Happy New Year!

January 13, 2015
So… hi!! Happy New Year! (Plus 13 days, I know…)
Tardy as always, but I am here with a massive picture post recounting our 10 day holiday on the north island. We flew into Rotorua, eventually drove south through Taupo to Napier, then south again on to Wellington.

Flying north at 8am

Scott and I met friends in Rotorua for 5 days over New Years. We biked, and biked, and biked some more. We averaged 5-6 hours each day, with New Years Day being an 8 hour ride day. Rotorua truly is a mountain biking heaven. There’s a shuttle bus if you want it, Southstar Shuttles, who do an awesome job of balancing cost, value, and wait times. There are legal (and possibly illegal…) trails for miles.

We barely took any photos because we were just too stoked to take a break. We literally just got to ride to our hearts content, with 10-15 of our good friends. What a great start to the new year!

My big accomplishment for the new year was hitting a jump that scared me, but that I knew was well within my ability. Scott didn’t really expect me to do it, but had the video mode on his phone anyways just in case. The gap was approximately 12-15 feet, making it easily the biggest one I’ve managed so far. This is a still frame from the video, which is the closest I can get to a photo:

Rotorua is known to mountain bikers for it’s world class riding. But it’s known to everyone else as the town that stinks! It smells like rotten eggs from the airplane as you descend! Luckily the forest we ride in doesn’t have much of an aroma, er… odor, but there are many geothermal pools and mud pits scattered throughout town, making the downtown area (including where the fancy hotels are!) one very smelly place. Scott and I took an afternoon to wander around a community park that has lots of pools. When we go back I’d like to spend the money to see the really colorful ones, but on this trip we just didn’t have the time.

Pukeko
BABY PUKEKO!!!
Steaming mud.
Smelly mud!
One hot lake!
No color enhancement here. A very green lake indeed!

After our last day of riding we drove out to a highly recommended spot just out of town. Kerosene Creek is a natural stream that is heated by geothermal activity. At the “top” of the spring (where it comes out of the ground) it is actually too hot to even get in. There is a spot where the creek widens and most people gather, but Scott and I (and our sensitive skin) headed another 100 meters or so down the stream to a spot where it was tolerable to sit. I estimate it was about 102 degrees or so, as I felt like I was inching my way into a hot tub- perfect for sore muscles!

Kerosene Creek

The day we left Rotorua we drove to Napier, via Lake Taupo. We took the day off of riding bikes and planned to do some touristy stuff in Taupo. Problem was, the people. So. Many. People.

Apparently Taupo is a major tourist trap. Why? No idea.
On the way in we saw Huka Falls. Which was basically a gigantic amount of turquoise water flushing violently down a 6 foot rapid. This would have been sort of cool if we had hiked out to it for a picnic spot… (not nearly as cool as hanging glaciers or 6 meter waterfalls), but it really had no luster for me at all with the carpark being a 60 second walk away and with at least 200 people crowded around the viewing platforms, with their screaming kids and cigarettes. What is it with people and nature within close proximity to the car that just makes you want a smoke?
Anyways, Huka Falls:
There it is…
We parked in Taupo and walked around for 10 minutes, but felt so claustrophobic and uninspired that we decided to get the hell out of there. If anyone has any off the beaten track Taupo information, I’m all ears.
I would have loved to do the Tongariro Crossing (of LOTR fame), but it’s an hour plus drive south, and at this point we needed to head east.
We stopped to eat somewhere close to Napier and I met this little love:
Benji the Ram
Napier is a coastal town that boasts some of New Zealand’s finest weather and finest wine. It reminded us so much of Northern California that it was erie. We went wine tasting at a few vineyards, then checked into our spot.
Napier had a major earthquake in 1931 that killed 256 people and leveled the town. It was then rebuilt entirely in the style of the time: art deco. Walking down the main street and many neighborhoods feels a bit like stepping back in time. It’s neat, though not a style I’d pick for my permanent residence. I failed at photos. So… google it.
We wined and dined, played mini golf (I lost by ONE point) and walked by the beach. It was a nice day of rest, followed by a day of biking at Te Mata Peak. Te Mata is a hilly area southwest of Napier, which couldn’t be more like California unless it was California. We felt so at home.
Ok, except for the braided river in the background.
Ok maybe not the cabbage trees, either.
I wished we had more time in Napier, to check out Hawke’s Bay to the north, and some of the other mountain biking in the area. The weather was amazing, and there were tons of cool bars and restaurants. We’ll have to go back.
The following day we headed south, nearly a 4 hour drive to Levin. On the way, we found a great spot for wine tasting at Junction Wines, and naturally we met the owners. He’s a former All Black! They had a beautiful country setting and were still set up for a wedding from the previous weekend… it was so lovely. And, best rose I’ve had in a long time!

 

Levin, or more specifically, Ohau, is a seriously middle of nowhere town on the Kapiti Coast, about an hour north of Wellington. There’s no reason whatsoever to stop there, unless you fancy staying at the Brown Cow B&B with 2 kunekune pigs, 2 goats, 2 sheep, several ducks and chickens, 3 rabbits and one big brown cow! I was in heaven!!

Oh, and one duckling!
Beauty sleep
I got drenched today (sprayed for flies, lice, etc.)
View from our bed 🙂

I’ll admit, I had a hard time leaving after just one night in this little slice of heaven! I mean, how could you leave this face??

Our first day in Wellington we met up with a friend of a friend and rode at Makara Peak, a purpose built mountain bike park just a few minutes out of town. Those guys have put some serious work (and funding!) into their mountain bike trails. Impressive.
We were amused to see their sign post at the top of the hill with none other than Mt. Tam as a destination (among all top mountain bike destinations). This is Scott’s home mountain, and the irony is that most trails are illegal! But still, the birth of mountain biking was on Mt. Tam.

Our second day in Wellington, Scott headed off with some fast chaps to ride and I took the day to myself to explore. I went to a marine reserve and checked out tide pools, I went to the Otari-Wilton Bush and hiked through non-disturbed native bush and saw an 800 year old Rimu tree, I drove to Mirimar, home of the Weta Cave Workshop (Lord of the Rings central) and I was unimpressed. Then I had a cappuccino on the ‘beach’ (aka: sand barged up from Nelson). It was lovely.

Baches along the southern coast, Wellington.
Fern grotto, Otari-Wilson Bush
800 year old Rimu tree
Tui.
Native beauty.
Afternoon coffee stop.

Our last day we did the touristy thing and went back to the amazing Te Papa to check out any new exhibits (T-REX!), then quickly left when we discovered the entire city decided to go that day as well. We cruised around town and did a little shopping (post-Christmas sales!) and had an amazing lunch in the hipster area of Cuba Street. It was a nice, calm end to an awesome if not slightly exhausting biking vacation!

“New Zealand” in Maori is Aotearoa: Land of the Long White Cloud.

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