Aotearoa : what we found across the ditch

Tripping Lightly

Recently we had occasion to travel from Auckland to Christchurch, scored a relocation rental wagon so updated ourselves on Highway 1 towns and scenery for the first time in 30 years or so. Most remarkable transformation was the once dungy town of Tirau which now is a mecca for the traveller.

Given our rainfall in Victoria this last year or so, we were not strangers to the normal lush green of NZ

Desert road mountains, NZ
Snow clad peaks from the Desert Road, NZ

but certainly the nature of the landforms was refreshingly different. From the pimply hills of the South Auckland and Waikato farmland through the snow blanketed volcanoes of Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe viewed in all their majesty from the Desert Road, then the river riven gorges and flat lands of the Manawatu to the gorse and house pocked hills of Wellington.

Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park

Makara Peak information display
Makara Peak information display

Unlike my previous report on the Woodhill Mountain Bike Park just north of Auckland, we didn’t have time to ride Makara Peak MTB Park (pronounced ‘mac a rah’). But we did visit it on our way to the inter-island ferry and snapped these photos at the car park. An ideal place to ride if visiting Wellington even without your bike as you can catch a trolley bus which terminates just up the road from the bike park entry. At the bus stop just 100m prior to the terminus is Mud Cycles where you can hire mtbs and guides or instructors. Then hop on your rental and cruise along South Karori Rd for 1km to the park. How easy is that? NZ 008Photo at right shows bike wash and toilet.

But it gets even better if you time it right as during November-April there is a free 1.5 hour guided tour from the mtb car park at 1000 1st Sunday of every month.

Other MTB Rides including Easy

The classics at Rotorua etc are easy enough for you to find. But we noted other commercial ventures and trails in a number of the towns on Highway 1. Then in Christchurch a friend told us about the new Westland Wilderness Trail. This is on the West Coast region of the South Island which is home to Highway 6 voted by Lonely Planet as ‘One of the Top 10 Drives in the World’ in 2007. And I can personally attest to it being a truly great drive which should be part of any circuit of the South Island. It is a great entry/exit point for Central Otago and I will leave it to you to search for the myriad of mtb opportunities in this, our favourite NZ region.

But I must mention two down there, one being the now world famous Otago Central Rail Trail . Before you turn your nose up at a rail trail, be assured this has truly superb, varied scenery and is far from flat. As for Snow Farm, we XC skied there for many years, staged NZ’s first 24 hour rogaine across Snow Farm and surrounding properties and are looking forward to mtbing there in January. If you climb east to the top of the Pisa Range you look way down on Lake Dunstan, the town of Cromwell and across to other ranges that will make you salivate at the thought of mtb riding there.

Different but...

I like our Great Dividing Trails (GDT) equally as well as the rides described above. They are very different experiences because of the topography and environment. e.g. eucalypt forests here, pine and beech in NZ or open high country. So if you go to NZ on biz or holiday, take the opportunity to do some riding in a new environment.

Nga Haerenga

And just as a ribbon of our GDT trails attracted government funding for further development and marketing as The Goldfields Track, so too has the NZ government invested in mtb cycle tourism. Their NZ Cycle Trail (Nga Haerenga in Maori) is an ambitious $50m project to establish a network of 18 world class trails the length of NZ. The Westland Wilderness Trail is one of those already in use.

Haere ra

p.s. The Food!

How could I forget this key item. A rellie put us onto a great cafe in downtown Wellington. Exceptionally well priced, good selection of rolls, pastries, muffins etc and good coffee. Margies Coffee Lounge & Patisserie is tucked away back of the ground floor of a 5 storey building on the corner of Grey St and Jervois Quay. Just a shingle hanging outside. It is diagonally opposite the Queens Wharf entrance to the NZ Academy of Fine Arts and also the Olympic Museum, Museum of Wellington City and Sea and other attractions. Nothing flash but great value.



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