Well, 2020 didn’t quite turn out the way anyone expected did it? For Open Road we started the year with an invite to join an amazing motorcycle trip from Lhasa in Tibet riding up base camp at Mt Everest. It was very strange leaving a warm and summery NZ on Xmas Day with our suitcases loaded with winter woolies, but it did make it feel like the start of a great adventure. The team at Tibet Easyrider gave us such a warm welcome and we experienced fantastic hospitality during our stay. The bikes - all BMW’s tourers were well maintained and ideal for the job.
With daytime temps of -10 to -18 degrees,yes that is a minus, as well as the high altitude this was a test of endurance for both of us. I don’t especially like the cold so a heated vest was a must have for this journey! The scenery in Tibet is dramatic and at this time of year quite bleak in its ruggardness. A highlight of the ride is the thrilling ride up the Gula Pass where at 2,500 metres you can view Mt Everest & the Himalayas stretched out before you. It’s simply breathtaking in more ways than one.
After our Tibetan trip we hit the start of 2020 at a run and were looking forward to a cracking year of tours showcasing our wonderful little country to overseas riders. In Feb we had riders from Australia join us for our Far North Adventure as a prelude to the Burt Monro. NZ put on some scorching weather, so hot even our Aussie brothers found it tough going. It was certainly a striking contrast to our Tibetan trip earlier in the year.
Leaving Auckland city behind us we rode North up the remote West Coast to the very tip of NZ before returning via the picturesque East Coast riding roads less travelled. This is our back yard and we really enjoy showcasing this beautiful region. We ride through ancient Kauri Forests, alongside golden beaches, past majestic sand dunes, and of course enjoy fantastic local cuisine, wine & beer. The ride up to the tip of NZ at Cape Reinga is a chance to really let your hair down. A short walk to the lighthouse is well worth it to experience where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean in a turbulent swirl of currents. This very spiritual place will simply blow you away.
Little were we to know this would be our last real tour for the year. In March, our government closed the border to International travellers and the whole country was put into lockdown. As much as this has hurt us and many others in tourism it has meant that as a country we have been able to return to relative normal while the rest of the world still battles on. One benefit of being a little island nation at the bottom of the world. It was extremely hard having to cancel so many tours and are grateful almost everyone has rebooked for 2021, we can all but dream & hope.
By June, New Zealanders were lucky enough to be out of lockdown and able to travel locally. As a much needed pick me up we roped in some mates and went on a road trip to the Far North for Lance’s birthday. It was a fun filled 3 days and just what we all needed to blow the cobwebs away and the lack of traffic on the road to Cape Reinga provided the opportunity for a spirited ride, you know what we mean!. The weekend was topped off with a great meal with good mates at the famous Duke of Marlborough hotel in Russell.
So what does a tour company do when it's forced to shut its doors and stop touring? Good question and it's one we’re still working on. It’s not been easy, certainly. We still have vehicles to maintain and keep ready for the road but no guests to ride them. At the beginning of this there was no way of knowing just how much of a marathon this was going to be. We kept ourselves and our followers amused with photos of Lance’s old bikes, and hopefully inspired some dreams with our virtual tours. Lance would collect our essential supplies using one of the tour bikes, it’s amazing just how much veg you can get in the panniers. But months have gone by and this pandemic is still having a terrible impact upon the world, where do we go from here?
Despite adjusting our tours for a local market it soon became clear that there simply wasn’t one here. This meant that in order to be able to resume touring when the borders open we simply must get some other form of income. Recently, along with other out of work professionals, pilots, aircraft engineers, & others in tourism we took on a contract to map NZ. This entailed driving all sealed navigable roads in NZ. And when I say all - I mean all. We used this as a perfect opportunity to drive roads we’d never been down before, hunt out new haunts, support local businesses, check in with our tourism partners and suss out great riding roads, while getting paid to do it. It was a win win.
Here in NZ we’re having fantastic hot Xmas weather. The steaks are on the BBQ, the beer is cold and the wine is flowing. It’s summertime and the country is on holiday. People are travelling locally and life is pretty much normal, we just can’t travel overseas. We hope to get out on the bikes once the holiday season is over and take advantage of the quieter roads. Perhaps a ride round the Coromandel Peninsula might be on the cards.
But right now we’re looking forward to 2021 and welcoming our next guests on their NZ motorcycling adventure...whenever that may be. We’re excited for the future and hope 2021 is a great year for everyone.