Being a workplace built upon the ideology of fun means two things. One, we are always scheming extracurricular activities to keep the engagement of everyone high and two, we have to follow through with some of these often outlandish ideas. We have had a fair share of whimsical ideas but the motorbike trip finds itself very high up the list. Late last year seven current and past George and Willy staff made the journey down to New Zealand’s southern alps, a familiar backdrop to a lot of branding from the past 5 years.
The crew posted up next to Top Hut in the St Bathans Mountain Range.
The trip wasn't about having the best bikes or being the best riders, it was about getting out into the outdoors, forgetting the hustle and bustle and just focusing on being stoked in the moment. It’s the same as any team-building endeavour - to build trust, boost morale and create a culture that can be extended into the day to day work environment.
You can't achieve this sort of team building in the day to day work environment.
The majority of the motorbikes on the trip were a Suzuki TF125 or better known as a 'Mudbug' and are a classic New Zealand farm bike. We love them because of their simple design. The design has barely changed since the 1970s and their 2-stroke air-cooled engine are extremely straightforward which is great when you are venturing off the beaten path and reliant on fixing any issues yourself. They are also designed to work in less than ideal conditions, have an optional carrier on the back and a large 13-litre fuel tank. Perfect for what we were wanting to do with them.
Eddie and his Mudbug
The trip was without a doubt an exceptionally good time overall, but it didn't go without some trickier scenarios and unplanned complications. There were lots of mechanical issues and a lot of maintenance done with minimal tools. Sam Baker snapped a link in his chain and without being able to go and buy a new one we had to get creative. We ended up shortening the chain and having to file back where the axle goes to allow for the shorter chain.
Sam filing back the dropouts
The most notable tricky scenario was our attempt to get to the Macauley Hut. The week before we embarked on the trip saw the heaviest rain in New Zealand in the last 7 years. It flooded rivers and lakes alike. Although river flows were dropping by the time we arrived it didn't mean by any way they were back to their usual flow. We had initially written off the idea of going to the Macauley hut when we arrived and saw the flow and power of the swollen river. However, knowing the beauty of the Macauley hut and it's surroundings plus with a hunger for some adventure, we made the call to try and get there.
Stuck in the middle on the river trying to find a way across
The track to the Macauley Hut weaved its way up what usually is a dry river bed, but with the state of the river at the time meant we ended up crossing it a ridiculous number of times. As twilight drew upon us we had been bluffed in where a tight, deep and strong flowing part of the river met a steep bluff. Although we could scramble our way around the bluff ourselves, there was no chance of dragging the motorbikes around. The GPS showed we were a mere 5 kilometres from the Hut and the group of overconfident wet and cold boys continued the trek by foot to the hut. After an hour of slogging in wet motorbike gear, we had only made 2 kilometres of progress and were exhausted from the big day. We parked up on the bank next to the river for the night.
A fire brought everyone some much-needed warmth. We got to bed by 1am.
Waking up on the side of the Macauley river was actually a lovely way to start the day. Some forward-thinking members had bought some pre-cooked sausages and some tea bags, so we relit the fire and attempted to fill our bellies. With no pots (as we were relying on making it to the hut) we got creative and used some empty cans to boil water for the teas.
Breakfast is served
It took us almost all day to get back to the truck after being up the Macauley Valley. To our delight, the nice weather was melting the snow up top and the river was gradually increasing making it even trickier getting back. The whole expedition from leaving the truck to returning took almost 24 hours and by the end of it, we were without a doubt tired and hungry. However, we will remember that expedition forever and it is a reminder that lasting satisfaction does not come from taking the easy road.
Wet would be an understatement
Going on a trip like is achievable for most people but it does require some planning and preparation. Even though a number of things didn't go as planned while on the trip (which is most of the fun really) we did have virtually all of the gear we needed to get us of any situation. If you are planning your own trip make sure you're prepared!
The favourite meal of the trip was the fresh Crayfish (New Zealand Rock Lobster) we had. George had been scuba diving in Dusky Sound a few days before the Motorbike Trip and bought back a few with him. Crayfish live between 5 and 275 metres deep and can grow up to 8 kilograms big! We cooked them up with garlic, butter and chilli.
George preparing the crayfish
Our initial plan was to stay in Department of Conservation huts for the length of the trip however very last minute we threw the tent in. This ended up being one of the better things we did. It allowed us to stay in some of the most beautiful places New Zealand has to offer. Below is an example where we were on the edge of Lake Pukaki looking down the beautifully coloured lake at Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain.
One of the important things for us was riding a selection of terrain types. We wanted to ride shingle rivers beds, high alpine tussock, rocky scree as well as next to the Hyrdo Canals. The canals were built between the mid-1970s and 1980s as part of the upper Waitaki power scheme and are an interesting part of New Zealand history. They have a unique colour thanks to the high mineral count of the water and have an outstanding backdrop with the Southern Alps.
All in all, it was a great trip with a lot of great memories made. All of us learnt a bit more about fixing motorbikes and all got more skilled riding them, but the best part was just spending some quality time with our mates and colleagues. It's hard to beat a bond created by embarking on a trip like this. We hope you enjoyed following the journey with us and that it has inspired you to embark on your own endeavour! Have fun.
Video & imagery by Fin Woods