I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.


PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Monday 8 March 2010

Back to the Antipodes - Living Upside Down!

Wednesday, February-24

It's a quarter to eight in the evening at Gate 12, London Heathrow. I'm in a minority group of just a few Anglo-Saxon Europeans in an overwhelmingly Asian assemblage of passengers who are awaiting the call to board the Korean Air flight number KE908.

Two minutes later and .. 'BING BONG' .. the announcement to queue for the cheap seats towards the rear of our Boeing 777-200 is tannoyed over the PA system. One day I'm gonna get to turn left – into club / business / first class – at the entrance doorway, instead of turning right ..one day!

It was a great flight to Incheon Int'l Airport, west of Seoul, South Korea, in a modern well appointed aircraft with decent legroom, tended by pretty, young – all looked no more than 16 yo – and very attentive female cabin crew. At 35,000 feet I took-in a couple of English-speaking (Korean sub-titled) movies on my back-of-the seat-in-front personal mini screen somewhere above Russia and/or China .. before touching down at ICN.

The second southbound flight number KE129 down to Auckland was in a less salubrious and older Boeing 747-400. Still offering good legroom though. A communal bulkhead-mounted large screen replaced the individual and highly interactive mini one from the previous flight.

BUT no need to worry about the IFE on KE129, as luck would have it, I found myself sitting beside a young 20-year old Chinaman called 敖兰神客 .. which might be easy for you to say! I was happy, however, to settle on 敖兰神客's western name of good ol' Derrick. Interesting bloke is Derrick .. returning with his family members from central China to his family's adopted home of Auckland, New Zealand. A highly intelligent young man, yet humble with it; fluent in at least two languages – Mandarin and English – and currently studying at Auckland University for a degree in Geology; also a hugely philosophical and a self-imposed perceptive student of Theology.

I did so much enjoy our lengthy conversations about all manner of issues, historical (biblical) and contemporary. So Derrick, and to your mum (also pictured above) and the rest of your family: thank you for your wise words. Our future world would perhaps be in safer hands if all your generation were like you. Keep in touch mate.

And 'Yes' .. they really do give a demonstration of Tai Chi techniques (on-screen), towards the end of the flight. I guess this is devised to help unwind stiff neck and facial muscles after such a long-haul journey.

Korean Air? .. Would I fly with this carrier again? Well, I certainly would; in fact, I'm gonna hafta on May-18 .. that is, if I want to get back to Britain, from Auckland, when this trip is finally over.

The purpose of me being in NZ for a whole week ahead of Ellen, was always to prepare our transport – a Honda XL650V Transalp 'dual sport' motorcycle – in readiness for our next adventure; which this time will be a clockwise jaunt of circa 15,000 km [9,500 miles] around the western half of the island continent of Australia. See our intended track consisting of the blue line on this map.

And so it was done, after a few days of tinkering and bolting-on new bits 'n' pieces, the trannie turned-out as good as ever .. with more than a little help from my good mate, Paul (& wife Gill), who's also my/our hosts in the Browns Bay area of Auckland's North Shore for the initial 10-days stay in NZ. All the work done on the bike over the last 12 months is too lengthy to detail here. The pictures above do give a fair indication though.

I've also popped-up to Kara, near the City of Whangarei – a trip of around 157 km [98 miles, just over two hours] to see my son Mark, twice during these ten Kiwi days before shooting over the Tasman to Oz.

Mark's done well with his home improvement projects over the last 12 months ..

.. even down to landscaping the surrounding outside area.

The second of these Northland visits included a damn fine meal 'Al Fresco' style alongside the town yacht basin in nearby Whangarei ..

.. where an Irish band entertained a packed house of diners. They were excellent musicians.

Now there's one particular motorcycle that I've always had a hankering for. Indeed, if I were starting motorcycling from scratch then a Suzuki V-Strom would definitely be on my short list.

And blow me down! .. a V-Strom is precisely the bike that Mark's fixed himself up with; not the 1000cc version .. but the lighter, more nimble 650cc version (often colloquially referred to as a 'Wee-Strom'.)

I just had to try it on for size ..

.. so did 'er indoors

Back in Browns Bay .. and a funny but paradoxically a rather lucky misfortune occurred. I rolled the bike back out of Paul's workshop; attempted to pull-in the clutch lever.. and then .. CRACK! .. the clutch cable bloody-well went and snapped. As luck would have it though, I had a spare cable (fitted as a precaution just a few months ago by Paul – originally sent down by me from the UK .. where they're much cheaper to buy) lying lazy alongside the now buggered-up one. It was a relatively quick and painless job to replace the useless cable (now in two halves) with the new one.

Just think: If this had happened at some isolated spot along say the Stuart Highway in Central Aus?

As it turned out, we were set-up with all the tools we could want right outside Paul's extremely well-equipped garage. As I say, what a stroke of luck.

The weekend + Monday before we leave NZ; we had a couple of tasty barbecues in Paul & Gill's back garden.



As you would expect, by this stage in the proceedings I had already done all the R&D on which particular air freight shipping firm might be the best one to get the bike across the ditch to Melbourne. I had gone through most of the options .. and decided upon Green Freight, who operate from Auckland Airport.

I guess we'll just hafta wait-and-see how good they are when I retrieve the beast in Melbourne.

Tuesday evening, and there's not a lot more we can accomplish in NZ. The bike's on it's way to Melbourne – via Sydney – carried all the way by Qantas Airways.

We're packed and both wandering around with our hands in our pockets, tickling our gonads (Ellen just metaphorically, of course!) waiting for the 'off'. There's no point in going to bed, as we need to check-in for our trans-Tasman flight with the 'no-frills' budget carrier 'Pacific Blue' sometime between 03:30am-04:00am. Our take-off time from AKL is 06:30am, Wednesday-10.

So we take a last look-around Browns Bay in a balmy warm evening, waiting for the sun to go down. The dormant volcanic island of Rangitoto, looking typically majestic in the background of the Bay ..

.. as we shove down steak 'n' mushroom pie, mushy peas and chips .. ee by gum! ..

.. at the nearby quintessential British Pub called 'Speakers Corner'.

At 03:00am .. in the Departure Area of AKL's concourse, thanks to a midnight lift from Paul & Gill ..

.. and THIS (above) is what ya Sheila tends to do at that time of night! Fair Dinkum, eh?!

Next stop .. Oztraaaylia. Can't wait.