– THE GREAT SOUTHERN RIDE
New Zealand’s South Island won’t be shown up by the bike parks of the North Island. Nicole Grimm-Hewitt went from North to south and back again to find some epic trails in wild terrain.
It’s no secret that New Zealand is an adventure playground. And for mountain bikers it’s pretty much Nirvana. The fact that it’s only a 3hr flight from the east coast of Australia makes it even more appealing! The biggest dilemma is whether to do the North or South Island. Either way, you’re a winner… With 12 days to spare my husband and I chose to embark upon a mission to ride what we thought were the best trails on the South Island. Given a time restraint and a desire to take our own bikes, we thought motor homing it was our best option. With New Zealand’s *Freedom Camping policy, this meant that we could virtually drive to the start of a trail, have an awesome time, ride back to our house on wheels and plan the next ride. Heading off to the right, we climbed a bit further on the Bowenvale traverse, a narrow singletrack that had sheep scattering from left to right. this fun little trail ends up in Victoria Park, a designated MtB area with heaps of trails. I highly recommend a bit more climbing from here as the descent on the ‘Flying Nun’ is well worth the effort. Winding its way down the hill, this fast, flowing trail had me grinning from ear to ear. After a small taste of the Port Hills, I set out the next day with ample water and snacks. Climbing rapaki again, I took the left option up Witch Hill reserve towards Crater rim. Summit road is mostly sealed and has several well signposted singletrack options that break off to the left and
right. Crater Rim Track traverses an extinct volcano and the exposed rock makes it a pretty technical climb. The views from the top to Lyttelton are spectacular, but it’s really hard to take them in and ride safely at the same time. I recommend stopping to soak up the moment every now and then. After Crater Rim, jump on the Bridle path past the Gondola, and then onto Greenwood track. At the end of this you have another decision to make. I chose to head down ‘Captain Thomas’ towards the town of Sumner. From here it’s a 13km coastal road ride back into town. If you’re after a longer ride you can head out along Godley Head, down Anaconda Track, which brings you out at Taylors Mistake. This ride is a full body experience with sensory overload. It has some long and fast flowy sections where adrenalin got the better of me and resulted in a few scary moments.