In New Zealand that is.
Got up yesterday, and the weather was nice. I couldn’t decide whether to go ride muni, or to go to the beach. So I thought I’ll go and do both. Had a quick breakfast and made some lunch.
Headed out towards the hills, stopping for some factor 10,000 sun block on the way, cos it was super hot. Why are sunblock makers sponsoring cancer research anyway? Shouldn’t the cancer researchers be tapping the people who don’t wear sunblock? Although I guess it’d be a bit tactless to hang out near skin cancer clinics asking for donations.
At about 11:15, I got to the bottom of the road that goes up the hill, and started grinding my way up, a bit jealous of all the road bikers who were zooming down the other way. Half way up at 200 metres, I had a welcome stop for water, at the Sign of the Takahe, which is a bar, restaurant and tea room, right at the bottom of the trails. Unfortunately I was a bit tight for time, and it was rather too warm for tea, so I wasn’t able to sample their cakey goodness. But I know it’s there, and it has my name on it.
A weeny bit up the road and then the proper riding began, up some singletracks, that seemed to slowly get steeper and steeper, until I had to walk the last little section. A little chat with some bikers for directions ‘to the sea? On that?’, I headed off on the Bowendale Traverse, a long narrow singletrack that (obviously from it’s name) traverses the side of the ridge, winding up and down, for about 4 miles, before crossing the summit road to the other side of the ridge. All the way along the first bit I’ve had views of Christchurch city, which is really flat and gridded, (from high up it looks kind of like a small L.A. for anyone who’s been there). Suddenly the views are onto a beautiful natural harbour, sheltered by great big hills on either side, the water is that kind of blue that you only see in tourism posters advertising exotic places. This is just one of the many ways that this is nothing like Scunthorpe*.
The terrain starts getting a bit rocky here too, which is interesting given I’m riding a big apple road tyre at 60psi, in training for riding part of the SINZ uni-tour. This is an old volcano and you can really tell, the rock is all funny and scratchy, and you really don’t want to crash on it.
A mile or so on, the trail comes back to the road for a bit, and I stop and eat some lunch, and kick the uni into high gear for the next section on the road, which goes round the bottom of sheer cliffs, with a great big drop below too, given cars are overtaking, and there are no barriers on parts, this is a bit woooah. I pass under the Christchurch Gondola, taking lazy people to the hills since 1979 (or something), and meet a very lost Japanese tourist, who took the gondola, but now has managed to be at the bottom of the cliffs below the top station, I hopefully point him in the right direction, and head onto the last bit of singletrack.
This last singletrack, isn’t as final as you’d expect, as it’s around 12km long, all singletrack, with the exception of a brief detour at Evan’s Pass where the ice cream van lives. There’s loads of rocky downhills, switchbacks galore, and did I mention to anyone in the UK, that the trails are dry and dusty and fast. This section is part of an easy loop that lazy people can do by shuttling, so I meet several groups of bikers, including one group who appear to be even slower than me, despite only starting from Evan’s Pass, which makes me pretty smug. This ends in the descent into Taylor’s Mistake, which is a local surf beach. This trail, called the Anaconda, winds steeply down in a set of switchbacks to pop you out 10 metres from the beach.
What could be better, 15 miles of fantastic singletrack, finishing at the beach. I locked up my uni and went for a swim, taking my super duper camera(waterproof) with me to take pictures of waves.
The final section of my cunning plan, was to ride back through Christchurch on the flat. Had I been a bit more cunning, I’d have read the description of Taylor’s Mistake as a breathtaking surf beach surrounded by cliffs, and have noted the flaw in my plan to ride to Taylor’s mistake over the hills, then ride back on the flat. This was made worse by there being two bikers about to ride up the hill over the cliffs too, so I had to ride up to make sure I got up before them, (on the way down the other side, they only just caught up before the bottom).
Here I get into somewhere called ‘Scarborough’, although it doesn’t appear to have any chip factories or dodgy pound shops. Fortunately it does have a shop selling ginger beer and custard tarts, and sweets, and I’m quite hungry by now. It also has a great big rock with a cave in it, which in typical NZ fashion is called the ‘Cave Rock’.
A 10 mile ride across the city, fuelled mainly by lots of minty sweets and I’m back home to vast quantities of cheese on toast, and only falling asleep a couple of times before I manage to change out of my riding gear.
50km/30 miles of riding, about 30k/19 miles on singletrack, not bad for a first proper ride.
*Which happens to be my favourite generic British town simply because it gets rejected by several swear filters