The Moa Chron­i­cles:

IN SEARCH OF NEW ZEALAND DIRT

Adventure - - Artic Skiing - By Loreen Ozolins Cit­i­zen of the Moun­tain bik­ing World

“There will be ter­rain on this trip that will chal­lenge all of you”, quipped our trusty guide, Greg McIn­tyre, of Fat Tyre Ad­ven­tures in Queen­stown. The goal was to ride from Christchur­ch to Queen­stown in 7 days amongst some of the great­est lo­cal sin­gle tracks that New Zealand’s South Is­land has to of­fer.

“This is not a race”, would be a phrase re­peated sev­eral times dur­ing our rides to en­sure that all 6 rid­ers, with vary­ing de­grees of abil­ity, re­mained fairly well grouped to­gether whilst ne­go­ti­at­ing the lo­cal ter­rain. Greg man­aged this with stel­lar ef­forts as he seemed to ap­pear at the back of the crowd to give me some point­ers on my tech­nique, then rac­ing ahead to be found re­gal­ing sto­ries of naval sheep fluff to the lead pack whilst I caught up! A mean feat not many brave souls can ex­e­cute as flaw­lessly as Greg. Af­ter the pickup in Christchur­ch, our 1st stop was to the thriv­ing me­trop­o­lis of Ham­ner Springs. This lovely warm-up ride was to al­low Greg to gauge the rel­a­tive skills of each rider and to pur­chase any spare kit re­quired for the next week. With a sunny af­ter­noon at hand and plenty of en­thu­si­asm on our side, we set out to “work out the kinks”.

Day 1: Ham­ner Springs.

Dis­tance: As long as you like.

Grade: Vari­able

The af­ter­noons ride started with a short up­hill sec­tion,then off to the right to play in the newly planted pine plan­ta­tions. The ter­rain was mixed cross coun­try tracks in­ter­laced with dirt roads in a beau­ti­ful pine for­est set­ting with some stun­ning views of the town be­low. Some sweet down­hill sec­tions added to the gen­tle break­ing in of the bikes and the re­lease some en­thu­si­as­tic pent-up en­ergy. Al­though not very well marked to the unini­ti­ated, the area over­all had sec­tions that begin­ners to ex­pe­ri­enced rid­ers would en­joy im­mensely. Great sin­gle track with few un-ne­go­tiable ob­sta­cles thrown in for fun was par for the course – al­though I did man­age to take a nasty lit­tle spill slid­ing down­hill on my back on a tech­ni­cal up­hill sec­tion. And Ross, one of our rid­ing com­pan­ions from the USA, man­aged to end up in a creek bed look­ing bat­tered and bruised af­ter rid­ing off of a well marked bridge.

A few Speight’s back at the mo­tel helped en­sured he got a good night sleep and his bro­ken wrist wasn’t di­ag­nosed un­til he re­turned to the States 3 weeks later. A few more hours play­ing in the sun and we all got ac­quainted a lit­tle bet­ter over a gourmet feast of Wapiti steaks bbq’d by

our trusty guide at the end of day. Those Speight’s never tasted so good!

Day 2: Wharfedale Track. Dis­tance: About 4 hours worth Grade: 3+ The Wharfedale Track is lo­cated in the hills near Ox­ford and is a one-way track re­quir­ing a re­turn ve­hi­cle at the end of the day. The start is a de­ceiv­ingly gen­tle up-hill climb on a cross coun­try trail into some beau­ti­ful na­tive beech for­est. Orig­i­nally an old stock route, this trail rapidly turns into a fairly tech­ni­cal chal­leng­ing sin­gle track. The wet Spring con­di­tions made the track what moun­tain bikes were made for as the mud and slip­pery ex­posed roots run­ning side­ways across the track re­quired good tech­nique lest the slip­pery devils wipe the wheels right our from un­der your feet! The U-bend drains on the track are also just the right depth to have some peo­ple prac­tic­ing their hand­stands, as Bruce, an­other com­pa­triot, so aptly demon­strated. The trail then opens up into a pleas­antly un­du­lat­ing farm track which criss­crosses a stream, a par­tic­u­larly wel­come splash on a hot day. Then an up­hill climb through a sheep sta­tion leads to the pickup point where some cold brews were wait­ing. Stun­ning alpine views re­quired nu­mer­ous pho­tos stops and the seclu­sion on the trail was sheer de­light. Al­though, not a be­gin­ner trail, with good fit­ness and good trail shoes, this could be the des­ti­na­tion of next years Cy­clo-cross event!

Day 3 Craigiebur­n Dis­tance: About 4 hours Grade: 4+ Day 3 dawned cold with dark thun­der­heads threat­en­ing to re­lease

their load at any mo­ment. But with the adren­a­line still rid­ing high, we dawned our gear and hel­mets and climbed the ac­cess road to the Craigiebur­n ski lift for a loop ride. This track was orig­i­nally formed to walk the rope for one of the ski area lifts and is quite ex­posed and chal­leng­ing. Con­tin­u­ing up the road from the Lin­coln Univer­sity ski huts, the road ends un­der the orig­i­nal ski tow. From there, the “barely there” trail heads off to the left across the 1st skree field of many on this ride. Luck­ily, the fog had set in, as did the fine mist that blocked the view of pend­ing doom and cer­tain death as we blindly fol­lowed one by one across the misty moun­tain skree in search of dirt. This par­tic­u­lar trail is a liv­ing moun­tain bik­ing mon­u­ment to those who forged this chal­leng­ing trail by those hard men to drag up the equip­ment to set up the ski tow. For the unini­ti­ated, there were a few sec­tions of “hike-a-bike” as the skree fields grap­pled with the steep, slip­pery, wet rocky ter­rain to tempt the few who ac­cepted the chal­lenge. The skree fields are sep­a­rated by some lovely deep forested sec­tions of beech which padded the sin­gle track me­an­der­ing its way up, down and around the Craigiebur­n moun­tain. Al­though the trail is clear, there were plenty of forks en­coun­tered on the trail as ev­i­denced by the “leader of the pack”, Matt - a univer­sity com­pet­i­tive rider from the USA, fol­low­ing the

in­struc­tions from our trusty guide, “when you come to a fork, STOP”. How­ever, all trails lead back to the main road, so one can­not re­ally go wrong. Rid­ing Craigiebur­n is a great day out for those ad­ven­tur­ous souls who en­joy great sin­gle track rid­ing at its best.

Day 4: Top of Danseys Pass to Danseys and Naseby Dis­tance: Who Cares Grade: Who Cares There were 2 dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent rides this day. Who said there was no such thing as a free down­hill? This gift from our guide, who drove us to the top of Danseys pass, a high tus­sock sheep land in the Kakanui moun­tains was a thrilling easy down­hill sprint into the town of Danseys on the well main­tained dirt road. Who cares what the grade is….it was just sheer down­hill fun with great views. Luck for us we had a young Scot­tish doc­tor, David, with us just in case any of us got into too much trou­ble!

The 2nd part of the ride was near the once bustling min­ing town of Naseby toted to be “2000 feet above worry level”. If Queen­stown (or is it Auck­land??) is the play­ground of the rich and fa­mous, then Naseby has got to be the play­ground of the dirt en­thu­si­ast. A dirt track play­ground set amongst a pine plan­ta­tion, gen­er­ously of­fered by the lo­cal

farmer, of­fers some fan­tas­tic sin­gle track to ex­plore and has got to be the most fun had on 2 wheels. Play­ing un­der the canopy of this ex­otic for­est, th­ese twist­ing and flow­ing tracks of­fers thrills to both ex­pe­ri­enced and be­gin­ner ad­ven­ture seek­ers alike. Whether you want to thrash your new wheels or brush up on your skills, you can take each trail as you find it and not have to worry about find­ing your­self in a place of no re­turn. Al­though it is a bit of a maze of trails, it isn’t too dif­fi­cult to find your way back to town. A fan­tas­tic play­ground for all ex­pe­ri­ence lev­els.

Day 5: Land of Rohan Dis­tance: Re­ally long To re­ally ex­pe­ri­ence the di­ver­sity of the NZ land­scape, you must ex­pe­ri­ence 1st hand, this ride through “Lord of the Rings – Land of Rohan”. This ride is a 5 hr+ cross coun­try trail through some of the most rugged and re­mark­able scenery that NZ has to of­fer over farm track and sheep trails. This is private prop­erty re­quir­ing spe­cial per­mis­sion and a good re­la­tion­ship with the lo­cal farmer to ac­cess this re­mote coun­try­side. This is also the home of the Pool­burn dam. A long, as­cent on a well de­fined farm track weaves its way into the chang­ing ter­rain from al­most des­o­late plain to clas­sic sheep mead­ows. From Lake Ma­niapoto you must have a guide to lead you through the maze of great sheep tracks and fan­tas­tic over­looks that mark the 2nd half of a full day ride. Watch out for the bitey punc­ture in­duc­ing Spa­niard Grass– Tube­less tires full of slime are a bless­ing in dis­guise!! Bring plenty of spare tubes and a big lunch!

Day 6: Lean­ing Rock, Dun­stan moun­tains Dis­tance: 4-5 hours Grade: 3+ Clyde has some amaz­ing down­hill tracks if you know where to look. The Dun­stan tra­verse, a Fat Tyre Ad­ven­tures trail, has 1700 m of de­scent through stun­ning land­scapes, huge rock Tors and old gold min­ing wa­ter cour­ses, which Greg is happy to bring to life as he re­gales the sto­ries

of the old min­ing days in the area. Of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to our own ‘young Aus­tralian”, Mark, was the “Young Aus­tralians” mine, which still has the orig­i­nal wa­ter wheel on dis­play as its main at­trac­tion. The com­bi­na­tion of high coun­try track, sheep trails and awe in­spir­ing views with a “not too tech­ni­cal” grad­ing made this ride one of the fa­vorites – al­though one does need to keep vig­i­lant on the down­hills to en­sure that “baby heads” don’t have you ca­reen­ing down face first drag­ging your bike be­hind.

Day 7: The Old Wo­man Range Dis­tance: 4-5 hours Grade: 3 The “piece de re­sis­tance” came on the 7th day: a He­li­copter ride to the drop off point on a high tree­less peak, for some more down­hill thrills in the Old Wo­man Range. Fore­go­ing any word play on the name, the area it­self was as re­mark­able as any scenery we had rid­den so far. Mainly dirt track and sheep trail, this down­hill run was sheer de­light all the way. Af­ter hav­ing rid­den all sorts of moun­tain ter­rain in the USA, Europe and Asia, the variety, di­ver­sity and sheer beauty of New Zealand’s South Is­land sin­gle track is as good, if not bet­ter, than you can find any­where in the world. So rather than dream­ing of ex­pen­sive hol­i­days in search of ex­otic dirt else­where, head down to the South Is­land and ex­plore this amaz­ingly di­verse ter­rain on your own 2 wheels. Hav­ing achieved the goal of rid­ing from Christchur­ch to Queen­stown in search awe­some sin­gle track and a few new bruises to add to my ever ex­pand­ing col­lec­tion, my moun­tain bik­ing ad­ven­ture comes to a close with the help of Greg , an awe­some guide, and a few new rid­ing com­pan­ions. To Book this amaz­ing NZ South Is­land Ad­ven­ture, con­tact: Greg McIn­tyre, Fat Tyre Ad­ven­tures Ltd. www.fat-tyre.co.nz

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