Tag : updownallaround

everything you need to know before going on a motorcycle camping trip

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I remember the first time I got on the Ducati 600SS and put my arms around my husband’s waist, helmet and gloves in place, and went on my first motorcycle ride, I was scared but thrilled. It was a cool evening in April, barely any wind, and we went all the way from The Terrace to Seatoun, Island Bay, Lyall Bay and back through Newtown. I was finally seeing some parts of the city I had no idea even existed. I enjoyed it way more than I ever thought I would and, although I’m still a bit scared of riding on my own, I have no problems with being a pillion passenger.

So, when my husband suggested a seven day motorcycle camping trip during our end of the year break, I got really excited. Camping is a great way to save money and New Zealand has a lot to offer to campers. We quickly extended our trip to ten days, and there’s lot to talk about the places we visited in regards to accommodation and activities, but this post is all about the ride. Going on a road trip driving a car has many advantages (you’re not exposed to the weather, you can carry more stuff, etc) but motorcycles are just as fun. Here’s everything you need to know before going a motorcycle camping trip:

1. Educate yourself

First things first: know your motorcycle. Familiarise yourself with the sounds of the engine, understand how it works and how to repair minor damages. Make sure all the papers are in order and everything is working as it should. Study the roads you’re taking, get to know the terrain, the distances. A motorcycle’s tank is smaller and you need to fill it more frequently, so we downloaded an app called CamperMate that shows you anywhere in New Zealand the nearest petrol station (as well as public toilets, police station, groceries and wi-fi spots). It allowed us to plan ahead and decide how much longer we could keep going before taking a break. We didn’t carry any petrol with us and we didn’t have to deal with an empty tank either.

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2. Pack smart, pack light

We carried two saddlebags, with a sleeping bag in each one, a gym bag with our clothes, a backpack and a tent. We stayed at holiday parks and DOC campsites and the people camping next to us would always comment on how compact our gear was. The less you carry, the faster it is to repack the next day before continuing your trip. Try to avoid any unnecessary luggage. No matter where you travel to, there’s always some place you can stop and do your laundry along the way. It also prevented us from buying useless stuff during the trip as we simply couldn’t carry any more than what we had brought with us.

3. Improvise

Most places offer shared kitchen facilities but you need to bring your own pans, plates and utensils, which was disappointing as we could have saved a lot more money if we were able to cook our own meals. So we did the best we could, got creative and improvised. We ate meals that required minimal preparation or had picnics (and we had great meals at cafes and restaurants too). We had to park the Ducati on sand and grass, so we found an used water bottle and repurposed it as a side stand pad, to keep the motorcycle in place. We don’t have intercoms in our helmets, so we developed a way of communicating with each other using gestures and taps. It’s important to use all the knowledge you acquired during the planning stage to adapt, change course or come up with a solution.

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4. It’s scary

No matter how hard you plan and research, it’s still scary to actually go on the road and ride. There were a couple of accidents involving dairy trucks during the Christmas period and every time one of those large trucks, loaded with logs or milk tanks, drove by us and threw a gust of wind us, it’d hold a breath for a few seconds and hold tight onto Ivan. The weather was on our side and luckily we escaped most of the rain predicted for the North Island. It’s tiresome and uncomfortable at times. Keep calm and well rested at all times.

5. Enjoy the ride

But don’t let fear get in the way of enjoying it and having a good time. When you’re on a motorcycle, you become part of a community of riders that will always acknowledge you and greet you with a quick nod as they ride past you. It’s a great conversation starter and kids are fascinated by two wheels. You’re more exposed and also more connected to the road. You feel the wind, the cold and the warmth all around you. And all those hours in silence, looking out the road alone with my own thoughts, were great to clear my head. The journey becomes part of the fun, it isn’t just about reaching a destination anymore but making the most out of every step of the way.

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Now we’re thinking of doing a similar trip, but around the South Island and with two motorcycles. What about you? Would you ever go on a motorcycle road trip?

eateries: on the road in the north island part 2

My last post covered some of the restaurants and cafes Ivan and I visited during the first part of our motorcycle adventure, from Wellington all the way up to Cape Reinga, then down to the Waikato. Here’s the second part of our trip, which took place mainly in Hawke’s Bay and the Wairarapa.

  • Day 7:

Flavour of India, Napier

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We stayed at a holiday park nearby and our plan was to eat at the restaurant on site, but that was closed that day. So we headed out in search of a cheap alternative still open and decided to give a chance to this tiny Indian takeaway. My photo doesn’t do it justice: the food amazing! Possibly the best curry I had so far. The onion bhajis were crisp, the shaved almonds and drizzle of yogurt on top of the curry were a delicate touch that made all the difference, the price was good and service was spot on.

Where: 132 Kennedy Rd, Napier, Hawke’s Bay
www.flavourofindia.co.nz

 

  • Day 8:

Bistro Three Eleven, Napier

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You gotta risk it to get the biscuit. Sometimes that biscuit is worth the risk, sometimes it leaves a funny taste in your mouth. This bistro was the latter unfortunately. We shared a plate of king prawns tempura and had fish & chips for mains but the food took so long to be served (and the place wasn’t even full!) that we got our drinks for free.

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At least Ivan enjoyed his beer, a traditional Hawke’s Bay pilsner made by Independent Brewery.

Where: 311 Marine Parade, Napier, Hawke’s Bay

www.bistrothreeeleven.co.nz

 

Lick This, Napier

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Just across the road from the bistro there was Lick This. It was a burning hot summer day and we couldn’t resist tasting their home made gelato.

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Tiramisu gelato: approved!

Where: 290 Marine Parade, Napier, Hawke’s Bay
www.lickthis.co.nz

 

Charlie’s Art Deco Restaurant, Napier

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To wrap up our second and final day in Napier, we had dinner at Charlie’s.

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We both had the set menu: venison steak main and passionfruit cheesecake for dessert. The food was ok, not really remarkable but you could tell there was some effort put into it.

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Where: 80A Emerson St, Napier, Hawke’s Bay
Charlie’s Art Deco on Zomato

 

  • Day 9:

The Coffee Club, Hastings

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We left Napier early that morning on an empty stomach and less than 30 minutes after we hit the road, we stopped for breakfast.

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When Ivan got his iced coffee, I totally regretted ordering a hot chocolate. It was nice, just not as impressive as his.

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You can’t go wrong with poached eggs, bacon, tomatoes and toast.

Where: 110 Omahu Road, Hastings, Hawke’s Bay
www.thecoffeeclub.co.nz

 

Cafe Strada, Masterton

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I love breakfast food and will quite often have it anytime of the day. So for lunch in Masterton I went with french toast, bacon and bananas. Quite yummy!

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Where: 232 Queen Street, Masterton, Wairarapa

www.cafestrada.co.nz

 

  • Day 10:

Lake Ferry Hotel, Lake Ferry

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We didn’t actually stay at the hotel but we ate there twice, first for dinner, then lunch the following day (fish & chips for me, pulled pork sandwich for Ivan both times).

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I guess the main reason we went there so many times and will keep coming back was this breathtaking view of Lake Onoke…

Where: 2 Lake Ferry Rd, Lake Ferry, Wairarapa
www.lakeferryhotel.co.nz

eateries: on the road in the north island part 1

New Zealand isn’t a country famous for its local cuisine but nonetheless offers great food to be enjoyed, from fine dining restaurants to smalls cafes on the side of the road. Travelling over 3,000km around the North Island with my husband allowed me to find some precious gems that might go by unnoticed by many tourists. Since we were on a budget, we tried to mix it up and cook some of our meals or buy cheap takeaways. But we also indulged a little when possible. Here are some of the places we visited during the first part of our journey.

 

  • Day 2:

River Run Cafe, Mokau

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Mokau is a tiny town 90km north of New Plymouth. We stopped at the River Run Cafe for a quick bite on the second day of our trip, on our way to Raglan, in the Waikato. I ordered a savoury muffin and a mixed berries muffin, both delicious. Fresh and made at the cafe, they were a very pleasant surprise and a nice way to start off my day.

Where: 30 North Street, Mokau, New Plymouth
River Run Cafe on Zomato

 

The Shack, Raglan

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Later on that same day, we got lost on our way to Raglan but still arrived in time for a late lunch. Our friend Tanya took us to The Shack, a funky cafe in the heart of the town. I ordered a Sloppy Jose, a spicy pulled pork and beans sandwich full of flavour.

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My friend ordered a salad and Ivan had a burger. We were all really happy with our dishes. Coffee was good, service was very nice, we had a great time there.

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Where: 19 Bow St, Raglan, Waikato
www.theshackraglan.com

 

  • Day 3:

Mormors Cafe, Kaiwaka

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On the third day of our trip, we stopped at Mormors for a snack on our way to Otamure Bay, in Northland. This is the cafe with the creepy doll… There’s a lot to look at but we didn’t stay long. Ivan had a croissant with jam, I had a caramel slice. We ate, used the toilet and left.

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Where: 1954 State Highway 1, Kaiwaka, Northland
Mormors Cafe on Facebook

 

  • Day 4:

The Trainspotter Cafe, Kawakawa

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The Trainspotter was hands down our favourite, we stopped there twice! Not only the food was delicious and moderately priced, there was free wi-fi and many power plugs all over. So, even though the cafe was full and our meals took some time to be prepared, we had no reason to complain because it gave us time to charge our phones and check emails, Facebook, etc.

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Both days we had the Kawakawa Breaky and the eggs were the highlight, superbly cooked.

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The second time we ate there, I needed a sugar fix and shared a regular brownie and a fudge brownie with Ivan.

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Highly recommended!

Where: 39 Gillies Street, Kawakawa, Northland
www.trainspottercafe.co.nz

 

  • Day 5:

Matakana Village Pub, Matakana
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This was our most expensive meal but it was Christmas Eve and we felt like celebrating. Our stay in Matakana was a last minute change of plans but we had a wonderful time there. For entrees, we had sundried tomato and bacon arancinis with smoked paprika mayo. Simply perfect!

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And we also had chimichangas!

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The Matakana “Hand Cranked” Golden Larger, brewed especially for the pub, is a refreshing full malt drop with a clean, crisp finish. I prefer wine, but enjoyed every single drop of my pint with gusto.

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Mains were chicken and mushroom pot pie with roast corn and polenta chips. The best polenta chips I’ve had in New Zealand so far.

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The Christmas spirit was all around and we had a fantastic time!

Where: 11 Matakana Valley Road, Matakana, Auckland
www.matakana.co.nz

 

  • Day 7:

Italian Bakery & Espresso, Tirau

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After two days in Matakana, we headed south to Napier. We stopped in Tirau for a light lunch at this small bakery and had a great meal.

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Nice coffee and the best brownie of our trip! We also heard an American tourist asking the owners if they roasted and ground their coffee themselves, she left so disappointed when got a sound “no” in reply, but we were very satisfied. We even suggested that they should add tiramisu to the menu and call it “Tiraumisu”. 😉

Where: 35 Main Rd, Tirau, Waikato

Update: check out part 2!

12 funny things seen on a road trip in New Zealand

When you travel nearly 3,000km, you come across some things that are so weird and cute and curious (sometimes all at once!) that can only be described as funny.  Even the fact that many of those things were spotted in pairs, close to each other, is a funny coincidence! I didn’t take photos of everything, but here’s a list of 12 of the funniest things I saw around the North Island.

 

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Eutopia Café in Kaiwaka was closed for renovations but its exterior showed a lot of promise.

 

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This life-size doll at the Mormors Café in Kaiwaka freaked me out, I didn’t have my glasses on when I noticed it and for a split second I thought it was a real person!

 

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The Christmas spirit was very much alive at the Otamure Bay camping ground in Whananaki. There was even a nativity scene on the beach!

 

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These public toilets are considered the main tourist attraction in Kawakawa.

 

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Tapotupotu Bay has the friendliest crab ever. and also…

 

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Kudos to whoever drew Squidward Tentacles on the sand!

 

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Tirau, in the Waikato, has this giant sheep…

 

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And of course there’s a shepherd dog nearby!

 

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This mini-lighthouse at Anderson Park in Napier is beyond adorable!

 

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But the mini-oil rig on the same lake was a bit odd…

 

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If you ever drive by Dannevirke, make sure to check out this impressive toy car collection with over eight thousand models at Dave’s Den.

 

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And to finish this list off, a creepy bulldozer in Ngawi, a fishing village on the south coast on the way to Cape Palliser.

 

What did you think? Any favourites? 😉

up, down & all around: my end of the year north island adventure

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Happy new year everyone! May 2015 be kind and awesome to all of us! 🙂

Last year was incredibly overwhelming, the good moments were so meaningful but the bad ones were just as intense. I feel stronger than ever, having survived so many challenges in 2014, and very proud of everything I’ve achieved. It wasn’t easy, but all the more rewarding.

And this road trip was exactly that: an amazing reward. After five years living in New Zealand Ivan and I were finally able to enjoy a long holiday and visit the lighthouse in Cape Reinga, on the top of the North Island. Looking back at all the crappy jobs we had, the long hours and low wages, and where we stand now, knowing that our lives improved so much, fills me with gratitude.

 

 

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Here are just a few of my road trip stats:

– 2,815 km traveled

– 11 cities visited

– 10 days on the road

– 1,422 photos taken

– 4 holiday parks, 2 DOC camping grounds and 1 motel

– 1 very reliable Ducati 600SS

My head is full of post ideas and I’m so excited to share it all with you!

And you? How did you spend the final days of 2014? Any plans for this year?