Following the success of our trips to Kaiteriteri bike park
in Nelson, it was time for a week long road trip to sample as many riding spots as possible in the South Island of New Zealand. Given the shear amount and diversity of riding to be found, this was definitely no easy task! Still, you've got to start somewhere, and the first spot on our tour was the Craigeburn Range
. Located in the middle of the Southern Alps, and probably more famous for its backcountry skiing in winter, there are a whole host of remote trails to scout out and soak up the endless views on offer. Craigieburn Trails mountain biking trails
Saying goodbye to the Lodge.
After giving the bikes the final once over and double checking we had everything needed for a week on the road, we loaded up the UTE, just about managing to fit it all in. With a 5 hour drive ahead of us, we made a quick stop in Motueka for the wild camping essentials (beer) and hit the road. Driving South via National route 6, we got out first taste of rural New Zealand - straight roads, sheep, and mountains looming like giants in the distance.
Fully outdoors and ready for the week.
Straight and straight to the mountains
After making it down to Taylorville, we took a left and started hitting the uphill that had seemed so far away earlier. Climbing up through some pretty mean looking rocky mountains, we made it to Arthur's Pass a township, serving as a popular base for the Southern Alps and home to the only mountain parrot, the inquisitive 'Kea'. Originally scouted as a faster route from Canterbury to the West Coast, it was built to aid the construction of the Otira tunnel, now carrying the TranzAlpine Express. Making a quick stop for fish and chips, a New Zealand staple, we pressed on now high into the mountains wanting to hit our campsite before we lost the daylight.
In the heart of the Cragieburn Range.
We got to our wild camp spot just after the sun had set, making for a hasty first tent pitch in the wind. Despite the lack of facilities being out in the middle of nowhere, you are rewarded with incredible views of the night sky. However, also being in the middle of the mountain pass it was that bit cooler, meaning a hasty jump into sleeping bags and bed down for the night ready to hit the trails in the morning. Waking up to admire our campsite and with the sun catching the surrounding peaks, we jumped back into the car and made the short drive over to Mount Cheeseman.
Lord of the Rings wherever you look.
More famous for its skiing, there are a number of trails running from the car spot. We were heading up to the double black 'Cockayne Alley' via the fire road but you can also access the 'Hogs Back' taking you to Castle Hill in one direction, or 'Dracophyllum Flat' taking you back towards Arthur's Pass. After getting the bikes unpacked and assembled, Peak Leaders Graduate Morgan and I started the pedal up on our trail bikes whilst Max and Fabio started the long push up, definitely an advantage to bringing something more pedal friendly!
The Cheeseman Ski Area.
Route one to the mountains.
Heading up to the scree line on the left.
Slowly but surely spinning our way up the firewood amongst the trees, every clearing reminded you of the epic landscapes hidden in the distance, what this part of the Southern Alps is known for.
Max and Fabio on the push, just specs in the right corner.
Reaching the top, the wind was savage.
Gearing up whilst trying to find shelter from the wind.
Feeling the full force of the wind, we quickly got geared up to drop in. Traversing across the loose gravel to the main downhill gave us a sketchy start, wondering when the proper downhill was going to start. But as we reached the grass, the fun started. Fast and flowy hero dirt, with the long grass hiding the trail in front revealing itself gradually and keeping you on your toes.
Fabio opening it up.
Warp speed through the grass.
Never get tired of that view.
Hitting the tree line, the trail completely changes its identity. Open alpine grassland is replaced by steep moss-clad Beech forest, a loam filled paradise. Making sure we followed the advice to speed check when we dropped in, stopping on this trail is definitely a challenge but make sure you enjoy the flowing and seemingly endless loam fest back down to the stream and carpark. Not wanting to make the climb up again, we played a bit of Tetris with the truck and managed to get everyone's bikes in ready for some shuttling, much to Max's delight! After a few more laps and thighs burning from playing on the steep slopes, it was time to get packed up and hit the road again for our next stop Queenstown!
Next hit: Queenstown.
Set in the Motueka Valley within the Tasman region of the South Island, Mot Lodge is a luxury bed and breakfast with supported mountain bike tours. For more information, check out their website, give them a like on Facebook and follow them on Instagram.
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