Monday, January 14, 2013

The Spice of Life - A Blog With No Bikes...

I've enjoyed these holidays for a number of reasons... First and foremost, I obviously had the opportunity to ride my bike... Secondly, I had the opportunity to spend time with my beloved partner and her adventure-loving family (and her rather cute nephew)... And thirdly, because I did a bunch of cool things I wouldn't usually do. It is said that variety is the spice of life... To be honest, I thought the spice of life was bikes, but the wise person who said the former may just be on to something...
I'll start this blog by issuing a blunt warning... There are no bikes in this write-up... I know, I know... It was hard to do... And it doesn't mean that I love my bike(s) any less, but it just looks like I'm going to have to find more hours in the day, and more days in the week to do some other stuff that I have been missing for a long time now. Bikes weren't always the centre of my universe... There were times when I went canyoning, rock climbing, hiking, kayaking and rogaining, and I think these holidays have really demonstrated to me how much I miss some of that stuff. It's also been a fairly blunt wake-up call that my social skills revolve around my ability to find someone else in a crowd of people willing to talk about bikes... Partaking in a variety of activities not only gives me the opportunity to cross-train, but also equips me with the ability to engage a whole new group of people in a social environment... Or maybe I'm just trying to find excuses as to why I enjoyed some activities that didn't involve bicycles...

Alright, here goes for the confession... So I did some hiking/running and enjoyed it... There, I said it... PHEW!

In fact, I did it on more than one occasion. Our first foray on foot was early in the trip, when my partner and I did a little half day hike up the Rob Roy Glacier Track in Mt Aspiring National Park. The track entailed a rather stiff climb followed by stunning views of Rob Roy Glacier and some close encounters with a couple of cheeky Kea birds... We did this hike the day before our Mavora Lakes trip (what better way to cure the DOMS than riding 130km over the following two days???)

We also ventured onto the first section of the Motutapu hike for an afternoon, crossing from farmland into the stunning Stack Conservation area, a slice of paradise nestled beneath a native canopy with crystal clear rivers and waterfalls running through it. It was also on this day that we saw a farmer in his natural habitat... It isn't until this happens that you realise just how lucky we are to have access granted across the land that these people own... Something that we should never take for granted or abuse.

My hiking trip of note, though, was only a few days ago. I mentioned in a previous post that my partner's parents are pretty keen outdoor enthusiasts... And her mum in particular enjoys the odd off-road marathon. Aside from scouring maps, the other way I plot my adventures is staring wistfully into the hills, looking at tracks and roads that are etched into the hillside, salivating at the thought of conquering a huge climb, or seeing the view from that section of trail. Mount Roy sits unassumingly across the other side of the valley from where we were staying... Every morning at breakfast, it taunted me, and begged me to climb it... But there was that one barrier... NO BIKES. I was also aware of a route which traversed the range from the summit of Mount Roy, across to the summit of Mount Alpha, and then down into Cardrona Valley. It seemed like a formidable challenge, and whilst my partner wasn't really interested, her mum was as keen as mustard to head out with a new hiking buddy for the day.

I must admit I was silently terrified the old girl was going to rip the legs off me... I was, after all, bike-fit and not walk-fit (this was the excuse I had prepared in my head). I nervously joked about her taking it easy on me as we began the 1200m climb straight out of the carpark towards the peak of Mount Roy. My fears were allayed relatively quickly... We hiked at about the same pace (although I'm sure she wasn't quite as sore as me in the following two or three days), and seemed to have the same competitive urges (that been, we didn't like being passed or having someone in front of us), which kept us both pretty honest. The company and conversation was great, and a fantastic way to take my mind off my burning legs as we battled the relentless climb to the top on a well-formed track, stunning views across Lake Wanaka constantly in sight.
A couple of hours later, we crested the summit of Mount Roy late in the morning of a blustery day. The clouds that were suspended against the blue sky provided a dramatic backdrop for the stellar views as we pulled on our jackets to keep warm as we tackled the Skyline traverse. The clouds threw this incredible shadow across the surface of the lake, clearly visible from all the way up on top of the mountain, and we could see the trail we had just walked up winding it's way back down the hill. It's funny how you look at a route from afar and it seems so straightforward (and generally rather flat)... This route was neither (although it did look like that from afar). We followed a rough poled route back down an exposed ridge, losing precious altitude that we would have to gain again as we neared Mount Alpha. It was amazing how the route swung from one side of the ridge to the next, alternating views between and endless mountain range and a stunning array of lakes and rivers. The route was incredibly steep in places, turning into a nervous, sketchy scramble on a couple of occasions, but it was fantastic... I loved it. I remember looking across from one high point and following the orange poles with my eyes into the distance, able to see the one lone pole that sat on the summit of Mount Alpha and cringing at the route we had to take to get there. It was slow, rewarding work.

We nestled on the other side of the summit of Mount Alpha, protected by the wind and basking in some sunshine that had decided to pop out from behind the clouds and grace us while we ate our sandwiches. No sooner had we finished our lunch break had the sun disappeared and the wind reared up across the mountain, making our trip across the ridge a little more hazardous and making me just a little nervous. We began descending on a well-formed track that was rough and rocky, and I couldn't help but think it would be the perfect opportunity for a heli-bike drop... The riding down this trail would have been completely wicked! Biking is actually permitted on the Skyline track, and I found myself frothing at the thought of having my bike with me right there and then (it also would have been a lot easier on the knees!!!). Asides from the last section of DOC land, where the trail was hideously overgrown, there was definitely merit for an up-and-back bike trip on the track, or a heli-bike drop for those less inclined to climb hills under their own steam.

Back to the walking though (because there are no bikes in this blog)... As we descended off the mountain, the air became significantly warmer, and we found ourselves protected from the wind again, and able to walk side by side where we could have a good chin-wag... The last 4-5km was a tad boring, descending a section of overgrown DOC land, and then crossing a farm on a seemingly unnecessarily long route, but we eventually popped out onto Cardrona Road, rang for our pickup, and were on our way home after a good, honest six and a half hour slog. All up, we did about 24km and 2000m of climbing! Not bad considering we were on foot! I spent the following three days in an inordinate amount of pain... I need to learn to do this more often, or not at all!!!

Let's face it... There are places we aren't allowed to ride our bikes... But there is no reason we have to miss out on that experience... Where a trail is dual use, a bike is definitely my preferred mode of transport, but there are some cool things to see where it is totally worth going in on foot. An adventure is an adventure and worth doing no matter how we get there (but I still love my bike)...

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