Lost and wrapped in a close cropped blanket of lush green undulates away from my feet for kilometres. It meets an impossibly blue ocean that, like a slow chameleon, is changing colour. I watch slackjawed as white clouds turn to grey. The ocean mournfully changes to a more ominous black and then I can see rain falling. It's odd to be standing in a pool of sunshine after a long ride in the rain now. To know that you're dry but clad in waterproofs. That your bike is still dripping wet. And yet, there's sunshine and far away, rain. The nonchalant cows and sheep that dot the landscape move around slowly. Behind them the cold rain is coming ashore. Not unlike Ursula Andress, but far more menacing to look at. I quickly snap off the photos and then pack my camera back into the dry bags and prepare to ride off once again.
I'm in New Zealand and I'm out and about on a Yamaha MT-07. I once got to sit on the bike and knew instantly that India would love to ride this motorcycle. Today, I've got the bike and I intend to see the stunning countryside outside and around Auckland. The motorcycle is as sunny in disposition as the weather on my riding day was gloomy. The 689cc parallel twin (the MT-09 and its sibling are triples) is mild-mannered at low revs but packs a hard hitting mid-range punch. It's reputed to be a tremendously naughty motorcycle in the right hands. Today, I'm just keeping as smooth as possible because Kiwi roads in the wet are unpredictable and super slippery. What the roads always are, wet or dry, is incredible. I follow a nearly deserted main highway up north out of Auckland and it's like a dog's tail. It wags this way and that, dips up and down without any break. The natural beauty of New Zealand is stunning. Just outside Auckland lie rolling grass-covered hills packed with the cutest sheep you'll ever see. The Kiwis are astonishingly warm and helpful and every cafe I stopped at offered tremendously tasty food.
The Kiwis are astonishingly warm and helpful and every cafe that I stopped at offered tremendously tasty food
And yes, I saw a Britten V1000 and then got to sit on it! Yamaha's MT-07 proved to be a fast, sharp but friendly mount for my day out and hours pass as the live postcards come through my visor. The motorcycle allows you to watch the world go by. It's a confident chassis that knows what it's about. In typical Yamaha fashion, it favours a sporty flair over a safer, more neutral outlook. And I love how it likes to drop into corners while managing cross winds, slippery roads et al without a skipped beat. Eventually I grow cold from the constant rain and the sun has finally disappeared. I stop at a roadside cafe. There's coffee on my table almost before I've stopped and the kindly lady smiles, You look cold, dear!" I wolf down a beautiful breakfast while a passing ensemble of New Zealand's citizens stop to look at the bike, to chat with me and to ask if they could swap with me for the best job in the world." This easy banter and unfeigned concern for a passing stranger would become a feature of every single stop I would make the MT. Order a flat black (a cup of black coffee with nothing else in it) and just wait for the warmth to wash over you. That, to me, became the flavour of New Zealand. Having reached a reasonably northerly place - my time here is short - I decide to head south, faster.
Along the way I chance upon a heritage village called Puhoi where the settlers built homes in the mid-1800s. Like the rest of the land, it's pristine and the small stream that flows through the village looks like it's filled with mineral water. A rider on a vintage BMW boxer chugs past noting my riding gear and waves me a quick hello as he disappears up the hill. And that seems to bring the sun right out. Time to get back on the bike then. The Yamaha rumbles to life - thanks to the Akrapovic pipe on this one - and we're off in a hurry. After about twenty minutes of being naughty, I find myself on the edge of Auckland about to join the main motorway that slices south through the city.
Yamaha's MT-07 proved to be a fast, sharp but friendly mount for my day out
Just outside Auckland lie rolling grass-covered hills packed with the cutest sheep you will ever see
The Yamaha proves to have excellent highway manners and in a jiffy I'm through the urban traffic and on the Kairoitahi Road. From this road sprouts the 27km of Awhitu Road that leads to a spit of land with a lighthouse on it. It's listed as amongst the best riding roads on the North Island. The Yamaha loves it. The road sweeps in fast curves all the way and it is almost entirely deserted. No one watches the Yamaha and me dance our way to the end except for a handful of startled sheep. The road is only slightly wet and there seems to be plenty of grip and the MT-07 has plenty of pluck. When I pull a slow u-turn at the other end, Awhitu Park, I'm breathing hard and smiling harder. I've fully half more of the day to wander this amazing country on a rather special Yamaha. A combination so potent that it almost makes the sun itself optional. Hours later, the weather finally gives up.
I park at a sunny little farmer's shop cum cafe and order an eggs benedict and coffee. The Yamaha ticks over softly while I wander the store. The eggs, when they come, look like New Zealand itself. Fresh, juicy, tasty and relentlessly inviting. The best benedict I've had yet. It's sunset by the time I return to the Yamaha New Zealand offices to hand back the bike and thank the wonderful Darryl Lovegrove who's been helping me sort out the bike and its attendant paperwork. 'How was the ride?,' he asks. Wonderful, just wonderful. Like your country," I say. I'm South African, but yeah, I know what you mean, That's why I moved here," he smiles back.