South Island Ride
December 19, 2011
The White Ribbon Ride featured 25 core riders with well over 100 other men and women joining throughout the eight days of riding. Three rides took place simultaneously, with ride leaders, road captains, tail-end charlies, support crews and three sign-written support trucks (yes these bikes do break down).
The ride was led by a core group of riders from the Patriots (former and current members of the armed forces) and Te Ahi Kikoha – meaning “The Sharpened Flame” – a new entity that brought a wealth of Māori knowledge and expertise to the ride.
The purpose of the ride is to raise awareness and get men to take action. Having tough looking guys – many of whom have served their country – delivering messages about love and respect, means the messages get through. In schools the riders have the kids’ absolute attention.
The ride traveled some 8,500kms right acrossNew Zealand, from the largest centres of Aucklandand and Christchurch to some of the smallest like Franz Josef on the Westcoast, or Ohakune and Taihape in the central North. At each venue the riders were welcomed by locals and shared their stories of positive change. It was a privilege to take part in the ride. The following is based on notes from the first two days of the ride – to give you a feel of what it was like, and if we receive positive comments, we’ll publish some other extracts based on the notes of the support crew.
Positioning Ride to Blenheim
The Ferry trip, while an hour late, was uneventful, especially for the sleeping Patriots who had ridden down from Auckland and Tauranga that morning. I managed to spend the first two hours logged into the work computers until I’d used up my bandwidth – sending out localised press releases and answering the 100 or so emails that come in every day at this time of year. At Picton, we were met by the Blenheim Chapter of the Patriots who escorted us to the local RSA where we enjoyed a good meal with two-for-one-puddings before starting the briefing process. This was one of those new establishments where most of the town clubs had joined together and now had strength in numbers and excellent shared resources.
The briefing is essential to ensure all the core riders understand their jobs, know how the ride will be conducted and acquire an understanding of the whole campaign and how the riders fit into the narrative of good men as epitomized by our first White Ribbon Ambassador Ruben Wiki. The ride leaders had previously been sent a file that contained among other things, the key messages, Q&As (questions and answers that may be asked about the ride), schedules and maps. All the support riders were brought up to speed and the rides were able to meet one another and share their resons for taking part. Two hours later we were done – time for bed.
Day One – The Ride begins!
Early morning consisted of preparing the bikes, attaching flags and ribbons and stickers. A little trick for those new to this, seal the ribbon with a lighter to stop the edges fraying and don’t let them get near moving parts. After the photographer (that’s me) had annoyed all the bikers taking a range of posed shots, we were off to meet the local riders at the war memorial and then participate at the first event before heading to Kaikoura.
In Kaikoura we were met with an enthusiastic welcome from Hapuku Schoolwho had been patiently waiting at the local market with teachers and parents on a Saturday afternoon. The sun was just holding sway and following a welcome from the local Kaumatua, Richard Bradley and then Shane Henry replied.
Then we were in for a surprise as marching girls (and by girls I mean serious women in their 50s and beyond) paraded around the bikes wearing ‘It’s not OK’ t-shirts. It was the first and last marching band we saw! At that point the home-made lunches were brought out complete with orange juice and lamingtons. It was our first real day, so the realisation that there were no
sausages had yet to be appreciated. Then it was the moment that all the kids wait for, a chance to sit on the bikes and chat to the riders. There was a lot of joy in the faces of these kids and they clamored over the bikes and posed for photos with the machinery or the riders.
Then it was time to go. There’s one thing about the South Island aside from its beauty, there’s quite a lot of space in between the towns, and therefore a lot of riding. And so it was today. From Blenheim to Christchurch! When we reached the garden city we experienced our first (and one of very few) directional challenges. For the most part South Island roads are easy to follow. Christchurchwas always an exception with a series of one-ways that can trap tourists and visitors. However, since the earthquakes, getting from point A to point B was even harder. The ride became split and seemed to take an age to rejoin at the motorcycle shop – Rolling Thunder. There we had a photo shoot for an event the following week where the riders were to escort Rachel Dawick into the city as she rode from Cape Reingato Bluff on her bicycle raising funds for Women’s Refuge. With the sun positioned directly above and behind the riders, it was a challenging photo.
Then it was dinner for the riders and I was off to pick up my borrowed transportation for the rest of the ride. A BMW ZX4 which even the riders on their enormous machines were somewhat jealous of. The car proved a hit not only for this lucky driver, but also, the many school kids who sat behind the wheel and imagined being in ‘Need for Speed’ or whatever the kids play on Xbox 360 these days! The most common question from the kids being ‘what speed does it go’ to which there is only one answer, ‘100km on the road, but on a racing track it might go very very fast’.
Throughout the day the support crew would upload photos and comments to Facebook and Twitter, but at the end of each day the support crew (which still numbered one in the South Island) had a set of other duties. First we had to download all the footage from the day and then upload the best pictures to Facebook and name them. By now it was past midnight and we had an early start, so thus ended day one.
Early in the new year we will run a couple of North Island Ride extracts, so look out for some great stories from the East and West rides in 2012.
White Ribbon Campaign Manager and Support Crew South Island Ride