New Zealand: The Land of The Long White Cloud

Text: Ramona Eichhorn • Photography: Ramona Eichhorn, Uwe Krauss

In a state of complete mental exhaustion at the airport in Auckland, I refuse to believe what the voice at the other end of the telephone line is saying: "You wanna collect two motorbikes from us? Shipped from Australia, you say?" An ominous, long silence follows. "I'm afraid that there's no such thing here." Putting the phone down, I take a desperate look at the heap of luggage in front of me. There are four aluminum panniers, a heavy backpack, scattered spares including a brand-new exhaust pipe, two helmets and four used knobbies, which Jason, an Australian motocross enthusiast, had given to us as a present.

The North Island
More investigation through calls to Sydney reveals that our shipping agent had "forgotten" to put our precious cargo on the ship. As things stand at the end of day, we will be stranded in Auckland for a while - bikeless, immobile and burdened with a lot of gear.

Although we often feel like we're at war with cities and backpacker places, Graeme, the owner of Central City Backpackers, immediately makes us feel at home in his hostel. He turns out to be an old bike hand who shared his riding experiences with us and marked the best two-wheel destinations to see in New Zealand on our map.

Ten days and a crate of beers later, the good news reaches us that the ship had stayed afloat and our motorbikes are ready for collection. With the skyline of the lively metropolis of Auckland fading from view, it's raining cats and dogs, and an ice-cold chill creeps into our bones. The first few miles are not very promising but we refuse to believe the Australians were right about their predictions of terribly cold, wet weather. In Africa, citizens routinely portray neighboring countries in the most negative terms possible. The second we revealed our travel plans there we were written off as murder and/or robbery victims. And come to think of it, we did have a few close calls. So, no matter how much the Australians badmouthed New Zealand, we brushed it off, convinced that we could easily handle unpredictable weather and safely dodge the 40 million stupid sheep that cause so many accidents here.

When mugs of steaming coffee in a roadhouse had warmed our blood sufficiently, a Kiwi explained the weather to us. "You can have four seasons in one day here," he said. "If it rains, simply wait for an hour. The weather is guaranteed to have changed by then." (For readers who may not know: The kiwi bird is the national symbol of New Zealand, and its people are referred to as Kiwis).

He's right. Soon there's a temperate breeze and the scent of freshly mown grass is in the air. To prolong our joyride through rolling pastures grazed by fleecy white sheep, we take the longest detour possible, along the East Cape where a wind-crooked sign still points the way "To the most easterly lighthouse of the world." We rode with abandon the 15 miles along the road that dead-ends at the edge of the sea. Some few leagues farther, in the Pacific, ships cross the International Date Line. It's a ride along rugged coastline where the gnarled trees have been bent and twisted into their bonsai shapes by years of furious storms, and having to return the way we came only doubles our riding pleasure.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the January/February 2006 back issue.