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Exploring the back yard!

TRAVEL

Don’t leave home until you’ve explored your own backyard!

As an adventure travel agent I’m all for travel, but I do believe in exploring your own backyard and New Zealand has one of the most amazing back yards anywhere.

In his book about the Old Ghost Road, “Spirit Of the Stone” Marion Boatwright explains it like this;

“It’s like this backcountry is your seriously hot sister, but because she’s your sister you can’t see how gorgeous she really is ….”

The South Island of New Zealand has some of the worlds best trails and over the years I have had the pleasure of experiencing many of them! The following trails gives you a bit of a round trip taking in The Marlborough Sounds, Nelson, West coast, Arthurs Pass and Christchurch. This trip can be done as a bunch of separate trips or you could knock it out on a busy couple of weeks in January or February. As we live in the North island of New Zealand it assumes you’re starting and ending in Picton.

Queen Charlotte track, Marlborough Sounds

Starting with a scenic ferry out to historic Ship Cove this track can be completed in 2 or 3 days with overnight stops at Furneaux Lodge or Punga Cove and The Bay of Many coves. All of these stops can provide accommodation and meals. The track is a challenging single track with some decent hills and around 5 hours riding per day. My best memory of this track was a sublime single-track downhill for around 10km’s into Anakiwa on the last day. It is possible to get your overnight gear ferried to each stop. I highly recommend this as it means you can ride with a lightly laden bike!

Richmond Hills and Sylvan Forest, Nelson

Nelson has an abundance of mountain biking. If you’re bike packing the Maungatapu is an awesome way to get from Pelorus bridge to Nelson although it is a bit of a grunt. We managed to explore Sylvan Forest, Richmond Hills and Kaiteriteri bike park. The vertical at Sylvan/Richmond is pretty big so I recommend an Ebike or check out the shuttle service with Gravity shuttles. The trails are awesome with a mix of flow and tech and a total lack of brake bumps or corrugations. Fast and furious.

Kaiteriteri bike park has a couple of dozen trails above the stunning beach of Kaiteriteri. The trails are a good mix of flow and jump trails and best ridden when its dry (it’s a clay base). Mix up a days riding with a swim at the beach followed by a pie and pastry at the German bakery in Motueka.

You can find loads of accommodation in Nelson or Motueka but if you want to stay in Kaiteriteri you need to book early as its incredibly popular. You could also add in a day walk in the famous Able Tasman national park.

Old Ghost Road, Buller gorge to Seddonville Westcoast

Conceived in 2007 by Marion Boatwright, Steve Stack and others, the Old Ghost road is 85km’s of some of the most sublime single track! The trail can take 2-3 days to mountain bike. We did it in just 2 days/1 night, staying at Ghost Lake hut. The first day was an absolute climb fest which seemed to go on and on. Luckily the views from the top of the trail made it all worth it as we spent the last hour traversing flowing tracks across the tussock lined tops past heavens door.  The second day was simply awesome, starting with incredible tech along the skyline ridge to the steps, then dropping into amazing flow into the Stern valley before climbing through the earthquake debris of the Boneyard. The day finished with a 17km ride along the Mokihinui Gorge. It is rare that I get to the end of a 55km MTB day and I actually don’t want it to end!

Craigieburn trails, Castle Hill (Arthurs pass)

Located on the eastern side of Arthurs pass just an hour from Christchurch these trails offer around 30kms of technical single track. They link Castle Hill village, Cheeseman, Broken River and Craigieburn ski fields. I reckon the best way to do these trails is get yourself to the top of the Craigieburn ski road (Porters alpine resort can provide a shuttle) and do The Edge track, followed by Lyndon Saddle, Luge, Dracophyllum Flat finishing off with Hogs back which takes you into Castle Hill village. This gives you an epic downhill to start with followed by some fantastic cross country single track in some of New Zealand’s best alpine scenery.

The views of the southern alps and tussock are uniquely New Zealand. The trails are only open during summer so if its snowy bring your skis rather than your bike. Finish with a legendary pie at Springfield as you head towards Christchurch.

Christchurch Adventure park and the Port hills, Christchurch

Home of New Zealand’s longest chairlift, The Christchurch Adventure park has over 40 mtb trails, a zipline and a café/pub. I found a 5 uplift pass gave me around 4 hours riding which was plenty for my old bones. The park has some superb jump/pump trails like Locomotion and Loeless rider, and some truly excellent tech such as Captain Torpedo, Gung ho and Shredzilla.

At the bottom of the park is the most excellent café which serves local hazy’s and ciders and most excellent burgers and pizza. Get to the park early as it gets very busy on summer wekeends.

In the Port hills next to the adventure park is a huge network of trails. One of my favourites is the Bowenvale traverse west, joining the traverse east, onto the Mt Vernon trail and finishing off with Witch Hill. This makes around a 10km there and back trail which follows the ridge and gets amazing views of Christchurch, the southern alps and Lyttleton harbour.

This trail can be extended right through to Godley head with undulating flowing single track all the way, if you want a 30km loop.

Once its time to head back to the ferry and the North Island, Hamner springs is a great place to stop. The mountain bike park is small, but perfectly formed and the hot pools are awesome.

If you have time on the way back to Picton drop into the Middle Hill MTB park near Kaikoura. They do shuttle runs and have a dozen perfectly formed trails.

If you haven’t discovered the trails of South Island New Zealand its time you went!

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