adventure

10 days of Paltaโ€™s, ceviche, fruit cups, friendly people, heat, more fruit cups & the Andes Pacifico enduro stage race.

Itโ€™s pretty early on in the season for a big race, but this was one event that I wasnโ€™t going to miss. Iโ€™ve never been to South America and I love being involved with new events, so off to Chile it was. Upon arrival it was anything but chilly, it was bloody hot. Heat like what weโ€™re used to in South Africa, and I knew right then, that this stage race was not going to be a breeze. The heat is what was going to make this event a tough one, and the โ€œanti-gripโ€ dirt that everyone has been going on about.

Santiago was big, 6million people big, surrounded by massive Andes mountain peaks all around. It was dry, barren, polluted & dusty almost like Las Vegas, a city that just popped up in the middle of nowhere, but it was alive, colourful & bustling. It reminded me a lot of South Africa, the constant contrast between wealth & poverty. The shanties you drive past in your fancy car, the electric fences and gates in the neighborhoods. The maids. Only difference were the dogs, strays were everywhere, but they were all so friendly and non aggressive, unlike most South African dogs. Anyhow, those were my first impressions driving into Santiago. The greatest thing to me, were the friendly, warm people. Everyone, wherever you went were such amazing people. My lack of Spanish left me frustrated at times, wanting to communicate and chat, but our charade games would make do most of the time. We were welcomed into strangers homes like we were family, and that was to be the precedent of the entire trip. That and fruit cups. Delicious fruit cups.

The race was amazing. It was incredibly tough. We started high up in La Parva and finished up on the beach in Maitencillo. The 38 โ€“ 40degree Celsius heat turned it up a notch and the hike a bikes in the midday heat, made for some very long days out in the desert. The race stages were hard, technical, steep and strange. Strange in a good way, just weird to ride. Dirt like most of us have never experienced. Youโ€™d pick your line, go for your line and not even ever get anywhere near your line. This was to be the battle of the week, trying to pick and stay on line or on track. As soon as weโ€™d feel a little more confident, weโ€™d move to a new area with slightly different, anti-grip dirt and the learning curve would start from scratch. It was fun to try and figure this out, but also frustrating at times when the track looked straight forward, and usually youโ€™d be able to let it go, but you just couldnโ€™t out here. Not to mention the size of the cacti & its thorns that loomed around every corner. Besides the giant sized cacti, the rest of the vegetation scattered along the tracks were also thorny and they didnโ€™t move. Our hands and forearms were cut up & battered to smithereens, and our legs looked like we fought with some samurai masters. This is what I love about these sorts of adventures. Everything was new, everything was exciting, and everything was scary. This is what riding bikes is all about to me. The adventure of all of this, thrown into a race with all the variables and the unknown factors is what excites me and why I love to do these sorts of events. It is a race, yes, but it is an adventure. It is an adventure with a group of awesome likeminded people and you have to embrace anything and everything that gets thrown at you.

It was like a reunion of sorts with all our friends meeting up from all over the world for another suffer fest. The dark cloud crewโ€™s early reunion with loads of other familiar faces from previous adventures. Sven had a really bad first day, riddled with mechanicals, flats and of course crashes, that made him decide to focus on photographing the rest of the race. Everyone struggled with the stages, they were hard. Everyone crashed, got lost, got stuck and such, but everyone finished off the long days with a big smile and a sparkle in the eye. The food & the Chilean red wine helped ease the aches & pains after each long day, with loads of speculation of what the following day was going to be like. During the day, when youโ€™re struggling, you keep thinking of the end of the race, but when it comes around, there is that sad, flat feeling of the adventure being over. The Dark Cloud crew had their fare share of mishaps โ€“ as usual, but nothing too serious. We all made it. We survived the crazy Chilean backcountry and crazy tracks. I ended up taking the win, with Pauline Dieffenthaler in second and Julia Hobson (fellow Juliana ambassador) in third place. In the menโ€™s, Jerome Clementz took the win, with local Chilean Nico Prudencio in second and Francois Bailly-Maitre in third. Chris Ball also killed it as usual and Will beat me this time around. Damnit!

No rest for the weary as we managed to do some laundry and head South for about 5 hours to the mountains of Chillan to check out the area where the first round of the EWS will take place in a few weeks from now. Feeling pretty tired and beat up, all I wanted to do was sleep on the beach and eat more avocado everything, but it was time to do some more riding and exploring. I was loving this area. It was green and lush with beech forests โ€“ it felt like home! I loved seeing the smaller villages and towns and the quaint houses and gardens, this was the Chile that I had pictured in my head. We rode & explored for two days, did bits and pieces of one track; hike a biked to some steaming hot fumaroles to catch the most stellar sunset and to cook an egg. It smelt like Rotorua. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I wanted to keep going further south, to see more lush forests and lakes, but this will have to do for now as our time has run out.

We bee lined it back to Santiago, got home around 3am, woke up at 7am to wash & pack our bikes and to get to the Aquitaine Winery by 10am for a wine tasting tour with Eduardo at his family vineyard. This was a first for me, drinking wine at 10am, blending my toothpaste with tannins. Bloody hell, was it tasty. I could get used to drinking these delicious wines on the terrace at 10am. It was time to head home, back to NZ.

It was a whirlwind trip, with a wonderful race, in a magical country. It has been a little teaser of a big country that I cannot wait to return to and explore properly. Thank you Chile & its amazing people & scenery for a wonderful adventure. Thank you also to Mountain Works & Santa Cruz Bicycles Chile for all your help & late nights helping me with my bike, and to all the organizers for putting on such an amazing event. Eduardo, Nacho & Matias, Maria Eugenia & her family, Montenbaik, Sarita & all the chicas who ran everything. Cheers to all the drivers and everyone involved, it was magical and unforgettable & Iโ€™ll be back!

Next up: Trail riding trip with the SRAM family in Craigieburn forest & Nelson.

Peace out x

Dodzy Memorial weekend of stoke.

As soon as we wrapped up our 8-day Juliana video & photo shoot, we barely had time to do laundry & wash bikes before we headed out to Wairoa gorge for the DME. A weekend filled with good friends, great memories and amazing bike tracks in the middle of nowhere surrounded by beautiful native forest. I wasnโ€™t feeling tired at all, after filming non stop for the past 8 days, and leaving for Chile for a big race on the Monday following the DME, but I wasnโ€™t going to miss this for anything โ€“ knackered or not, weโ€™re going to the gorge to ride or race or hang out โ€“ whatever you like to call it โ€“ enduro-ing these days. The skies opened up for an entire day & night only to leave all the really techy tracks even more techy & slippery, but the sun was out and it felt like the perfect summer weekend. The tracks that we raced on this year were some of the hardest ones built out there and the slippery conditions made it really fun and also really unpredictable and bloody scary. Saturday was super fun, catching up with everyone, and riding some new tracks. I thought that by Sunday things would have dried up a bit more, but in fact it ended up being even more slippery. My goal was to get down the mountain, have fun, try not to crash too many times and to get to Chile on Monday for the Andes Pacifico stage race.

Well it started off well, and it ended off well, but the end of my 2nd run was pretty great until right near the end where I lost all my biking skills and crashed myself silly for a wee while and even getting jammed up in-between some trees. Not ideal, but no damage done, except for some major bruising. I knew right then that there was no chance of getting on the box that day. The girls that ride out here are absolutely amazing bike racers & riders, especially on the gnarly shit. One small mistake with this lot and youโ€™re off the back. Of course you feel that little bit of disappointment โ€“ that is normal, otherwise you wouldnโ€™t race, but that was washed away quickly when you think about the actual reasons for being out here in the first place. This is not about you or I or us, or racing this is about the great memories of an amazing friend & person, and celebrating everything that he was so passionate about. Cheers Dodzy for creating such an amazing playground. In the end Rosara smashed us to take the win, with Harriet in second place and Gabby in third. Super happy to see Gabby up on the podium โ€“ it made my day & I knew that this was a special weekend for her. Justin Leov took the Elite men's win & Sven got a pretty sweet looking first place trophy for the mantelpiece that we don't own - well done everyone!

Thanks to everyone for another amazing weekend of playing on bikes!

Next it was time to do laundry and pack up to head out to Chile. Andes Pacifico, here we come!

No better way to end a day of shredding & racing bikes with good mates.

bikes, burgers, beers & a bit of racing in Queenstown.

Fergburger chowdown What a great week of riding bikes, racing, hanging out, full moon yoga in the park, stunning sunrises, warm sunshine, swimming, drinking beers, racing down rude rock, shopping & eating massive Fergburgers while being surrounded by the most spectacular scenery wherever you looked.

Team Trail Fund

First up was the 6-hour enduro Super D race that Rosara Joseph & I teamed up to race together in the super competitive womenโ€™s category of teams of two. We were team Trail Fund NZ (www.trailfund.org.nz), and I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.ย  Not wanting to let down my Olympian XC teamie, I was getting a bit nervous, and even more so after our first lap when it was revealed to me that this was going to be way more of a xc race than anything else and not at all the track we thought it was going to be held on (which was nice and downhilly). Anyway, not having much of a choice, I gave it everything I could and we managed to clock 13 laps over the 6 hours of racing. I was knackered, but it felt great and we took the win! (Hats off to Rosara who almost died the day before after her carbon bars decided to snap while descending at mach speed).

6 hour Super D

Yippeeee!

The rest of the week was spent exploring old and new trails, shuttle runs, xc rides, coffee shopping, eating & free full moon yoga in the park with gluten free cupcakes & wine aprรจs savasana โ€“ thank you Lululemon! (No wonder their sports braโ€™s cost what they do).

Enduro racing

Next up was the Enduro race, which consisted of 4 super fun tracks, two of them were super pedally and 2 of them were proper, fast, flowy enduro tracks which made for a great combination of racing. There were also two pretty long liaison stages in-between and made for an all round super social, fun day of racing. The racing was super tight and that made it very exciting, especially when I ended up with a mechanical during my 3rd stage. A quick MacGyver fix managed to hold up so I could race the last stage, but in the end, I finished in second place only a few seconds behind the winner. Harriet & I ended up getting the exact same time down the last stage โ€“ Zootโ€™s, with a time of 1:55, which was really close to the top menโ€™s times, so I was very pleased with that. Cheers to Harriet for taking the win & to Rosara for third place. We rocked it.

Queenstown beauty

Cock Rock, I mean rude rock!

Of course a week of riding bikes will cause a few casualties - Boyd hit a tree, really, really fast and is nursing a fractured pelvis, Simon has another gimp shoulder for a few weeks after not agreeing with a gap jump, Sven tore his shoulder ligaments and wrote off his new helmet. Healing vibes coming your way!

Exhausted after a pretty jam packed week, it was time to pack up and head back home to Nelson to hopefully catch a few more sunny days up there on the bike before the Winter sets in.

Cheers to Queenstown!

Trail Fund NZ

The Old Ghost Road trail comes to life!

[youtube=http://youtu.be/_Fx4Ugdri5Y] In the North West corner of the South Island of New Zealand a ghost is awakening. A long-forgotten gold miners' road is being revived as a tramping and mountain biking track. Connecting the old dray road in the Lyell (Upper Buller Gorge) to the mighty Mokihinui River in the north.ย  The 80km-long Old Ghost Road will traverse virgin native forest, tussock tops, river flats and forgotten valleys.

 

We cannot wait to get out to the West Coast & ride these new trails! They look soooo sick! Cannot believe this is in our backyard either, could be the perfect spot to spend Christmas or New Years. Stoked ;)

 

peace out.

Anka

New trips, adventures & website to go live soon

We have just confirmed the dates for our mountain bike adventures for 2011, also added a new trip for next year that will be a Cape Town & surrounding areas only mountain bike trip- with no bike safari, for those of you that can't be away from home for too long. We will also be launching our new website within the next few days, so go and check it out for all the details, dates, and costs & book your spot now to experience ย the riding adventure of a lifetime in 2011.

www.ridehousemartin.com