South Island Rides All Around

After our thwarted attempt to ride the Heaphy and a few days of inclement weather, James and I were itching to get out riding when the weather was more friendly. It’s just as well James obviously doesn’t mind driving hours for a bit of riding – as that’s what it took to find a bit of sun. Looking back on the last week, there was an awful lot of driving as we rode in three quite distant places in the central South Island in the space of five days.

First up it was close to two hours down the coast to Hokitika, where the locals have built a nice network of trails up on Blue Spur Ridge behind the town. I’d taken to borrowing Adele’s bike (which is considerably lighter and more fun than my touring one) and enjoyed a couple of decent climbs and tried to come to terms with riding wet, slippery and twisty singletrack. We rode for a couple of hours – liking the sun, completing a large circuit of most of the trail network, repeating the trails we particularly enjoyed and only once getting a little off-track. I felt a bit cheated by some of the trail names – See-saw didn’t have a see-saw and Tunnels only had one tunnel.

Looking out over the Hokitika River valley.

There was the odd trail feature built – but I thought it a bit slippery to wisely attempt this.

Yes, the trail disappears through a skinny tunnel. I was pleased not vanish into the ether halfway through.

The following day we headed off to Christchurch as most of James’s family was going to be at his brother’s that weekend – also, the weather forecast was better than in Westport, where Adele would be on-call and not able to go riding. I was lured by the talk of a ride up on the Port Hills (on the southern edge of the city) and exploring trails new to me.

Four McKirdy men (James, his two brothers and their father, Don) and I set off early enough that it was still quite fresh on a clear Christchurch morning – oh, Andrew’s dog Jack also joined us as trail dog. After about five miles of road we were at the west base of the hills – and soon climbing steadily up some well laid trails. That much time has been spent on these trails was obvious, we passed one crew of about five still improving some tight corners and another place where trail tools are kept locked to a fence-post for ready access.

It was disturbing to be suddenly spat out next to a new subdivision – at least we could see the mountains across the Canterbury Plains.

When the singletrack ran out, it was 4WD tracks and grass that took us most of the way to the top.

A herd of Banded Galloways were happened upon.

We paused before our descent to look at more things in the distance.

The McKirdy men looking at things in the distance.

How Jack managed almost thirty kilometres, I’ve no idea. A bit slower on the flat, he was much faster uphill than us and surprisingly quick down singletrack.

The upper reaches of Lyttelton Harbour – on the other side of the hills to Christchurch.

About to head into the Flying Nun trail – an enormous amount of time has gone in to this one. Lined, almost paved, with plenty of natural rock it flows so well and is just one big bundle of fun!

After an absolute blast on Flying Nun, there was a little bit of climbing on the road up to Victoria Park where we had fun getting slightly lost making our way down the hill on a myriad of trails. There were some quite big jumps that were beyond me, but mostly I was able to ride it. We even found a big (in the size of its vertical drop, not length) see-saw over a fence to make up for the missing one in Hokitika.

We so enjoyed our Saturday ride, that we went up again Sunday – this time Don shuttled the rest of us to the top as we had a family-lunch deadline to meet.  More good fun on Flying Nun before exploring further around the hill in Bowenvale Park.  Near to the end of the Bowenvale Downhill I had one of my worst crashes in a long time.  Negotiating some rocks next to a tall bank dropping off the right side of the trail, I got it all wrong.  The option of flying head-first down a bank didn’t appeal and I somehow managed to put myself down on the trail with my bike weighing heavily and awkwardly on top – I got off rather lightly, with only some slight bruising and no other damage.  I lived to ride home and ride another day.

The next day, in fact.  On the way back to Westport we stopped briefly in Hanmer Springs – a nice little mountain resort town with some quality hot pools.  But we were there to explore the trails in the forest – which we did.  They were a little wet, which is odd as I always think of Hanmer as rather dry and hot.  When it suddenly started dumping snow on us, we turned down the hill to the car – as we still had to get home and prepare for the following day’s adventure.

The snow continued falling as we drove over Lewis Pass – although a bit grey, it was beautiful.  I snapped a few token shots through the car windows.

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