Mountain biking for beginners
I amexcitedly sitting in the van with my mountain bike loaded in the back, the guide and my husband are chatting away in the front seats.
We drive out of picturesque Picton where hundreds of kilometres of biking and hiking trails hide among the native bush of Queen Charlotte Sounds and pull over seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
There is a little track entrance. The Link Track. Four kilometres which will some day link Picton to Havelock. I’ve never tried mountain biking before, but I know how to ride a bike so, duh, how hard can it be? An hour later.
I think I might die. I’m so terrified. They said it was a beginners track. The first 200 metres is a steep climb up which I walk my bike as no low gear is low enough to keep these thighs pedalling.
My breathing labours in great heaves from my lower back to my shoulders. I stop to admire the view, but really just to recover my hypersonic heart rate. I get off and push my bike on the inclines. And the declines. I get off to go across the damp bits. And the leafy bits. And blind corners. I get on only to ride straight flat bits. The views are amazing. Nearly 180 degrees over the sounds draped in deep dark greenery that rolls down to the sea. My fear is palpable. Or is that my pulse I hear in my ears.
I hop on and have another go. My left hand is squeezing the brake (because I quickly learned the front wheel brake is touchy after nearly flying into the abyss). I make my way down the hill.
My eyes are round, my mouth even rounder. Much like a cat’s bum, I imagine, as I breathe in short bursts imagining rolling arse over kite through the bush into the sea below.
I send my husband ahead of me. He stops every now and then and waits for me to catch up. I take ages.
There are tears. I know there’s no turning back so I tell him to keep going and intercept our guide whose plan was to drive the van to the end and cycle up to meet us. Peter Blackmore. He’s 60-plus and so fit he can cycle up hill and talk at the same time. Turns out he’s a professional water skier and is off to compete in the States this summer.
The plan didn’t work. Peter hoons up to meet me about half way through and finds me in a walking phase. I’m sure he’s never met anyone quite so useless. He tells me a story about the honeymoon couple from America. The young secretarylooking wife kitted out in all the gear with her own pedals who had never ridden a bike before and fell off a gazillion times. I’m not terribly encouraged. She sounds like more of a trouper than me.
I get my camera out and take more photos. Well it makes my stopping time productive. I photograph the views and take a drama queen selfie, then things look up. Peter has stopped at a wooden seat, with quite possibly the best view in the world, and is on the phone. I cycle past. I CYCLE PAST.
He doesn’t see me. With his words ringing in my ears that I should focus on where I want to go rather than right in front of me, I gain a smidgeon of courage. I take my hand off the brake, look further ahead and lean into the corners. I starting whooping! My husband has reached the road and he hears me coming. I make it. I’m alive. We high five and hug. I vow never to mountain bike again.
Marlborough has mountain biking tracks for all levels (even numpties). Join Wilderness Adventures to hire a bike and head out for a few hours or a few days on some of New Zealand’s most remarkable and stunning trails. See wildernessguidesnz.com
Megan is a leading travel bloggers. She was assisted by Destination Marlborough.
Taking a quick break on the Link Track in Marlborough.