After quite a big break off the bike, it was time to pack away the gardening & DIY tools, and throw my leg back over my steed and get back to riding. I couldn't think of a better way to kickstart my summer riding than by jumping into the deep end and heading out on a big heli ride mission up Starveall mountain. An all time favorite of mine, in our backyard, which also just happens to be the very first heli drop we ever did when we looked at moving out to New Zealand, so it's quite special to me & always reminds me of why we moved out here in the first place.
The Starveall heli ride starts off on beautiful open tussock fields, with spectacular never ending views, and as you start dropping down, you ride through scree fields, massive rocky sections and eventually get to the tree line where you enter into the most beautiful, ancient, root cladded Beech forest that keeps you on your toes for the next few hours until you reach the river far, far below. To me, nothing quite compares to riding through a cornflakes cladded native beech forest with it's musty almost apple cider like smell.
Now that I was back on the bike, it was time to head to Nydia Track, one of my all time favorite places & tracks to ride for an overnighter with some visiting family who tramped in, while we biked. Nothing beats riding this track on a beautiful summer's day, catching glimpses of the turquoise water and the bobbing boats peeping through the podocarp forests, along the route. The best part of course is reaching On The Track Lodge, having a cold beer, amazing home cooked meals & settling into your cabin or yurt for the evening - not to mention the hot tub under the stars...
This photo above from Nydia Track, is what made me fall in love with New Zealand. The lush native forests & bush fascinates me & I'm in utter awe of it every time I set foot amongst these old, magical giants and to be able to ride my bike through these forests never gets old. They make me feel alive.
Not that Sven & I ever need an excuse to head out on a road trip, but with my sister & her husband visiting us, we loaded up the trusty van and headed out on a roadie starting off on the beautiful East Coast to show them our new home country. We had a little evil plan to show them all our favorites, hoping to entice them to move out here. It's not hard to convince anyone of anything when the beauty of all these magical places, speaks for itself. The joy of having visitors, is that you become a tourist again and end up doing loads of things that we'd never do or have always wanted to do. It makes you see & appreciate so many other things and it forces you to slow down, something that we don't do often enough.
Our next stop was Craigieburn, for some more riding, hiking & cave exploring. The scenery out there is just breathtaking, and completely different to the East Coast. We hiked around and up and over some beautiful rock formations at Castle Hill, watched the sun setting and waded waist deep up and through a cave system with head lights. The riding is always phenomenal, the weather was great & we got to do a few bonus shuttles down cocaine Alley - the upside of having family who don't ride bikes, they can shuttle!
Early summers in New Zealand is not quite as warm as it's other Southern Hemisphere friends, but we got pretty lucky and kept dodging the rain. If anything, the low clouds adds to the mood & the beautiful lush rainforest really come to life in these conditions. I don't mind carrying gear with me to cater to the four seasons that we can experience in one day. It's exciting & ever changing. Theres no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing :-)
A highlight for me this summer has been the completion of the 85km long Old Ghost Road track. After 9 long, hard years of work and red tape, they connected the track for everyone to play on. We jumped at the opportunity to do our first ride through and immediately booked our bunks at the Ghost Lake Hut to go and experience this longest single track trail in New Zealand. We opted to do this over two days and one night which makes the riding a bit more enjoyable as you don't need to take quite as much gear and food along with you. What they have created up there in those mountains is just mind blowing, and I salute and thank each and every person that was part of this massive project. Bloody well done!
Of course riding with photographers, Sven & Duncan on such a perfect day, meant that it took us a wee while. They were like two kids in a candy store and just couldn't get enough of the spectacular vista's. I would recommend putting this one on your bucket list of absolute must do trails to experience. In my opinion, the West Coast is the best coast. It is just stunning, the riding is amazing, hardly any people live out there (it may be due to the huge sandfly population), but every single time we head out West, we are in awe of this place & what it has to offer, I literally have to pinch myself.
We've just decided to head further south, this time to Queenstown. Catch up with some friends, ride some new trails & to ring in the new year. Summer has finally decided to kick in on Christmas day, so it's time to pull out the vests, slap on the sunblock and head out (and drink some beers of course)!
It's been great to be back at home, to have a bit of a break from the bike but it's been just as amazing to get back on the bike. I'm super excited about the new year and I've got some mega adventures waiting for me (I mean MASSIVE). It all kicks off around mid January, which is a bit bittersweet for me, as it feels like we've just got home, but time waits for no one and you need to just get on with it, make the most of every single day & be grateful for this wonderful life we get to live.
Peace out & happy new year to everyone!