Submitted on: 22 Oct 11
Category: 2011 Updates
The threat of rain from the previous evening wasn’t an empty one, with riders waking to a light rain. The days route was very dependent on just how much rain had fallen in the hills, as too much would make our planned route impassable. A safer Plan B was available but everyone voted to stick with the original ‘hard core’ route and simply take our chances.
The days special challenge turned out to be another popular one. The Ewing Poultry ‘care for an egg’ challenge required both riders and support drivers to choose an egg, decorate it with a suitable face and then, using the recycled materials available, mount the egg to their vehicle / Scooter with the aim of having a complete egg by days end. The face had to be visible at all times and a vote would decide the winner if there was more than one egg surviving, so ‘creative’ mounting was encouraged over ‘safety’. With a wide range of design interpretations on display we headed into town for a re-fuel before heading off towards the Buller Gorge.
Two minutes later and we were pulled over onto the side of the Highway with Joseph (once again) on a completely dead Scooter. “No Spark! check the plug” was the call and it was a good one as the Spark Plug was now in two pieces! I had a spare in the tool box (been here before) so it was a quick easy fix, albeit parked in the ditch of the main highway under a steady rain.
The rest of the tarseal section was uneventful and we reached the turn-off at the Iron Bridge in time for a mass photo shoot. ‘Ponch’ took advantage of the traffic lights stationed at the bridge to ‘pull over’ un-suspecting tourists in aid of increasing his already substantial lead in the ‘individual charity collection’ total.
I had been checking the side rivers along the highway looking for any indication of flooding but it was looking good as we headed off once again into the wilderness, next stop, West Coast.
Most of the 4wd track in was relatively easy for the now experienced off-road Scooteratzi, with the odd patch of rutted and muddy track to keep things interesting.
Caroline’s temporary exhaust fix proved it was just that and broke once again. The mainifold bolts were tightened and a bungee cord was attached between the muffler and the back carrier. This actually proved an effective fix despite the fact that whenever the suspension was compressed, the exhaust sagged. And while the exhaust remained fixed to the bike, it didn’t stop the excessive noise, so a new ritual was created… whenever we stopped as a group anywhere, Caroline would pull up in a cloud of noise and have to shout out “are we stopping here??” If so, she would then have to dig into one of her pockets to find her wire ‘key’ in order to short out the ignition on her scooter. Sometimes there was a high pitched curse as she managed to short the ignition to herself before silence was achieved.
Then we came to the Mackley river. To cross the river requires heading up stream slightly so as you cross, you can angle downstream and use the current to help you. To head up river required crossing a ‘side stream’. Before everyone else arrived I made a quick crossing attempt and managed to drown the poor DJ very quickly.
“We will be carrying the Scooters across this, and the main river, but if anyone would like to demonstrate why please go ahead” was the announcement, and of course, there is always one (or in this case two).
‘Sacka’ Neil gave it the berries and looked promising until about half way across before his special, snorkel equipped scooter died with a quiet burble glug glug.
Mordor with his taller wheels and a heavier hand on the throttle fancied his chances and hit the water in his usual high speed fashion, but managed to bounce his front wheels off two large rocks before hitting the deck just as quickly! With wounded ribs and pride, he managed to man-handle his monster scooter the rest of the way across. Everyone else saw the sense in the more measured approach and as a group we carried the remaining scooters up to the main rivers edge.
I had actually packed straps and heavy duty truck tubes for inflating and floating the scooters across this river, but now that we were here, it seemed more in keeping with the spirit of the trip to use the natural resources available in order to surmount the challenge ahead of us (and it was so much cooler trying the “McGyver’ method).
Plenty of flood damaged trees littered the bank of the river, so a selection of branches were broken off and, in teams of four, with two on each wheel, we carried the scooters across the river.
With the depth reaching thigh level, a strong steady flow and with over 20m to cross, this river was a great challenge and really strengthened the team spirit. Everyone pitched in and pulled their weight including the girls who never asked for and never needed special treatment (although the sight of ‘Ponch stripped down to his essentials may have provided some distraction).
A short rocky climb took us to a clearing for a much needed lunch and a chance for Caroline to get under her scooter once again.
As a display of her determination to reach the end (and be the first person to complete two survivor Scooter events on a scooter), rather than ride like the mad racer I know she normally is, she chose to ride to survive by carefully picking her lines, reducing speed and avoiding bumps. Respect!
Two more small river crossing’s took us to the bottom of the days most physically demanding challenge, a long steep hill-climb, with the steepest, loosest rock filled section right at the start.
Waiting at the top of the first section, the noise of laboured two-strokes engines would slowly build until one by one, spinning and weaving across the road, each scooter would slowly make their way up and around the bend until only one remained. With the aid of the local constabulary (Ponch), I headed down to find a hot and frustrated Joseph with his scooter once again on it’s side as he attempted to fix the shaft that engaged the starter on his transmission. With no back-up kick starter and being unable to push start his scooter due to it being an automatic, getting the electric start to engage was crucial to his ability to carry on.
Finally it roared (ha ha) into life, but while getting into position to attack the hill, it stopped suddenly. This time the spark plug had completely fallen out!
Finally we reached a summit of sorts, and although it was hard to tell as a mist rolled in from the sea, it was still nice to be here(!!) even with visibility reduced in some cases to 10m. This continued until our rest stop at the Denniston Incline for an eerie rest stop, where a great view can normally be had.
The twisty road down to sea level proved to be a hit, then we were off to the Westport Tiphead where an impromptu attempt to get as many people on one scooter resulted in 4 people covering 20m, amazingly without injury or scooter collapse (these things are usually only rated to an 80kg rider).
A few scooter issues had the party split into 3 and ‘Sacka’ spending time in the truck despite the fact that he had brought his own back-up scooter which was now being piloted by John ‘Two scooter’, (formally known as ‘Spider’). Good on ya Sacka, the ultimate sacrifice.
The group that followed 4WD Harald managed to ‘lose’ Westport (despite being on it’s outskirts), but some back-tracking and re-directions from ‘Photographer’ Steve’s phone had us re-grouping in town for a re-fuel.
We caught up with a wonderful Mother / Daughter combo on their own version of scooters who very kindly donated to the cause and we had a great conversation / photo opportunity while we waited for the stragglers.
From here it was a beautifully scenic & winding road transfer all the way through to Punakaiki, our stop for the night. On the way Russell ‘Rusty’, the dark horse of the trip for the way he just kept plowing on without complaint or drama, surprised the front running ‘racers’ by showing a clean set of heels on what turned out to be the fastest scooter of the trip! No mods, special preparation or fancy wheels, just got onto Trademe, paid his dosh and turned up for the trip.
As a late sign-up thanks to Camp Mum, both ‘Rusty’ and ‘Two Scooter’ had little idea what they were in for, had no knowledge of the planned route, but were able to take everything in their stride and come through with big smiles, epitomising the spirit of this challenge. Good on ya guy’s.
Punakaikai provided a chance to catch up mentally and physically with hot showers and a great feed and, as some members of the team would be heading out before the next evening, we decided to have the trip prize-giving.
Lawry ‘Ponch’ took out the Survivor Scooter 2011 award for his amazing efforts in personally raising over $300 during the trip for Project KPH. On his application form, Ponch had listed his occupation as ‘Adult Entertainer’ which is a possible hint as to how he managed to double any other collection total. Well done mate!
Leah ‘Tinks’ took out the ‘Riders choice’ award not only for her incredible outfit but also for the way she rode and the grit and determination she showed throughout the trip. Her determination would be displayed yet again the next day.
‘Ponch’ then took the stage as ‘Sheriff’ and metered out a range of fines for various indiscretions and managed to raise even more funds, many of which came from Josephs pocket, but pretty much covered everyone and: included lack of ability to follow, ability to get lost, crashing, hitting other scooters, even Camp Mum had to cough up for setting off the extinguisher in one of the back-up vehicles (mine, and it’s still full of white powder).
A great night had by all but not quite late enough for ‘Ponch’ or ‘Rod’ who managed to get an invite to a ‘middle age’ birthday party and turn it into an early morning!