Tuesday, 31 May 2016

New Zealand meets Old Zeeland

We really must get this spelling sorted out. Is it Zealand or Zeeland?  Should we have a referendum on it back home?  Would be wonderfully diversionary for any political party that tries it. Far simpler than a flag referendum. 

Anyway time to back up the bus a little. A quick note from yesterday in Bruges about unthinking insensitivity. We are sitting in a cafe in the main square. It was raining heavily. There is a huge lightening flash followed by a ginormous sharp and almost deafening clap of thunder. " Sound just like a bomb going off " says the English tourist next to us somewhat unthinkingly and with a loud and penetrating voice as only the English can do. . Diana pointed out to him his gaffe. The chappie got the message loud and clear. Bombings are still a hugely sensitive issue in Belgium particularly in public places and they were telling us the tourist trade is now well down as a result and even the economy is shaken. 

Anyway back to stories of the road. We leave Bruges and tootle along lovely country roads thru the Belgium landscape. A "Welcome to Zeeland " sign pops up. That's it, that's all and we are in Holland. 

The trick of the day was to avoid the cities of Amsredam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utricht. A bit hard really as they straddle our path somewhat. So we twisted and turned to avoid them as much as possible  and ended up crossing the Rhine on a ferry. 


"And who pays the ferryman" you might ask?  Diana of course! 


Then we come to the town of Haarlem. Could  we now say the Hubbards are the Haarlem Glodetrotters"

A few wrong turns later and we arrive in Alkmaar. What a delightful Dutch town   A cheese town. 


And old buildings and Church's built in the 1600's 


And plenty of room for the locals 


And lots of canels


We thought we would try the local food of the region. We asked what restaurant food the locals ate and liked the most. "Chinese and Indian " was the reply. So we settled for a Swiss style Fondue restaurant although the cheese, of which they are very proud, was local. You do get struck by the perfect English of just about every Dutch person we meet. 

And thus back to a hotel that probably predated Abel Tasman setting sail for New Zealand.  Possibly even the mattresses do also! And under the grey cover in front of the hotel is our bike "Orlanda" all tucked up for the night. 


And thus ends a very satisfying day. 

Monday, 30 May 2016

And across to Europe

It is Channel Tunnel day. Off to the terminal we go and it is thru Customs and on to the train. No one in customs - either French or English - is the slightest bit interested in the bike. We could have well been travelling by Pogo stick instead of being on a bike for all they were interested. 


And we are on the train


OK we are now in France. So?  What now ?  Well it looks like heavy rain ahead. So on with the heavy duty rain gear and a quick 140km run up to Bruges. As we approach Bruges it rains. And rains. And rains. So what better to do than to find a nice warm hotel and spend the afternoon drinking lovely Belgium chocolate.  I think we were a total of 3 hours in France!  

The big day arrives

It is Sunday the 29th of May - departure day.

So Orlanda was all checked over and packed up. At about 10.00am it was the obligatory farewell photos, speeches etc in front of Hamish and Melba's apartment. 


And more. Spot  the Cutty Sark in the background. 


And we are officially away 


Firstly it is off to the Ace Cafe in North  London. This cafe is famous for being a meeting place for motorcyclists for about 70 years. There is a tradition that all long distance motorbike rides start from there. Evan McGregor and Charlie Borman started from there for their  Long Way Roundand Long Way Down rides. So we did it too but without the film cameras in tow !


We meet up with Fern for coffee.  She is a round the world motorcyclist who ended up working at the motorcycle shop in Queenstown for a year and who is now back in England. 

Now here below is an interesting photo. She cleans the bike whilst he drinketh the coffee. An interesting concept! 


When in England what better way to start a long journey on a traditional English Breakfast even if it is 2pm in the afternoon !


Then we hop on the bike, Fern says in beautifully modulated English tones ( after a few practice runs !) as only the English can do 

                                                                        " Now start your Engine please" 

And we are off !  It was supposed to be a very well thought out route round the "Northern Circular " and then East to Folkestone for a nights rest before the Channel Tunnel the next morning. Lovely Elizabeth who lives inside my GPS however had different ideas and once again we plunged somewhat unwillingly thru the middle of London again. It was like being live  in a game of Monoply  ( without the ability to put down hotels!) as we flashed  past St Pancreas Station , Marylebone Station, Euston Road, Pentonville, Leicester Square etc etc. 

And thus to Folkestone - a sad town a bit like Picton could had come if the Interislander ferries had stopped coming there. However the hotel was very delightfully English ( although staffed by very friendly Romanians who made is promise to ride through Romania) .  We had a dinner of Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and a pint of finest ( warm of course ! ) English bitter to wash it down as a recognition of our last night on English soil. Bill Bryson would have been proud of us! 

And so ends day one. 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

A Saturday afternoon in London

Yes, off we go to meet up for a late Birthday lunch ( Diana's) with Hamish and Melba. I ride the bike to Tooley St with my brand new GPS. I scatter pedestrians as I navigate thru shared walkways at Borough Markets. I get to one end of Tooley Street. It is one way against me because of roadworks.  But there is a cycle way. l look at it.  A man in a fluoro jacket stops me No way Jose! I go round the block and end up outside the Shard !  I try again. The man in the jacket again is not going to let me thru. I am only 500 metres from the restaurant and stymied. OK - some boldness is required here. I wait until the man in the fluoro jacket looks the other way. I rev up and go barrelling full speed down the very narrow cycleway. The man in the fluoro  jacket looks up startled and sees a 500kg motorbike coming straight at him. He jumps out of the way. He has too!  He makes a threatening gesture. I wave back. Good luck with noting down my NZ number plates mate ! We are at the restaurant.  



A very nice lunch. In fact superb.  Then I realise that Tower Bridge is just around the corner. I ride onto it. Lights flash, a gate closes in the middle of the bridge and lo the bridge opens  up for a boat.  




And here is Tower Bridge  in action 


And the Towe of London itself 


Then after a U turn in the middle of Tower Bridge ( very satisfying!) it is  back to Greenwich and the bike gets all packed up. It is a big day tomorrow as I think we will go on a ride to Cape Town. And Diana gets on tomorrow so it is back to " 2 up " fully laden riding. 


Saturday, 28 May 2016

London ,,,,,,,,,

Well, the Hubbards have arrived in London. All London rejoices!  And we are ensconced at Hamish and Melbas place. 

Next morning - still jet lagged and a little foggy it is across London on that  ubiquitous "Mind the gap" London transport system  to the freight Cpmpany near Heathrow. And there in the warehouse is a parcel with my name on it 



Let's play unwrap the parcel 



And lo and behold look what is here - 



So let ust see if we can put it together 



Thanks team at TransGlobal for all your help 

But wait, there is a problem. The GPS does not work! Oh! Oh, Oh ! And now I have to ride right across London navigating by the sun, the stars and the maps on the iPhone. Eck!!!!!!!   So with a certain amount of trepidation off we go. Oh, that is Harrods I have just gone past. Think if I turn right here I go then Sloane Square  and from there across the river. Tiffanys, Prada - that must be Sloane Square! Somewhere near Battersea is a BMW motorcycle service centre. 5pm on Friday afternoon. Sweating profusely I rock up and explain the problem. I see the mechanics all heading out the door and off to home !  I talk to Simon. "Can't help till Tuesday next week " he says "Monday is a bank holiday " he helpfully adds. After some discussion Simon goes away and then says " bring it at 9am tomorrow morning and I will see what I can do". Love you heaps Simon!  

So next morning we are outside the gates at 8am



On the dot of 9am the gates open. In we go and I wait. And wait. At 12pm a mechanic gets to my bike. At 1.30 two faults have been found. The GPS unit itself is dead. On reflection must have been the 3-4 hours of country music I loaded on to it that killed it 4 hours of John Denver is clearly too much for the Garmin electronics.  Anyone the problem is solved with some repairs to the fault in the holding cradle and a new unit ( sans the  country music this time ). Note to self - next time just download "Rule Brittania" ! Thanks Mathew of BMW Park Lane for some great service Yahoo, we are off with a functioning GPS. Into the central London traffic we go. We are away and cooking with gas !

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Getting ready

So it was time to get ready. And to think about riding the bike up from Queenstown to Auckland   We went to the Interislander terminal. Woops - the Cook Straight ferry seems to have shrunk and we are still in Queenstown. Oh well, we will try the Earnslaugh instead.  So it was on the good  SS Earnslaugh in Queenstown ( riding up the plank was interesting !). Then off at Walter Peak  station ( sheep station - not railway station!) and a nice ride the high country road past Mavora Lakes and thus to the very bottom end of New Zealand 


Aha, the sign at Bluff is helpful. That is where London ( and the start ) is 


So then a quick  visit to the  Burt Munroe museam in Invercargill ( to keep our overseas credibility up ) 


Perhaps the BMW might be more comfortable  tho .......

And then back to Queenstown to start the packing 

And that folds up and packs up to this 


Woops , forgot the most important part. !!


Then come 7am on a cold morning in early April and we are off to Auckland for the bedding down run. 750 km this day up the West Coast of the South Island. To test ourselves, luggage, packing etc etc 


And a nice ride up the West Coast 


And thence to Auckland to Wellington to see our good friend Ken Wilson and then up to Auckland  to park the bike up for 6 weeks to be ready for airfreight to London.