Autumn Adventure in the South Island, NZ - Part Two, Welcome Rock

May 26, 2016
by Jay French  


We were in the van about to head over the hill to our next destination after a hectic day of shooting with the boys up Mt Burke in super strong winds and up against a tight schedule, when the call came through from the owner of said next destination. “Boys, the weather has turned to custard on us, it’s wet and there’s no light… you might wanna look at plan B”. All well and good, except we didn’t have a ‘plan B’.

The original plan was to head straight back to Wanaka as soon as we finished the Mt Burke shoot, then hightail it to Garston where we’d ride into the Welcome Rock Trail system as far as the Mud Hut and spend the night. That was now off the cards. Fortunately for us, Tom from Welcome Rock Trails had come up with a ‘plan B’. Demonstrating genuine southern hospitality he hooked us up with a place to stay on the family farm. With the lure of a home cooked meal, some cold beers, and an open fire inside the farmhouse, we were back on the road with the prospect of clear skies and good dirt awaiting us.

Downs a well earned beer after a long day of hard work
Conor downs a well earned beer after a long day of hard work!
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Home cooked farm style dinner.
A nice home cooked farm style dinner.
Conor studies the map of where we ll be heading tomorrow.
Conor studies the map of where we'll be heading tomorrow.

Des tells Conor about the history of Welcome Rock.
Des (Tom, the owners dad) tells Conor about the history of Welcome Rock. He also wrote a poem especially for it.


Welcome Rock, twelve regal stones,
Weather snow and storm,
Autumn cool a regal stag,
Is inclined to bugle,
Stand tall, roar,
Cycling humans, snake, zigzag,
These wonderful people are in their pink!
- Des O'Brien

The Southland Ski Hut. Starting point of The Welcome Rock Trails.
The Southland Ski Hut, the starting point of The Welcome Rock Trails.
The stop at the top. Views and an interesting story.
Story of the Whiskey.
The story of the Welcome Whiskey.
The hidden whiskey for passing travellers.
... and here is the hidden whiskey, stashed for passing travellers.
Perhaps Elmo was a pirate in a past life
Perhaps Elmo was a pirate in a past life?
The lads play rock paper scissors to see who gets to sample the whiskey.
Conor gets to do the honours.
A quick toast to the past.
The lads play rock paper scissors to see who gets to sample the whiskey. Conor gets to do the honours.
Down the hatch. That s one way to get warmed up for a day of riding.
A quick toast then down the hatch. That's one way to get warmed up for a day of riding.
The sun begins to crest the hill and so the riding begins.
Sam leads the charge on back wheel with the beautiful morning light to help.
The sun begins to crest the hill and so the riding begins. Sam leads the charge on back wheel with the beautiful morning light to help.
Conor leads the crew to the first place to shooting.
Conor leads the crew to the first place for shooting.
Followed by Elmo.
Followed by Elmo.
Lastly Sam at the back riding past the Welcome Rock into the sunrise.
Lastly Sam at the back, riding past the 'Welcome Rock' into the sunrise.
The boys enjoy the view on top of the rock overlooking the Nevis Range.

The Welcome Rock Trails were news to me, Conor suggested I check it out as a place to explore as none of us had ever ridden there. There are 27km of hand built single track, with views across the Nevis Range and down onto Garston and Nokomai. The trails are flowy, and could be ridden by most with a reasonable level of fitness, but what makes this place different is the opportunity to stay the night in one of their backcountry huts. This allows you to take it all in and you can stop at any of the nine different historical and ecological interpretation points along the way, which gives the faster ones something to read as the others (read: me) catch up. There are plans to extend the trail network into the 200 hectares of Beech forest they have here, and create even more opportunities for adventure.

Sam catches the others as they head off onto the trails.
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Blenki loves back wheel.
A quick chat before moving on trying to make the most of the morning light.
A quick chat before moving on, trying to make the most of the morning light.
Elmo chases the other two while the sun shines from his armpit.
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Conor is flat as around this berm. Note the mud flying off the tyres this trail was tacky.
Conor is flat as around this berm. Note the mud flying off the tyres, this trail was super tacky.
Sam goes even flatter with that race style.
Sam goes even flatter with that race style.
Plenty of climbing to keep the boys warm.
Plenty of climbing to keep the boys warm.
The trails in Welcome Rock are playful Conor get the front up.
Again Conor powers out of a corner chasing Sam.

bigquotesMy vision for Welcome Rock is to have an experience where less is more in terms of small numbers of people enjoying a large untouched environment. To experience a unique pioneering story dating back 130 years. My dream is to build a network of trails that are sensitive to native high country with beautiful design principles. I want Welcome Rock to be a truly kiwi hiking and biking destination. - Tom O'Brien

Elmo checks out the gas heated bath near the slate hut which over looks the valley where Garston is. Loving life.
Sam explores the facilities on top of the mountain.
The view from the tub
Sam explores the facilities on top of the mountain, whilst Elmo checks out the gas heated bath near the slate hut. The view from the tub stretched out across the valley where Garston lies.
Conor takes it a bit slower but pops higher showing how his riding background influences his style.
Elmo uses his tongue to counterweight his whip.
Blenki shows that classic racer steeze that everyone loves to see.
Here's good demonstration of the guys individual styles. Conor takes it a bit slower but pops higher showing how his background as a 'freeracer' influences his style. Elmo uses his tongue to counterweight his whip, meanwhile Blenki shows that classic racer steeze that everyone loves to see.
More climbing as we leave the slate hut towards the mud hut.
More climbing as we leave the slate hut towards the mud hut.
Conor gets flat over the rocks on the way up. The power to get rad on the uphill is impressive.
This is actually how tall we are in real life.
This is actually how tall we are in real life.
Climbing out of the clouds. No rest for the wicked.
Early cloud begins to burn off as the boys approach the next stop.
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Elmo teaches the others about how they used to separate the gold using the log in the foreground however Conor looks appropriately worried about Elmo with a pickaxe.
Elmo teaches the others how they used to separate the gold using the log in the foreground while Conor looks appropriately worried about Elmo and that pickaxe.
The boys have worked long and hard this morning and are able to relax and have lunch by the destination mud hut.
The boys have worked long and hard this morning, and are able to relax and have lunch by our destination, the mud hut.
Inside the mud hut proper old tools of the trade.
Tea towels dry over a fire.
The mud hut has been kept in best condition for its age much of the hut neing original still.
The mud hut has been kept in the best condition for its age, with much of it being original still.
The sleeping quarters inside the mud hut. Cosy once the fire is canking but you d still want a good sleeping bag.
The sleeping quarters inside the mud hut. Cosy once the fire is canking, but you'd still want a good sleeping bag.
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Wood for keen winter travellers.
Wood for keen winter travellers.
Blenki and Conor take in the vista over a bag of tropical trail mix. the good kind
Blenki and Conor take in the vista over a bag of tropical trail mix (the good kind).
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
A line of spades as a tribute to all the diggers past and present.
A line of spades is a tribute to all the diggers past and present.
The Roaring Lion sign a thank you to all that have helped build this trail system.
The Roaring Lion sign, a thank you to all that have helped build this trail system.
Conor wheelies through a waterfall.
Elmo skids into the scree slope and those with eagle eyes will notice Conor and Sam in the background both inside pipes.
Elmo skids into the scree slope, and those with eagle eyes will notice Conor and Sam in the background, both inside pipes.
The trail is littered with interesting remnants of the areas past.
The trail is littered with interesting remnants of the areas past.
These fluming pipes add to the track and its ability to tell stories.
These fluming pipes add to the track and its ability to tell stories.
Sam sends it off a cliff onto a scree slope
Another tasty nugget of info along the way.
Another tasty nugget of info along the way.
Conor shows off his balance by riding the pipe.
Conor shows off his balance by riding the pipe.
Conor. Pipe dream.
Conor. Pipe dream.
Many gates to open on the way down thanks Conor.
Many gates to open on the way down, cheers bro.
Photo Epic Autumn Adventure in the South Island NZ - Part Two
Does what it says on the tin. NZ s most inland food truck.
Does what it says on the tin. NZ's most inland food truck.
A welcome end to any big ride a hot coffee and a piece of cake from a cool airstream cafe. Cafe 6Sixty
A damn welcome sight at the end of a long ride.
Can the drummer get some
It's been a heavy couple of days behind the lens, and it's safe to say I'm probably more tired than any of the riders, as I don't share their physical prowess but with my backpack littered with flat batteries and full memories cards, I'm stoked on how everything turned out. Conor, Sam, and Elmo were an awesome bunch of guys to ride and explore with. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Wanaka mountain biking trails
www.newzealand.com

See part one here.


MENTIONS: @FR-NZ




28 Comments

  • + 24
 Fantastic work. Beautiful images. Thanks.
  • + 2
 Thanks so much! Glad you liked it.
  • + 7
 Damn, sick shots. Fair play to Elmo though, no pads, no gloves, no dropper and a pair of vans, yet still shredding with the best of them.
  • + 2
 Elmo is a rad dude, spent the next day sending flips, supermans, and no-handers on the little bike.
  • + 3
 Im headed to NZ north island in Feb next year. Seeing this is making me rethink that entire trip. maybe another week and a trip down south could be the goods. Breathtaking photography and the thought and story within the trails. Great job guys.
  • + 2
 You gotta head down south!
  • + 5
 Welcome Whiskey - this needs to be a standard for every trail everywhere.
  • + 4
 Damn, awesome shots, nice work! That place looks great, maybe it's time to move back to NZ.
  • + 1
 Cheers! Plenty of scenery for everyone hey Smile
  • + 2
 These trails look better than I thought - I'd assumed they were overbuilt highways like the Queenstown trail, built for people who don't really mountain bike
  • + 2
 My dream is to have the oppurtunities to be behind the lens and experience amazing trips like this, wherever they may be. Thanks for the inspiring photos!
  • + 4
 I'd heard of these trails but didn't realise they were so sweet!
  • + 3
 Beautiful images!!!!!!!!!!!
  • + 2
 Photos give you a real Aotearoa feel...nice work! Have to do some more South Island riding...
  • + 1
 so for the fellow aussies who have done it, how many days and how much money does it take for a good MTB trip...Bringing your own bike?
  • + 2
 So good mate! You killed it!
  • + 1
 Cheers!
  • + 1
 Some very nice images in there, but a lot of them are out of focus? Love the article and the words though.
  • + 2
 Great photos there! I look forward to reading about your next trip!
  • + 1
 Thanks a heap @anyexcusetoride
  • + 2
 Loved both articles Jay, great work. Looks like a killer time.
  • + 1
 Thanks a lot man! Appreciate it.
  • + 2
 Presumes they were being chased by an orc pack on their way to Rohan?
  • + 2
 WOW POD.....NICE
  • + 1
 Awesome pics there, mate! Will save this ride for next year!
  • + 2
 Awesome images! Cheers!
  • + 2
 Top notch!
  • + 2
 Me want!

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