Into The Trees – W2k Track, Rotorua And Whirinaki…
“….one is defined by what one is not….” – Jean-Paul Satre
So who in the hell are we? Who in the hell am I? A brief look into the plethora of window facades in a shopping arcade and the noise of advertising barrage will tell us someone wants us to be something we are not. We can’t all be supermodels, we can’t all be the next celebrity, we can’t all be the on the front page of the tabloid press, and somehow that is ultimately pleasing. The television shouts messages telling us who we should be, the newspaper pumps out regular articles telling us what we should and shouldn’t eat. Figuring out who we are, and what we are is difficult when we have so much distraction.
For me riding is the antithesis to these distractions. It feels real; it is borne out of a desire to feel, and be, free. In a world that pushes the exponential desire for everything to be bigger and faster, I feel that something fundamental is missing. The ability to live in the moment, being who you are and how you are; all of these come together in the feeling of ‘the ride’, and this is the reason why I indulge myself in all things 2 wheeled.
Sometimes a ride is perfect; I can feel that I got lost in the ride, lost in a moment, lost in time. “I had no time, I had no thoughts”. In the words of Tyler Durden “…I became the calm, Little center of the world. I’m the Zen master.” The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi remarked that this is evidence of flow, or more so that these bodily responses are what contribute to what we define as ‘flow’. Cutting and building a small section of track can take days, hours and minutes, and yet in what can be in the blink of an eye, the wheel of the bike goes through it. We push our hips, we pull the bars and all of a sudden another section comes into a view. We may have ridden the track a hundred times, or it may be the first time we have been here. Palms sweat, the mouth runs dry and yet we are compelled to carry on, and like a wave on a point break we are immersed completely without realising. The desire for this feeling is the reason why I ride.
Even though my activity remains the same, and I am in a different country, I can’t help but look forward to what Sheffield has to offer for the future. New tracks are being built, old ones are getting a new lease of life, there is a race in a few weeks’ time, and there is a consistent attendance to the night time dual races. Life is good right now in the world of Sheffield’s riding; after all it is the centre o’ the universe!
In New Zealand there is an approach to mountain biking that I wish the UK could follow verbatim. The local riders cut and dig, the local Councils get behind projects, all respect the delicate ecosystems, and suddenly we have sport that is all-inclusive. I recently had some time off work and decided to venture North of Wellington to Lake Taupo and the famous Whakarewarewa forest in Rotorua. Saturday took me on a short one-hour blast around the shore of Lake Taupo (a volcano with a violent history whose ancient eruption was one of the largest in recorded history). The track, W2K, is a purpose built dual use track, and the hard sandy surface is a blast – never too vexing on the climbs, and fast and flowing on the downs.
Whakarewarewa Forest near Rotorua, is basically amazing, a trail riding utopia, even though the World Champs track a few years back is no longer in existence – apart from the infamous Red Bull wall ride, which is fading away in a sheep field. The scope of trails are seemingly endless and an afternoon ride like the one I did wouldn’t do the place justice. So I am going to return in a few weeks time for a few days and give you a full report. In the meantime here is a pic of me and a massive tree.
The next stop was Whirinaki Forest Park a 55,000-hectare enclave of indigenous forest located south east of Rotorua, which has a global ranking for its biodiversity and ecological features. Whirinaki’s most striking feature is its awe-inspiring trees, of which the totara, kahikatea, matai, miro and rimu stand tall. It has been variously described as one of the great rainforests of the world and the finest of New Zealand’s remaining giant podocarp forests. The 18km loop that has been built by the Department of Conservation is a roughly cut track and sidles it’s way next to creeks and under the shadow of huge punga leaves. It’s evident that this place doesn’t get a huge amount of use, nonetheless the meandering singletrack is over too soon. Riding my bike through this terrain was difficult, not so much in the terrain under tyre, but in the pleasant distraction of huge tree canopies and trunks. This place can only be described as a delicate but equally awe-inspiring forest, and yet there is no problem with riding mountain bikes there. It’s refreshing to have this acceptance of riding in such places, and puts the access issues associated with riding in the UK into perspective.
For me, riding is synonymous with being in the trees. Maybe it’s the accessibility? Maybe it’s the way tracks get framed between earth, trunk and sky? Getting ‘lost’ riding in this forest was easily done, the 18kms flashed by and I was left feeling humbled by the privilege of being amongst these mighty trees. That is who I am, no advertising scheme, no TV personality, no mountain bike journalist, no teacher, no god, no master and no one else as hard they may please can tell me otherwise.
“…compared to the ghettos, it felt like heaven. In the woods, we were free. That’s all i can tell you. We had freedom….” – Polish Partisan
Blog title courtesy of Denmark’s finest Trentemøller.