Wheel alignment

Wednesday 4 March 2020

The Green Badge Tour, part 1

This year, the annual conference/AGM of IAM NZ (http://iam.org.nz/) was due to be held in Porirua, just north of Wellington.  Several of us from the central north island were keen to attend and fellow observing team member Tony suggested that we should turn it into a "long way down, even longer way back" tour.  Great plan and 4 of us gradually hatched a route covering some of the north island's iconic twisty bike roads.  The Green Badge Tour gets its name from the badge that's awarded when a rider passes the Advanced Police Roadcraft Test.  All 4 of us had passed that long ago and had also passed the Observer (mentor) test too.

This is a map of the route, covering some 2100 km of fabulous riding roads.  With the exception of the Wellington area, it was expected that traffic would be pretty light in late summer, especially keeping away from major arterial routes where possible and so it turned out to be.

A route made in heaven

My 790 Duke isn't really set up for touring so travelling fairly light was the order of the day.  The regular small tailpack containing a few basic tools and puncture repair kit, with a 10 litre yachting dry bag strapped to it with a cargo net over the two.  I don't like wearing a back pack when riding but in this instance, I figured that I could put up with it.

Loaded and ready for action

Setting off from Coromandel early in the morning,  I stopped 70 km further south to pick up Tony (Yamaha MT10 SP) and we then met up with Lloyd (Yamaha TDM 900) and Rex (BMW 1200 GS) in Hamilton.  The end point of Day 1 was the Whangamomona Hotel on the famous Forgotten World Highway, some 380 km from home.  The general arrangement was that we'd swap the lead at gas or coffee stops and all 4 of us were linked with SENA comms.  It was quite amusing that on the open sections of road with fast sweepers, there was a fair bit of comms traffic, mickey-taking and so on.  However, when we got to the technical tight stuff, it went pretty quiet over the air waves - just warnings from the lead bike about potential hazards.  Between Te Kuiti and the turn-off to Ohura,  we came on fresh road works - wet tar overlaid with fresh gravel.  We picked the tar-coated stones out of the various nooks and crannies later on but a 1% er on a noisy H-D had to stop by the roadside and pick them out of his drive belt before it got shredded.

First stop after lunch was Ohura.  A small settlement with a massive main street which was once a coal mining centre.  Current population is less than 150 and the settlement is in a state of genteel decline.  No-one was about and a wry comment was made that the locals must still be in their coffins during daylight hours.

Rex, Geoff and Lloyd at Ohura.  A hot day and needing shade

The busy metropolis of Ohura - locals still in their coffins

A fully functional mailbox

The Forgotten World Highway is something of a rite of passage for riders.  A twisty, narrow road with an indifferent surface at the bottom of a valley and over saddles with a section of gravel 15 km or so long.  The scenery is spectacular but it's wise to either stop and look or keep your eyes on the road if moving.  There's minimal cell phone reception and if you make a mistake, you're a long way from help.  It pays to hold a fair bit in reserve.  Tony shot a bit of video on the more open part of the Forgotten Highway which I'm leading on.  His MT10-SP with crossplane engine and uneven firing order sounds fantastic with the speaker volume turned up and on full screen:

Courtesy of Tony

Stopping at the Tahora Saddle, the active volcanoes of Ngaruhoe and Ruapehu were visible on the skyline.

Wild country

Tahora Saddle with active volcanoes in the background (photo: Lloyd)

Yours truly at the Tahora Saddle (photo: Lloyd)

A quick photo stop at the Tangarakau river bridge.  The logs in the river show the power of nature when it rains!

Tangarakau river bridge - spectacular scenery

Logs in the river

A happy rider on tour grin (photo: Tony)

Before arriving at our destination for the night, a further stop at the entrance to the Moki Tunnel was warranted.  It was constructed in 1935/36 and is some 180 metres long - one direction at a time for traffic over a rutted surface.  We didn't see any wildlife on this occasion although on a previous trip, there was an extremely large feral billy goat with an impressive set of horns standing at the tunnel mouth.

Tony, Lloyd and Rex at the Moki tunnel mouth

Arriving at the small settlement of Whangamomona late afternoon, we settled into the hotel and enjoyed a cold one as temperatures were in the early 30's C.  The place was fair jumping with locals and some South African contractors who were laying more reliable power lines to the settlement.  A most excellent feed was had later that evening. We asked the owner about leaving the bikes behind the hotel as per past practice but he hadn't got room this time and said they'd be perfectly safe outside.  Robyn, the lovely lady who lived next door agreed, apart from the possible risk from a local driver who had too many under his belt running into them .  She offered space at her place which we gratefully accepted.  Rural NZ'ers are awesome!

The iconic Whangamomona Hotel - Lloyd and Tony

Chilling on the upper deck of the hotel - Tony, Rex and Lloyd

Hotel owner having a wash during a quiet spell

A walk to help dinner to go down was taken to get a few photos before it got dark.  Here's a selection.

Colourful shed in the main street

Chilling at the hitching rail - Tony, Rex and Geoff (photo: Lloyd)

Yep, it's rustic all right! (photo: Tony)

A wonderful day of riding, knowing exactly how your riding partners are going to react in any given situation.  Completely takes the stress out of group riding.  Another hot day forecast tomorrow for the ride down to Porirua.

Part 2 to come....


  1. Nice way to start ya trip. Can't go wrong on the FH, although there are some great gravel roads peeling off into the middle of nowhere too...

  2. Great weather too Andrew. Have done some of those dirt roads in the 4x4 but sport bike tyres are inviting grief :-)

  3. So wish I was there now instead of cooped up here with heater on. Hmm maybe a plan for next year... Looking forward to more from this tour.

    1. Thanks Warren! Although the south island is a rider's nirvana, the north island is pretty darned good if you know where to go.

  4. I'm jealous, very jealous. Temperatures here haven't topped 7 or 8 C for weeks and it has been very wet. Even working up the enthusiasm to change my bikes oil this week was a chore. Roll on the better weather, but even then, your trip is likely to beat anything I get to make this year. :-(

    Glad to see your eyesight improving too.

    enjoy yourself.



    1. Thanks Ian! Although I ride regularly, this is my first proper tour for a few years which made it especially enjoyable. Sorry to hear about your weather. My wife will be be visiting the UK for 3 weeks very shortly and has had to buy heavier duty clothing!

  5. Hi Geoff

    Sounds good and I'm more than a bit jealous. The V85 would have been ideal for the trip (When running on both cylinders that is...).

    1. It was a fabulous trip Lee in wonderful company. NZ really is a rider's paradise with the scenery and low traffic density. Part 2 will be up later today. Hope the Guzzi is going well now!

  6. Beautiful pics, Geoff. The forgotten world highway never ceases to impress. How much fish did you have to pay up to the feline owner for the overnighter?

  7. Thanks Sonja. Judging by the size of him, other patrons had paid in full and we were let off with merely making a fuss of him when he did his rounds! It was lovely to see the big, tough-looking tradesmen playing with him.

  8. Some familiar sight there young Geoffrey. I too hate carrying a backpack on a bike. The thought of crashing with one on send shivers down my spine. Loved riding that Forgotten Highway. I hear it will be sealed soon. Whangamomona hotel was a great stop and their Whanga burger was fantastic. Thanks for the tip Andrew. What was it like staying at the hotel?

    1. Hi Steve,
      Yep, they are talking about sealing that last stretch but it sounds like the locals aren't happy about it for some reason. The hotel is comfortable and the food is really good.

  9. Awesome! Simply awesome Geoff! This is what motorcycling is all about.

    1. Have to agree with you Dave. And as a bonus, it's better for mental health than seeing a shrink 😁

  10. Dear Geoff James, I should say that is an awesome start to a great trip ahead. The route might have its own ups and downs but I am sure it going to give you guys a wonderful bike road trip ahead. Every captured pictures and pitstops shows the beauty around the country sides with the active volcanos and bridges to cross.

    1. Thank you Andrea. Sharing a motorcycle trip with great friends is an absolute joy.

  11. Lovely pics, Geoff. The mouth of that Moki tunnel looks interesting.

    1. Thanks Steve!
      Going through the tunnel, it's dark rock with little reflection so the headlight doesn't work very well. The road surface in there isn't particularly smooth either so a fair bit of vigilance is required. Then there's feral goats that tend to hang about in the area.....


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