Alexandra Rocky Ride

In a desperate attempt to escape the New Year cold in East Otago, I headed towards Central for a spot of mountain-biking with James, Jacqui and Dan.

It wasn’t that summery heading over the Pigroot.

I arrived earlier than the others in Ranfurly, where we were to stay the night. It was cold – six degrees! Some Central Otago summer. I managed to keep myself usefully occupied, thinking the others would turn up any moment.

Apparently Ranfurly is an art deco town. I found this building to support that claim.

And perhaps this building. Not overly impressed, I may be a little spoilt by living in Napier.

The others arrived at pretty much the right time and we headed into the hotel for dinner. It wasn’t just my turn to be unimpressed, the food is best not mentioned. Except to say that I was reintroduced to mine in the early hours of the morning – somehow I managed not to wake everyone up in Don’s small hospital flat. With suitable care, I was pleased to declare myself fit to ride in the morning. We headed off to Alexandra eventually, stopping at Omakau for ginormous venison pies. I was still full from a large breakfast (apparently I was sick in the night), so stashed mine in the car.

We parked at this little bridge, it was a pleasant day – but not so warm I need take more than a bottle of water.

But my, it looked rocky and completely different to most of the riding I’ve done in NZ.

Finally ready to ride, I managed to scoff my pie – which was just as well as we were out for three hours. After a little time on a road, we headed up a rocky gully for quite some time – a gentle gradient, it climbed and climbed. The air was heavy with the prolific scent of wild thyme – apparently early miners/settlers planted it to flavour their rather plain meals, it seemed to take hold. There were plenty of interesting features in the rocks on the trail – the return leg looked like it would be fun. We eventually reached a gravel road, James doing a very good job of remembering where this unmarked trail leads in a landscape with many options.

A brief spell on the shingle over, we turned off again and climbed some more. The landscape opened up around us. Views of rocks and ranges in all directions. It was a great day to be out in the Central Otago sun – it wasn’t hot.

Still some fresh snow around.

Those rocks up there are where the first downhill section started.

The downhills were such fun all day. Small dirt tracks through the brown pasture linking sections on big slabs of rock. Large grippy rocks. There were plenty of steep features to test one’s mettle on; following someone who had ridden the trail before and has more confidence than I do was great as I gained confidence of my own riding all sorts of things.

We climbed again from the road, more steeply this time.

A fast open stretch started off the second downhill, before it got extraordinarily rocky again. Great fun, so much traction too.

There are two riders in there somewhere.

Back to and then off the gravel road again, we climbed for the final time of the day. Subsequently we hit the biggest and steepest rock drops/chutes of the day. After a bit of deliberation, and watching James show how it was done, I was pleased to ride some things I don’t normally get the opportunity to do. I was also pleased not to hurt myself! Things were very technical for a while, they went well for me. Half way down I was a bit out of sorts and that confidence disappeared for some steep downhill corners. Never mind, I’d had a great day and was happy to be out in the sun, improving my riding in steps. The gully ride out was as fast and fun as it looked it would be on the way up.

An excellent break from the poor weather, and fine rock riding (fond memories of Moab slickrock adventures and such things were at the forefront of my mind most of the day) culminated when we refueled at the fine French eatery next to where we parked the cars. We headed back east – I think I was quite tired after being awake for a lot of the night rather poorly; so tired in fact, it was best James drove.

The Naseby Royal for dinner? Why not – it was sure to be better than the previous night. We all ordered lamb shanks, they were excellent – when they arrived over an hour later. Strangely busy day in normally sleepy Naseby it would seem.

I hit the road for Waikouaiti, looking forward to a comfortable bed.

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