Thailand – Malaysia
“…Sorry, sorry, sorry…” gasped Garry the workshop manager at Autobavaria, Malaysia’s largest BMW dealer, as my hands tightened around his throat. Having ridden the 240km from Tana Rata in the Cameron Highlands to collect the parts for Danny’s bike I wasn’t too pleased to hear they hadn’t arrived. Having being promised the parts would arrive today I’d set out early to do the round trip in a day. Without so much as a toothbrush, let alone any ‘non-motorcycle’ clothing, I didn’t much relish the thought of spending a night in KL (Kuala Lumpur) but as always it’s what seems like a problem that turn into the best experiences…
We rented a bungalow at ‘Where Else!’ on the beach a few doors away from Maarten & Ilse. Maarten had spent four months there some years ago whilst taking his Dive Masters course and managed to haggle a good deal with the owners.
Maartens’ brother Rick and his fiancée Danielle came to stay for a few weeks and Danny joined them on a four day PADI diving course, Maarten & Ilse joined them for a few days and I for a days snorkeling.
Adams’ first Snorkeling trip…
I had a great day and wrote quite a bit in my diary; here’s a clip…(for those of you who’ve never been)
“…I was surprised by the stinging of the sea lice as they nipped away at me – especially when they chose my lips! Nothing though, was going to distract me from the beauty below. Did you know Star Fish are blue?
As a Moray eel appeared underneath me so I managed to fill my snorkel with water and once I’d cleared it and un-steamed my mask it had gone – bugger!
Floating one way with the current before paddling back, I toured the bay for 1hr15mins. Submerged in this life size tropical fish tank I was once again transported to childhood memories of marveling at the wondrous colours and shapes of the tropical fish at the local pet shop. What is it about SE Asia that keeps doing this to me?
Before me is laid out a garden, a special garden, a lifetimes work that someone has flooded with up to 3m of water. The mammals have turned into crustaceans; birds into fish and the flowers into anemones, clams and coral. They tend the garden just as the bees and birds do above the water. My gentle movements are either accepted or ignored – I’m not sure which. Lying still, I soak up the details more clearly. Clams open and close, pulsing like hearts, as tiny fish dart in and out, Trumpet fish appear – transparent – almost invisible and as I look closer I see a Stone fish camouflaged atop a coral leaf.
Another Moray eel appears – it’s rare to see a whole one outside its ‘cave’ so I’m told. It’s perhaps 5ft long and I follow it along as it weaves its way under rocks and through the coral.
I find myself surrounded by a shoal of small fish that sparkle like a fishermans’ lure as they’re caught in the sunlight – I never expected to see what a lure would look like from a fish’s perspective! All too soon I heard the horn to signal that the boat was ready to leave. Another 1hr 15mins had vanished…”
I wonder whether it’s your first snorkeling trip that makes you feel like that; or your last? I guess I’ll have to go again to answer that one.
Back on dry land…
I’d picked up a few ‘unputdownable’ novels in Chiang Mai and was content to spend the week exploring the few roads on the island, swim and watch the sun go down supping a cold beer and reading a good book. The week soon passed and having waved goodbye to Rick & Danielle we packed the bikes and along with the hippies, headed back to the mainland.
Hat Yao Beach
After a 20km detour to avoid the 400Baht National Park entry fee we pitched our tents on the beach under a huge limestone cliff – just before the premature afternoon monsoon rain came. Watching the rain hammer down from inside my tent I began to feel as though I were on a waterbed as the rain ran under my tent, lifting my groundsheet. Putting on my swim shorts I joined the others in digging drainage ditches around the tents using bits of driftwood. The rain fell so hard that even the sand couldn’t soak it up quickly enough. Once the tents were safe and the workload slackened the cold wind and the rain, were rather chilling. Not wanting to risk opening the tents we spent the next hour or so in the sea watching the storm – it was, after all, still 30°C in there!
We spent three days here. In the morning we’d collect driftwood for the fire, swim and play backgammon before two of us would head off to the local market to buy dinner.
The afternoon allowed us to explore the adjacent bays only accessible at low tide before another swim and a game of Frisbee. With an appetite worked up we’d BBQ fresh squid and whole Tuna on the beach as the sun set; all washed down of course with a few Leo beers.
Our first theft
Our time in Thailand was running out. We only had four days left on our visas and wanted to see the MotoGP from Jerez, Spain, so we rode the pleasant 50km to Trang.
We quickly found a cheap hotel which allowed us to park our bikes inside for the night and took our first hot showers in two weeks.
On the Sunday evening after the GP we loaded the bikes for an early start to Malaysia – only I couldn’t find my GPS.
It was our first reminder of why we do things routinely. Normally we have a set way in which we unload the bikes, carry our gear to the room and secure our valuables. However, on this occasion we didn’t follow it. Planning to stay for just one night and with our bikes inside the hotel we didn’t fully unload them. During this time I managed to unlock my GPS and remove it from its mounting, but not lock it away with my other valuables. It wasn’t until we went to load up that I noticed it missing. The following morning (having double checked all our kit several times) we spoke to the hotel manager, offered a reward, made ‘Reward’ posters in the internet café to pin up in the hotel and visited the Police; all to no avail.
Next time someone criticizes you for doing things routinely, remember why you do it – it works.
My ongoing shenanigans with Barclaycard reached an all time low in Trang. Back in November whilst in Nepal, I found my card had been used fraudulently in the UK whilst I was in Asia. Now, some five months later and with the account STILL under investigation, I received a scanned copy of a letter from Mercers debt collection agency stating that unless I paid 50 quid into my account TODAY the bailiffs would be visiting my sisters’ house! When I eventually tracked her down on her mobile phone I found her half way down the stairs with a boxful of belongings, in the middle of moving house! Impeccable timing as always. With neither pen nor paper to hand, she punched my account number into her phone and paid the 50 quid. Bless her.
Little did I know it would take a further six weeks to rectify my account. So much for Rowan Atkinson strutting around Morocco with his rug; if you need assistance from a credit card company whilst abroad – forget it.
Note: The last paragraph is just the tip of the iceberg – it was an unbelievable fiasco!
Oh… and then the drains got blocked at my house in the UK and my current account got blocked – I loved being in Trang; I had a great time!
Although not officially an International Border, the crossing at **** would save a 190km detour via Hat Yai and allow us to comfortably ride to Penang in a day. The approach through several small villages was pure jungle and when we arrived not only did they let us through but they did so pleasantly and swiftly.
En-route to Georgetown we met Maz at some traffic lights. It turns out he’s a member of the local motorcycle club and after exchanging e-mails we agree to meet up once we’ve found somewhere to stay in Georgetown, Penang. After paying our 2 Ringit each for the ferry (1GBP = 6.8 RM (Ringit)) we easily found Love Lane where the Hippies had reserved a room for us at SD Guesthouse.
We’d only planned to stay for a few days but partly thanks to Maarten & Ilse’s company we ended up staying for 10. Georgetown is about as multi-cultural a town as you can imagine and, on the surface at least Christians, Muslims, Hindu’s and Buddist’s all get along harmoniously; the Middle East would do well to take a look here.
‘Little India’ was our favorite area of town. Here we would sit amongst the familiar aromas of Indian spices, surrounded by blaring Bollywood movies, eating south Indian specialties like banana leaf Talis and Masala Dosai’s.
Every time we left the guesthouse we saw something different; Architecture, Rickshaws, Trishaws, the ‘Roti man’ selling fresh bread from his Trishaw, mobile tea stalls, religious ceremonies and festivals at Buddist and Hindu temples.
The local museum provided a good insight into the history and founding of Georgetown. Captain Lights’ (who founded Georgetown on behalf of the British East India Company) Last Will & Testament was particularly entertaining; I wonder if his wife(?) “with whom I cohabited for many years” (and bore him four children) was aware of his Chinese mistress (who had a clause incorporating “any children born to her within 9 months of my death”) before the Will was read aloud!? I guess things weren’t so different in the 18th century.
The heat made us almost nocturnal. Our pokey room was still 31degC at 0100 and so we’d sit up playing games with the Hippies; Backgammon, chess and the backpackers favorite card games ‘Shithead’ and ‘Arsehole’. I unfortunately would leave Georgetown as double Shithead and Arsehole champion!
On one of these evenings we met two Aussie ‘Shielas’. Every evening they’d polish off a full bottle of scotch between them. One was 74 and the other ‘older’. They’d backpacked through Thailand and were on their way to Singapore before returning to Oz. After asking about our trip they merely looked at one another and said “Fair Dinkum.” I nearly fell off my chair. I’d always thought that saying English stereotyping; obviously not.
Heading out of Ipoh into the Cameron Highlands we stumbled across the ‘new’ road. Unlike other Asian countries, the Malaysians have managed to build a road without destroying everything around it. 4th & 5th gear corners wound their way through the jungle, gradually gaining altitude as we headed into the highlands.
All was not well though as Danny’s bike started overheating. After letting it cool down we checked the water level but it was ok. We continued on but it soon overheated again. By the time I’d found some shade (an old market stall) in which to work on Danny’s bike and returned to tell him, his bike had cooled enough to follow me there.
I left Danny taking his bike apart whilst I set off in search of some lunch for us both; eventually finding a garden centre serving corn-on-the-cob some 30km up the road.
Danny had discovered one half of the radiator hot and the other cold. Upon removing the output hose from the water pump, we span the engine over only to confirm our worst fears; the water pump drive had failed. This was not repairable at the roadside and would require spare parts.
Our attempts at towing were pure comedy. I’m not sure whether it was the act of towing or the laughter that brought us closest to crashing but either way it was futile. We tried the pushing technique that works well with small bikes but we soon discovered that it too was a no go when you’re trying to push 380kg!
It was late in the afternoon and we decided our best option was for me to ride on to our chosen destination of Tana Rata, book us into a guesthouse and arrange for a truck to return for Danny and his bike. In the meantime, Danny would try to hitch a ride for him and his bike.
After riding the 60km to town I quickly found Daniels Lodge Guesthouse and spoke to Daniel, the owner. After explaining our situation he phoned his brother and I met the pair of them at the edge of town so they could follow me back to Danny.
15km out of town we rounded a corner and I spotted Danny waving furiously from inside a skip on the back of a truck. For the second time that day I nearly fell off laughing. The laughter was not over however as we watched Danny clinging on as the skip was tipped-up and lowered to the floor. The driver spoke no English and so, unable to ask how much he wanted, Danny offered him RM100 but he refused. Translating for us Daniel said that his destination was just 18km further on and he hadn’t gone out of his way – top bloke.
That night we ate Tandoori chicken and Naan – this would become our staple diet over the next eleven days.
Once apart, the fault with Danny’s bike was obvious. The two nylon water pump drive gears were stripped preventing the pump from turning. Easy enough to repair; the frustration came with trying to order the parts. After a whole afternoon on the phone being passed between importer, dealer and internal departments Danny eventually got the response “You’ve left it a bit late to order parts today”. It was Friday. Monday would be a national holiday and so the parts would be ordered on Tuesday, delivered overnight from BMW’s Asian distribution centre in Johor Bahru and arrive at the dealer (Autobavaria in Shah Alam nr.KL) by 10am Wednesday.
Luckily for us our guesthouse had a large outdoor, undercover seating area with Wi-Fi. It also had a beautiful garden which made spending time there easy and the cooler temperature (our room was 10deg C cooler than in Georgetown) meant we slept well for the first time in weeks.
On the Wednesday morning I set off early for the 240km ride to Shah Alam with the intention of returning the same day. Half way down the mountain I met Steven and Marlouse (www.wereldtrappers.nl); two Dutch cyclists we’d met in our guesthouse in Georgetown. Having cycled from The Netherlands to Kathmandu, they flew to Shainghai and had cycled from there to here. Dutch = Nuts. Cyclists = Nuts. Dutch Cyclists? You get the idea…
I gave them directions to where we were staying and set off once again to Shah Alam. Autobavaria is a huge dealership and one which I found easily. Three stories high it boasted two 3-tonne internal ‘drive-in’ lifts to access the upper floors. On the ground floor alone I counted 28 fully equipped bays complete with hydraulic lifts.
I found Garry, the motorcycle workshop manager, on the third floor but was not prepared for his news; for some reason the parts hadn’t arrived. I was promised faithfully they would arrive the following day and Jeffri, the mechanic, stepped in to offer me accommodation at his house for the night.
I spent the afternoon in the workshop and was just dozing off in a chair when I heard Garry arguing with someone on the phone. He wouldn’t explain exactly what had happened but took me to the spares ordering department where I was told there had been an “abnormal situation” and the reason Danny’s parts hadn’t arrived was because they’d never been ordered! Some sort of system error. “Not acceptable” I told them. “You are BMW and customer service is what BMW customers pay for”. After explaining the urgency of the parts (our Carnets would soon expire) and the distance I’d ridden to collect them I told them I wanted the parts delivered by courier, free of charge to or guesthouse in Tana Rata. After many raised eyebrows and several phone calls they agreed.
Jeffri & Co
Jeffri and five of his mates had shared a house together since their college days six years ago and they all made me welcome. After lending me some clothes four of us went out to eat at a local favorite haunt before heading into KL to drop one of the lads off at the bus station. As capital cities go, KL is fairly small. It does, however, boast one of the worlds most recognizable buildings – the Petronas Twin Towers. By day they’re impressive but by night, lit up like crystal chandeliers, they are spectacular; even amongst their illuminated high rise backdrop.
The following morning I followed Jefffi from his home in Putra Jaya to the Shah Alam road. Weaving our way through the heavy early morning traffic along with hundreds of moped mounted maniac’s, Jeffri rode smoothly but quickly with me in hot pursuit.
Back in Tana Rata…
Steven and Marlouse had made it to Daniels lodge and with the arrival of Maarten and Ilse the previous Tuesday we were once again six. The evenings returned to Backgammon, Shithead and Arsehole and the beer, being so expensive in Malaysia, was replaced with a cheap bottles of Brandy from the supermarket and cans of coke from the bar.
Over the next few days we walked a few of the local trails and the Hippies and I took a ride through the surrounding hills visiting a tea plantation en-route. Dannys’ parts arrived by courier on the Saturday morning and by the evening his bike was re-assembled and ready to go.
Our unscheduled stop in Tana Rata stretched to eleven days from our intended 2/3 and determined our next move.
We’d planned to ride to ****, follow the coast down to **** and return to the West coast at Malacca before riding north to Port Klang. Unfortunately the shipping agent required our bikes 10 days prior to shipping and our Carnets expired on April 30th meaning our bikes had clear customs by then. We had no choice but to ride straight to Port Klang.
To Port Klang
As it would be our last decent days ride in Asia we took the scenic route, and weren’t disappointed. Riding through the hills, past tea and rubber plantations the only spoiler was the de-forestation. Not only were there vast vistas of barren, tree felled, rolling hills but the roads had been destroyed by the logging trucks too.
Danny was convinced there was something wrong with his fuel light but realized there wasn’t as he ran out of fuel just as we entered the heavy traffic of a KL ring road. Good timing!
After topping his tank up from mine we discovered the cause of the congestion. A motorcycle had run straight into the back of a Proton saloon car so hard the rear bumper had been pushed level with the rear window to create a ‘V’ shape. We both crossed our legs and grimaced at the thought of plums the size of footballs balls!
Once in Port Klang we struggled to find cheap accommodation with safe parking and eventually settled in the Comfort Hotel at triple what we were used to paying.
Preparation for Shipping
Our shipping agent took some tracking down thanks to some wrong information regarding the company name. FCL had been confused with FLC which also had an office in Klang but had moved. We eventually tracked down Mike, the owner of FCL, and made arrangements to deliver the bikes to his warehouse for crating. As in Kathmandu, the crates would be pre-built and assembled round the bikes.
Before we could do this though, the bikes had to be cleaned thoroughly knowing they would be rigorously inspected upon arrival in New Zealand. Garry at Autobavaria had offered us the use of their workshop and cleaning facilities FOC and so we spent a day there, cleaning them thoroughly, replacing oil & filters and for me, removing my Ohlins suspension unit.
Danny would be returning to the UK to visit his family whilst the bikes were on-board ship and would be returning our troublesome Ohlins suspension units to the supplier for much needed rebuilds.
We’d been communicating with our suspension supplier since our first failure in India back in September and after almost seven months of ‘discussion’ with them and more recently Ohlins in Sweden they finally agreed to carry out the work and supply the parts FOC.
Luckily for me, Garry had an old suspension unit that had been replaced under warranty and gave it to me to temporarily replace my Ohlins unit.
With the bikes now ready to be crated we met Mike and followed him to his warehouse where once again we drained the fuel, disconnected the batteries and removed the front wheels and screens. This time the crates were ‘open’ and so everything was wrapped in cardboard and clingfilm. It was the last time we would see the bikes in Asia.
Having decided to return to Eastern Europe to look for land on which to build a guesthouse, Maarten & Ilse arrived in town and we joined them for one final night of card playing. It was a successful night for the British with both crowns being returned to the Netherlands in the hands of ‘King Shithead’ and ‘Queen Arsehole’!
Our backpacks had barely touched the floor before we were picked up having stuck our thumbs out for a ride into KL. We even got dropped off in Chinatown, our chosen destination. We soon found our way to Kameleon Travellers Lodge nr.Pudu bus station and settled into a small but cheap room.
I called Kimi, a local girl we’d met at the Asian Bike Tour in Georgetown and met up with her and her mates for a night in the Hard Rock café with live band etc. We rolled in at 3am and were awoken by the Hippies who’d managed to get their bike shipped and had hitched into the city to join us for one last evening of MotoGP before going our separate ways for the last time.
Kimi called on the Sunday morning and invited us to a ‘picnic’ in the jungle. It transpired that her brother-in-law owned several ‘bungalows’ surrounding a pool in the jungle, one of which was used by Farid, Kimi’s best friend and organizer of the Asian Bike Tour. The ‘picnic’ turned out to be a huge BBQ with endless food. When Farid and his wife had finished feeding us we joined a second family two bungalows away who insisted we join them. Their table of local Malaysian cuisine was laid out like a banquet and we ate until we couldn’t manage “Just one more waffer thin mint monsier?”
Finding such a location so close to the city was a real surprise and the hospitality, as we’d come to appreciate in Muslim countries, was second to none. Thanks guys for making us so welcome.
That evening, having ‘booked’ the TV in the guesthouse for the MotoGP, we settled down with the Hippies and a few beers for our last night together. It was the Turkish GP and it seemed odd that it was a year ago we’d watched it live on our way through. This time it was Tim & Tracey’s turn as they called in on their way home.
The following day we said a final sad goodbye to Maarten & Ilse. They’d been great company and we miss them immensely. Danny set off to the airport for a three week trip to England to visit friends and family whilst I headed across the city for the first of a four day course on Adobe Photoshop at the Digital Skilz Centre.
You should have seen the look on my best mate Jez’s face when I sat down next to him at his 40th birthday party in Andover and exclaimed “this better be worth it!”
It had always been the intention for us to meet up in Australia for his birthday but various factors prevented this from happening. With the bikes on a ship to Christchurch for 25 days and my course in Malaysia finishing the day before the party, the timing was perfect. Flying Emirates via Dubai, I managed to arrive in the UK without telling a soul.
I spent 10 days in the UK and Jersey visiting as many (but not all) friends as I could before heading down under where I arrived on May 10th.
‘Ordinary’ isn’t a word most would associate with NZ but after a year in the Middle East and Asia ‘ordinary’ it was. It’s not a slur on NZ; anywhere ‘western’ would have invoked the same feeling. Asia is a tough act to follow.
Danny wasn’t due to arrive for another eight days but I had plenty to do in the meantime. I tracked down and bought a van which we’ll use through the winter to get to and from the ski fields. Both being snowboarders, we’d sent all our gear prior to leaving the UK.
I met up with Ian Feather, an English lad we’d met in Cambodia and again in Laos and over a few beers agreed we’d all try to rent a house to share for the season.
Ian left for Queenstown whilst I drove over Arthurs Pass to the west coast at Greymouth then south passing Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers before crossing the Haast Pass and rolling into Wanaka. Friends from home (now resident in Wanaka) Carol & Art kindly put me up for the weekend. It had been pretty chilly sleeping in the van (especially on Arthurs Pass) and an electric blanket, not to mention the hot shower, were a very welcome treat.
Danny had arrived and made his way down to his friends Jane & Sam’s in Luggate, 10km from Wanaka. I picked him up and we headed down to Queenstown to commence the search for accommodation. It took two weeks of visiting and re-visiting agencies, viewing properties, arranging bank statements, references etc before we finally got somewhere to live. Competition for properties was fierce as we witnessed when twenty two people turned up to view the property we now live in.
Being accepted for our house was great news. Not only was the number of suitable properties reducing rapidly but we’d finally been kicked out of the car park at the supermarket where we’d been sleeping alternate nights. Being woken up in the middle of the night by a security guard and having to drive 20km before we could go back to sleep was no fun!
Finally, we got confirmation that the bikes had arrived in Christchurch. They were a week late and had cost us a lot more than expected thanks to them being taken off the ship in Auckland, not Christchurch. We’d been under the impression that the vessel would arrive in Auckland and unload relevant cargo before continuing to Christchurch where we’d receive our bikes, unpack and dispose of the crates before clearing customs; this was not the case.
It transpires that the initial MAF (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) inspection takes place at the port of entry and any decision on fumigation is made there. With MAF deciding the bikes required fumigating before being forwarded to Christchurch, the shipping agent hired a trucking company to take them to the fumigators. Total bill NZ$715; plus port & handling fees of NZ$475 and a second MAF inspection in Christchurch of NZ$75. Add all that to the RM4800 we’d paid in Malaysia and it cost a total of GBP1200 to ship the two bikes.
Lesson learnt. ONLY ship to the ‘Original Port of Entry’. Check this with the shipping agent and receive your bikes there. We’d have saved somewhere in the region of NZ$400 had we known.
During the 500km drive from Queenstown to Christchurch we phoned MAF to book an appointment for the following day, only to be told that an inspection wouldn’t be necessary.
We spent the night in Christchurch with friends Caroline & Dave (Here’s an abstract for you: Caroline is my best mate’s, ex-fiances, twin sister’s best friend! You couldn’t make it up!) The following day we breezed through customs and arrived at the shipping agent by lunchtime. When they phoned MAF the response was “of course we want to inspect but we can’t do it until tomorrow”. Thanks.
Caroline & Dave kindly put us up for another night and at 0730 the following morning we returned to the shipping agent.
As it turned out the MAF guy was realistic in his expectations. Having heard several ‘horror’ stories regarding inspections both here and in Australia this was a great relief.
By 1130 we’d unpacked both bikes, made Danny’s bike road ready, put mine and all the kit in the van and had breakfast at a nearby café. Next stop was the Brass Monkeys Motorcycle Rally 60km NE of Alexandra in Central Otago.
Brass Monkeys Motorcycle Rally
It’s all in the name – Prepare for the cold and be colder was what we’d been told.
As we approached the campsite so we saw fires ablaze across the hillside like medieval beacons; only these beacons were surrounded by bikers drinking piss. With its reputation for being cold, the organizers dump large piles of firewood around the campsite for campers to help themselves to and so fires littered the place.
Come Saturday morning the only thing more persistent than the rain was the constant stream of arrivals. What amazed us the most was the amount of riders arriving on dirt bikes having ridden hundreds of kilometers cross country to get there. Many of these were on motocross bikes and when we asked them about being ‘road legal’ they looked at us as though we had two heads.
That evening the mother of all bonfires was lit. 30m long and 5m high, the timber must have been marinated in petrol as burnt with an intensity neither of us had ever seen. The crowd, soaked from a days’ rain, smoldered as they listened to the band and drank yet more beer.
We won the prize for the furthest traveled but really the award should have gone to Yorkshireman Ian Coates. We met the 64 year old the following morning when he came to introduce himself. He left the UK almost eight years ago having told his wife he was going for a ride for two months! During that time he’s ridden 190,000km on his Africa Twin and his wife has visited him four times. He says they have a good marriage as they’ve only had four rows in eight years!
Two days after returning from the rally we moved into our house. Ian returned from his trip to Nelson and a week later his mate Rob joined us to split the rent four ways.
For a place with a climate similar to that of Scotland, Kiwi building ideas take some fathoming out. No central heating, no double glazing, no cavity walls and tin roofs. The TV is full of adverts exclaiming “…fed up with condensation…you need a heat pump…” – no you don’t – you just need to build your houses properly! For a country that claims to be environmentally friendly we are dumbfounded by the quantity of timber that is burnt trying to heat these properties. When we get up in the morning, its 4.5°C in our living room. It takes six hours of log burning to make double figures!
We’ve got various trips we’d like to undertake over the winter but they’ll be determined by the weather. Up to about 90km/h the wind chill is acceptable but anything faster soon chills you to the bone. The sun moves low through the northern sky and so whilst North/South roads retain some heat and light the East/West roads through the mountains not only remain cold but often icy. Some of these roads won’t see the sun until the summer and will remain permanently frozen until then. We were told at the rally that riding conditions improve from August but the weather changes every day here so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Our snowboarding gear finally arrived on Monday 18th June – just in time for the heavy snowfalls that all but paralyzed much of the south island that week.
Coronet Peak had been open for about a week, essentially on manmade snow but with a light covering of the real stuff. On the Thursday 25cm of snow fell in the 3hrs we were there. Deciding to head off before conditions got too bad we fitted our snow chains and set off down the mountain but the usual half hour journey took us almost two hours. Along the way we picked up six more people who had either spun off the road or been forced to abandon their cars through either lack of, or broken snow chains. There were many accidents along the way including a van similar to ours upside down at the bottom of a 10m bank. We hadn’t seen this many accidents in a day since riding from Multan to Peshawar in Pakistan!