When I go mountain biking in the UK it normally results in a few hours of huffing and puffing up some never ending hill. By the time I have get to the top I'm ready to barf up my lungs, quickly followed by my stomach. That is, unless its a circuit around Reading (UK) when most of the time is spent in the pub with the rest of the time trailing Mr Fellows and Mr Rummage who are usually peddling effortlessly in the distance ahead.
So having arrived in Queenstown, arguably the adventure capital of the world, I decided to try a spot of Heli-biking with a lovely but rather wallet trembling shop called Vertigo Bikes. I parted with a small fortune and was told to turn up at some unearthly hour the following morning. I hadn't been mountain biking for a while and the last time I was in a helicopter was in, errrrr, somewhat different circumstances. It was a helicopter courtesy of the Italian government, which I should add, was very kind of them. However, with a broken ankle, dislocated shoulder and enough blood to keep accident and emergency going for a few days, I didn't get any panoramic views.
We had some Panoramic Views this time
So at 8am the following morning I turned up at Vertigo Bikes, somewhat bleary eyed, but feeling quite positive despite a rather nasty chill to the air. I was told that the wind had changed direction during the night to blow in south westerlies and apparently the only thing in the south west, apart from a lot of sea, is Antarctica. But with only a dusting of snow during the night I was told we were good to go and then promptly shoved into a bus which was off to the heliport.
30 minutes later we arrived on the summit of Ben Crucian, some 1500 metres higher than where we started. I hopped out of the helicopter only to be greeted with the shock of sub zero temperatures and serious wind chill. The chill was made somewhat worse by the unfortunate event of losing my beanie the day before in a 120mph gust. That is, a 120 mph gust experienced while tumbling down the Nevis gorge, thankfully attached to a rope and paying NZ$170 for the privilege. Maybe I should have left the beanie at home then.
The next two hours involved some seriously exhilarating singletrack. Well it was exhilarating after we got beneath the snow line, before which the priority was to avoid going head over heels though each snow drift. And this was the middle of summer ? The route finished with some seriously cool downhill which resulted in a last minute change to my new years resolutions:
- Buy a full suspension bike.
- Go biking Downhill more often, and if you can afford it, hell, take a helicopter!
- And ditch the SPD's ... you can go faster round the bends with a foot down ...
We finished with a FergBurger and a pint of beer. Except in new Zealand beer comes served in 'handles' which is considerably less than a pint and costs considerably more.
On the way down
Finally ... Happy New Year to you all. Its a strange feeling spending New Year in New Zealand. Its the first major country to see in the new year. By the time India (that means you Jon) sees in new year I'll be sleeping off my hangover. By the time London hits the new year I'll be digesting my New Years Day lunch and on a flight to Stewart Island. And by the time San Francisco hits new year I'll be tucked into bed for an early night after the previous evenings indulgences.
If you have been paying attention, you'll probably know by now that we are off to Stewart Island tomorrow. The plan is to try and see some of New Zealand's native birds in the wild, with the Kiwi being top of the list.