Sunday, March 04, 2007

New Zealand 2006 Part 1

It's been a long while but I'm finally going to write about my New Zealand trip. It's been a while now but hopefully I'll remember the interesting bits. On November 18th I headed off to the airport for about 30 hours of flights and hanging around. I had the option of flying west or east to New Zealand but in the end I choose to fly via LA for a couple of reasons. First, it was going to be two long flights (Dublin – LA, LA – Auckland) versus 3 or more going via Asia and then the other, important reasons... There is some law in the US that means if you are travelling internationally then you must be able to take two bags. For me, that meant 2 x 32kg bags one being my bike. The airlines if I went via Asia only offered 1 x 23 kg bag... Just my bike gear weighs more then that let along everything else.

The flights all went grand – first tip, take a roll out, blow up mattress if you have to stay in an airport for any length of time between long flights. When I got to LA, I lay down and slept by the gate for 3 hours – felt like first class :) I was then in the mood of sleep and slept for a further 8 or so on the 13 hour flight to Auckland.

For my time in New Zealand I planned to hire a rental car. There are lots of different companies that offer 10 year old, ex-Japanese cars for cheap cheap. I used AEQ rentals and got an estate for around €20 a day. The estate had enough room in the back for me to chuck my bike in without having to remove wheels etc... Oh, another tip – for going into restaurants etc... when you have your €€€ bike in the car. Lock the bike to the seatbelt anchors in the back seat. At least that should stop any convenience robbers.

The Euduro just after I built it up outside my first nights cabin.

My first two days in New Zealand were going to be sent riding the trails in Woodhill. (Turned on the GPS - 18,457km from home!) It's basically a purpose built MTB park with an amazing variety of trails (although not much climbing – highest point was about 150m, lowest about 40m) I arrived off my flight, picked up my car and drove to Helensville where I was staying for my first two nights. I got a cabin (the guy was apologetic that it was SO expensive at €13 a night!), built up my bike and headed for the trails... I arrived at 6am into Auckland – lots of time to go biking on the first day. The trails were amazing with lots of stunts, drops and bermmed corners... I could ride there for a long long time... Over the two days there I got to ride all the trails (but not all the stunts, some were just crazy), about 90km in all.

Jumpers Alley

All stunts were sign posted with a rough difficulty - 1 to 5

Next it was a 4 hour drive down to Rotorua. Everyone I had met had told me to go straight to the Whakarewarewa Forst trails. A network of natural and man made trails that will be the cornerstone of the 2010 World Marathon Championships (I think...) Again, there really was all types of trails there with a great map of everything – some of the work that was put into these was simply amazing – trails sculpted out of the hill, it was artistic. Trails ranged from easy flowy single/double track to a National DH course. Again, I spent two long days riding these trails. I did most of the tracks but I knew that I would probably stop off here again on the way back to Auckland at the end of the vacation.

The view out over Rotorua

Me in Whakarewarewa Forest

After a beautiful drive through Tongariro National park on the Desert Road, I arrived in Levin... There are apparently some descent trails here, but I didn't find them. It had been pouring rain there for a couple of days and everything was as mucky and slippy as you could imaging... I gave up after about an hour and a half in the saddle. Then I tried to find something do for the evening there (it was Saturday night) but there is NOTHING there. Stay clear of this town!!! (Apart from an Indian restaurant half way down the main street – it was fantastic and pretty cheap too). The next morning I got up real early (about 6am, but for most of the trip I got up between 6am and 8am...) and left that place behind. My next stop was Wellington :)

Ngauruhoe Mountain (AKA Mount Doom) I would see it again later in the trip :)

My rental car

The night before I found out that one of the stages of the New Zealand DH NPS series was on at Long Gully close to Wellington. I had seen videos of the downhill course a while ago and thought it would be interesting. I arrived at the sign in anyway and got two practice runs on the course... The course itself was not very technical from a rocky, rooty, twisty perspective but there were lots of jumps and one Loooong Gully. The course would have been handy enough were it not for mother nature that day... It was the windiest day (Sally Gap a couple of days ago a close second) I had ever been on a bike. That didn't exactly make navigating tight single track on open mountain easy. On both my practice runs I ended up crashing and decided that I should give the race a miss. I had my body armour but the holiday was another 20 something days long and I didn't want to wreck myself in a race... If I either had more practice or the weather was a bit better I probably would have tried. I watched a few of the other people doing their runs and I headed down to Wellington for a touristy day.

The start of the downhill race - people were falling off the start ramp due to the wind!

The Long Gully


Makara Peak MTB Park

Wellington was a very nice city – it had great restaurants and was VERY close to the mountains. I would live there if it wasn't so windy! (and so far away from everywhere else in the world) I then spent the next day riding the MTB park (Makara Peak) built close to Wellington. As usual, the tails were amazing and I ended up meeting a guy called Karl (who is running an MTB tour company). He was sound and ended up giving me the email address of one of his mates that lives in Christchurch.

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