Monday, December 31, 2007

Rameka Track

Today we went and rode the Rameka Track, which crosses the inland part of the Abel Tasman NP. You start at the top of the Takaka Hill and after a short ascent on the gravel road it is all down hill to Takaka. This is a one way track - unless you want to slog back up the tarmac to the top of Takaka Hill again, so it was Helen's turn to be chauffeur (payment for Aaron driving the girls around the wineries).

Aaron, Sarah and Dan about to head off

Helen spent the day pottering around Takaka, which is a crafty hippy town with some nice cafes. After lunch we headed back over Takaka Hill to see the source of the Riwaka River, which flows through limestone caves and reappears at the head of the valley through a big hole. Then we headed to Kaiteriteri beach for a swim on the way home. The water was surprisingly warm compared to Wellington!

Beach at Kaiteriteri

New Years eve - but we were all pretty tired so we just stayed at home, played a very long game of trivial pursuit and had a few drinks.... although later on in the evening Dan decided it was a great time to make a movie using all the toys that were in the flat! Dan has now posted the movie on youtube if you want a laugh...don't worry it is very tame!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tantragee Saddle

Today we had a pretty cruisy day. Helen and Sarah rode over Tantragee Saddle and down into Maitai Valley while I went and explored around the Fireball Road area. Everything around was steep – up or down. I was pretty overwhelmed by the difficulty of the tracks, but would like to go back when I have someone else with me.

Dan Mackay arrives later today. Hopefully he will go ride the scary tracks with me.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nelson Lakes

Today we drove up to Nelson Lakes the northern end of the Southern Alps, and a beautiful national park south of Nelson. We had checked the weather forecast which promised sunny and clear for Saturday and we were not disappointed as a few little clouds hanging around the sides of the valleys were soon burnt off.

Lake Rotoiti

We drove up to the lookout half way up Mt Roberts and got some spectacular views of Lake Rotoiti, a large lake in a glacial valley. We then continued walking, traversing the side of the valley and heading slowly up to Bushline Hut. Here we stopped for some lunch before Helen persuaded Aaron and Sarah that given we were so close to the top we might as well continue and complete the whole Mt Roberts circuit. The views walking across the top were spectacular and we walked past the back country Mt Roberts ski field. You have to be a dedicated skier to hike up the mountain and there are no lifts on the ski field either.

Aaron, Helen and Sarah near the top

We walked back down Pinchgut track through a beautiful beech forest. The whole walk took about 4 hours including our stops for snacks and lunch. On our drive back to Nelson we went and checked out the other lake in Nelson Lakes, Lake Rotoroa.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Kingsland Mtb and Rabbit Island

After a day off wine tasting it was back to more exploring of the local bike trails. We started out exploring the Kingsland mtb trails above Richmond, but quickly decided they were not too our liking. We ended up at Rabbit Island instead and did a fun little ride around the western part of the island.

Aaron riding up the Kingsland mtb trail

Lagoon around the far side of Rabbit Island

Afterward we tried to find some fish and chips for dinner on the beach, but struggled greatly. We drove along the beach and coast thinking that there must be a place, but didn’t managed to find one until we were one block from where we were staying.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wine Tasting

We decided a day off from the bicycles was necessary and headed over to Blenheim and Renwick to taste some of the famous Marlborough wines. We arranged to meet up with Anne-Laure and her friend for the day and Aaron was designated driver chauffeuring his harem of women. We went to three vineyards in the morning. We started at Nautilus, then a rather random one and then ended at Saint Clare. This was followed by a long lunch break with some good food at the Saint Clare winery cafe to soak up the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot's from the mornings tastings. With our tastebuds refreshed we managed another three wineries in the afternoon including Matua, Spy Valley and Cloudy Bay.

Vineyards at Spy Valley

Helen, Anne-Laure, Pauline and Sarah in the Cloudy Bay tasting room

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hira Forest

Today we headed out to explore Hira Forest. We headed out of town on the Maitai Walkway – a nice little gravel track that follows the Maitai River. We left this track and travelled a short way down the road before turning into Hira Forest.

We rode up fire roads for nearly an hour before reaching the top of the Ground Effect Slingshot. A singletrack the Kennett Bros book described as one of the “few tracks in New Zealand that return as much for your hard-earned elevation.” This track must have been in much better shape when they wrote their guide because it was rubbish! The track was overgrown with grass and gorse, rough and bumpy, and littered with loose rocks.

After the track thankfully finished, we entered Scottwood Wiggles. This track started out very similar but improved greatly when it entered the forest. This track eventually turned out to be pretty fun.

After the wiggles we made our way to the top of Ching’s Highway. This was described by the map as an intermediate grade descent back to the main forest entrance. In the end it turned out to be the worst trail any of us had ever had the misfortune of riding. It was overgrown with gorse, steep and rocky in places and we had our first casualty of the trip with Sarah going over the handlebars and grazing the inside of her mouth. Fortunately there was only minor damage to the bike, but I think her confidence took the biggest hit!

View from the top of Chings Highway

Can you see Helen?

I think we had better take the advice of the guy in the bike shop next time and go with a local! Sounds like there are lots of good, recently constructed, tracks out in the forest, you just have to know where to look!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Fringed Hill

Today was Christmas day, and the weather finally cleared up at lunchtime, so we headed out riding. Our plan was to ride up the Dun Mountain walkway to Third House and hopefully get some views of Dun Mountain. A last minute decision by Helen had us take a slightly different route up and over Fringed Hill (only 750m of climbing!). The views from the top of Fringed Hill were pretty spectacular looking down over Nelson and as far as Abel Tasman National park in the distance.

View of Nelson

There was a track that connected up with the Dun Mountain Track. What we didn’t realize was that the track down from the top was rated ‘difficult’! We started down the track, which was damp, rocky, root-infested and covered in beech tree leaves. This proved to be rather tricky to negotiate on the bicycles. After a few tens of metres the track rose very steeply – it was difficult to push the bikes up! Once we reached the top of the hill the track dropped rather steeply. I dropped my saddle and headed downward; thankful for the new back tire with lots of grip. Helen and Sarah did a lot of hiking!

Intersection on the Fringed Hill track

Eventually the track met back up with the Dun Mountain Walkway at Third House. From here we were all pretty wet and tired and decided to head back home. The ride down the walkway was a gentle gradient through a beautiful beech forest. Unfortunately a navigation error at an intersection had us miss the rest of the walkway and ride down a 4wd road.

Not the most traditional way to spend your Christmas Day and we finished with a meal of burritos!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Exploring Nelson

The weather was looking pretty ominous with grey clouds hanging over the mountains, so we decided to spend the day exploring Nelson. We walked into town and had a look around. We found our way to the Botanic Gardens and the geographic centre of New Zealand. Not too long ago we visited the geographic centre of the North Island. Now we just have to find the centre of the South Island.

The centre of New Zealand

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ferry to South Island

Sunday morning we caught the ferry across Cook Strait. Luckily, the sea was calm and the crossing uneventful. It was a beautiful sunny day so we spent a lot of time out on the deck as we cruised through the Marlborough Sounds. The drive from Picton to Nelson was not very far but took quite a while because of some pretty twisting and windy roads. Dan Mackay’s father had kindly allowed us to stay in a granny flat of the house he owns in Nelson.

The ferry going through the Marlborough Sounds.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sarah O'Callaghan Arrives

Sarah O’Callaghan arrived from Australia last night. We had brunch with Liz Forbes and her new boyfriend, Jay. Afterward we took Sarah for a ride around Makara Peak mountain bike park. In the evening we took her into Wellington to taste some of the delightful beers at the Macs Brewery and dinner.

Sarah at the top of Makara Peak

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Tree Trunk Gorge

On our way home we stopped to ride a popular mountain bike track called "Tree Trunk Gorge" just east of Tongariro National Park. This was a great little ride through some beautiful forest and with a couple of fun stream crossings to negotiate. The gorge is quite spectacular, supposedly you can kayak it but you have to abseil in! The "Pillars of Hercules", on the other hand, were not as imposing as their name leads you to believe. Another fun ride, and would make a nice walk.

Tree Trunk George

One of the several creek crossings

Pillars of Hercules Bridge

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Pureora Forest

On the way back from Tauranga we did a couple of side trips to explore some mountain bike tracks that we hadn't ridden before. Pureora Forest is just to the west of Lake Taupo and is an old logging area that has been reforested with a few remnants of original podocarp forest with Rimu, Kauri, Totara and other native trees. There are several tracks for mountain biking in the forest, mostly disused logging tracks, we headed to the northern one "Okahukura Loop". This was a fun, relatively short ride through some really spectacular forest. It wasn't too technical, and fairly undulating, but there were a few muddy spots.... it had been dry for weeks, but it had rained the night before. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend riding this after lots of rain... We also did a couple of short walks within the forest, one of which was to the centre of the north island - why? because we could! Lots more exploring to be done in this forest!

Camp setup - including our new tent!

Aaron stuck in the mud!

Geographic centre of the North Island