With the child away for the night we decided we would pack up the two person tramping tent and an overnight pack and head off over the hills for a night at Orton Bradley Park.
We purchased some bungees from Mitre 10 and with some clever strapping, we loaded up the bikes with all the overnight gear we needed – tent, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, chocolate, pack of cards, bluetooth speaker, torch and toothbrushes.
It has been about 2 years since I last rode my motorbike, a Braap 250cc cafe racer and I am only on a Learner Licence. But as they say “It’s like riding a bike” and you never forget. However, I had forgotten how to change gears and which way was up and down with the foot pedal……but a quick 20 second lesson and I was confident that I could head off on a 100km round trip on my bike.
My partner Leigh came with me and she is a fairly confident rider. She has a Honda CB400SS . She has been keeping my bike warm over the spring with the hope that I might one day get back in the saddle and go for a ride with her.
Without stalling the bike, I made up the steep driveway, turned right and set off down the lane. I had forgotten that the bike had indicators. My last bike (an old Vespa Bajaj) did not have indicators. So coordinating the gear changes, braking and indicating was the first challenge. No worries, I had that sorted – change down, indicate, brake, accelerate, change up, indicator off….and away we go, changing up the gears and pulling the hand throttle.
I have a rather large and noisy exhaust on my bike so pulling hard on the throttle is always fun as it makes a large farty sound that reverberates off the buildings as I go past.
First stop, the gas station. We pulled in at the Mobil on Ferry Road and my first question – “What kind of fuel does this thing take?” I know, I’m not a petrol head so I had no idea if it took red, green or diesel or if it needed oil added to the tank. Sometimes I think I am a bit special as I really do have no idea about mechanical things or what type of fuel something takes. So, we filled up on green (what’s that? 91?), see I told you.
With fuel in the tanks we headed off in the direction of Lyttelton. Around the back of the Tannery, through the industrial area and around the back of Heathcote to the tunnel. I always enjoy riding through the tunnel on my bike as it is so loud. Every ten seconds I pull on that throttle and let a big fart out of my exhaust, it echoes all the way through the tunnel. Behind my full faced, mirrored helmet, I am smiling, giggling and singing away to myself.
I often wonder what people do behind their helmets. It’s like all your thoughts and expressions are enclosed in this mirrored fish bowl and you are in your own little world. I like to sing to myself when I’m riding. When I’m not concentrating on cornering and which way to lean, I’m singing. I’ve often thought a 2 way radio would be good to have so I can communicate with Leigh but there is something nice about being alone in your helmet, just you and your thoughts and the songs in your head.
Exiting the Lyttelton tunnel, we turned right and headed in the direction of Corsair Bay. The winding road to Governors Bay is scenic and enjoyable to ride. Most parts are 70km zones but in parts it is a 100km. I think the top speed I got to was no more than 75km/hour. I’m still a little nervous on the corners, especially the left hand corners as that is my unnatural side. I have previously skidded out my back wheel on one of these corners a few years back so I am a little weary. I found 60-70km/hour to be a good speed to enjoy the ride, the views and it didn’t hold up any traffic. Looking down to the left hand side you pass various bays like Corsair Bay (good for swimming), Cass Bay (good for kayaking and swimming), Rapaki Bay (a nice jetty and a good spot at night for photographing the night sky), and then finally reaching Governors Bay.
At Governors Bay, you can continue through the village and follow the harbour around to Diamond Harbour, Purau and Orton Bradley Park but we had decided to head up to the Summit Road and traverse the top of the Port Hills and down into Teddington via Gebbies Pass. We rode up the hill to the Sign of the Kiwi which is a popular stop for walkers, bikers and Sunday drivers. The views out to the Mountains and across the Canterbury Plains is amazing and you can enjoy an ice cream from the renovated stone cafe. We didn’t stop, instead we carried on past the spot where my Nonna and my Aunty Belinda’s ashes were buried high on the Port Hills alongside a Totara tree. I gave them a wave as we rode past.
Along the Summit Road we continued. It was much cooler up here and I am glad that Leigh made me put on an extra layer. The easterly clouds were rolling in over the tops of the hills and with them they carried some cool damp air. It was really windy and at times I felt myself pushed along or knocked sideways depending on which direction I was travelling. It brought back memories of when I used to train on my racing bike up here and those stinking hot days when I needed to stop at the small water fountain just before Gibraltar Rock to fill up my water bottles.
We made it across the Summit Road and started our descent of “The Bastard”. This is the piece of road from Gibraltar Rock down into Gebbies Pass. If you ride up this road from Gebbies Pass to the top, it is so steep that it is known as “The Bastard” to most road cyclists. We were going down and we were on motorbikes. I have in the past ridden and raced this road up and down on my racing bike (back in the days when I was fit!).
This road takes you to the junction at Gebbies Pass where you can either turn right and go to Motukarara or Akaroa or turn left down into Teddington and towards Lyttelton harbour. So we went left and as soon as we got off the winding hill road and hit the straight it was time to get into some higher gears, tuck in, head down, bum up kind of position and ring it as fast as you can. My bike can just hit 100km before it starts to feel a little unsteady and especially into a strong head wind.
Not long to go now. A right hand turn at the intersection at the Teddington junction and only a few kilometres to Orton Bradley Park.
We pulled into the campsite around 5.30pm and found a spot next to a young family (bet they were excited when a couple of rowdy motorbikes pulled up next door). Off with the helmets, leather jackets, leather gloves, windproof layers and on with the caps to hide the helmet hair!
The Macpac tent which weighs a mere 2Kg took less than 10 minutes to put up. The self inflating sleeping mats, boom. Sleeping bags and overnight entertainment of a pack of cards and a bluetooth speaker were all we needed oh and the block of chocolate.
Because we are such camping amateurs we made a couple of silly mistakes;
- We packed our son’s sleeping bag instead of Leigh’s bag so she had to squeeze into his. It was a bit short and a bit snug.
- We only had one adult sleeping mat and one child’s sleeping mat so I had to sleep on the child’s mat which is designed for up to 30Kg in weight. I had a terrible nights sleep. Sore hips and bones.
When we got back to Christchurch the first thing we did was go out and buy a second adult’s sleeping mat from Macpac (for our next adventure).
After pitching the tent we headed off to Diamond Harbour and had dinner at the Preserved Cook School. I had the salad with new potatoes which was a very healthy choice. It was really tasty and fresh but lots of stalks to contend with. Leigh had the steak and chips. The steak was a bit overcooked as she asked for medium rare and it was more like well done. The service was really poor but the food was pretty good for a small place. We sat outside and watched visitors and locals go by. There were a few camper vans and other motorcyclists. It was nice evening and we sat outside out of the wind.
Curfew for the campground was 8pm so we made it back before then and set ourselves up for the night. We played 10 rounds of last card, ate chocolate and played word find games on the iPhone. No reception so no Facebook, Instagram or Apple Music. Shut eye was around 10.30pm when it finally got dark. The wind was howling through the tops of the trees. There were big Eucalyptus trees and Poplars to break the wind. It was really sheltered down on the ground but up in the canopy it was gale force and really loud. It was hard to get to sleep with the wind, the sheep, the birds…..all those noises in nature that we are not used to in the city. The wind finally dropped around 2am.
We were awake at the crack of dawn. First up in the campsite. 6.15am and we were off to brush the teeth and go for an early morning walk. It was a mild and muggy morning. A few light spits of rain but nothing too worrying. We got back to the campsite at 7am and packed up our gear and got out of there as everyone else was just waking up.
The first thing I like to do in the morning is have my cup of coffee so off we went in search of good coffee and breakfast. We took the low road around to Governors Bay, through Ohinetahi. We stopped at She Cafe but they were closed so we kept moving. We decided to go to one of usual cafes at Lyttelton, the Shroom Room. We parked up the bikes outside Adam Jones Bacon Butty Caravan and sat down at the cafe, desperately awaiting that first sip of coffee. When it finally came out, I couldn’t be more excited to have that first sip. Aaaaaahhhhhhhh delicious. It was everything I’d imagined it to be…..it was like I had been without it for weeks or months, not just 24 hours. We both had the muesli with fruit. So refreshing and a perfect start to the day.
Bellies full, coffee craving satiated we got the bikes. Gave our old friend Adam Jones, a Lyttelton personality, a Christmas hug and kiss and rode the last 3km home. Tired, happy and ready for a shower and a second coffee.
Can’t wait to do it all over again. Stay tuned for our next adventure.