The summer in New Zealand is a pretty festive time. Everyone heads to the beach or to their holiday batches on the Sounds; you see boats and cars loaded with beach, bike and lake paraphernalia everywhere.
A prefect time, I thought, to get the girls together for a little summer adventure of our own. Due to work & study obligations the girls are all spread around the South Island, so a plan had to be forged before the summers end to get together to enjoy what we have right here on our doorstep.
Planning adventures and putting trips together is something I love. I thrive on pulling out the map and plotting and planning where the next adventure will take us. There is nothing more exciting to me than packing up your backpack, getting your bike in tiptop shape and heading out the door for a few back-to-back days to ride some sweet trails with friends and other like-minded people.
Usually I’m planning these adventures and trips for foreigners and visiting tourists, so they can get a taste and experience our magnificent NZ backyard, but this time around it was fun to plan a mini getaway for the girls.
I planned a “semi” back-country trip, to keep things simpler and to make the most of the little time that we had. Since we all love to ride similar challenging technical trails there was a big focus on maximizing the vertical drop and ride time. Ditching the sleeping bags, therma-rests, pots and massive amounts of food we sometimes carry on overnighters, we decided to ride the Nydia Track and to stay over at On the Track Lodge. It makes the riding that much more enjoyable and we didn’t have to deal with all those extras needed for a proper back-country overnighter.
Dropping in from the Opouri saddle is always a blast. It’s amazing native bush singletrack that drops you about 600m down into Duncan Bay where the actual Nydia Track begins. It’s always a great way to get the excitement flowing.
Once on the track, it’s hard work, as the track is riddled with roots and obstacles on both the climbs and the descents, so you really work hard. The descent is pure awesomeness; fast, technical, rocky, rooty and slippery, surrounded with spectacular views of the snaking Marlborough Sounds.
Once you near the bottom of the final descent, you have to pay a visit to Ella, the local resident Eel, and at this stage, you know you’re not too far away from an ice-cold beer and some delicious homemade and homegrown snacks.
Our evening is of course spent chatting away over more delicious home grown food and red wine, a late night fire-heated hot tub under the stars and a well-deserved sleep. You can choose from sleeping in a train carriage or a yurt or in one of the other cute-as-a-button cottages on the property.
From there, you can either continue to ride out on your bike, or catch a water taxi. We chose the latter as that in itself is such a scenic trip, and just maybe you get to catch a glimpse of a pod of dolphins or orcas. That and the fact that you don’t get to take a water taxi with your bike in too many other places, makes this pretty special and unique to New Zealand.
Plus we had more trails to go and ride and we had to maximize our time together to pack in as much fun and riding as possible. In saying that, we got a little help from a helicopter to make sure that we had enough time to ride one of our all time favorite tracks.
When we do our Housemartin trips, we do offer a helidrop-shuttle. It’s not because we’re lazy, or don’t like to pedal, it is just a way for us to get deeper and further into the backcountry so we can access more remote tracks and make the most out of the little time that we have, making it possible to link more than two big rides together in one trip.
Once you get dropped off, you still have to work hard with pedaling, clambering, hike-a-biking and such to get to the sweet downhills. It’s worth every drop of sweat, because this track is so amazing. It has everything. Flowing singletrack, stunning beech forests with cornflake strewn dirt, ferny switchbacks that carry on for days. Root balls to jump from, inside lines, fern barrels, rocks, more steep rooty shoots, loam, decaying log launches – the works. Perfection with big smiles and high five’s all around.
What I love about riding with this group of women is the fact that we can go and ride the most technical tracks out there and kill it. We can suffer for hours without any complaints to get to the sweet descents and then scare ourselves silly on the way down, which is what we all love to do, and what we live for.
A sense of adventure and the fact that we all love to be surrounded by nature and the sheer beauty of the Native forests around this part of the world is why we always have such a great time together on our bikes, plus it’s always nice to have Harriet along on the back-country rides as she is a doctor and that always makes you feel a little more at ease.
Anja, the bird researcher, knows this area backwards as she has worked in most of the canopies around this area, researching birds and riding these tracks as her daily commute. Plus she has a never-ending source of knowledge about all the birds and trees we spot. Bob, the hydrologist (or ‘water connoisseur’) is always handy in knowing where we can and cannot fill our drink bags from all the natural springs and rivers we cross on our rides. All in all, we make up a pretty good team out in the back-country.
Strong, independent, interesting women who like to ride their bikes both up and down.