New Zealand & Australia trip report!

With 100,000 free miles on my United account, the only question was: Where in the world should I go? In the two weeks time I had available for new muni adventures, the answer was clear: Wellington, New Zealand, then Sydney, Australia.

Due to “technical problems” with the plane, my “12 hour” flight from LA to Wellington became a 3 day schlep. I might as well have ridden my uni. Eventually, I arrived. On my first full day in Wellington, I unicycled for the mayor on national television ( Thanks to the amazing Ken Looi and his band of rabid unicyclists, UNICON will be held there in 2010 - and today was the day they were scheduled to stage a plug for that event. The locals were great fun, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to drag any of them into the mountains with me.

Nearby Mt. Victoria proved to be a great bang for the buck: It was just a kilometer away from my youth hostel, and offered a small network of rooty single-tracks overlooking a jaw-dropping view of the southern coastline, salted with peninsulas and islands on the horizon.

The next day, Ken took me and my soon-to-be Karapoti Classic riding partner, Australian Sean Bennett out for a conditioning ride. Ken needed to get us in shape for the Karapoti, so Makara Peak was the logical place to go. Makara Peak is huge network of single tracks designed for and by mountain bikers. It features long-distance steep climbs and descents through a jungle of ferns and other Jurassic Park-esque foliage. We sped through a good 20 km or so, by my guess, and we were pooped. We didn’t have the luxury of a long recovery. The Karapoti Classic was just a couple days away.

The Karapoti Classic is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most popular mountain bike races. It attracts 1000 participants each year, at least one of which happens to be a unicyclist - namely Ken Looi. Ken was trying for a personal best this year: 50 km in about 4 hours (faster than many two-wheelers, mind you!) SOMEHOW he and Sean cunningly convinced me that I was capable of the full 50 k, even though I’d never ridden more than about 24 k at any given time. Sean wasn’t planning on riding against time, so he had the grace to offer me company during my ride. Suddenly, I was at the starting line - well “starting river” really. The starting line was a large creek that we had to cross that was almost waist-high in spots. So the first couple km of your ride are wet and slippery (who’s idea that was, I don’t know). The rest of the ride is a bit of a blur. But I do remember that the loop course defied physics by being entirely uphill. Felt that way anyway. I also remember mud pits, and buckets of rain, and running out of water, and scrounging up just enough energy to negotiate the infamous “rock garden” with a smile on my face. At the finish line, Sean and I celebrated with a strictly platonic hand grasp - although, for keeping me company, he probably deserved more love than I could give at the time.

There, I did it. Now I know that I have the mental strength to ride 50 km of steep hills in the rain, so I never need to do it again. Ken and Sean, on the other hand will be seen there next year, undoubtedly beating their own personal records, and maybe even world records.

That was is for NZ. Sydney would welcome me with open arms. I began with a loop track in a place called Manly Dam. It was my first time taking a ferry to a trailhead! Once I found the trail, it just got better and better. A very nice two-wheeler crossed my path - a Quantas pilot also new to this area - and decided to keep me company the whole way, so we’d have someone to share the experience with. Sweet boulders, wooden steps, and lake views for about 8 km. I was sad when it ended.

Last stop: The Blue Mountains - a huge national park east of Sydney. I liken it to the Grand Canyon except covered in rainforest. The local mountain bikers raved about a historic trail there called Six Foot Track. After descending about 1000 steps to get down into the canyon, it continues for many km longer than I had the resources for. But I’ll never forget the 20 k that I covered. Not so much for the terrain - which was decent - but for the wildlife. I heard symphonies of birds that sounded like nothing I’d ever heard in my life. I saw technicolor parots. I saw wallabies and kangaroos. I saw a strange peacock-looking bird bouncing around in front of a waterfall. I think if I were with a big pack of two-wheelers, I might never have seen any of that. I also saw a human: when he saw me he said “He you wouldn’t believe this but apparently some guy just rode the Karapoti on one of those.”

Thanks to Ken and Sean for being an excellent part of my amazing trip. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of muni photos, since most of my travels were solo. What I have is below. Also see this link for Sean’s description of our Karapoti experience:

Top of Mount Victoria, Wellington, NZ

Ken Looi ascending Makara Peak, NZ

Sean Bennett ascending Makara Peak, NZ

Sean recovering from Karapoti Classic, Upper Hut, NZ

Strictly platonic celebratory grasp, Karapoti Finish Line

Terrain at Manly Dam, AUS

Great to see Sean is still unicycling and got into XC!

What kind of unicycles did you, Sean, and Ken all use for the Karapoti ride? I would think a nice light weight 29er would be the ideal cycle for a 50k XC ride.

Mt Victoria was a nice ride, I rode up from the YHA in Wellington on my coker (on the road) while I was over there and then rode down on one of the trails. I did that on two separate occasions while in Wellington. The view from there is great!

I really need to go visit NZ again!

Hey, I’m gonna be in Sydney in May. Do you have any more details / links to sites describing the trails you rode there? I reckon I’ll have a couple of days to ride, I was figuring I’d probably take the 26" muni, but might just be on the 29er, are the rides you did the sort of thing where a 29er would suck?

I rode in Melbourne last year, and I know what you mean about the wildlife, parrots and kangaroos are amazing, and you really see it when you’re riding silently on a uni. I saw rare wild pigs on the Queen Charlotte Track too, which apparently doesn’t happen often if you’re walking / biking.

Makara Peak was really nice last year, although doing it the day after the Karapoti did make it a bit hard! How long did you take for Karapoti? Did Ken beat his record?


Greeat job representing the SB Muni club!

I would never have made that long-ass ride.


That’s right Sean and Ken used 29ers. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury since all I had was my 24, and I’d never trained on a 29 anyway. Remember this fact when you learn that I was the last person to finish the race :stuck_out_tongue:

Yes, I do. Here’s a great site that I sadly discovered after my trip:
I only rode one trail in Sydney area (Manly Dam), and one in the Blue Mountains (6 Foot Track). Manly would have been manageable on a 29er, The the upper 10 km of 6 Ft track (between the stairs and the old cemetery) would have been even better on 29 - but I can’t speak for the subsequent sections because I didn’t go that far.
If you have any other questions that aren’t answered on the site above, feel free to pm me.

On the Karapoti, I took a whopping 7 hours and about a minute. That means you beat me by quite a bit, so I hear! Unfortunately, Ken was a few minutes over his mark, but anywhere near 4 hours is worship-worthy in my book! Have a great time on your trip!

Man, 7 hours on the trail? That’s some serious perseverance.

Awesome Eyal, thank for sharing! Congrats on finishing that monstorous ride! Hope to see you soon…

That is awesome! Good to see some other guys taking on some long muni epic rides. That is one race I’d love to do some day! In the meantime I’m going to take on another solo 12 hour this June…

In other news, registrations for Karapoti 2009 opened today:

Gool Geoff, can’t wait for next years 'poti. We should have quite a few riders there next year.

Book a few days extra in Welly and I’ll show you around :stuck_out_tongue:

Wow! Thats awesome! I thought it was more of a unofficial thing. Freakin sweet!