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Home for the holidays & happy 2016 yo!

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.

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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!

Anka

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Whistler EWS #6 Roots, rocks & slippery moss.

The EWS tracks were riddled with roots, hundreds and thousands of them, surrounded by the most amazing, loamy, hero dirt one can imagine, whilst winding itโ€™s way through some spectacular forests. Old manโ€™s beard blowing in the breeze, with very thoughtful hand carved wooden signs naming the trails and low clouds that move slowly caressing the mountain tops and hillsides surrounding this spectacular valley weโ€˜ve all grown to love so much. Oh, Whistler you are so gorgeous and so scary at the same time.

After the very demanding โ€œCrankzillaโ€ round we endured last year, of course we were all pretty scared coming into this round, wondering whether or not it would be a repeat of last years suffering or if the organizers would be kind to usโ€ฆ Turns out, they do have a gentler side and they wanted everyone to have a fun weekend of riding and racing. It was quite a relief to see all the lift access that we were allowed to use to access the trails, with very minimal climbing and very relaxed liaison times. Everyone seemed a bit relieved, but that didnโ€™t mean that race day was going to be an easy day. Easy days donโ€™t really exist in Whistler. Even though we didnโ€™t have to climb much, it still took most of us the entire day to fit one run in on most of the stages. They were all amazing, they offered everything, they were super technical, steep, rooty, rocky, pedally, physical, long and demanding โ€“ a pretty perfect combination for an enduro race track and everyone seemed to love them. Again, none of them were easy, but practice day was a big, rad day out on the bikes soaking up the sunshine and the big blue skies.

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

We were all pretty relieved about this round, and then the rain came. It rained all day and all night and those relieved feelings turned into anxious worries & nightmares about how we were going to get down those root riddled tracks come race morning. All the practice went out the window, along with my confidence. Race day turned into a day of somehow getting down the tracks and surviving them. It wasnโ€™t pretty, but of course we all did it. You just switch into this mode and get on with the task at hand. I felt stiff and scared and not too confident in these conditions, but we slowly checked the stages off, one at a time and every run improved slightly. By the time we got to stage three, I felt like I knew how to ride my bike again, stage four was actually fun for me and stage five was just a blast through the bike park and by the time we rode this stage, everything was bone dry & trustworthy again. Of course. Bloody Murphy!

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

I felt so ready and confident on all the race tracks during practice, but waiting my turn come race morning, I definitely felt a tad bit timid after the rain and I knew that I was in for quite a challenging day. Maybe it was a combination of the changed, wet conditions that we couldnโ€™t practice on, but also maybe a bit of what happened at the last round in Colorado. Either way, I just wanted to get through this round safe & sound. These races are never easy, even when the stats look a bit easier, some other unforeseen element will jump in there to make it hard for us in some other way. It ended up being such an enjoyable day out. The girls all had such a laugh and such a great time cheering each other on, listening to all the war stories, the mishaps and the funny maneuvers that were pulled off to get down these slippery tracks. Falling off bridges, losing gloves mid race run, stuck upside down clipped in, it goes on and on, and those are the things that I remember, that makes these hard days enjoyable, and what makes me chuckle for weeks down the line. There were so many Juliana riders out racing at this round and every single one of them represented so well, racing and riding their hearts out. Kelli ended up in 12th place, myself in 16th and Sarah in 17th spot. It was great to have the whole team back together and out there representing again. Huge thanks to Allan, Mary & Tom for getting our bikes dialed and our bellies full all week.

Gary Perkin photo.

Gary Perkin photo.

The organizers were spot on with the ratio, the trail comboโ€™s, the lift access and the liaison times. We had amazing feed stations with the most delicious mouth watering watermelon and a great atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. Cheers to everyone who worked so hard to avoid turning this round into โ€œCrankzillaโ€ two, you guys killed it!

Loving this chill day today, catching up with life and looking forward to a week filled with yoga, adventure rides, some laps in the park, womenโ€™s clinics and chilling at the lake of course.

Peace out,

Anka

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