Rev up for a Kiwi Adventure with Towanda Women’s Motorcycle Tours
Leaving motorcycling to the boys was not an option for Tina Hartung, founder of Towanda Women Motorcycle Tours, who launched the New Zealand-based women’s motorcycling tour company, one of the first for women, more than a decade ago.
Tina fell in love with motorcycles when she was 28, more than 15 years ago. She fell captive to the “look, the sound, the smell, the speed, the stigma of being seen in the past as a boy’s toy,” says Tina, 44, who has been riding since 1996, describing her attraction to motorcycles.
“I love riding because it is perfect harmony in motion, on a good day. I love being on the road – preferably a twisty road – enjoying the scenery and letting my mind wander,” Tina continues.
“Motorcycling is too good to leave it to the boys,” she adds quoting an old BMW advertisement.
Too good for the boys indeed, Tina took her passion for motorcycles and began sharing it with other women.
The former back-up van driver carrying people’s belongings on trips for another tour company, Tina stumbled upon the idea for a women-only motorcycle tour somewhere between Haast Pass and Lake Wanaka during a motorcycle trip with three friends in Southwest New Zealand.
“We had so much fun! We laughed every time we stopped. In the evening we were sitting together for long hours talking, sharing, telling funny stories and planning the next day. It was great!” says Tina, who usually rode solo and enjoyed it until the joy of company captured her heart and soul.
Something clicked within her during that trip and the idea for Towanda Motorcycle Tours was born in 1999.
The organization was named after “Towanda the Avenger” from the beloved novel and film “Fried Green Tomatoes” because, at the time it was a new and “brave” concept. The name stands for “liberation and women doing it for themselves,” and the potential for “personal development and transformation towards more fulfillment and happiness,” says Tina.
It didn’t hurt that the Women’s International Motorcycle Association was hosting its convention in Sydney in 2000. It provided Tina with the excuse to host TWMT’s inaugural tour through New Zealand ending in Australia at the convention, but the women didn’t make it to Australia. They kept riding through New Zealand completely forgetting about the convention.
“They all just came to see New Zealand on a women-only tour,” says Tina, who saw women from Germany, Switzerland, and the Netherlands during the trip.
Tours in Australia and the U.S. followed soon after TWMT hit the open road. Tina’s motorcycle has also led trips with TWMT around the world and the organization has also added other tour guides.
Tour guides Clancy Hunt, Doris (who didn’t give her last name), and Tina have taken groups of women through New Zealand – where the tours are mostly led – to Australia, Austria, India, Italy, Norway, the South Pacific, and the United States.
When these women aren’t revving up their engines and hitting the road, Clancy cares for people as a registered nurse, Doris keeps on trucking on the roads as a truck driver, and Tina’s mind turns from the road to writing stories about motorcycles and traveling as a travel writer.
In the decade following its founding other women’s motorcycle tour companies have followed TWMTs’ lead.
Today, the company offers two trips a year solely for motorcycling women of all levels of experience offering a choice of motorcycles and routes. All that is needed is only “a sense of adventure,” Tina says.
The company doesn’t offer mixed gender group tours. Travelers can select from fully guided or semi-guided tours that can last anywhere from seven to 21 days where guests stay at women-only guesthouses as often as possible. Most of the trips only have up to eight travelers in a group along with two team leaders.
Motorcycling women can also opt for the self-drive holidays with TWMT itineraries.
Women from all over the world travel with TWMT, says Tina, counting off the countries women who participate in the trips come from: Australia, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, and the U.S.
“I always find that motorcycling brings people of all walks of life together,” says Tina about the women who have ridden with TWMT for more than a decade.
Even during rough rides, like the one through California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah in the U.S. they took a decade ago. The women hit a heat wave, “Satan’s Sauna,” the media tagged the days of scorching sun, which they rode through the desert towards Las Vegas. When they arrived in Sin City, the women were suffering from heat-exhaustion and immobile, Tina recalls.
“We had to literally drag them from the motorcycle into the air-conditioned motel room to recover,” says Tina, “That was simply horrible.”
The women recovered and were able to get a good laugh about the experience.
“When we recovered and found our humor again, we cracked an egg on the road, in order to bake it, and it fried in 10 seconds,” says Tina.
Women enjoy the social, non-competitive, safe, and most of all fun environment that TWMT provides women during their tours.
“I think that most women enjoy the relaxed atmosphere on our tours and that nobody tries to lecture them,” says Tina.
“New Zealand, especially the South Island, is a premier holiday destination and a paradise for motorcyclists,” adds Tina. The country is great for motorcyclists of all levels. Riders new to riding gain confidence quickly during the tour, she says.
The North, in particular the South islands that make up New Zealand offer “spectacular scenery and twisty roads with little traffic, provide the perfect setting for a riding holiday of a lifetime,” continues Tina, that features thousands of kilometers/miles of “stunning coastline, wilderness, rainforest, fiords, snow covered mountains and steaming volcanoes.”
“We strongly believe in women supporting women. We promote motorcycling for women and offer the opportunity to ride in a fun-loving and stress free environment. We also make sure tour participants have the holiday of their lifetime in our motorcycle paradise,” says Tina.
In spite of paradise being in her backyard, Tina personally dreams of taking a small off-road bike tour of South America for three to six months, she says.
To get a taste of the kiwi adventure, visit Towanda.org.
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