The plan was simple, chuck a bike in the back of AHBART and drive to Christchurch to join a cycle tour on the Alps To Ocean trail (Tekapo to Oamaru). It would have been faster to fly but some ‘to do list’ items along the way and a new(er) car made a drive more appealing. The ride started after ANZAC Day which combined with Easter to make the extra time off work acceptable. I had things to do in/near Wellington, Blenheim & Kaikoura and (on the way back) Westport so stops were easy to plan and the ferry was surprisingly affordable. About the same for car + driver as the flights would have been. The route was chosen as much for ‘interesting scenery and driving’ as efficiency.
My only real concerns with the car were fitting in a bike and gear, no problem as the Northland trip showed, and getting some oil to take with me. It uses a unusual grade/brand, Petronas Abarth Selenia 10W-50, and although I have not yet had to add any ~3000km of touring might change that. Spoiler; in the end I didn't touch the 2l pack I carried but never saw the same grade, never mind brand, at any of the service stations I visited.
The only other potential concern is ‘BART doesn't have a spare wheel or even run flat tyres. There is just a ‘goo’ refill/repair pack and small compressor. It doesn't even have a jack as the side skirts mean a full trolley jack or hoist is needed. Could only hope to not get a puncture and, another spoiler, thankfully I didn't!
A Good Friday Auckland escape
First destination was Whanganui. Chose to go that way as would (hopefully) be less traffic and it avoided holiday weekend prices on the more popular Taupo stop route. I didn’t rush to get away, Good Friday + Auckland traffic would have made it rather pointless and I was on holiday so wasn't getting up early.
After breakfast Alfie was expecting his "weekend” dog walk so after a lap of Parrs Park I finally hit the road, destination Whanganui, about 11:00. Highway 20 south was fine, apart from having to do a *555 call to report debris, a metre square ply panel, in the ‘fast’ lane. I told the Police operator the right hand lane (being all proper) but he called it ‘the fast lane’ so good to know that’s official.*
* I bet it is not official…
SH1 Manukau to Drury was the expected crawl but with no deadline, comfy seat, air conditioning and hours of podcasts to catch up on I didn’t care. The traffic freed up after that for a while, but ground to a halt again near Hampton Downs.
It was just congestion, the road narrows two to single lane soon after there, but at least I could watch some motor and kart racing as we crawled past! I hopped over the bridge at Rangariri leaving SH1 to take the much quieter road on the western side of the Waikato River. I was following a Tesla Model X, both us scooting along at ~100km/h until we caught someone who thought –20km/h below the limit was sufficient. With no opportunities to pass, just no straights or on coming traffic on them, that became our new cruise speed.
This was to become a trend and I think a bad outcome of the constant "Speed kills" road safety messaging. Lots of NZ roads offer little opportunity to pass and several times I saw people driving well below the limit (in safe conditions) with long queues following. I think that is as dangerous as a speedster. They both headed for Hamilton but I was following SH39 to Pirongia, Otorohonga back in free flowing traffic.
Had to stop in Otorohonga as the 3 mugs of coffee I had before leaving took effect… flash public loos by the railway station, clean and even a vase of fresh cut flowers on the basin top!
Back on the road I followed by a sporty Starlet until we both caught a slow moving motor home. Thankfully a passing lane, rare on that road, meant got past them OK and I headed down SH4 headed for National Park. The sunset reflecting on a lightly snow clad Ruapehu demanded a brief photo stop.
Later a glimpse of the rising full moon coincided with the podcast player ‘next up’ auto-cuing a “The Curious Cases of Rutherford & Fry” episode about the moon “The Lunar Land Pt 1 & Pt 2”. Good timing as I watched moon rise in the clear evening sky.
By this time I was in a possie of four cars making good time, at the limit, but keeping the pace up on the twisty bits, until we caught a car doing 60km/h or slower on a part of the Mangamahu Valley where there are no opportunities to pass. It’s a windy, but well formed, road and this car obviously had no rear vision mirror…
Finally after stop/go light, partial lane closure due to a slip, a straight with good visibility gave all four of us room to get past and back into a decent rhythm. I saw a couple of Police cars, parked where you would turn off to Ohakune, but no other evidence of the widely advertised ‘increased holiday policing’.
It was dark by the time I rolled into my Whanganui Anndion Lodge accommodation. It is on the river, a bit out of town but that is no problem with a car. The room was nice but had a quirky layout, bed/living area with (private) bathroom and kitchen/dining room arranged along a hall.
As it was late, after 8pm, and Good Friday, after a lap of the main street I ended up at KFC for dinner. First time I have had that for years, and it was great! I also filled up BART ready for tomorrows run to Wellington.
It has a little tank, 35 litres, but only sips fuel at highway speed (5.5l/100km 51mpg) even though the turbo is constantly puffing a little. Full throttle is 25l/100km but 7 l/100km (40mpg) is a more typical average. It means filling up every 450km or so but I err towards the cautious as the last 1/4 of the fuel gauge diminishes rapidly! The 442km trip @ 63km/h, 6.4l/100km meant a ~30L top up and a refill of the completely drained (also tiny) windscreen washer bottle. Those two fills would become a daily routine feature of this trip.