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Two Up Through Nevis-Nevis-Land

In my experience, a last minute change of mind results only in one of three things, the first most common; a series of unfortunate events gradually increasing in frequency and degree of humiliation, until you’re overpowered by a cocktail of shame and regret, or less likely but far more gratefully received; a barely salvageable situation that “could have been worse”. Lastly is the rare possibility of having a damn good time. This weekend I had a damn good time.

In perfect weather and big, wide blue sky my last minute change of mind had me and Brent, two-up, on his BMW F800GS, heading South. We have been out on the bikes plenty but this was my first overnight adventure ride. I trusted him as a rider and he listened to me when I needed him to... generally. We stopped in Fairlie to purchase a 3-pack of Pam’s sponges to make some mods to my borrowed, slightly over-sized adventure helmet. Then bobble-head Jess and tour guide Brent set off again. Around one corner, then another and another – Burkes Pass, Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki, Lindis Valley - I took in view after spectacular view.

Like many of us, I don’t end up with a great deal of usable time outside work to do the things I really want to do. I spend too much free time catching up on domestic chores, falling asleep in front of prerecorded Netflix series’ and other mundane and bureaucratic tasks associated with being an adult. Fortunately there is a vast amount of space out there on New Zealand roads, and the most valuable aspect of this is the mental peace and perspective one can gain from riding around on two wheels.

Highest point through the Nevis

We reached our destination for the night, Cromwell, and the location of our pre-booked budget palace. We were very warmly received by the owners who stayed open late so two happy, stinky bikers could have a place to sleep. We were probably less warmly received by the Harley Davidson guests who had to listen to the F800’s after-market non-potato-potato muffler arrive late and leave early.

We arrived at the start of the Nevis at Bannockburn early next morning, a little earlier than I’d like on a day off, but “no regerts” once we got into it. I did check the fuel gauge and enquire about whether we should top up – but Brent did some quick math and decided “we’re good”. I was hesitant about gravel riding on the 800, not really knowing exactly how the bike would behave with two of us and Brent’s riding style, I was waiting for the front end to give way under heavy braking, but it didn’t, in fact it seemed quite stable despite all the movement beneath us. This adventure riding was surprising me, but nothing new for Brent, who was probably bored of my constant observational waffle and wonderment at the surroundings. The Nevis is beautiful New Zealand country, classic southern terrain and numerous fun fords that creep up on you. Common phrases uttered during this stage of the journey include “Holy shit look at all the rabbits!”, and “FOOOORD!!!!!!”.

The Nevis: just one of New Zealand's many, beautiful landscapes.

We lost rear brakes on the descent, not sure why, but regained them after a time. While this was not confidence-inspiring for me it did add an “unknown” and exciting aspect to the ride. As did the now low fuel gauge . . . stopping to do wheelies up and down a nice stretch of the Nevis road for Brent’s new profile picture was gonna make for a close call.

We did encounter a few other adventure riders backtracking on a hunt for a lost GoPro and later met up with them and their group at Garston. We had a good chat and marvelled at what a small community it was, as it turned out many of us knew each other through varying degrees of separation. I had a yarmalicious gluten free bacon and egg sandwich which was more than worthy of a photo and facebook share but I just ate it instead, like a freak.

The dusty aftermath of one of Brent's wheelies.

We made it to Lumsden CBD for fuel, then decided to head to back north again to Queenstown for a fleeting visit, instead of Invercargill, where we had long since missed the beach races I’d originally wanted to see. We had a meal and a drink, participated in some touristy activities before heading back via Highlands Motorsport Park – HOLY MACKEREL some money was spent there. A fantastic track that goes through the forest – superb – I was well awed. At this point we had spent quite a bit of time on the bike and my butt was not a happy camper. There are only so many yoga moves one can do on the bike before the only thing that will bring feeling back to your numb ass is 6 hours of sleep. Instead we went out to explore the bustling hive of activity that is Cromwell city centre.

Queenstown, where we ate really good food.

We had a fantastic meal at Amigos, a little Mexican restaurant, before a blissful sleep. Okay so it wasn’t blissful, the heat was stifling and we were rocked violently to sleep by the hum-clack of a relic air conditioning unit, but it was nice to lie down and be still. I wasn’t looking forward to going back to Christchurch the next day, especially with 100% chance of rain forecast, which seemed pretty high to me. However, it was an appropriate curtain closing on my first foray into adventure riding. I have to say it’s been a very welcoming experience, you guys all wave back on the road, talk to each other and help each other out. I might have to do this again.

Author of this article: Casper