Life on the road as a racer from New Zealand is pretty full on for six to seven months of the year, you are too far from home to go back between events so you slip into a nomadic rhythm, one event after the other, living out of a bag, switching between vans, rentals, planes and trains, crossing borders and sampling cultures. This wanderlust is what got me hooked on racing but by the end of the season i yearn for stillness, dream of routine and sleeping in the same bed for awhile. Finding the light switch at night. The Saturday market, the Wednesday night ride, the weekly yoga classes with your favourite teacher. Waking up to hearing the same sounds, waving at familiar people, getting to know the check out lady at the supermarket. Silly, small things right? These are the things I miss out on while living a life on the road so when I catch the first glimpse flying into Nelson, from the window of the small prop plane with the beautiful landscape laid out below me, I feel so relieved, so happy, excited and content. It marks the end of another racing season (and this was my final one) but it also marks the beginning of the New Zealand summer, ideal for a few mini road trips, micro adventures exploring new nooks and crannies of our relatively new adopted homeland.
After way too many flights and long drives the past six months the rules were simple; South Island only, no flights or mammoth drives just a few short overnight trips made possible by bike. New locations or some favourites done differently or with a new group of friends.
Wild West Coast New Years Escape
This was more of an escape with a group of friends, away from town, away from civilisation away from everything during the hectic tourist season. You can’t get more remote than a six hour 4x4 mission headed south from the last town and road on the West Coast. Along the way we parked the trucks and detoured along the old Haast-Paringa cattle track, basically an old road built back in 1883. This was overgrown jungle riding at its best. We were exploring by bike not mountain biking as you know it. You could hardly see, never-mind find the trail. After the usual sketchy suspension bridge and some boggy riding with multiple river crossings we arrived at our destination for the night, Blowfly hut built in 1905, pretty old for NZ history. The next three nights were spent in Barn Bay about as remote as you can get in NZ. Bush bashing our way in and then hiking down a river for a few clicks before taking a step back in time. Perfect way to see in the new year.
Old Ghost Road big day out.
A relatively new trail for New Zealand but an old one for us. It is the countries longest continuous singletrack trail, stretching for 85 glorious kilometres from Lyell in the Buller to the mouth of the mighty Mokihinui river on the West Coast. A gold mining boom in the 19th century where miners dreamt of connecting the road from both ends, was rather ambitious and it remained a dream until volunteers decided that it was time to connect these roads and 8 years later they’ve created a mountain bikers dream trail giving us access to untouched backcountry native bush.
We have literally done it every which way, out an back from either end, a helidrop and multiple through rides staying over at Ghost Lake hut. The word must definitely be out because the huts on this must do ride have been booked solid most of the summer, not wanting to miss out we decided to tackle the full ride all in one go. With no sleeping bags, extra clothes and three meals to pack it meant the bikes were light and efficient. It was still very much about the terrain and views but with no gear to weigh us down it was fast and exhilarating too and the cold beer and outdoor shower at the Rough And Tumble lodge at the trail end wrapped up an amazing long day.
Most of the time you feel the need to go far away from home, to get away, but how often do you literally head out on an adventure only a few kilometres from your house? We headed a whopping 8km from home for an overnighter on an island. Pepin Island is a private island next to our local beach of Cable Bay. You can stay and explore if you rent one of their cabins. It felt like we were a million miles away, hearing new sounds and seeing new sights. A highlight was watching all the fishermen launching their boats before sunrise and hearing the gentle put put purring of their engines as they glided out of the estuary on a calm and beautiful morning. The sunrise looked different than from our house. The light was different. We saw a whole new side to our own neighbourhood, and fell in love all over again. How cool is that?
Bikes and Boats
The beauty of heading to ride one of your favourite tracks each year is the fact that it is different every time. The trail constantly changes, the weather creates the mood, the group shapes the dynamic, your state of mind determines your enjoyment of the trip. Many factors are responsible for creating memories and how you cherish them. While we were avoiding planes this summer we never ruled out boats We’ve taken the water taxi out after riding Nydia Track many times over the years, this time though, we were lucky enough to be entertained by a pod of bottlenose dolphins, a rare sight, and probably my most memorable experience of being out here on the Sounds and a perfect example of how “old” favourites are never the same.
Hopefully this gets you all out there planning and scheming. You dont need an international or exotic destination for your own adventures, look a little closer, explore a little deeper.