I managed one bike ride during a fantastic lap of the South Island. Great friends to travel with, no major mechanical malfunctions, almost perfect weather and camp spots that defy description made it an almost perfect holiday. Even the sandflies were off their usual game.
But only one bike ride.
Having a bike in the back of the van and no time to ride it is a bit annoying. Made doubly so by signs pointing at bike trails almost everywhere we went. Mountain biking is available all over the place, which is great, but what really amazed us was the proliferation of easy touring trails.
We stopped for our only wet night at a place in Otago called Millers Flat. It is right next to the Clutha River. An appealing looking little beach had a sign saying do not swim in the river, it is dangerous. The river itself looked like it was prepared to prove the sign was correct, given the opportunity. What people did there before the Goldfields Cycle Trail was created is anybody’s guess, but it wasn’t swimming. What they do now is ride the trail by the look of it.
The morning dawned wet but the clouds had lifted enough for us to watch a couple of dogs move a mob of sheep down a mountain on the opposite side of the valley. After breakfast we went to the very nice cafe that constitutes about a third of Millers Flat’s main street for another breakfast.
The proprietor was a true renaissance man: ex-military, a musician, and an artist. He gave me the impression he may have picked Millers Flat as a quiet place to paint, make music, and enjoy a quiet life in the country. Instead, he practices his art around gangs of bike riders. Even on this damp and dreary day they came and went, and came and went.
Since arriving home I have spent a fair amount of time trolling websites and slowly building a plan to do another lap of the South, next time on a bike with minimal driving, as a counter-balance to the latest trip. Can’t wait.
I headed straight for the woods as soon as we got back. It was Easter. The sun was shining. Payback time.
I met a refreshing variety of people in a couple of hours.
Two guys on e-bikes. One was a slab of a man on his own fairly new looking rig, and no clue. His mate was on the rental. A skinny dude in skinnier jeans. They were one bar of their glowing battery indicators into their ride, and were already lost. They had completed one fairly gnarly trail, and all they really wanted was to do it again. I sent them on a side trip up a big hill, they passed me a little while later (on that hill). Whether they survived Hot X Buns is anybody’s guess, but it was Easter, and I felt it was the right choice on the day.
I passed a man and his kid at the start of a trail I love because it is right at the top of my skill set. There is a section down the track a bit I am slowly working my way up to executing, and when I stopped to negotiate with it they caught me. We looked it over together: a guy in a pair of shorts we sold at least ten years ago, his thirteen year old kid, and me. Don’t know how they tackled it, but I did think it was cool that the three of us were all in the same boat, until the next tricky section took me to that place where thinking is not on the agenda.
Much later, two kids passed me while I was trying not to collapse at the top of my last hill for the day. They were chatting as they rode, in their own little bubble. I followed them into the next track, and we all flew along while I admired their effortless style. Until they realised I was there, when they pulled over and stopped. I told them to keep going, but they were insistent (and very polite), “you go first”. So I did. These guys were really small when I got a good look at them, and very young.
I wonder if they knew how lucky they were to be able to get out in the woods among kilometres of golden dirt, on sweet little duallies, at eleven or twelve or whatever they were.
Don’t know, and I doubt if they’d tell me if I asked. But they looked pretty stoked to me.