Tommy’s Excellent New Zealand Adventure – Part 2

If you missed the first episode and are still wondering who the hell this ‘Tommy’ guy is then click here, but otherwise sit back and enjoy episode two…

Oh how things have changed in two meagre weeks. I’m now truly living the dream. In the previous dialogue we were living the dream of dirt bags, which, when I last considered the definition of the word dream, wasn’t really fitting very well.

After saying our farewells to Wanaka, replacing a couple of hoses on Magner and ensuring the temperature gauge stayed at least somewhere near reasonable, we set off over the Crown Range and descended down into Queenstown.

After a few days living in Magner again, we found refuge.

Armed with a house, a shower, internet and some summer-fresh smelling eau de toilet the world is a man’s Oyster. Or rather Queenstown could be his pearl in an ocean of noise. Whatever; it’s pretty good.

We’re living in a great little apartment on Fernhill, a nat’s whisker out of town for a young and sprightly 18 year old, or a long uphill slog for a battered 25 year old.

Not a bad way to start the day

All we seem to get off people we meet is how much of a chore living in Fernhill is. They’ve obviously never lived up at Uswayford Farm on the South face of Cheviot. That’s a chore. In the winter of ’63 they had to helicopter food in. So I’m told anyway.

Living here actually has some major perks. In fact, the only down side to this joint is that we can’t justify living out of the New World Deli section anymore and have been forced to figure out how the hob and washing machine work.

It’s opposite a nice little suburban road called Wynyard Crescent. As morning alarms seem to be outlawed in this town (I am sure quite a lot of the population may take offence at that), rising from your pit is gauged by when the Sun is at its highest in the sky. From there it’s maybe some pain au chocolate, coupled with a Goji Berry Muffin and a Skinny Latte. Or failing that, Cornflakes, milk and a brew with sugar will do just nicely for me.

Eventually, once smelling summer-fresh, you can ride all of 2 minutes and 10 seconds to the top of the Wynyard Express DH run. Or if your’e a bit peddle averse, you can drive up. Some people read the papers to start the day (one of my flatmates has another more dubious way of waking themselves up; I call it the “Muted Groans” alarm) but we ride Wynyard.

It’s a fast, flowy, bermy and f-in loose, loose trail. It’s got a multitude of lines that keep appearing every day. There is some interesting carpentry work up there too (unsure of this a little bit – I like my trees vertical unless armed with a Sthil MS 251), and a nice, decent sized double which seems to be named ” The Creek Gap “. I have no idea how long Wynyard is; not hugely I am guessing, and it’s more of a fun trail than the DH tracks UK riders will be more accustomed to. All in all, providing you escape the dreaded hangover crash, it’s a nice way to start the day.

If you’re feeling brave, you can hack a left about half way down Wynyard and ride Mini Dream, the more petite version of the infamous Dream Track. It’s less likely to kick you out of bed and emotionally abuse you than its big sister. It looks a decent size, but like all the jumps I have encountered in this place, you have to be on the brakes to ride it smoothly.  Massive fun, I have been up riding this (watching now that I am cripple-cam for a week) with a new English chum called Jonny Congreve, who pulls a nice whip and rides Vertigo like a man possessed. He’s also a demon on the luge.

There’s some good skills on show up here after 5 pm when all those who have normal jobs, money and probably a stable girlfriend come out to play. There’s also a fair bit of classic dead sailing, pencils, cases, and Stu Thomson’s (of MTBcut fame) old favourite, the rear-mech-check, going down.

Above this level, with far-ranging views of the Remarkables and in biking’s form of a citadel, lies Dream, but we’ll come to that later. I may be getting a bit Lord of the Rings here, but please excuse me.

She’s a big momma

Of course there other attractions and distractions in this town as we’ve been slowly finding out.  One of the main attractions for a person who dreams of Maxxis rubber would have to be Vertigo Bikes. I’ve known Paul Angus since I was a 14 year old kid. Always rated him as a fantastic bike handler with a dubious dress sense in his younger days. I’m still pestering him now, all these years later. A lover of “Aggressive XC “, Pangus will tell you an Enduro bike is the way to go, and if you were here just to do a season and not race DH, I would agree with the Huck Wizard himself. They are a very helpful and professional bunch in here, and before you shun the idea of a hire bike, you should look at their range. A fleet of awesome Giant Reigns and Glory’s are there for pure good times – and if you look carefully you’ll see Paul’s old ATX1 hung up on the wall from his Clan days. Oh the memories.

Sticking with attractions and distractions, Ferg Burger has been getting a fair bit of attention. A must for meat lovers and those seeking to go up a waist size, along with those mad enough to pay $11 for the original Ferg up to the Big Al at $17.50. Worth every cent as you’ll probably sleep for a week digesting it and therefore spend no extra money. Haven’t tried the Big Al yet, going to listen to some NoFx or some kind of overly aggressive music first, then head in and tackle it. By all accounts it’s not much different to tackling a bull, skinning it, and eating it all in one go.

Then there is the night life. We don’t know it too well yet but we’ve been to a few places. World Bar is very touristy and, if you fancy getting a little loose, this would be one of the many places to venture. Unfortunately I cannot describe World Bar in detail for you, as what goes on in World Bar, stays in World Bar. There’s places like Whinnies, Boiler Room and others we’ve poked our lobster red faces into and we’ll definitely be heading back. They do 50 cents a Chicken Wing on a Tuesday in World Bar, which in my mind doesn’t quite compete with Connor’s fine New World Pastas, but it gets close. They also sell drinks in teapots for some obscure reason in World Bar and I haven’t decided if this is sacrilege of the highest order to our nations favourite bagged flavour, or a nice touch. If I decide the former, then they should expect a firm but polite letter marked with the British Empire seal of approval. Naturally.

I could turn these articles into tales of debauchery about partying and a hedonist’s lifestyle, but it’s not my style and I couldn’t pull it off anyway. Too old these days.  All I’m saying is that another one of my flatmate’s bedroom has been nicknamed the Sex Dungeon with him having taken on the mantle of Dungeon Master.

I digress – I’m veering away from the subject matter and in danger of writing an online CV for a Thomas Cook position.

Skyline. Queenstown’s own gondola-accessed bike park. It’s good. It’s not Whistler but it’s still very good. If you look hard enough you’ll find those super gnarly rock and root-based trails that are the Shangri La for any DH rider. Fast, steep, rocky, rooty and dusty. Push too hard and it’s goodbye front wheel, on the brakes too much and you won’t have traction. Awesome. Trails like World Cup, Hobbit, Ant’s Trail and the quiet yet rowdy secret parts of Singletrack are where you need your A- game to go fast between the Douglas Fir.

A particular rock on Jeremy’s’s trail got me a good un and ensured a nice cut where I could survey my Radius in fine detail. Always liked biology. A very nice girl named Carloine showed me down the hill, where I went into Queenstown medical centre to get it stitched up – only to find the nurse doing it originated just over the hill from where I live back home. Seems to happen a lot here.

Skyline stays open till 8pm making for some tasty evening laps

There are also some serious pinners in this place too – that’s what towns like this do for your riding if your’e prepared to hold her open a bit.

My view on the trails is biased though, I was brought up on Innerleithen’s tight and twisty’s and it’s what I know and like best (doesn’t mean I’m good at it though) Vertigo and Original are the main fun trails on the hill, a set of small to medium doubles and rollers the whole way down – stay creative as you’ll see some fun things to try (and possibly case the shit out of). Average run time on the hill – hard to say, but hazard a guess at 3-4 minutes. It’s got a good vertical drop too. There are costs associated with bike parks and this one is a fairly new operation and the Gondola system can’t be old at all. If you join the Queenstown mtb club you get a 10% discount (it’s $40 to join) making your season pass come in at around £290. Not cheap, but good value if you intend to get as much vertical descending in as you can on a wide range of trail types. I’ve gone up to a 550lb spring as the ground is very hard and actually very slippy in the dusty dry too, with the usual bike park breaking bumps. I think they are having evening races starting on the 16th of December so that should be fun.

It seems you can also do that Whistler thing again here; i.e Tell all the non biking tourists on the Gondy you are a Pro-Gnar shredder in case you see them in World Bar later that night and fancy some heavy petting before the realisation that Pro Biker equals zero coin and more obsession with bikes than her. Keep it up though boys.

A word of warning though – don’t let them see you sewing your kit up with the needle and thread set your Mum packed for you – it’s the only dead giveaway between pro and dirt bag, don’t you know.

Enduro bike wise. Well I have yet to ride any of this stuff so far – a combination of budget (I need an Enduro bike) time and a wee injury, but to say I am itching (that could be something else perhaps)  to get out there and do it would be an understatement. I’ll have a lot of this in the next tale and video hopefully, although as Pangus himself says, I had better take my concrete tablets to harden up a little bit (something I have to hear on a regular basis from someone else as well….).

Glenorchy…in NZ not Scotland

Unsurprisingly nearly everyone has a Scottish or Irish route somewhere, and its no wonder really as just over an hour away is a place called Glenorchy and a modestly named road called Paradise. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is quite something. Thrown in with that mildly OTT name you get about 15 miles of gravel roads to drive. Oh yes. Just drive carefully aye, no Scandinavian flicks here please. You aren’t the late Roger Clark on the ’76 RAC and I doubt you have Cossack in your hair (at least I hope you don’t). Coincidentally this is where the Fall of Boromir was filmed in Lord Of The Rings – all very well and good but we were a fair bit more concerned it would be the fall of Magner on an Opening 4 left and we’d have to honk her horn very loud, both in memory of Boromir and for back-up to arrive. Thankfully she regained her composure, stepped back in line and she’s lived to fight on with her quest.

Magner enhancing paradises’ epic views

Lastly but not by any means least I must talk about Dream Track. It’s only 4 jumps. They are pretty darn big (not super huge) yet it’s the grandeur of them that makes them intimidating. They are set higher than anything else in Wynyard, both physically and in esteem.  If there was any one time when I think I was ready to face the famous “Shit Hunting Police of New Zealand”, then this was it. If you case (or over-jump) the 2nd jump, or the 4th jump, I don’t think there is much come back for you. You’d be better taking that dump which was nowhere near ready to poke through when you woke up, yet suddenly, when witnessing Dream, it’s grasping for daylight with all it’s squidgy might, and taking your shit police punishment.

This is the time to hide that sewing kit and show us how you earn salary, pro gnar shredders.

Alas, you’ll have to wait until the next edition to see what it’s like as I’m still sat here, looking down on the mighty fine Lake Wakitpu with my arm in some kind of Mummy Returns device sipping an ice cool Speights. I haven’t mustered the gonads to try any jump beyond the first hip at Big Dream yet. Been pestering loads of people to hit it (in exchange for absolutely zero) but it does get windy up there. I think (loose description) I might. Perhaps. As long as someone else goes first. Do wolves jump out in front of you on lips over here to stop you jumping them? I’ve heard that happens…..

There’s much more riding I could talk about – Gorge Road for one, which looks quite orgasmic if you’re into dirt jumps, and all the other DH trails, but they can wait till next time. Hopefully we’ll suss out the scene pretty soon and figure out what’s good and what’s not. We’ve met loads of people and are building up a decent little riding crew now, some of whom seem to have a penchant for fire crackers. I tried to tell them that Dirty Sanchez was 10 years ago now. My mistake.

Till next time…



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