The Long Road North

After being escorted into the hostel by the police, I had a comfy nights sleep. Only one guy needed kicking to stop him snoring. I swear, if he hadn’t stopped, the police would probably have been called again to remove my boot from his gob. 

Rising early, I wanted to do a long day today so I could get back to Auckland middayish on the 24th ready for the Xmas celebrations. I had been chatting with some guys on the ferry last night who had pointed me in the direction of a “must do” road. It ran between Napier and just south of lake Taupo. They said it was quite a long road so I filled up the bike just after filling myself up at a roadside cafe.

It took a bit of work to find this road but the effort was worth it. As I entered, there was a sign saying “no fuel for 139kms”. I had just covered 60km to get to the start of the road so I’d be pushing 200km to the tank by the end. This was the most I had ever dared go on one tank driving long straight boring roads. This road was promised to be twisty and fun, worth being heavy on the throttle, as long as I made it out the other end…

The Multistrada is a bike class outside Ducati’s usual and preferred sports bikes. They pretty exclusively make very focused racing machines. This bike was one of their first attempts at something a bit different. Multistrada meaning “all roads” was one of the first big touring traily bikes too, just before they got really popular. This new class of bikes is typified by powerful engines, tall suspension, comfy seats with a smattering of off road ability, grass and gravel stuff only. They are also able to sit at high speeds in comfort all day, crossing entire country’s. This last trait is where the Multistrada is lacking, when the light comes on at 110km it won’t let you get very far between fill ups. Not that it’s particularly thirsty, you’ll only be filling it up about 6 litres at this point meaning it’s got a tiny tank. What good is a fuel warning light that comes on 90km before your need to fill up!

So I was a bit nervous about entering this length of road. It was clearly going to be remote. I just hoped if I did run out, the sheep could relay a message to a helpful farmer with a jerry can. It started with some sweeping roads in a pine forest. It got a bit misty with some low cloud, or maybe I was high up, it was hard to tell? I had to slow right down for this and have my lights on in places to warn anything coming the other way of my existence. The road was also very slippery when wet. Using the tar and gravel type of road is fine until all the gravel wears away and you are left with a tar ice rink. Not a great surface for slowly balding sports tyres being piloted by a slowly balding biker.

The corners got tougher and tighter but also dryer. The cultivated pine gave way to tropical scrub land and rocky mountains with some very technical riding needed to travel swiftly. There would have been some great views on a clear day, but alas…

Quite abruptly the terrain changed again. Literally you could see the shelf of green grass sheep were grazing stop at the edge of a steep rocky cliff with tropical plants clinging on for life. It may have been what ancient people had thought about the edge of the world. I briefly wondered if the sheep had a flat earth society, but then realised they are too smart for that.

This green plateau was the best riding I’ve ever had (again). There were some tricky tightening bends that tried to catch you out, and some gravel but mostly just smooth going and banked corners. Literally a race track through the rolling hills and there was still another 50 km of this to go!

I eased back a bit and enjoyed the view for a while. The mountains in the distance gave an amazing backdrop to the sea of green. Rounding a corner more slowly, a bird of prey was pulling chunks out of some road kill. Cars and bikes must be so infrequent that this bird was not bothered by my sudden appearance. He just casually continued tucking into the mushed morsels of marsupial meat.

Checking my odometer, the only reliable measure of fuel available, I was close to the end. Fuel now the priority, I traveled south a short distance and found a station. There was still another 150kms to do before I got to Taupo, my bed for the night so tucked in and blasted along. Blasting right though an army town with signs at each side of the road warning us not to stop or leave the road. I didn’t need any motivation to keep going, the road was long and fast and there were spitting clouds above me threatening rain.

The hostel I pulled up in had some covered parking (bonus) next to an orange Triumph 1050 Tiger. I found the Netherlandian who owned it and we spent a few beers discussing roads. That night we were beer pong partners and won a few matches.