New Zealand is a mountain biking mecca, but if you are reading this from the land of the long white cloud then me telling you that is a bit like teaching you to suck eggs, it’s glaringly obvious. Originally from the UK and having not been here that long, I’m revelling in the delights this wondrous country has to offer me in terms of trails, adventures and the people.
When climbing some singletrack on Maitland Ridge near Nelson Lakes last weekend, I took some time out to have a real think about why I love New Zealand. The climb in question was perhaps a little too steep for the energy I had stored in my tired legs and I relished the time out in my brain to analyse and pin point the things that float my boat. It was a simple process and within just 1000m of ascending, I was done, here’s what I came up with……
1. Beech Forests
When the golden sun shines through, the colours emanating from a native beech forest are just incredible. If you’d have said to me before arriving here that standing in a native forest at sunset would become one of my favourite things to do, I’d have thought you were mad, surely there are better places to be at golden hour? But no, to drink in the array of greens and gold’s against a backdrop of a dark loamy trail is a feast to the eyes. Oh, and about cornflakes….. don’t even get me started!
2. The Hut Network
The hut network in New Zealand spells freedom to me, the opportunity to roam, to experience life in an altogether more raw way. On a practical level they provide access to the outdoors in a way rarely seen in other countries, trips into the bush and up onto mountains can be linked into two, three, four or more days making for epic adventures without the need to camp. The Department of Conservation (DOC) manage a massive 950 of these little places of solace from the real world, long may this continue!
3. The People
Part of my rationale for coming to spend more time in NZ wasn't just about the mountains and the open space, it was about the people too. I’ve never been made to feel more welcome in a country than I did when travelling here in 2015, all the cyclists I met were dead keen on showing us their trails and then taking us home for a beer and a blueberry muffin on the deck (other foodstuffs available, beer is compulsory). There is a flip side to this as well, with just 4 million people, if you plan to get away to a beautiful spot for a ride you won’t have to share it with anyone unless you choose too…….