Friday, March 23, 2007

New Zealand 2006 Part 2

Following on from Post 1 of my New Zealand trip - the next morning (after meeting Karl in Wellington) it was off to the South Island where I planned to spend most of the trip. The boat ride over to the other island was spectacular. It was about a 3 hour ride in a huge ferry (car + me was around €100). Beautiful weather welcomed me to my first stop there – a beautiful port town called Nelson. I did my usual routine – arrive, get hostel, get food and read the Kenneth Brothers Guide to MTB in New Zealand book and decide on today's spin.

Me on the boat on the way to the South Island



Coffee + Guidebook

My first spin on the South Island, at the time anyway, other spins later in the trip may have beaten it, was one of the most beautiful spins I've ever been on. A perfect day, beautiful mountains all around me and snow capped mountains in the distance. The pictures really do not do it justice. It was simply inspiring... The trails themselves were not very technical but the scenery more then made up for it.

Beautiful weather & amazing views

When I got back I started to sort out the next days spin. The longest of my trip. There is a famous walk/ride that takes 2 to 4 days to do. I wanted to do it in a single day, which all of the tour operators (I had to take a 60 minute boat ride to the trail head) had a great laugh at. Most of them said it couldn't be done. (I guess they thought I was just some lad who decided to go biking that day...) The trail is basically 71km of single track that is either going up or down... I don't know the exact altitude change (I broke my GPS at in Woodhill at the start of the trip) but I would guess around 3000 to 4000m all off road. The spin went well, about 3 hours in it was pretty hard because I knew I had at least 4 hours to go but I felt really good for the last 2 hours or so... When you see the “KM to go” signs drop to 20 you start to feel pretty good. I ended up doing the ride in around 7 hours. I was glad to have completed the spin but wish that the next time I was on a lighter cross country bike... The Enduros 150mm of travel and DH tires are not really made for this type of spin!

Around Nelson

Me at the start of the Queen Charlotte

I woke up the next day to see that mother nature was a bit pissed again. Heavy rain, low cloud cover and a long drive to Christchurch meant that today was going to be the first day off the bike. Christchurch is a nice enough town but not anything to write home about. It is a small enough city with “Mum's 24”, a Japanese restaurant, being the highlight of the town for me – I went there 3 times! The other interesting thing was the number of bike shops. In the space of 5 minutes walking you would walk by 6 or 7 bike shops. Rotorua was the only other town close to that. The next day I rode around the Port Hills for 4 or 5 hours. They were nice trails but the rear shock on the Enduro started to loose air (and I didn't have a shock pump on me) so I had to take it a bit easy on the rough stuff.

The next day I met up with Zane, Karls mate who lives in Christchurch. He took me up to the Waferdale trails about 1.5 hours drive from Christchurch. The spin was a very hard 4 to 5 hours over very wet, damp mucky ground. It really felt like, out in the middle of nowhere, backcountry riding with lots of hoist you bike over your head river crossings. I learnt a lot that day about how to get my bike up and over ledges etc... Later that day, Zane and his girlfriend kindly invited me to diner to which I obliged :)

In the hills above Christchurch - Looked very much like Ireland!

Zane and I at the end of the Waferdale Trail

I felt a million miles away from anywhere

For the following days spin Zane and I met up with some lads from the Vorb website up in Craigeburn. These trails were amazing. Huge mountain (ski fields in the winter) surround us with some amazing trails awaiting us. The Luge, was possibly (although there are a lot of other 'favourites') the best descent on the whole trip. A very natural, twisty, rooty fast descent that was tailor made for a bike like the Enduro. I was buzzing for about 2 days after it :)

The next day saw me make the trip from Christchurch to (possibly) my favourite town of the trip, Wanaka. But first I was going to head there via Mount Cook. The photos can not do this place justice. I was awe struck as I drove to the mountains. These things were huge. I felt like being in something straight out of Lord of the Rings. It looked so amazing, it looked like computer graphics was used to create it... After a Latte I headed out on a hike up to the Muller Hut. It was a prescribed 5 hour hike to the hut but I ended up going up there and back in a bit under 4 hours (including lunch – I guess my bike fitness carries over well into climbing...). It was really cool – a very steep climb in places up open mountain and over 10 feet of snow. The climb affording me some amazing views and a spectacular lunch at the Muller Hut.

The road to Mount Cook (in the distance)

The usual Latte before exercise

Climbing up to Muller Hut

The view over to Mount Cook

Muller Hut!

Proof that I made it

The Hotel in the distance is where I started, about 1,500m below me :)

Sliding down the snow was amazing

Another view of Mount Cook

In Wanaka I was dropping my bike into a bike shop to get the rear shock serviced. They said they would have it fixed in an hour or two so I went headed to an Internet cafe for some caffeine and a chance to video chat with Mel. When I headed back into the shop I seen the rear end of the bike in many many bits... “This does not look good” I though to myself. The guy in the shop turned to me and said “your not going to like this”. Turns out that the chain stays on the Enduro were very badly cracked and unridable. Another couple of drops and it could have been a spectacular crash... Fortunately, Specialized had new chain stay spare parts so the guys said that they would ship them overnight and I'd have the bike working the next day. Yes it was bad it broke, but thank God they could fix it so quick! The rest of the day was spent hiking up to Foxes Peak. I'll let the photos do the talking on this hike...

Another day, another stunning hike

My desktop background for a while

Bright and early I picked up the Enduro the next morning and headed to Wanaka's bike park. Lot's of man made MTB purpose built trails were a complete adrenalin hush. Lots of them with high speed burmmed corners through trees. Venus was probably my favourite trails.

The next two days I spent riding around in Queenstown – as usual the trails were great but I much rathered Wanaka as a town. Queenstown is VERY VERY VERY touristy. All the 18-24 year old, my first big holiday type tourists seemed to swarm there much more then anywhere else in New Zealand.

Ridge riding in Queenstown - a bit scary at times!

After Queenstown I headed down to Alexandra for a day of riding arid lunar trails. This place was amazing – about 80km from Queenstown which was lush rain forest to Alexandra which was like riding on the moon. When I was in the local bike shop, about to ask about the trails, one of the Vorb guys I met in Craigeburn noticed me and asked if I wanted to go out riding for a few hours. Can't get better then that – a local to take you around the trails. We rode for a couple of hours then he brought me along to one of the local DH tracks for a few runs. Nice fast track – good for training on. Next, I started to move back up the South Island but I'll leave that to another post.

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