Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Icy Trails and Blue Skies

For those of you who don't know, I'm moving to Rotorua near the end of the year. As chance would have it, the company I work for are opening a new store in our fine mountain biking mecca, and I am lucky enough to have been appointed to head up the operation. Cool huh??

So I was making my way to Rotorua last Wednesday for a business trip with the Ninja in the back of the car and the Ayups charged and ready to go for some after-work action in the forest. I arrived quite late on Wednesday evening, a little bit pooped and headed out for a meal before returning to my hotel with the intention of crawling into bed with the heater on. Once I had a belly full of food, though, I couldn't get the thought of a crazy, late-night ride out of my head, so I kitted up and headed out the door at about 8pm for some trail goodness in the Redwoods. It was a beautiful clear night and exceptionally cold, with a frost already creeping across the ground. There were a few other riders cruising around, but mostly making their way out of the forest after their ride. I doubted that there were many other people as nuts as I was to start a ride that late. As I made my way further into the forest, the number of other lights passing me dwindled until I was well and truly alone (it occurred to me at this point that I probably should have told someone where I was going before I left!). I railed around corners in the dark, hearing nothing more than the crunch of my tyres on the ground and my breathing as I climbed. I remember thinking to myself "how amazing is this??? Being able to sift out the door this late at night and hit up single track like this! I'm gonna love living here!". I rolled in after my ride at about 10pm and crawled into a nice warm bed for work the next day.

After a Thursday full of work and house hunting, I hit up an early morning gym session on Friday at Golds Gym before heading to Zippys to catch up with Ra from NDuro... Whilst I am not at liberty to divulge the contents of our conversation, I must say I am pretty damn excited by what's coming up in the next year or so on the mountain bike calendar! Ra's passion is just contagious. It's so easy to get carried away once you start bouncing ideas around with him!

I ventured into the forest again on Friday afternoon, making my way right up to the high point of the forest to the new trail Te Tihi O Tawa. This little gem is nestled in the same native forest as Tuhoto Ariki and I don't think I could describe it any better than if I said it would have to be the love child of Split Enz and Tuhoto Ariki. It has the lovely flow of Split Enz with the rooty terrain and native forest backdrop of Tuhoto. The thing I liked even more about it is that you have to climb to get to it and earn your turn! As if a sweet trail in it's own right isn't awesome enough, Tihi drops you back in half way down Billy T. From there, I climbed back up to Corners, then hit up some Chinese Menu to bring me to the top of the new "Be Rude Not To", where I watched the sun set as I floated down the trail.

The boys have done some stellar work on this trail and are to be highly commended for their efforts. The new trail dips and kicks and turns through berms in a rollercoaster ride through the area cleared by the logging to then join back up to it's old ending at the edge of the forest again. The whole way down, there are these little kickers that have just enough punch in them that as you hit them, you seem to float over the crest of the kicker before landing on the other side and carrying merrily on your way. The trails in this forest are a true work of art, and I think I appreciated them more  now that I knew they were going to be my home trails very soon (YEEEHAAA!). I had made arrangements to meet Raewyn and Ash for a night ride, but by the time I made my way back to Long Mile, I was actually pretty pooped and ready for a hot shower and a feed, so after a bit of a catch up, left them to it. I doubt I would have kept up anyway after the day I'd had!!!

Saturday morning was one I was looking forward to very much. I met up with Rotorua legend Gaz Sullivan to shred some more dirt. After my adventure up to Tihi the day before, I was keen for another run, so we headed up there again. Riding early in the morning through the areas that had been felled gave a true appreciation for the effect the logging has on the trails. There was still a lot of ice and frost around and the frost would melt and settle on the trails, turning them into a muddy sludgefest. The trails with tree cover didn't suffer the same fate. I suppose that's one of the downsides of building trails in a working forest. The flipside of that, though, is that the views that have been revealed now that the trees are gone are quite spectacular. One of the things I love about Gaz is his passion for mountain biking. As we made our way around the forest, pretty much every five minutes, he would say something along the lines of "I love this place!" or "isn't this really cool". I couldn't agree more. The Redwoods, and the trails that inhabit them are indeed very special. It's funny how after being overseas and seeing some beautiful and amazing places, I seem to have a greater appreciation for the beauty we see here at home. We live in a really amazing place, just as amazing as anything I saw overseas. None of them are any more or less spectacular than the other... Just different... And each an amazing place in it's own right. Gaz was absolutely right... We are so incredibly lucky to have a natural resource like the Redwoods on our doorstep where we can enjoy some amazing trails. The other thing I enjoyed about riding with Gaz was that he kept me bloody honest for the day. I'm pretty sure I only managed to out-climb him once in our whole ride, and I was quietly pleased when he announced he was just about done for the day (because so was I!!!). I can't wait until I move to Rotorua and hit up some more trails with him. He's a great riding buddy! thanks Gaz!

After some more house viewings and breakfast at Zippys on Sunday morning, I hit up the forest one last time before heading home. It was a super cold morning and there was still some pretty substantial ice on the trails. I found it amazing how the ice seemed to lay on the trails in perfectly formed crystals. It was beautiful, and the sound of my tyres crunching over the ice was kinda cool. Once again, I discovered bits of exposed trail where the frost had made the trails quite muddy, especially up the likes of Tickler. I also made my way up to the top of Gunna Gotta, hoping that by then, the trails would have dried out a little, but it was still pretty slippery up there. The new Gunna Gotta is going to be a great trail once it rides in, and the views from the top without the trees are spectacular, not to mention that you can actually see the whole trail snaking down the hillside from the viewpoint on Split Enz.

Desert road was lined with snow for the drive home, and as the temperature sunk below zero, I was lucky enough to snap a spectacular picture of the sun sinking behind the snow-covered mountains. I've said to a few people now that having just done such a huge trip, and then knowing I am moving on again in a little under three months, I still feel like I am in transit, and it's quite unsettling for the time being. I can't express enough how I am going to miss the community in Palmerston North. They have given me such great support and I am sure I will return for a visit on occasion! But I'm really looking forward to my move to Rotorua... To have the trails and good climbing so close is going to be great for my riding and motivation. I love the people in Rotorua, too... There is so much passion for mountain biking and I am so excited at the prospect of being a part of that collective passion and helping make amazing things happen for the community and for the sport of mountain biking. I really felt like I was at home this week while I was visiting. I'm still on this amazing, positive high after world champs and it is so empowering. I feel like I've had the opportunity to do good things and I am on the right track in life. I have a lot to be grateful for, and a lot to look forward to and that's a pretty special place to be in!

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