Sending the road gap in Wanaka’s Sticky Forest
With my ankle fully functioning again I was back on form. To celebrate my new found freedom I put on my dancing shoes and headed over to Wanaka for a ceilidh. I decided to cycle there from Queenstown over the crown range on my road bike. I’m not much of a roadie but the ride was great. I had about 45mins on the flat to warm up before hitting the start of the climb. After 45mins of steep first gear switch backs I made it to the top and was rewarded with an hours worth of fast gradual descent. Mat and Lynne took the car and kindly carried the rest of my stuff. The ceilidh was fun (despite having a dance floor full of kiwi’s looking a bit lost and confused) and I spent the next few days cruising round sticky forest before heading back to base.
For the remaining three weeks of my Kiwi adventure I practically became a Queenstown resident. I was living as the house pet in a massive house with Jon, Nico, Pete, Nat, Sarah, Jamie and Emma. This place had everything: a garage, a hose, an oven, a telly, a pool table, a gym and an indoor climbing wall! My house mates were all sound and so were the crew at R+R Sports in town. They let me use their basement workshop which is packed full of parts, tools and spares. Walking down the stairs you’re greeted by a row of hire bikes on the floor, a row of bikes on the wall and another collection of bikes hanging from the ceiling. The wall on the left houses the tools, the posters and the white board complete with a list of names and times to inspire some friendly rivalry for new trail at Coronet – Rude Rock.
Timed runs down Rude Rock
Rude Rock is a fantastic trail. It is easy enough for all abilities and yet if you can remember which way the corners go and which way to turn off the blind rises then you can hit it seriously fast. My fastest time and current world record stands at 5minutes and 8seconds – sufficiently long enough to require a good sit down afterwards.
The biggest attraction for most bikers who come to Queenstown is the Syline Gondola. I splashed out and got myself a half season pass for a rather hefty five hundred bucks but it was money well spent in my opinion. I went up for at least a few hours a day and yet I couldn’t tell you the names of the purpose built trails. They are all a bit wide and covered in braking bumps. Good fun on a DH bike perhaps but too rough for my Five to enjoy. Instead, I went searching for the secret trails built by the local shredders. My favourite trail by far is known as ‘Jedi’. It is super steep and proper boom gnarly. In fact, it is so steep that you can’t actually stop in places. The severity of gnarly death is such that even when you’re riding slowly you still feel out of control. Most people choose not to ride it, especially if they’re on their own, which meant I had this part of the forest all to myself. I would have loved to do some filming here but I don’t think the camera would have done it justice. I did, however, manage to get some decent camera work done. I’ve successfully documented a perfect and typical day in Queenstown which includes plenty of skids, dust, jumps and a bit of canyoning too. There are some sweet rivers to explore but be warned: the water is freezing! To help fend off hypothermia I got a wetsuit from NZ Shred which is a really cool shop that specializes in all board related sports whether you want to play on snow, water or concrete. Here is the final edit:Jamesy Boy’s NZ Adventures from James Shirley on Vimeo.
I was pleased to get to do another one of the local DH races as well. This time it was the Remarkables ‘Grass Track’ course – a super fast, off camber, grassy traverse from top to bottom. I probably should have bought some new tyres but I was feeling cheap and decided to struggle on for the rest of the holiday. Despite my poor decision, I hit some sections pretty fast and finished a couple seconds off the podium.
Remarks Grass Track race
The shear variety and volume of riding around Queenstown is amazing. There is something to suit everyone. As well as doing my favourite trails I got involved with a spot of dirt jumping with Jon at Gorge Road and up Mini Dream. Mat also took me out and showed me some bigger rides. One of them took us up the Moonlight track, round to the top of the Ben Lomond Saddle and back down Jedi. Another good adventure was the ’Goats of Hell’ – a homemade trail which takes you along some spectacular cliff edges which offer amazing views of the area.
Sadly, the NZ dream has now come to an end. It’s about time to be fair though because I’m due a good rest! I should have treated myself to a few days off but I wanted to max out the time I had left. Towards the end I got so tired that training didn’t really happen anymore and instead I’d treat myself to some runs of the Gondola. I tried to psyche myself up by getting the stopwatch out but after a few runs I’d be too tired to care. That’s when ‘Jedi’ came in to its own… You can’t afford to make a mistake on that track so it really focuses the attention!
Living life on the edge
I’m currently hanging out in Australia for a few days with my big cousin Dave before heading to Canada for some extreme sledging. Time to go play in the waves…