When it comes to exploring New Zealand and discovering destinations off-the-beaten-track, George Lockyer has probably seen as much of the country as anyone you could find. Lisa Potter chats with the intrepid adventurer and author.
The serial explorer and his naturally curious mind love nothing better than spending time travelling New Zealand by motorbike and discovering many characters along the way. Better yet, George shares his travels around Aotearoa in glorious detail: as the author of Long and Winding Aotearoa, Kiwi Garages, Tales and Trails Down Under, and Living The Dream, he offers uniquely memorable insights into many corners of New Zealand.
His newest book, Kiwis on Harleys, was a particularly enjoyable fresh adventure.
“I was initially hesitant, as I’d never owned, or (I confess) even ridden a Harley-Davidson. My plan was to travel the country (on two wheels where possible) and interview as diverse a range of Harley Davidson riders as I could find,” he says.
“I was always given a warm welcome – despite riding a Kawasaki – and discovered an amazing interconnectedness between Harley Davidson riders, as well as an unspoken camaraderie.”
MCD finds out more about some of George’s recommended travel spots and advice for making the most of life on the road.
Where in New Zealand are you based?
I live in beautiful Governors Bay on Lyttleton Harbour and have the best of both worlds – a rural lifestyle but only 15 minutes over the Port Hills from Christchurch. I’ve lived here for 20 years and before that lived in Sydney for 15 years.
How do you plan your trips?
To lower costs, I always try to do as many interviews as possible in one trip. For instance, I’ll try and do three or four in a weekend. I also contribute to New Zealand’s Bike Rider Magazine so probably spend between 30 and 40 days on the road, depending on if I have a book on the go or not.
Are you a caravaner/motorhome traveller?
Not yet, but we’re planning on buying a van and leaving it in the UK, so we can use it every (northern) summer.
Where are your favourite spots in New Zealand to spend time?
The Mackenzie Country for its big sky and huge vistas; Northland for its history, Māori heritage and great beaches; and The Catlins for its stunning wild coast, wildlife, and empty roads.
What’s one of your most memorable trips?
I think visiting and interviewing the owners of the Duke of Marlborough in Russell for my forthcoming book Iconic Kiwi Pubs (out in October) – enjoying the hospitality of the beautiful hotel, learning what the historic place means to the locals and delving into the history of the area. Another adventure, though of a different kind, was entering the Dominatrix’s Den to interview her in my book Kiwi Garages. Not an experience for the faint-hearted.
Where are some of the most unexpectedly memorable places you’ve visited?
Puhoi, north Auckland, Blackball on the West Coast, and Mangōnui in the Far North.
Is there anywhere in New Zealand you’re keen to explore?
The only place I haven’t visited is the East Cape. I’d like to ride around it on my motorcycle. Maybe next summer.
What sparked your early passion for exploring and motorbikes?
Reading Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simon in 1979 – the story of Ted’s four-year journey around the world on his Triumph. It made me buy my first motorcycle (in London) and start travelling the world. Interestingly, I met Ted (now 91) during his stay with us in Sydney, when he retraced his two-wheeled journey in 2001.
What’s your ride of choice these days?
I ride my 2017 Kawasaki KLR 650 (which I rode around Australia for my book Tales and Trails Down Under and now has 80,000km on the clock. I also ride my new Royal Enfield Classic 350 and sometimes hop on my son’s Yamaha AG200.
What’s your dream ride and why?
My dream ride would be to (one day) ride from Tierra Del Feugo to Alaska. Why? Because it’s there!
What’s your advice to those travelling New Zealand by road?
My advice is always to slow down and smell the roses. Try and take the road less travelled and always travel hopefully. Don’t rush. If you see a sign telling of a walk to a beauty spot, pull over and have a look. Strike up conversations wherever you can. Don’t take too much stuff. Drive safely. Don’t be afraid to put your head above the parapet. You only live once.
What sparked your early interest in writing/discovering people’s stories?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, so writing was a natural step I suppose. I always kept detailed diaries on my travels. As for people’s stories, they’re what make a place interesting. Without stories, we’ve got nothing.
How did you set about making this part of your career path?
The advice I always give to prospective writers is ‘write!’ I think these days, you need a bit of luck to find a publisher, but the secret is to never give up.
What’s something about you people might be surprised to know?
I’m a bricklayer by trade.
What future potential book themes are on your radar?
I have a couple of ideas but will keep them to myself in case someone gets there first, but I think a book on the aforementioned South America to Alaska trip would be good. I’ll just have to persuade my publisher.