Burt Munro Challenge 2013I’m back from the Burt Munro Challenge.  Since Invercargill is my ancestral town, travelling down on the back of my brother’s bike makes this a good opportunity for a family gathering.  We are more likely to have my brother visiting from Wellington than for Christmas.  I still make the effort to be there for Christmas.

Of course in a global sense my family town is more likely to be in Aberdeenshire or on the Merseyside.  That’s another story.  I’m not likely to see these places.  I’m not global traveller.

Since the movie The World’s Fastest Indian the Burt Munro Challenge has been a success.  It’s more than just a rally, it’s motorbike racing and competition on show.  This year it was over four days with a hill climb up Bluff hill, races on the sand at Oreti Beach, speedway at Teretonga, and street races in Wyndham.  The locals get in behind it and support it.  This makes it successful.

The beach race was memorable, a circuit half a mile long and back done fifty times to memorialise Burt’s achievement.  When the checkered flag went down to signal the first bike across the finish line, then the wind picked up.  Within half a minute it was blowing so strongly it was raising the sand on the beach.  Everyone fled.  We were sitting in the marrow grass on the sand dunes.  It was no protection.  We made our way down onto the beach and joined the procession.  With the sand in my face I could not see.  The best protection was to put my bike helmet on.  With the helmet on I had to swallow the sand in my mouth because the helmet obscured my mouth.  The road from Oreti Beach back to Invercargill is between the sand dunes.  At the bikes on the sealed road I looked back.  About 10 metres back toward the beach the vehicles leaving the beach were no longer visible.  They emerged out of the cloud of the sand storm.

The capricious weather only makes such an occasion stick in the mind.  It is something for people say ‘do you remember’.

The other memory of the Burt Munro Challenge of 2013 will be Alan Kempster, The Biker of the Year for the Challenge.  Also known as Bone-aparte and Arfer Racing and the Left-Side Story.  An accident 20 years ago left his right leg a stump and his right arm ripped off at the shoulder.  He lived because the rider behind him had one of the original brick-like cellphones and physically held him together until the called ambulance arrived.  He returned in later years to bike-riding and competes under the number ½.  While his handicap meant he struggled against the elements in the beach race, he was in his element at the street races and was doing better than some two-legged riders.  He is Australian and his bike was provided by Honda Southland.  It had to be specially re-wired so the controls could be operated from the left handlebar.  Between the races at Oreti Beach and Wyndham over two days he drove up to Balclutha where he been invited to address a school assembly.  This is someone who I would like to see coming back to compete at Burt in future years.

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