Adventure bike riding is the ultimate in escape-ism for many people, and the fact that Honda Hamilton had theirs only weeks before we were all put into lockdown is something that we can be very thankful for- unless you missed it. It was a massive day filled with all the challenge, excitement and scenery that you could ask for.
Our home base was Chateau Te Mata Domain, less than an hour from Hamilton, where we set up camp and signed on at the most excellent Te Mata Social Club. While the number of campers was relatively few, the next morning saw riders arriving in droves of well dressed adults aboard their multi coloured steeds. An efficient sign on process was followed by a very practical briefing from none other than Peter Bryant himself, the man behind Honda Hamilton and their website, THS Moto. When he got to the details of where we were going I found my brain had momentarily floated back home as I thought about what my wife and kids were doing that day, but there were enough people in the audience who did understand the map for them to guide the rest of us should we get confused as to where to go. This ride was primarily a GPS affair and I had no problem downloading the correct app and maps to get a blue line showing me where to go, which I was soon to follow as all of a sudden people were on their way. I joined right at the back just to help any stragglers getting off to a rough start- which happened to be less riders than I expected.
Whether it was intentional or not, I don’t know, but the first section was a perfect way to sort everyone into their skill levels before we all met again for one of the highlights of the day. Yes, the more skilled riders had to wait quite some time but their patience paid off with an impressive ride through an area that is almost always off limits to the public- the Meridian Energy Windfarm, and from there on out they had no more hold ups for the rest of the day as there were no doubts which group each person needed to be in.
Having A, B or C groups is possibly one of the reasons why there were no injuries for the day. That is quite a feat considering how many kilometres that number of people were able to cover in one day. There were also relatively few breakdowns as most riders were well prepared, and by the time I helped out where I could with a flat tyre and a loosened chain adjuster, the mechanic back at base was looking extremely bored. He got to have a little bit of fun that afternoon helping out with a couple of things but in general it was very quiet on the fix it front, and credit goes to the great organization that helped us stay and feel safe.
One of my favorite moments was the gravel road after riding through the outskirts of the Raglan township. I carefully picked my way through a handful of riders as we ducked and wove through native bush and popped out for heavenly visions of waves breaking their way to the left that made me wish I could surf. Soon after that we popped back into farmland for a final burst before it was time to feast on real food rather than views and dust.
If I had been surprised at how much we had accomplished before lunch, the adventures of that afternoon made the morning seem like nothing more than a warm up. We discovered massive castle-like outcrops of weather beaten rock inhabited by curious, cliff dwelling goats. We wove our way down freshly cut tracks paved with massive chunks of gravel that showed why so much of this country has no real roads. My personal favorite was attacking the most incredible section of bush track that I have ever ridden, also freshly cut out of native bush, but this time paved with the kind of loamy dirt that begged you to open up your ride to its maximum horsepower. I was riding a brand new 2020 Africa Twin Adventure Sport with 105hp and she loved it.
I ended up joining Kevin Archer and friends for the second half of the afternoon who pointed out many of the areas where they used to race enduro and cross country. They also showed me how to ride on the road through the southernmost section which was another highlight, followed by epic views of the Kawhia harbor before finally making it back to base around 7pm for an incredible spread of roast food and great salads. Of course I wolfed down my share so quickly that it probably didn’t even need to taste as good as it was. We were basically the last home as we had taken plenty of breaks along the way, including helping out with another flat tyre, but there was no other explanation as to why the day had taken so long other than the incredible number of kilometres we had done through the long list of 25 farms.
All of this was followed by an incredible list of giveaways thanks to Whites Sports, headlined by a pair of Bridgestone tyres that went to one of the most deserving blokes you could ever meet. It was a fitting end to what had been an incredible event. I am sure that I was not the only one lying in bed reliving fast and flowing farm tracks or endless gravel roads that night.