Christmas in the UK has been wet and cold. Christmas in New Zealand has been hot and sunny. Jimmy Carling is over there having fun and sending us mid week reports. Here’s number 7 from downunder:
Merry Christmas everybody, I trust everyone did the usual drink too much, eat too much, fart in front of the inlaws type thing?
Christmas is a funny old thing down here. As with many alpine destinations, most who are here arrived at some point either on their own or with a small group of friends, but mostly without family. Some may have a brother or sister with them, but generally parents/grandparents and the rest are somewhere in the northern hemisphere. Some choose not to celebrate it. A little toast at some point in the day to family maybe, but nothing more. However, the “Orphan Christmas” is generally the norm. Close family get replaced by equally close friends, all united by the absence of loved ones.
En route to Macetown
It makes the day kinda special in a very unusual way, bringing everyone that little bit closer. The presents under the tree tend to have a tag that isn’t so much “Dear Gran, Love Johnny” and generally reads more like “Dear Kev, you’re a slack wee shit and a terrible dirt jumper but have a bladdy good crimbo”.
My christmas involved the owners of my local pub having all ther staff and partners around to their gaff, where a slip’n'slide, paddling pool and a trailer load of booze awaited us. I could sit here and talk until the sun goes down about the sheer hilarity of the day, but I don’t think I could fit it all in one email.
However hats off to the token irishman Ray who was on the scotch from about 9am. 12 hours later the party had moved back to his house, and the lad was still going, sipping at anything with the lid off. You know when you walk in to a party and see the token almost-paraletic slurring their way around the place? That was Ray, except he never passed out. In true Irish form, he held it all night, despite tripping up over the sofa and face planting into the floor. Good, good times.
But enough about Christmas. You wanna hear about bikes ‘n’ shit eh? Alright then. Well it’s been a week of… just riding really. No LoG’s, no jams. Just good old fashioned free riding (not the big hucking version of free riding, you know, just riding). Boxing day – it just pissed it down, all day, fucking stair rods I tell ya. Naturally the best thing to do was go riding. Why not? It’s only water. However a couple of days later we hit up One Mile Loop. The loop actually peels off halfway up the Skyline firetrack and takes you up to the Ben Lomond Saddle, but the climb up is a technical one indeed. It runs up through some native beach forest, which is simply stunning.
A brief pause in some native forest. One Mile Loop, Mike and Dan of Vertigo Bikes.
You’ll have to excuse some tree talk here, but when the European settler arrived 200 years ago, among many things they introduced non native trees like Monterey pine and Douglas fir. What they didn’t realise is these non natives like the conditions here, which has led to one of the biggest environmental problems in the country, as they spread and grow faster than they can be controlled. A while ago some guys thought that if they droppped Douglas fir seeds out of a chopper over the now Skyline hill, they would make the place look more like Switzerland, which to them was a great idea. In doing so they contributed to the wilding pine problem massively, which brings me back to the native beech forest that part of the One Mile Loop climbs up through. It has a lot of character, a lot of charm, whether it be in the form of some of the towering giants or just some of the big pieces of deadwood that lie in the river crossing at the top.
Naturally, such trees mean lots of roots, BIG roots. Even on my xc bike it’s a hard climb. Apparently Seb Kemp has made it all the way to the top after sessioning it and making a point of trying to make it all the way. Fair play. When you get to the top, you can either carry on along the loop which takes you down some steep but not overly technical terrain to the Dream track and then down Wynyward express to the bottom of Fernhill, or just turn around and come back down the way you came (through the Beech) - way more fun. You can ride it the other way, but the best way is to just go up the skyline firetrack, peel off left at the midway clearing , head up through the beech, turn around at the top and come back down. When you come out at the midway clearing you can then ride Turd to the bottom, which if you’ve read the last Midweek Enzed, you’ll know how much fun that is.
Here’s a wee headcam of part of the downhill courtesy of Paul Angus.
I also did a little bit of a mission to an old settlement village called Macetown, and “mission” isn’t a bad word to sum it up. It’s 32kms return on mostly 4×4 track, but the interesting part is the 32 river crossings that await you. Some are too deep to ride, up to your thighs kinda thing (oh yeh might be worth mentioning now that you’ll get wet on this one) but most have a decent line that you can pick though it.
This is a tough trail on your gears by the way, the track is very dusty and the crossings very, er, wet, and by the end of the ride mine were barely shifting. For this one you have to make your way out to Arrowtown first, which is only about 20 kms away from Queenstown, and then just head for the river and follow the signs. Macetown lies 16kms away, an old settlement from the gold mining days. We took a couple of gold pans in my hydrapak and had a ferret around the river banks.
River crossing number… erm… 18? Who knows!
There’s tiny flake gold everywhere, but nothing of any value. Flake gold is what we found, our dreams of turning a 3 hour xc ride into a nice little nest egg for the future didn’t quite come true. Big nuggets of the stuff is what you want, but good luck finding it. This is more of a scenery ride than anything else, but still, if you come here and have a bike you can pedal uphill, have a bash. The ride back from Macetown is faster than the ride in, it’s more downhill. But plenty of people have a go at this route whether it be some unfit lycra clad tourist or someone with a bit more know how.
Almost back in A’Town. What’s that smell? Smells like… PIE
A must is a trip to the Arrowtown Bakery when you get back. Either a lamb and mint or a mince bolognese pie is what I would go for. Trust me, you won’t be able to resist.
And so we venture into a new year. What a year this one has been. What will 2010 hold? As long as it involves two wheels and a smile, who cares.
Happy new Year