Now my eyes are turned from North to South…
There has been somewhat of a drought in contributions to the website from myself recently, to be honest I could write a page of excuses including having my first kid, winter covering the tracks in snow, earthquakes continuing in Christchurch etc etc…and it seems the time vampires paid me a vistit on numerous occasions, sucking any ‘spare time’ out of my day and leaving me with ‘eat-work-sleep’ complex, so something had to change.
As the Northern Hemisphere’s season starts to become wet and cold and the days shorter, below the equator the opposite is happening. The sun is setting at 8 at night, the evenings no longer have a chill in the air and with some much needed time away from the worlds most active seismic City (unofficial scientific fact no. 1) the Skyline gondola in Queenstown seemed too good an opportunity to pay a visit, and with many similarities to Sheffield in the mates rates and the riding scene….it’s hard to refuse.
Good friend Jimmy Carling from the infamous Midweek Enzed Diaries, joined us for a few days and evenings thrashing about in the woods, a wiry man with a beard that would scare most Pogonophobists into the safe sanctuary of their Mother and a bike tired from a visit to the European Alps and a 62nd placing at this years Mega. He guided us to some secret ‘locals’ tracks, ultra-steep and tech with a solid ounce of flow built in, the name of the track can be found only be understood once you’ve ridden there.
The solace of a New Zealand native Beech forest, the discerning smell of the trees is hard to put into words till you have been there yourself, with the Fern Hill loop you get a dose of something special. It’s cut into the side of the hill many moons ago, with a scattering of roots a plenty on the top with loamy patches of grip between.
Clay Porter eat-your-heart-out….this section was on 3 Minute Overated Gaps.
French themes: Lapierre and a French tash
With bodies and palms sore from repeated runs, a day of RandR was needed. We were staying in Arrow Town, about 20mins drive from Queenstown, made famous around the time of gold prospecting and mining. The Arrow River can be gold panned if the desire is there, but to be honest I couldn’t be arsed. A fishing call was made after spotting brown and rainbow trout, but we were out of season, so an explore and an obligatory photo session was prompted. Visual masturbation of both the Specialized Enduro and Stumpy Evo was carried out and the shutter pressed a few times. I’m currently running the new XTR Trail disc brakes. In a word. Amazing. The quality of the engineering, the thought, the RandD, and the precise brake control. OK they cost, but the boring evenings of trying to get Avid and Hope brakes to work with some semblance can be ruled out, all those annoying glitches that all other brakes have, these don’t have them.
Two winning combinations: 1. Chromag and Shimano. 2. Joe Wilson and ‘Big and Beardy’.
The natural terrain of the Beech was left for the mixed terrain of Queenstown Bike Park trails. If anything, these have been built with flow, and for fun. Tracks like ‘Ant’s Track‘ have steep sections, flat corners, off-camber root sections, and others like ‘Hammy’s’ are just a succession of berms, tables and the occasional double. Historically, many of the tracks were built prior to the bikes having access to the gondola, so riding up to get down was the preferred option. That’s why, it seems, single crown short travel bikes don’t have a problem on the majority of the tracks, I seldom felt out of my depth with 150mm forks and xc single ply tyres. Hopefully with the influx of riders into the town, the money spent on lift passes will eventually go into trail building and maintenance. I fear, that by mid-summer, the trails will be cut up and blown out. It depends what you want, but I feel that different kinds of track warrant different kinds of abuse. I for certain would be outraged if for example, Mont St. Anne was groomed….catch my drift?
The burden of GoPro footage to show the audience that I am not as fast as Josh Bryceland.
Aoraki (Mount Cook) on the way back to Christchurch.
The 7 hour drive between Queenstown and Christchurch is full of epic scenery, the barren feel of Mackenzie Country surrounded by a wall of snow capped peaks and tussock land is never taxing, and the unmistakable vista of Mount Cook National Park makes the drive sail by, even with the demands of a 4 week old daughter. It was good to be in Queenstown again, and I am sure a return visit won’t be too along into the calender.
“The more you ask how much longer it will take, the longer the journey seems” – Maori proverb