Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 53, September 2009
Over the Christmas-New Year holiday season in 1924 and 1925 two Paeroa men rode their motor-cycles from Paeroa to the South Island and returned, an epic journey which took 19 days and covered 1725 miles (2776kms) and the machines and the roads were not what we would encounter today.
Mr Alf Jenkinson, then the Assistant Clerk, Ohinemuri County Council (later long standing County Clerk) on a Douglas motorcycle and Mr Arthur Curtis, of Old Te Aroha Road, Rotokohu, on an Indian machine, had their travel dairy published in the Hauraki Plains Gazette in March, 1925.
Thursday, December 24 (Christmas Eve):
Leaving Paeroa at 11 a.m. on Christmas Eve, each with a suitcase strapped on the machines, with fine but overcast weather, we proceeded through Te Aroha and Morrinsville to Hamilton. There had been no rain for some days prior to our leaving Paeroa and the road was in good condition, but rather rough in places, especially the two miles of clay which ran through Motumoho. Near Ruakura, on a piece of road that was very rough, the first spill occurred through the Indian bike getting into a rut. No damage was done other than a bent handle-bar, which was easily straightened.
After stopping in Hamilton to replenish our petrol we continued on with the intention of reaching Te Kuiti, which was exactly 100 miles (161kms) from Paeroa, that night. The road south from Hamilton was in good order, and slightly undulating. We had a very pleasant run through the picturesque Waikato district, dotted here and there with miniature lakes, and harvest operations were in full swing on many of the farms as we passed. The bright sunshine added to the picture and made the ride more pleasant.
The roads being good we soon left miles behind us and passed through the townships of Ohaupo, Te Awamutu, Kihikihi and Otorohanga. Some miles from Te Kuiti the road became very rough and continued so up a long hill, from the top of which we obtained a fine view of the town, picturesquely situated in a sort of basin at the foot of the hills. This was the end of our first day's riding.
Friday, December 25 (Christmas Day):
Next day we left Te Kuiti by a road which, although very hilly and with some long climbs, had a very good surface, and about 30 miles (48kms) on we entered the Awakino Valley, the road followed the course of the Awakino River through beautiful bush scenery. Part of this road, for about six miles (9kms), was a perfect bog, but it was now an excellent metalled road. Mokau was reached, but the road on both sides of this township, for about four miles (6kms) on the Te Kuiti side and six miles (9kms) on the New Plymouth side, was very bad for travelling, being covered with freshly put down metal and clay. It was here that the Indian machine, being heavy, was hard to keep going on the road in the clay and some spills resulted.
After travelling for about 12 miles (19kms) through beautiful scenery, especially at Tongaporutu, we came to Mount Messenger, a climb of two and half miles (4kms) and a descent of two miles (3kms). The bush scenery on the New Plymouth side was magnificent, but extreme care had to be taken as there are some very sharp bends on the road and a drop of some hundreds of feet into a bush-clad gully. From here good progress was made, and the road for the most part was good. Waitara was reached about 6.30 p.m. and we found accommodation for the night.
Saturday, December 26 (Boxing Day):
Next morning, knowing that we were only half a mile (800m) off Taranaki's famous asphalt roads, an early start was made. Once on these roads, needless to say it did not take us long to cover the 10 miles (16kms) into New Plymouth. After staying in this town about three hours we proceeded on our tour via the coast road around Cape Egmont, passing the townships of Opunake, Manaia and smaller settlements to Hawera. This was a very fine run, the road being nearly all flat, and about half the distance was on asphalt. We stayed at Hawera that night.
Saturday, December 27:
We went from Hawera to Wanganui, a distance of 61 miles (98kms), it was raining most of the day, and as we approached Wanganui the downpour increased. Between Hawera and Wanganui the road was good, although very hilly, about 20 miles (32kms) being asphalt.
Sunday, December 28:
Dawned a beautiful day and after spending a little time in Wanganui we continued on our journey. The road was rather rough and hilly for the first five miles (8kms) but improved as we travelled onwards. We passed through the townships of Wangaeka, Turawhina, Bulls, Foxton, Levin and Otaki and had crossed the Wanganui, Wangaeka, Manawatu, Rangitikei and other smaller rivers, some of them, includng the last named, being at that time in flood. There was a good deal of traffic on this road this day, making plenty of dust, some of which we carried to Paekakariki, on the west coast, 23 miles (37kms) from Wellington, where we stayed the night.
Monday, December 29:
The journey next morning commenced by climbing Paekakariki Hill, during the process of which we had a magnificent view of the sea coast, with white-crest rollers breaking in, and the Paekakariki township nestling at the foot of the hills. From here the road was good to Johnsonville, but for the five miles (8kms) from that township to the Hutt Valley was very rough.
On arrival at Wellington we immediately made inquiries about the steamers running to Picton or Nelson and learned that the ss Wainui was leaving for Nelson at seven o'clock that night, so we booked our passage by her. Early that afternoon it commenced to rain and continued to do so well into the night. We hoped for it to be fine for the early part of the trip across Cook Strait, but we were disappointed.
Tuesday, December 30:
This morning the weather was quite fine again, and we obtained a splendid view of Nelson as we steamed down alongside Boulder Bank. We both landed on South Island for the first time at 6.54 a.m.
Leaving Nelson City at 10.30 o'clock the same morning, via the Rocks Road, we travelled south, passing through beautiful country, and the pretty little townships of Stoke, Richmond, Brightwater and Wakefield.
After travelling 23 miles (37kms) south from Nelson to the township of Belgrove the ascent of the Spooner Range began. This is a five-mile (8kms) climb, very steep in places and several sharp turns. From the top of the range a fine view is to be had of the Waimea Plains and Tasman Bay. Having safely descended the range and forded two creeks, one of which was rather deep, and travelling some 26 miles (42kms) farther on, we had a much worse climb, with hair-pin bends, over the Hope Saddle.
The weather by this time had become overcast, and steady rain commenced to fall making the descent of the Hope Saddle rather precarious. Glenhope, the present terminus of the railway from Nelson, marked the beginning of wonderful bush scenery running alongside the Buller River. After proceeding another 14 miles (22kms) the rain ceased and also at the same time I met with trouble with my machine for the first time. The driving chain came undone at the spring clip, and only half the link could be found. However, we surmounted the difficulty by using a piece of rope on the Douglas and my mate towed me for eight miles (13kms) to Murchison, where we spent the night.
It is interesting to record that for some miles past Glenhope large railway construction works are in progress by the Public Works Department which is being extended towards Murchison and the Inangahua Junction. When this line is completed it will pass through some beautiful bush scenery near the upper reaches of the Buller River.
Wednesday, December 31:
After repairs to the chain had been affected we left Murchison and proceeded over good roads and in fine weather through more beautiful bush and river scenery, and still following the course of the Buller River, we crossed over a saddle called Devil's Terrace and on into Inangahua Junction. At this point we turned to the left, almost right angles to the Buller River. The road along the right of the river leads to Westport. Reefton was reached early in the afternoon, but feeling too tired or too lazy—I don't know which—we spent the rest of the day in Reefton.
Thursday, January 1 (New Year's Day):
After travelling about 15 miles (24kms) this morning, which was New Year's Day, we came to the Grey River and followed it, passing through Brunner and a number of smaller townships, came out on the West Coast and Greymouth. We received a good dusting going into Greymouth, as we had to pass dozens of motor-cars going to the Greymouth races, the racecourse being situated on the main north road.
After lunch we left Greymouth and, passing over good roads and through pretty country, we followed the coast to Kumara Railway Station where the road branches, one road going to Christchurch via Otira and the other to Hokitika and the glaciers. As we were anxious to see the Franz Joseph's Glazier we took the latter road. Hokitika, a pretty little town right on the sea-coast, was reached about mid-afternoon, and here we stayed the night.
Friday, January 2:
We started early, intending to reach Franz Joseph Glacier and returning the same day. The trip proved to be one of finest experiences of our tour. Not only was the weather fine, but the scenery was magnificent. Of the 94 miles (151kms) between the glacier and Hokitika all but about 25 miles (40kms) is through dense bush. The road was good and hard, but with many steep pinches and sharp bends. This trip is one of the finest that could be wished for, but until it is undertaken its grandeur cannot be realised or appreciated.
We experienced a series of thrills of delight throughout the journey. Three beautiful lakes, named Inanthe, Wahapo and Mapourika, surrounded by dense bush round which the road skirts, are passed. Many rivers were crossed, the larger included the Waitaha, Big Wanganui, Little Wanganui and Waitaroa, are all bridged, but many still to be forded, some of them being fairly deep, and causing us a lot of fun getting through with our machines. The river beds in most instances are very rough and once or twice the engines stalled in the middle of the stream, resulting in us getting wet feet and legs.
At one river, just as the Indian was nearly across, the wheel hit a big stone hidden by dirty water, a capsize resulting. No damage was done to the machine, but the clothes in the pack received a good wetting. When about a mile (1.6kms) from the Glacier Accommodation House the first glimpse of the blue-tinted glacier itself was obtained lying in a deep gully on the side of the Southern Alps, with Mt Cook towering above it.
On arrival at the accommodation house we were told that we had to walk some four miles to the ice face of the glacier, but, not feeling like a long walk after the 94-mile (151kms) ride, and as a splendid view of the glacier is obtained from the house, we rested there and then started on the return journey to Hokitika. However, we were only able to reach Ross 30 miles (48kms) from Hokitika, before dark. Ross is the only township between Hokitika and the glacier, but there are many stores and accommodation houses.
Saturday, January 3:
We arrived back in Hokitika in the morning and remained there for the remainder of the day.
Sunday, January 4:
We left for Otira traversing the road we had come from Kumara, 19 miles (31kms) from Hokitika. There is a good metalled road to Otira, but it was rather rough in places, and there are a few places to ford. We were enjoying beautiful weather, and from two or three places along the road we had fine views of the snow-clad Southern Alps. There were no townships, and only a few accommodation houses were passed on the way to Otira, which was 37 miles (60kms) from Kumara.
About halfway from Hokitika we had the misfortune to have a break in the saddle of the Indian machine, and a little farther on we got our first puncture, a small one in the Douglas. Otira was eventually reached shortly after midday. It is a small township, closely surrounded by high hills, which are snow-covered during the winter months. It appears that these hills have the effect of shortening the hours of sunshine at Otira during the winter. We were told that the town does not get the sun until after 10 a.m. and loses it again soon after 1 p.m. during winter.
Monday, January 4 [some confusion re date - E]:
From Otira we were obliged to take the train to Springfield, a distance of 58 miles (93kms), as the road, which was formerly the old coach road, has been neglected since the railway line has been opened, and it is impassable owing to slips and bridges being washed away, leaving deep rivers to ford. It was a great pity that we had to travel by train, as we missed some of the best parts of the famous Otira Gorge. Still we experienced going through the wonderful Otira tunnel, which is five miles (8kms) in length. The train is drawn through this tunnel to Arthur's Pass by an electric engine, thus eliminating smoke and smuts.
The train journey to Springfield occupied four hours, but it was very interesting, as the train crossed on viaducts over deep gorges and canyons, and along the foot of the snow-covered mountains. On arrival at Springfield we lost no time again mounting our machines and were soon speeding over the good level roads of the Canterbury Plains and after a 41 mile (66kms) ride we reached Christchurch, our turning point, at 3 p.m
Tuesday, January 5:
Having only a week left in which to get back to Paeroa, a distance of 704 miles (1133kms), we only stayed in the Cathederal City until 11.30 a.m., we set out again via the East Coast Road and Cheviot, hoping to reach Kaikoura, 122 miles (164kms) away, that night. The road for about 12 miles (19kms) out from Christchurch, although quite level, was very rough, but after that distance had been covered it improved, and continued in good order right to Kiakoura.
Passing through the wonderfully fertile province of Canterbury, and the townships of Papanui, Belfast, Kaipoi, Leithfield, Amberly and many smaller places, we came out on to the East Coast. From here on to Kaikoura, a distance of 12 miles (19kms), the trip was very interesting, as the road skirts along the seashore and through clumps of karaka and ngaio trees, and darts in and out of tunnels. Kaikoura, which is a pretty little town right on the coast, was reached at 8.30 p.m.
Wednesday, January 6:
We left Kaikoura and continued along the road skirting the coast at intervals almost to Blenheim. For about 20 miles (32kms) the scenery was beautiful, with bush on one side of the road and the Pacific Ocean on the other. The Clarence River, which was in flood at the time, had to be crossed by means of a punt. Throughout the district which we were then passing through sheep farming is carried on to a great extent. Eight miles from Blenheim we came to Redwood's Pass, which is not a very steep climb, but there are several hair-pin bends to negotiate, necessitating extreme care in riding. We passed the scene of the fatal motor accident which happened just after New Year.
Blenheim, which is 87 miles (140kms) from Kaikoura was reached at 4 p.m. We stayed the night.
Thursday, January 7:
We left for Picton, 20 miles (32kms) away, and caught the ss Mararoa for Wellington at 1.30 p.m. We were fortunate in having fine weather during the trip through Queen Charlotte Sound, but when we got out into the open sea the conditions were not so good, and neither of us had any further interest in the scenery. We reached Wellington at 6 o'clock that evening.
Friday, January 8:
We left Wellington at 4 p.m., taking the same route by which we had come. We stayed at Levin, 65 miles from Wellington, that night.
Saturday, January 9:
Next day it was on to New Plymouth, 175 miles (281kms) away. We took the direct route from Hawera to New Plymouth, through Eltham, instead of following the coast road. During the run into Taranaki, when near Foxton, we had our second puncture of the tour, and the first for the Indian. On this run I experienced my first spill which was caused by taking a corner too fast a speed causing me to run off the road. Two cuts to my hand and a broken footboard covered the damage.
Sunday, January 10:
The trip from New Plymouth to Te Kuiti was made in showery weather and not improving matters the Indian punctured once and I managed to get three that day.
Monday, January 11:
The last day on the road from Te Kuiti to Paeroa was undertaken in rain almost all the way, and another puncture in the Indian added to the discomfort of the journey. At Motumaho, near Morrinsville, we had a lively experience. The road was a sea of mud. And I came a beautiful spill through the machine suddenly sticking on a mound and throwing me forward over the handlebars. We arrived at Paeroa at 4.30 p.m.
The total distance covered on the tour was 1725 miles (2276kms), comprising 920 miles (1480kms) in the North Island and 805 miles (1296kms) in the South Island. The longest distances we covered in one day were from Levin to New Plymouth, 175 miles, (281kms) and from Hokitika to Franz Joseph Glacier and most of the way back to Hokitika, 168 miles (270kms). Other distances for a day's riding were 122 miles (196kms), 110 miles (177kms), 100 miles (161kms) twice and 97 miles (156kms).
We were well satisfied with the behaviour of our machines. And it is worthy to record that we had no mechanical troubles at all, the only causalities being the Douglas' chain coming unfastened and four punctures and the saddle of the Indian breaking and three punctures.
We are both agreed that the tour throughout proved to be one of the most enjoyable holidays either of us ever had.