14 day Tour –South Island —March 2017.

14 day Tour –South Island —March 2017.

Hanmer Springs to Queenstown…

Chasing the earl autumn sunshine around the South Island we had a good hit rate with only a couple of wet travel days and two grey days down in Queenstown, the rest of the time we had those big clear blue New Zealand skies.

Hanmer Springs; A good weather forecast meant we could commit to a shuttle drop off at the furthest point on the St James Cycle Trail and bid farewell to our driver Andy and head over Maling Pass into the big wild and remote Waiau River Valley and the start of a 70km return to Hanmer Springs through the St James Station. This is big country with views to match of the surrounding 2000m peaks, throw in a couple of suspension bridges over the river and three passes to climb before the return to town over a final pass and a newly reopened pack-track down onto the Hanmer Plain, and you have the recipe for an epic adventure ride .

Let the pictures tell the story…

In Reefton we had a trip around the old mining tracks at the back of Blacks Point; there are some great sections of single track linking the mining sites, sometimes we were rewarded with relics from abandoned mine workings slowly disappearing back into the forest surroundings.

A fine West Coast day was the perfect excuse for a Heli-Bike trip up on to Croesus Knob sitting at 1200m behind Blackball. Chad and Peta were keen to go and so after an early call to Alan from Airwest Helicopters, we munched a quick breakfast at the Old Nurses Home in Reefton before I dropped Chad and Peta at Airwests base just outside of town and I headed on with the bikes to the pickup point up in the hills behind Blackball. This gave Chad and Peta an extra take-off and landing and 50km of flying which seemed to go down pretty well!  The weather was outstanding with views out over the Tasman Sea and of the Southern Alps and Mt Cook far to the south; the only difficulty was trying not to stop too often to take photographs…

After a stop at Ces Clarks Hut for an early lunch we then diverted to Garden Gully Battery to help explain the difference between this style of battery and a Duracell 🙂 before finishing with a glass of beer in the Blackball Hilton and heading on for Hokitika.

Catching a dry day on the West Coast meant we could take on the West Coast Wilderness Trail and knock off the best section from Kumara back to Kaniere giving us 60km of grade 2 cruisy riding, but just so that it wasn’t ‘too cruisy’ I added in the 7km of the Old Water Race track which cranked up the difficulty to grade 3, grade 4 with some step sections thrown in, this made sure Chad and Peta were properly worn out, therefore receiving excellent value for money times distance travelled!

The rain caught up with us for the next couple of days and we used some of that time travelling the 500km down the West Coast to Queenstown with an overnight in Makarora on the way.

In Queenstown we had a warm up ride on a cool day around Jacks Point…

and followed that with a circuit of Moke Lake, bumping into a few locals along the way.

On the day the clouds lifted we took on the classic Queenstown ride with multiple runs  incorporating ‘Rude Rock’ (note the shape of the rock perched on the hillside) ‘Pack, Track & Sack’, the relatively new grade 5 link which leads down on to the classic ‘Skippers Canyon Pack Track’, these three tracks give something over 600 vertical metres of descent and 9km of prime single track with a few scary bits thrown in, as well as a neat old stone hut where Chad had time to read the visitor book before our shuttle arrived…

in-between times we had a few runs of ‘Zoot’ and finished off the day with the ridiculously steep Slip Saddle which drops you into the gentler ‘Bush Creek’ ride through many creek crossing all the way back to Arrowtown. It would have been more sensible to join the paragliders and descend gentle to earth rather than plummeting down Slip Saddle!

Departed Queenstown for Tekapo and an overnight stop in a neat Shepherds Hut 7km along the lakeside where the following morning we had a ride through the local forest and on the trails above the town with great views of the lake and the Southern Alps.

And to complete 14 days of epic mountain biking we saved the best-till-last (in my humble opinion!) by riding the Craigieburn trails and especially the Edge Track high in the Craigieburn Mountains on yet another clear blue skies day…

I get to do this all over again sometime… some folk have to go back to 40 degrees in Perth… darn good excuse to call by this way another time I would think!

Finished off the tour with a few beers to help fill the kitchen shelf and a pie from the famous Sheffield pie shop.

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BIG NZ Tour. February 2017

BIG NZ Tour. February 2017

31 photographs covering 21 days from Whakarewarewa Forest on the North Island to The Craigieburn Mountains on the South Island.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words (“They” either being early Chinese or 20th century Americans depending on which translation you read or who might have first said something similar!). and so here are 31 pictures covering 21 days and 11 major rides across  New Zealand.

Click on the first picture if you want to see them all full size…

And as has now become tradition on the Craigieburn trails some ‘Dead-Tree’ art is required before the long fast descent into Castle Hill Village and a cold beer…

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One-on-One Tour January 2017

One-on-One Tour January 2017

Started off this year with a One on One tour for Ross from sunny Queensland, Ross was used to Australian temperatures and so although I was riding around in a short sleeve shirt most of the time, Ross usually had his merino base layer on!

Started out with some excellent riding on the Craigieburn trails and as the weather turned bad on the West Coast we stayed an extra day and rode the trails we had missed on day one, lots of pictures because of the great weather on that side of The Divide.

Zipped up through Arthur’s Pass and cut back inland to Reefton for a late fish-n-chips and a late start the following day to let the rain subside and the sun to come out so that we could tackle the long climb up Kirwans Track. The track was very soft after the overnight rains and so the climb was very slow with us not arriving at the top until 4 hours had passed.

Found ourselves a friendly Robin at one of the snack breaks; didn’t see him on the way down as we made up for our slow climb with a one hour twenty minute return run.

Up onto the Denniston Plateau the next days to see how the track network is there, fortunately the good guys from Habitat Sports in Westport are busy improving the tracks and upgrading the signage.

There is even a gorge up there full of trees amongst the otherwise baron landscape.

Again after overnight rain we headed back through the Buller Gorge and stopped off in Lyell for a there-and-back to Lyell Saddle Hut on The Old Ghost Road, the rains had made the track pretty damp which wasn’t a problem on the slow climb but we ended up wearing most of the track surface on the way down!

Nelson was our next port of call where we took on Involution and the Dun Mountain loop in warm dry conditions.

Involution:

Dun Mountain, (The Coppermine Loop):

Ross enjoyed the unexpected company at ‘Windy Point’…

Stopped off in St Arnaud to ride the Teetotal Trails on our way to Hanmer Springs where we managed to get most of the ride in before the expected rain finally caught up with us on our run back to the car. Got changed into dry clothes down by the lake with those ever present sand flies for company…

The forecasted ‘weather bomb’ then began to develop as we headed through Lewis Pass in torrential rain but broke out into sunshine as we approached Hanmer Springs only to then hear on the news that the pass was closed by flooding and land slips.

After Hanmer we opted to try out the new Adventure Park in Christchurch with its chairlift bike shuttle options.

Great way to finish off a trip with 1280 vertical metres of descent and the chairlift taking care of the up. After all that riding I packed Ross back off to Queensland so that he could get back up to his regular temperature!logo-fullsize

Nine day ‘full-on’ MTB tour…                  Top of the South Island.

Nine day ‘full-on’ MTB tour… Top of the South Island.

Day 1: Started in the Canterbury High Country with clear blue skies as we all headed up the long access road to the Craigieburn ski fields nestled at 1300m. The descent down The Edge Track is always a goodie as your tyres cling to the narrow slot across the scree slopes and then on down into the rooty beech forests below.

A fast traverse across The Luge Track brings you out to a short climb before heading across towards Dracophyllum Flats a neat track that undulates through the Dracophyllum plants before the long climb up onto The Hogs Back,

(The old dead tree is always a good spot for a wee bit of bike art!) By this stage the legs are feeling well used but the climb is rewarded with a very long descent down into Castle Hill Village and for us a waiting shuttle to take us to our overnight accommodation at Flock Hill High Country Station.

Day 2: It was up and away early the following morning for an appointment with The Old Ghost Road. Everyone was prepped and ready with their overnight gear stashed on various parts of body or bike for a night in Ghost Lake Hut high in the Lyell Mountains. The weather was good for the long slog up past Lyell Saddle Hut

and eventually out into the clouds on the open tops at 1320m and the last 5km on to Ghost Lake hut nestled at 1200m for our overnight accommodation.

Day 3: A good night’s sleep in the hut prepared us for the long 55km exit to Seddonville. It’s an exciting start because within 1km of the hut you hit a stack of tight descending switchbacks which is an ideal wakeup call! Followed by some high top ridge riding a good dose of climbing through the ‘Bone Yard’ and the long exit following the Mokihinui River past the ‘Suicide Slips’ and on out to Seddonville for a well-deserved beer and  a bike wash

Day 4: The expected bad weather arrives with rain and low cloud and a phone call to the local helicopter company confirmed there would be no landings on the tops today. Undeterred we headed off for Blackball to take on the Croesus Track up in the Paparoa Mountains with a ride up and back with a target of Ces Clarks Hut perched just below 1000m. The rain came and went and the wind was blowing pretty well on the open tops but we made it to the hut for a lunch stop before a rapid descent on the rocky track where we then used the trailer as a changing room as the rain bucketed down, all then retired to ‘The Blackball Hilton’ pub for a few beers and a good meal.

 

Day 5: We abandoned Reefton and the rain and headed over to our next stop in St Arnaud hoping that the rain might be lighter inland. Arriving in the dry we got kitted up and rode out of town to try out the Teetotal Trails and although the rain caught us up and the temperature dropped sufficiently for the rain to turn to hail we still managed around four hours of riding, slipping and sliding!

Day 6: Was going to be a trip up onto the tops locally but no one was very keen looking out the rain washed windows and so again a quick change of plans saw us pack up, take a quick look at Lake Rotoiti…

stop in Wakefield for what was becoming a regular pie stop…

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…and drive over to Nelson where we did manage to leave the rain behind and stretch our legs with the long climb up into the hills for the fantastic descent down ‘Involution’ one of the many great trails built around Nelson.

Day 7: Travelled over to the Takaka Hills for the Rameka track with of course the now obligatory stop for coffee and pies… The sun was shining and a plan was hatched to split into two groups where the slower group would cruise through and the quicker group would have a double hit with our trusty shuttle driver waiting at the bottom for a quick 45km return back up and over the huge Takaka hill and back in on the 11km of gravel road to the drop off point for a second hit, a fantastic track well worthy of a double run.

Day 8: We took on The Dun Mountain loop, starting in Nelson and climbing up to just under 1000m high on the mineral belt.

 

A long steady climb is rewarded with wide open mountain views and 15km of downhill which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.rmba-si-1741

Day 9: Today the weather stayed fine which meant the planned Heli-Bike trip up onto Gordons Knob, east of Golden Downs high the Gordon Range of mountains was on. So we all hopped into the Minivan and on over to Reid’s Helicopter base in Wakefield and 10 minutes’ after take-off we were standing east of good old Gordon’s Knob at an elevation of 1564m, (5130 feet in old money).

The weather was great, sunshine and only a light breeze which meant there was no rush to lose altitude and so we played around on the tops for a couple of hours or more …

before following the poled route down the ridgeline (which wasn’t always rideable!) and out onto a fast fire road to our waiting vehicle kindly delivered by Reid’s helicopter boys, thanks guys!

And that completed a whirlwind tour of The Upper South Island and what a way to finish…

The Riders:                           Earl, Hana, Jonathan, Peter, Michaela, Ivette.

Support:                               Bryce and Dave.

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Almost Spring on the Queen Charlotte Track.

Almost Spring on the Queen Charlotte Track.

The glossy brochure says “Experience the heart of the Marlborough Sounds while biking the spectacular Queen Charlotte Track, a 70km journey with epic scenery, ride through lush coastal forest, around bays and along skyline ridges, you will be rewarded with unsurpassed views”

But as we have discovered on previous trips to this part of the South Island it also rains quite a bit…

The forecast looked ominous for the weekend as we packed our gear for a Friday morning departure on the Interisland ferry, but hey it was still dry at that stage. Arriving around lunchtime in Picton we transferred to the water taxi for a 40km ‘cruise’ out to Ship Cove in the outer Sounds as the clouds gathered the rain began and the water started to cut up rough.

By now it was mid-afternoon but we only had a couple of hours riding to Endeavour Inlet for our first overnight stay, but plenty long enough to get plastered in mud and wet to the skin, this was to be the theme for the next couple of days, but we had a roof over our heads for the night and a place to dry out and enjoy a good feed.

Day two dawned grey with showers wiping through on a stiff breeze as we ventured out in our dried out gear which at least felt good for the first half-an-hour of our five hour ride. As with day one the descents on the clay surface which resembled small streams in places made for ‘lively’ riding and it wasn’t difficult to smile once we reached the bottom still in one piece.

Again a comfortable overnight stay awaited us with good food and an opportunity to dry out and prepare for the next day.

Day three had an even split with 20km of the track remaining and 20km of road and a new trail back to Picton, complete with a bike (and person) wash facility at the tracks end, Anakiwa. The ride back to Picton took in an excellent piece of new MTB trail running alongside and far above the road complete with a hammock and it had stopped raining!

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Finally a pre-arranged shower and clean-up awaited us in Picton before a return trip on the Interislander and a couple of days at home cleaning gear, servicing bikes… … that’s the QCT logo-fullsizeon a wet weekend.

21 Day BIG NZ Tour

21 Day BIG NZ Tour

Rotorua to Christchurch and most places in-between…

After a warm up day in Rotorua we headed out for some ‘Real MTB Riding’ on the wild and remote Moerangi trail. There has been some fairly impressive water damage since our last trip in December after this area caught the tail end of a tropical cyclone.

Shot on down to Taupo afterwards for some pleasant riding on the Kinloch trails, sampled the full length of the Waihaha to Waihora track there and back, (55km without the drop down into the bay and back up).

The weather forecast was looking ominous as we headed across Pureora Forest to start the first leg of the Timber Trail, and the rain forest ride lived up to its name and laid on a minor deluge of warm rain for us!

The rain had abated by the time we reached our overnight stop at Black Fern Lodge which gave us plenty of time to dry out before taking on the second part of the trail the following morning.

The day dawned bright and we were treated to a dry second half with a pleasant ride all the way out to the trail head at Ongarue. The huge suspension bridges are always a feature of the second half of the Timber Trail. Also this time we spent some time looking around the Ongarue Spiral created to allow the trains to lose height at a steady gradient, this involved some pretty serious rock work with picks and shovels…

We then headed for Ohakune where for a while the temperature gauge hit 26 degrees before the southerly kicked in across the Volcanic Plateau and we dropped to 16 degrees as we arrived in Ohakune.

An easy day the following day so we headed up the Old Coach Road to take a look at the old and new viaducts.

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Then it was time to take on the Bridge to Nowhere (plus a few kilometers more road ride having got the times wrong and missed the shuttle! Rob’s a commuter so we knocked off the extra 25km pretty smartly…)

A couple of sunny days down on the Kapiti Coast…

before heading south on the ferry and tackling Dun Mountain in Nelson.

I thought I would throw in a picture of the new mountain bike on a mountain before it gets too old, (not the rider!) The descent from Coppermine Saddle is still a gnarly, rock strewn descent all the way down into the valley below, only one pinch-flat from ‘that guy’ still riding with  tubes…

Over to the Rameka for the next ride, a rain soaked track kept the camera in storage but the Rameka extension just keeps getting longer and longer as the local guys extend the trail network.

Back to home base in Nelson to prepare for The Old Ghost Road two day adventure with the weather forecasters issuing a weather warning for that part of the country…

The day dawned grey but reasonably calm as we set off for the start point at Lyell in the Buller Gorge where we were met by a good steady rain that persisted for the rest of the day, but again the rain was warm.

The track surface is excellent and drains really well which is quite useful for these parts where several metres of rain fall annually.

once you get out onto the open tops some good rugged mountain biking is there for the taking, best to stay on the trail as some of the drops are big!

Our overnight accommodation looked a little gloomy perched at 1200m in the clouds but the wood burner was going in the main hut and we cooked up a hearty (re-hydrated) meal and most food tastes good when you’re hungry. The up/down bunk room in the sleep-out was cozy and we drifted off to sleep with the wind and rain beating on the roof.

The rain eased in the morning and we munched up a good breakfast and headed out on the 55km trip out to Seddonville. The single track sections along the first stage are just amazing, real grade 4 technical riding high up in the mountains and the single track just keeps going and gets progressively more flowy, but there are still a couple of tricky sections down the Mokihinui Gorge before finally popping out at Seddonville.

After that epic adventure we retired to The Old Nurses Home in Reefton for some refueling with a good meal at the local pub washed down with local ale.

And on another sunny day in Reefton I took the guys on a short tour of Blacks Point which isn’t a big ride but has lots of old relics (to compliment the riders!)

After sufficient rest, relics and recuperation we headed over Lewis Pass to Hanmer Springs for some single track riding on the purpose built trails around town.

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These were just a warm up for taking on The St James Cycle Trail where we were rewarded with 60km of big country riding under big blue skies.

We diverted off to Lake Guyon for a spot of lunch before returning to the trail and continuing on towards our turn off for Edwards Pass.

Stopped off in a small hut once over Charlies Saddle and Dale boiled up his billy for afternoon tea before the final push over Peters Pass and down to our waiting vehicle at the St James Homestead.

A great day out on a ‘Great Day’ a Real Mountain Biking Adventure… nicely followed up by a visit to the local fish-n-chip shop in Hanmer and a good sleep.

Our final outing was from the lovely location of Flock Hill nestled in the mountains on the road to Arthur’s Pass to take on the ever expanding track network in the Craigieburn Valley, 24km of supper single track at altitudes between 700 and 1300m and although the weather didn’t play ball, the riding was fantastic and a fitting end to 21 days of mountain bike riding in some of the best locations New Zealand has to offer.

Why not finish with a little bike-art on The Hogs Back Track above Castle Hill Village…

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Five day tour around Wellington

Just completed a short 5 day tour of the best that Wellington Region has to offer and the weather stayed fine and as the locals say “you can’t beat Wellington on a good day!”

Whole bunch of photos to follow to prove what they say…

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And some more;    Makara Peak MTB Park.

And finally a few of Marianne riding the Surly ‘Ice Cream Truck’ along the beach at Kapiti.

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It’s been a great summer, long may it continue into Autumn…