Wheel alignment

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Nils and Marc's Excellent Adventure

There's something very special about the motorcycling fraternity right round the globe. That special thing is that there's a better than 99% chance that you'll meet as comparative strangers and part as confirmed friends.  And so it was for the last few days.  Nils Poulsen is a bike enthusiast from NZ's capital, Wellington.  Nils and I had never met but we'd been corresponding on all matter of things for some months and when he started talking about planning a road trip with his mate Dr Marc Lubbers; Jennie and I invited them to stop off  for a day or two in Coromandel and explore if they fancied a trip north.

It didn't take long to nail down a date and on Sunday, I rode down to the southern end of the Coromandel Peninsula to meet them at the gold-mining town of Waihi.

 Introducing Marc with his Ducati ST4 and Nils with his Honda VFR 800

After some relaxed banter over coffee, we rode a few hundred metres to have a look at the 500 ft deep gold mining operation.  Not often that you find a working gold mine so close to the main street of town!

Waihi gold ore extraction pit - impressive up close

Everyone was getting a bit peckish so it was time to ride north to the small town of Tairua for lunch.  Being the local yokel/tourist guide, I took the lead.  There are always some trepidations about riding with strangers but it only took a few minutes to learn that these guys knew their business and we all fitted together perfectly,  proceeding to carve up the almost continuous twisties to Tairua and it was great fun riding in their company.  Nils' VFR 800 was whisper-quiet and in typical Ducati contrary fashion, I could hear Marc's bike booming away behind me on the over-run - nothing quite like that sound.  Both great machines.

Parked up for a late lunch

After lunch, I went into tour guide mode as the guys wanted to specifically see the Hahei Cathedral Cove area and Hot Water Beach. It was fairly cloudy when the photo below was taken but on a clear day, the sea is a bright turquoise due to the white sand on the seabed - simply gorgeous.

Hahei Beach from the lookout

Hot Water Beach is just 5 km from Hahei.  So-called because at low tide, you can dig a hole in the sand and geothermally-heated hot water comes bubbling up and fills the hole.  Pretty decadent laying on the beach in your own private bath!

Hot Water Beach.  Hot water bubbling up where the people are congregating

The other thing about the Coromandel Peninsula around Christmas time is that literally tens of thousands of Pohutukawa trees come into bloom all round the coast.  Also commonly known as the NZ Christmas Tree, they provide a breathtaking backdrop to summer.  Although pretty enough in its own right, the photo below doesn't do justice to just how bright the flowers are, partially because of the dull skies and my camera at a distance.

A fairly young Pohutukawa, Hot Water Beach

However, the close-up below shows the flowers in true colour so you'll get an inkling of just how spectacular the coastal regions are for a few weeks, especially as the older trees are massive!

Simply stunning!

Leaving the beach, we headed north and made a quick stop at the Coroglen pub for a photo shoot.  The Coroglen pub is an icon for bikers on the Coromandel Loop road and serves up such delicacies as fresh scallop burgers - yumm!!  During the summer, they also attract great international music bands who play in a natural amphitheatre behind the pub.

Nils and Marc at Coroglen

From Coroglen, it was a brisk ride up to Whitianga, where Nils and Marc had booked accommodation for the night and I departed for home ready to meet up with them again the next day.  They duly arrived at our place next morning and checked in but unfortunately, the forecast wasn't promising so we elected to take the 4x4 out and do some touring about.  First stop was to the tiny settlement of Colville north of Coromandel, where the sealed road ends.  It's an area full of alternative lifestylers and communes set up in the early hippy days - I really like it up that way.  The Colville store stocks an amazing range of stuff, including gas mantles, big tubs of every bean and grain known to mankind for vegetarian and macrobiotic diets -  a seriously cool place!

Not really "banjo" territory but getting that way!

The utterly quaint and tiny Colville post office

Just down the road from Colville is Branch Creek Furniture which you access up a narrow track.  The owner, Greg Taylor, is an old school craftsman who used to be a logger.  He makes really solid, interesting-shaped furniture from indigenous and introduced timbers and we have several of his pieces.

Cool chair (and outstandingly comfortable)

Table and bench seat

We noticed Nils casting covetous looks at a gorgeous swamp kauri coffee table and in the end, he couldn't leave without buying it.  There was a bit of spirited banter about what his wife would say but we're pretty sure that the " 'tis better to ask for forgiveness than permission" rule applied in this case!  It's currently being couriered to his home in Wellington so we'll know soon enough!!!

On the way back home, we stopped off to see my mate Paul who's recent purchase of a classic 1951 Norton ES2 featured in a recent post.  Paul is a complete Norton enthusiast and in addition to the ES2, has a racing 850cc Commando and a 750cc Commando road bike.  Paul's now in his mid-50's and bought the 750 brand new when he was 17 - it's still in absolutely showroom condition!!

Paul's man-cave

The stunning 750 Commando

In the early evening, we all went along to a working gold stamper in Coromandel which dated back to the 1800's where gold-bearing rock is still crushed, treated and bullion (a gold/silver amalgam) extracted.  It was a fascinating demonstration and really enjoyable.

The incredibly noisy stamper battery

1800's OSH-approved belts and open gears!

The retorting process for extracting precious metals

A bullion ingot worth US$3000!

After a pretty full-on day, it was back home for a BBQ, a few wines and some well-earned sleep.  The following day, Nils and Marc took themselves into Coromandel village to do some shopping, presumably as quid pro quo for being allowed out on a boy's bike trip **sly grin**.  In the afternoon, they went on the famous Driving Creek pottery railway, followed by yet more refreshment and locally-caught seafood.

Driving Creek pottery railway - the vision of a local potter

The weather forecast for the following few days was fairly dire so Nils and Marc decided to shorten the trip and head the 650-odd km directly home the following morning.  We enjoyed their company immensely and new long-term friendships have been established through the love of motorcycles - now that's got to be good, hasn't it?

Hope you've enjoyed the trip round the Coromandel Peninsula and meeting fellow enthusiasts Nils, Marc and Paul.  All that remains is to wish everyone a wonderful Xmas and a safe and prosperous 2012!


  1. Geoff,
    Thanks for the kind comments re both Marc and myself. It was a great time in Coromandel (to other readers of your blog, I can definitely recommend the James establishment - Geoff and Jennie offer both 5 star company and food). A litle (unseasonal) wet weather did not stop us enjoying ourselves, and we saw some great places (as you'll see in Geoff's photos).

    Thanks for everything over the past few days.

    P.S. The table should arrive by courier over- night, and hopefully the 'beating' won't be too severe.

  2. Hi Nils!

    Great to see you posting! It was a blast, and thanks to you posting, the blog-o-sphere awaits the outcome with respect to whether you'll be sucking hospital food through a straw as a result of your purchase :-). I reckon Helen will be chuffed to bits, particuarly if you have separate bank accounts, haha!

    Take care.....

  3. Great stuff Geoff, I am sure you would of been in your element, riding bikes, and showing the poor southerners how things get done in the beautiful Coro. No doubt they went home with a heavy heart....and perhaps a real estate magazine!

  4. Hey Rog!
    It was great fun with the banter flying about but I dunno about "poor southerners" with all those great backroads just to the north of them and of course, the South Island a mere stone's throw away!!

  5. Geoff


    I forget that it is your Summer at the mo....

    freezing N up North

  6. Thanks Nikos - hardly summer here today with torrential rain and blowing a gale. It'll be a Glenmorangie in front of the TV tonight!

    Merry Christmas!

  7. It is so true about making friends who share your love of 2 wheels. I have met some wonderful people since I started my riding journey. Sounds like you fellows had a fabulous time. The tree you took a picture of is beautiful, I imagine the blossoms (?) smell lovely. I am longing to see some summery blooms, the trees are naked and the scenery is grey here. Your summer sounds much like the one we experienced on the Island this past summer - lots of rain, not very sunny and at times downright chilly.

    Merry Christmas!

  8. More goodies from Coro.....nice write up and pic's Geoff. How did Nil,s keep his soft throw overs off the VTec's high cans?

  9. Dar:
    I think it shows that in reality, most people are great people just waiting to be discovered. There's very little scent from the Pohutukawa flower but our Tea Tree (Manuka) who's oil is usedfor antiseptic/antibiotic properties is highly fragrant and it's flowering now.

    I did look at the clearances at one stage because the Triple can't use throwovers without a spacer frame. I seem to remember that the plastic rear covers on the VFR gave more than an inch clearance betweeen the muffler and the inside face of the bags. Nils also used bungee cords but I can't remember how they were rigged. Perhaps he'll see your query.

  10. Geoff, you live in a very pretty (and interesting) part of the world - those beaches just look stunning.

    My mate Steve was telling me recently how he plans to have his black Commando painted the same color as Paul's.

    All the best for the festive season Geoff.

    Cheers Jules.

  11. Cheers Jules!

    Apparently, that metalflake gold on the Commando was for the American market but one sneaked onto the UK market so Paul grabbed it!

    All the best to you and your family too mate - not long to go to your trip now!

  12. Geoff:

    an excellent weekend with new buddies. Right now the road to NZ is flooded, otherwise we would ride right over for some local sightseeing. Can't believe you are having bad weather over there. I thought it was summer

    Riding the Wet Coast

  13. Bob:
    Sometimes, it's a good thing to be isolated at the bottom of the World, hehe ;-). The bad weather was only a temporary thing. Back to sunny skies and warmth today.

    Season's greetings to you and the family my friend!

  14. Hi Geoff,
    I was just reading some of the comments above, and saw a question from Dylan re the soft bags. I cut a piece of firm foam (about 1cm thick), lay it down on top to protect the plastic-work, and it also pushes the bags out slightly. I use bungee cords from rings on the bags down onto the rear pegs, and it gives about 1 cm clearance on the cans. The bags also have a hard plastic backing that seems quite heat resistant. Can drop the bags back on the VFR, and send you a photo if you want. Cheers, Nils

  15. Hi Nils,

    Thanks for that mate - no doubt we'll be hearing from Dylan shortly. His wife Jo has one like yours.

    Oh, and it's a great time to announce to all my blogging friends that our granddaughter Georgia arrived in the world last night a week early - yayyyy!!! All is well and a wonderful gift at Xmas time!

  16. What a fabulous time. You meet the nicest people on a motorcycle....

    The colors of bloom on that tree are absolutely stunning. I can't imagine a whole row of them.

    Funny that you have a local town called Colville - there is one in Eastern Washington State and I am sure banjos can be heard there too. Not much going on it those parts.

  17. Trobairitz:
    You sure do and Nils and Marc were wonderful company.

    Not just a whole row, but the whole Coromandel coastline - maybe 350 km!!!

    Well, well - do all the inhabitants look the same? ;-). I think there's plenty going on in those parts. Come the autumn, police helicopters are busy flying grids looking for certain shrubs which command high prices :-).

    Merry Christmas to you and Troubadour!

  18. I am not embarrassed to say that I dug out my one little spa on Hot Water Beach.

    By the way I don't find it fair that this Norton garage is called a 'man cave'. It would work perfectly for my purposes, too. In fact I like it so much that I want to move in. And the last time I checked, I wasn't male... ;-)

  19. Good for you Sonja! I'm not embarrassed to tell you that we have a Hot Water Beach spade in the shed either (that's what the little ones are sold as locally).

    Haha - oops! The garage sometimes has Paul's wife's MGB V8 in too, but only under sufferance - it's definitely an intruder. Their house is the same log cabin design only rather larger; you'd definitely want to move in there.

    A stupendously merry Xmas to the non-male hot chick and Roland!!!

  20. Nils thanks for the reply and description, I have had a look at her bike and see where you are coming from. Wife Jo has the Laser Deeptone four can system fitted....very gruff. She has the soloseat cowl but uses the tank Bagster .
    Geoff my grandaughter Darcy was born last week so we have now joined the official club.......

  21. Geoff, you live in a spectaculary beautiful part of NZ. Hope you pocketed a few of those ingots.....

    Those guys from wellington wouldn't have know what hit them weather wise, with wellington been the weather crap central and all.

    Looks like you all had a great time.

  22. Dylan:
    Is Jo a bit of a girl racer then? ;-). Got a WRX in the shed perhaps??

    Well congratulations Granddad - great isn't it? Off to Auckland tomorrow to see her!

  23. They all at heart Geoff just try to hide it a bit better than us....more ladylike.....

  24. Dylan:
    Hahaha - good job Jo isn't reading this!

  25. Geoff:

    How many Greats in "Great Great Grandfather". I can't believe it, you look so young . . . (pay me later)

    Congrats again . . .

    Riding the Wet Coast

  26. Bob:
    Always said you had a silver tongue - bet all the ladies love you! We just got home from seeing little Georgia and she's so good - captured our hearts already!

  27. A great post Geoff, friendships forged through the common love of motorcycling - what a solid basis for a lasting bond!
    Really good photos, I really do want to visit again some time - I saw some of that fantastic furniture, lovely stuff.

  28. Thanks Andrew - it sure is!

    We have a table and bench seat on our deck, plus a bookcase from Greg Taylor - amazing stuff.

    Season's greetings!

  29. Hi Chillertek!
    Sorry about the late reply - have no idea why as your notification only just popped up!

    Thanks, it is a pretty area and it's also one of the best north island motorcycle roads although not much compares with the south island! Yep, Wellington gets pretty windy and wet at times although on a nice day, I actually prefer it to Auckland!

    Merry Xmas!


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