highway, he replied he thought he was the only mad bugger out at this time of the day. Just park up next to the end of Highway 67 sign.
Back into Westport and off through the Buller Gorge. All these roads this time of day are empty of any traffic. It’s a reasonable road when dry and an enjoyable ride. Fuel at Wakefield and bypassed another potential shortcut.
Turned right at Richmond and headed to Collingwood. A lot more traffic on the road as there was a car show on at Takaka. There is a single lane section on the Takaka Hill. There’s plenty of room at the front, so if it’s safe to do so, move to the front. Also, there is about a 5 min wait after the last car goes through from the opposite direction if you get there and traffic is coming against you.
It is a great road in there windy and windy until you get on the flat. Lovely place to visit must get back there again. The Collingwood / Farewell Spit checkpoint sign is unmissable and plenty of room for you to park up and get a photo. So return the way you came in, back to Richmond and around the top to Picton. It’s a bit disappointing that its restricted to 90km/h on the section from Nelson to Blenheim. Going so slow, I was getting very hot and had to stop and peel some layers off. All good roads, I would say the slower speed may be saving the road surface.
Take highway 62 just before Renwick and cut across to Highway 1 and head up to Picton. Plenty of parking in front of the railway station and a Subway beside if you’re there at the right time. Then it was just a cruise South to my start point.
Meet up with Chris Carey, North of Kaikoura, he came out to meet me. We had never met before so it was great to finally meet him. Chris is another noted distance rider and it was great to have the company on my final leg.
I arrived back at my start fuel stop and the rest is history. Wayne Graves was there with a beer, so a quick celebration and then we all dispersed. A great ride with 3070k’s on the clock and a certificate for a new ride.
- Avoid Collingwood / Akaroa during a festival or Saturday morning.
- Check to see if there are any road closures, not just Kaikoura.
- Check the weather, going one way may be better than the other.
- Check your fuel range, I had to carry fuel.
- Join the AA.
- Make sure your tracker is working reliably.
- Avoid peak periods, Christchurch / Dunedin etc.
- There may be fuel available but no food or drink, carry yours.
- There are lots of critters on the road, have a plan when you approach one.
- It was my third attempt, you may not succeed first time.