Escape • Explore • Enjoy • Exist

Category: Mountain Biking

13/11/21 Lake Tekapo

Dark grey wafting clouds smudged the mountain tops as the curtains were pulled in the third-bedroom.  The sound of the intermittent squally rain pounded the cabin.  Then it didn’t.

A little climb up at the 45th Parallel as we departed Cromwell.
View from the 45th Parallel of our third-bedroom.

Decisions were needing to be rendered as to how we should spend the next couple of days on the road.  The Thirsty Thursday crew had extended an invitation for us to join them in Queenstown.  The first night neighbour was encouraging us to join them in Tapanui, further south.  Staying another night at the same place to do absolutely nothing was as equally attractive.

But the NZMCA parking space we backed into with a new view through covering pine trees down to Lake Tekapo won our picture framed setting.

The third-bedroom parked up with a picture frame view of Lake Tekapo.
Mt John Observatory rose up across the lake.
An evening beverage on dusk.

Mt John Observatory rose up across the lake.  We couldn’t see it from the third-bedroom, however, absolutely could as we sat at a lakeside picnic table watching the sun sink behind it.

We were surprised at the lack of population out and about enjoying what we were witnessing, given the hordes of mobile accommodations sharing this slice of paradise.  Perhaps the heavy rain earlier in the day the reason.  Cold bones wanting the warmth of indoors on the dusk.

Tekapo is a popular tourist spot (227 kms from Christchurch) with SH8 dissecting the township.  For us, it’s usually a drive through or the occasional stop for a pee.  The fading light too took us indoors to hibernate and rest the weary bodies from the Dunstan Trail adventure.

It was back on the mountain bikes the next morning to explore.  We rode left skirting the lake front.  Lupins were in full colour with pinks and purples and whites.

A public toilet where you had to pay wave $1.50 to use was certainly a first.  Still is a first too as we refuse to pay to piss.  Dogs, cats, goats, horses, sheep, birds, cows and every other species don’t get afforded such a tax to pee and poo – why the hell should we?  So always carry a roll of toilet paper and if nature calls, try to be discreet, cover a turd for permanence, and empty out away from water sources.  Or in our case, find the next public toilet which was further around the lake front towards the Tekapo Hot Pools.

The hill side was being cleared behind the pools.  Track signage showed a route up to the Mt John Observatory.  Initial thoughts were to lock up the bikes and hike up however, a walker with children offered advice that it’s only steep initially and is bikeable once into the pines.

Not judging, our trust in fat bellies took a turn for distrust when we humped and pushed the bikes up and into the pines, only to find we had to hump and push the things nearly to the summit.  It gave the calf muscles some stretching.

An abundance of lupin colours graced the lake edge.
The hot pools setting up for kids bouncy castle play.
Stairway to heaven which is nigh the top.

The rewarding view from the observatory was absolutely panoramic beauty.  Up the lake towards the top end mountain range was a canvas of squally rain.  Every other direction was as far as the eye could see.  We could make out the whites of campers and caravans in our picture frame location as we sat at a picnic table on top of the world and feast on a savoury muffin and cuppa.  The café is awesome.

Our return route was virtually dropping straight off the observation point to follow a track on the farmland towards the Southern Alps.  It curled back around at the end of the peninsula, and we eventually did a complete circle arriving back at the hot pools.  It was bouldery in parts but doable.  Follow the horse poo as horse trekking shares the track.

From the Mt John Observatory looking back at Tekapo.
The Southern Alps view.
We think this is a pheasant that just happened to spook us.

It was back to the third-bedroom and new neighbours had parked up.  Another opportunity to greet, meet and swap nomad life on the road over a beer and wine.  Not as much as previous nights.

But just enough to be in a happy space to ponder a return back to Tekapo in the third-bedroom to explore some more.

Footnote: There is a wonderful sit-down toilet 280 footsteps from the northern end of the NZMCA camping ground.  It’s serviced, has toilet paper until you bum is content and, no charge.

12/11/21 The Dunstan Trail – Part 2

There is no explanation.

We have often experienced that when you travel a new route for just the second time in reverse, the distance covered seems to be a lot quicker time wise.

Anyone else share the same?

That was our new days Dunstan Trail anticipation heading back from Alexandra to Cromwell, on the bikes.

Until the weather gods decided to huff a gusty head on wind into our faces.

The first nine kms to Clyde were along the Otago Rail Trail which is virtually straight.  It was the warm-up.  Even the hundreds of rabbits infesting neighbouring hinterlands were perched low to the ground for contour line cover.  Laughing with squinted eyes.

Where we entered onto the Otago Rail Trail at Alexandra bound for Clyde.
Eggs and bacon breakfast at Clyde … not at Benjamin’s though!

Stopping at Clyde for an eggs and bacon our breakfast diet, the napkin taking off disappeared from the direction ridden, to become an added feature on the Clyde to Alex terrain.  There was only so many times one could lick the plate procrastinating what was the inevitable.  Toughen the fk up, get on the bike seat and get on with it.

Into it.

The Clyde Bridge with its magnificent structure above the Clutha Rivers was the crossing point of no return, before we hung a right, grinded up the dam slope and then into the gale.  Damn white caps on the lake were in their hundreds too.  A never-ending escort.

Mates from the Thirsty Thursday crew were doing the ride in the opposite direction to us – Cromwell to Clyde.  We knew there would be a nose rub reunion somewhere on the trail.  The first three riders of their group didn’t even recognise us as they flew passed at pace.  With the wind up their jacksies.  Possibly because we had our helmets down looking at the trail gravel for aerodynamics.  We did connect with the remainder of the group and seeing fellow bikers out there doing it lifted our spirits.

White caps escorted us up the lake.
Hugo swing bridge from the opposite view – ore spectacular than yesterday.
Thirsty Thursday mates from Christchurch riding with the wind.

It was the adrenalin shot booster to keep going after a group photo was taken.  Another stop was taken at a winery near Bannockburn where we sheltered under a heaving willow tree to eat our lunch – leftover lamb shank meat portion sandwiches and watching trail blazers arrive and depart at a gate that had to be negotiated after a little zig-zag ascent.   They were going with the wind too.

There were moments where the gusts nearly brought us to a standstill. The worst of it was actually along the trail on the northern side of Cromwell’s Lake edge where counterbalancing it meant the bike at nearly a 45° angle.

Cromwell just down and up around the bend.
Cromwell’s northern side on the lake was the worst wind of the day.

Unclipping cleats and dismounting after arriving back at the third-bedroom again above the 45th Parallel concluded the ride.  It had taken us longer today than yesterday for sure.  Meeting and greeting a new caravan neighbour, they were to ride the trail themselves today however, the tour company advised against it due to the wind conditions.  Pfft!

Made us smile and gave us some solace that we had knocked the bastard off because of the hurricane.  And before the forecasted change in the weather for it to become overcast and rain.

The other positive when doing a route for a second time in reverse, are the things you don’t notice going in the opposite direction.  We were certainly not disappointed in the days riding, wind, grime, dust, dirt and all.

Hopefully enough to motivate you to tick it the Dunstan Trail off – whether novice, intermediate or experienced outdoorsy type.

In either direction.

With the wind.  Or not.

11/11/21 The Dunstan Trail – Part 1

The liquid volume consumed the night before didn’t deter the anticipated excitement of spending bums on a bike seat ticking off the Lake Dunstan Trail.

Red line indicates the route to be ridden.

It links the townships of Cromwell and Clyde which was the direction we headed after securing the third-bedroom for a night of emptiness.

The fascinating landscapes so characteristic of Central Otago was reshaped from the pioneer days of panning for gold, and then again when the lake was formed. The 55 km of views, just never-ending spectacular.

Cromwell Precinct is worth stopping for a bacon and egg butty.
Nearing the Bannockburn Bridge loop end.
Into the gorge we head.
The elevated platforms jutting out from rock faces are brilliant.

At the Clyde end of the trail is New Zealand’s third largest hydro-dam, the Clyde Dam. This was one of the ‘’Think Big” projects driven by the Muldoon led Government to diversify the economy and drive growth.  Construction started in 1977, the first power was generated in 1992.

Could have done with a plug in during a daunting hump ascending the Cairnmuir Ladder and its 6-degree gradient.  Except, we don’t ride e-bikes.  While the bodies still can, we still ride good old fashioned traditional man-powered frames.  Or in BClaire’s case, woman powered.

Switchbacks gave little relief from the grind so when the brow was reached, we dismantled for a well earnt rest and the bonus, a selfie at the trails highest point trig marker. 

Up the Cairnmuir Ladder with it’s switchbacks.
What has been …
At the highest point on the trail.
Look to the left.
Look to the right.

Elevated platforms jut out from cliff rockfaces on either side of the marker along the trail, so there was some navigation to manoeuvre around on-coming bike traffic.  And the traffic included a heap of older generationals. Mostly on e-bikes.  The ones going in our direction left us sucking up their gravel dust.  Pfft, damn old people entitlement, oh!  Nah, It was inspiring to see and gave us some comfort to dream that we too would have many a day left to rotate the pedal into the nearing death years.

When the dam itself came into view, a second wind got us over and down except we didn’t stop at Clyde, we had to continue on for a further 12 kms following the river track on the southern side of the mighty Clutha River / Mata-Aua River, all the way onto Alexandra. It’s where we had booked a motel for the night, thus allowing us to carry only a change of clothes and our toothbrushes.

And down BClaire goes.
The Clyde Dam is nigh.
The Alexandra Bridge … made it.

An early night beckoned after a local pub meal and hydration top up.  A few marginal aches and pains from weariness.  Notwithstanding, the mind was in focus for the next day was going to be a repeat of this day.

Riding back the Lake Dunstan Trail in reverse.

How hard could that be with experience now under our arses?

Unless …

10/11/21 The Calm Before The Storm

The 45th parallel south is a circle of latitude that is 45° south of the Earth’s equator.

It is the line that marks the theoretical halfway point between the equator and the South Pole.

Unbeknown to us, we crossed it as we arrived at Cromwell after driving the third-bedroom south from Christchurch.  A short vacation with the only agenda item, cycle the Dunstan Trail.

The traditional Fairlie pie stop was above the 45th parallel, some ways back.  A must on anyone’s diet menu.  Or not.

A Fairlie Pie Shop pie – apple and pork.
Cromwell is the capital of the country for fruits.
The arsehole end of the apple!

Cromwell is 119 kilometres from the sea, the farthest from the sea anywhere in New Zealand.  And is the township that mothers the man-made Lake Dunstan.

Finding a slice of dirt to park up the third-bedroom had us switch off the motor at a NZMCA park for subscription campers – whether campervan, caravan or fifth wheelers.  It was also on the opposite side of the lake having had to point the nose in the opposite direction and furthermore, north of the 45th parallel.

Fields of blooms.
The calm before the storm.

Usual action list once the key is switched off is to place the door mate at the base of the step, turn on the gas for hot water, pop the top off a beverage, plonk ourselves down in the u-shape seating configuration and perv.  Sus out the neighbours and judge.

Wow, that’s a flash set up or OMG, how cool is that.  Left, right and partially directly in front.

It kind of decides who we should meet, greet and then introduce ourselves to be invited to join the camp conversation after an initial “I’m so and so…” and “cheers”.  For as long as bodies start to disappear to hibernate back to their own rigs for the night.

Now, you know I’m kidding about the judging bit.  You just can’t tell a book by its cover.  Not knowing neither that it was the calm before the storm!

The neighbours to the right had a wagon circle already with fellow nomads and so we thought it polite to invite ourselves.  One beer for me, and a glass of vino for BClaire would be our limit, knowing on the morrow, we had to bike the 55-60 odd kms of the Dunstan Trail.

To Alexandra.

There is no explanation as to how fellow beings can come together and just gel.  As if you were long lost mates catching up and therefore, banter, talk bullshit, laugh, sing and give philosophy opinion.

Three cans of beer and a bottle of shiraz for me; and a bottle of sav blanc for BClaire later … we were making up our bed in the u-shape of the third-bedroom where we had sat earlier, in complete darkness.

Luckily, on the left side of the mid-night hour.  But still above the 45th parallel.

Which once the bodies were horizontal, had us giggling that we had to cross it again before we even started the true Dunstan Trail south.

Day one, yep!

Introducing Eva and Richard … long lost mates met for the first time (the next morning selfie as the night before wasn’t pretty).

23/10/21 Kaikoura Anew

With each new sunrise, we start anew – author unknown.

Even if we went around in circles on purpose!

With two of the three sunrises anew.

Few places in the world that we have ventured too can boost a natural wonder offered by land and sea.

Only 2.5 hours drive from Christchurch is Kaikoura, a coastal spot dear to our hearts.

We got engaged here – on a Whale Watch activity where it was a captive audience when the question was asked.

And thankfully a positive response.

Returning to Kaikoura to say vows, exchange rings etc, etc, etc,

A new sunrise, something started anew.

Okay, there is a railway line between the mountain and the sea!

We returned this Labour Weekend here in NZ to tick off a couple of going in circle loop circuits.

We meet up with our campervan buddies Maree Grenfell and Randall Grenfell who also shared being loopee x 2 with us .  We also didn’t plug into power to test life off the grid.  Both experiences had their discoveries!

The first loop we tackled was The Kaikoura Trail.

Mountain biking it in a clockwise direction, we hung a right from our NZMCA Park at the northern end of to rotate the pedals through the township, up over a little mound and down passed South Bay, continuing alongside SH1 off road until the Kowhai River.  It was then navigating off road on track and shingle road towards the base of Mt Fyfe, turning right to skirt the base of the Kaikoura Sea Ranges until we reached the Hapuku River.  It was a magical twist and turn track until we met up with SH1 again before the final turn right and follow the old Beach Road back to The Third Bedroom.

Naturally, there were a heap more turn lefts and rights in-between.

This is an absolutely awesome natural wonder loop to do and suitable for all riders with basic mountain biking skills – whether an e-biker or a traditionalist pedal pusher.

It’s approx. 42 kms from the first rotation until the last and for the enthusiast – just like the sun comes up, it does go down.

Meaning, from the sea to the mountain, there is a mountain to the sea.

Riding alongside the Kowhai River heading inland.
Rest stops are necessary at our age. We have to convert to an e-bike.
The mountains are alive with the sound of jazz …
Remnants of yesteryear are evident.
Looking north up the Hāpuku River
This part of the loop was absolutely brilliant.

9/10/21 Duvauchelle Part 1 – Lamb Pie Bellies

Banks Peninsula
Looking across the bay from Duvauchelle’s Holiday Park, on sunrise.
Our third-bedroom down there … from us up here!

Duvauchelle, situated at the head of Akaroa Harbour on the Banks Peninsula … and another third-bedroom micro-adventure.

Commit to weave adventure into your everyday life.

Not too sure if it was standing on the shore line to view a glassy harbour sea view as the sun rose from behind; or the lumpy undulation ridden on the mountain bikes from Duvauchelle to Akaroa; or thinking a lamb pie from the Butchers Shop on the hour of 10am to satisfy the gut grumbles; or the lumpy ride back from Akaroa to Duvauchelle; or the meander around to the local pub for a pint and king prawn arvo tea; or the custard squally drizzle conditions getting damp walking back.

Or all of the above equates to weaving adventure into this day’s life.

Yep, it absolutely does.

Such commitment.

And, just to give you the heads up, there ain’t much side road between the white line and grass verge on the up hill part of the Takamatua stretch of road, when sharing it with other road users, just saying.

Coming down it neither!

The Takamatua stretch of road heading towards Akaroa, on the incline.
10 am pie belly.
What lies behind the yellow door?
There is still beauty when the rain falls.

2/10/23 Motunau – Road Less Travelled

You often see more from a bike seat versus a car.
BClaire and Julian treading Happy Valley Road, Motunau.
You could have wondered if you were riding some out back place in Auzzie.

Made time to get bum on bike seat and meander off for an out and back blat with Julian Doesburg.

There is always something to be awed by when you take a road less travelled.

Or never travelled!

17/9/21 Gore Bay Repeated

Looking back towards Gore Bay.

Our second jaunt out in the third-bedroom had us return to Gore Bay for a repeat escape location.

It was also an opportunity to test some more features of our home away from home.

And remember what being still and doing nothing used to feel like.

In between a mountain bike blat, walk along the beach, playing five-crowns, and noses in books reading.

BClaire reaching the incline from the south end of Gore Bay.

Quite hard for a couple who are ADHD!

These shoes have been up Mt Kili, Mt Everest Base Camp, Machu Picchu and now Gore Bay.
Eclipse of the sun at Gore Bay.

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