We had loosely planned to hit ‘The Motu’ while planning in Tuai, before putting the polish on our route whilst enjoying a few stouts in Gisborne.
We headed first for Matawai, and then onto Motu Road, a crusty old coach passage connecting Motu and Opotiki. Opened in 1915, Motu Road was thrust into the limelight in 1993 when Colin McRae drove it to victory in the World Rally Championship.
Bitumen and a medium climb served as minor setbacks, headed for what we knew was going to be some ‘all time’ gravel.
Our arrival in Matawai signalled that we’d ticked off the first 45 km of bitumen, plus one decent climb - the last easy meters we’d be getting. Next up was lunch, a rather average coffee, then Motu Road. We had only 12 km of bitumen to go before reaching Motu, and the ‘real’ start of the day’s adventure.
With a big yellow sign making it fairly obvious what was to come, it was good to have finally arrived where we wanted to be.
… but first, cowardly cattle
In an unexpected, and quite substantial, delay, our route was blocked by a herd of cattle who, terrified by a narrow bridge, would not pass. No amount of shouting, slapping, whipping or barking could encourage them, instead causing them to defecate in fear – all over the road. The road we were soon to use.
Something we missed in our planning was that this section of Motu Road was still very much active and in use – by logging trucks. This was really something we would have, ideally, wanted to plan for in advance, as the distant noise of a truck isn’t something you would otherwise expect, and is often not as ‘distant’ as you would think. The narrow winding roads and blind corners didn’t help. On more than one occasion, by the time we realised there was a truck coming, it was (figuratively, at least) right on top of us!
Up she goes
Aside from the unsettling sensation that a truck was going to flatten us at any moment, this was one of the greatest gravel roads we’d ever ridden. The moody skies and rough green textured hills only added to the uneasy atmosphere. As we climbed continuously into the afternoon, the road became darker, the surroundings thicker and the mood more foreboding.
Road kills trucks, not bikes
Given this, it was nice to see evidence of the road beating up on our trucking nemeses. Our bikes, on the other hand, had, thus far, been surprisingly trouble-free. Not one flat or mechanical. Touch wood…
Finishing up on the second descent we turned to notice a sign which would, frankly, have been greatly appreciated earlier in the day (note also the graveyard in the top left of shot – casualties perhaps?).
Shortly after the sign we met a seemingly friendly roadside goat. Trapped within its demonic-looking, pentagram-esque, and decidedly makeshift collar, it was hardly a surprise when the initial kisses on Beardy’s leg turned into a fairly decent bite.
Shortly after the demonic goat’s kiss, Beardy was struck by flat, after flat, after flat. Not one flat up until this section of road, which was hardly the worst we’d seen, and all suspiciously within the reach of the cursèd goat.
Again we found ourselves in search of recovery stout, making our way to the Masonic Hotel in the centre of Opotiki. A seemingly authentic Irish pub that, intriguingly, served one of the best Indian meals either of us had ever had. We delayed our evening route planning, opting to stay for seconds.
Beardy’s tube supply was dwindling, on account of our friend, the goat. Accordingly, we needed to source more before heading out towards Rotorua. A place well-known for its geothermal activity, geysers and hot mud pools. And strong odour.
A sneaky little travel tip for those raiding holiday accommodation venues for a drop of water: when the water doesn’t flow from the tap, be sure to find the mains (even if the owners have attempted to hide it under a green lid in the middle of a large lawn).
Our day had been long, and we hadn’t really pulled out the cameras nearly enough… but that came down to the fact we were exhausted after our truck-dodging Motu day. The clearest indication of which was Beardy’s eyes - they had begun progressively shrinking down.
Good thing we found another Irish pub in Rotorua, ol’ Shrimp Eyes needed his fill of rejuvenating Guinness.
More from New Zealand
Choose from any of the three parts in our North Island New Zealand adventure, or the Road Book, for all the maps & information you need to get out and explore the area yourself.
JOIN our mailing list, never miss the latest release