All In A (Spectacular) Day’s Work

Imagine getting paid to ride one of New Zealand’s most exciting trails? Well, that’s a regular reality for John Mason: he relocates cars for riders on the Heaphy Track. Once he’s driven his client’s car from one end to the other, he rides back via the track

Snaking through the rugged Kahurangi National Park, in the north-west corner of the South Island, the 78km Heaphy Track connects Collingwood to Karamea. A route once used by Golden Bay Māori to travel to the West Coast to collect pounamu (greenstone), the current track was built in the mid-1800s by gold prospectors. 

These days it’s managed by DOC and is open to mountain bikers from 1 May to 30 November each year. It’s a wild, untamed part of the country but there’s one hitch – the start and finish are separated by more than 450km of winding roads.

That’s where car relocators like John swing into action. John’s choice of transport is by bike but other relocators walk or even run the trail. Last year, 73-year-old Derry Kingston retired after 15 years of relocating cars for trampers. In that time, he walked the track over 400 times. His trail highlights? The sub-alpine section, the old Lewis Hut and the possibility of bumping into a kiwi. 

Another species to watch out for on the trail is the giant land snail Powelliphanta – often seen after rain, some grow as big as a man’s fist!

The Heaphy is a tough ride (grade 4-5), suitable for those with advanced riding skills only. Most riders complete it in two days and hut accommodation is available at a number of spots along the route. Riders can travel in either direction, but most choose to start in Collingwood and finish in Karamea. Get in touch if you need bikes for the trail – we’ve got a great selection of models.

Have a good week,
Steve


Summer Riding Is Just Around The Corner

See the Abel Tasman National Park as part of the Great Taste Trail cycle tourFancy exploring New Zealand by bike this summer? Here are just a few of the tours we’ve got on offer.

Go soon
We’ve got two tours heading out the door on 10 December. The 7 day Queenstown to Christchurch road tour will introduce you to the quiet roads, remote bays and windswept coastlines of the lower South Island. Or, check out the 6 day Queenstown to Christchurch road tour, which takes in primal rainforests, the icy wonders of the Fox Glacier, and the dramatic coastal scenery of the West Coast. Both tours are fully guided.

See the north
Graceful pohutukawa trees perched on beach edges. Immaculate stretches of sand. Secluded harbour waters. Northland in summer is nothing short of dreamy. On this tour you’ll visit Tane Mahuta, the world’s largest kauri tree, stop by Cape Reinga and explore the magical Bay of Islands. Learn more >>

Go end to end on the Alps 2 Ocean Trail
Pedal the Alps to Ocean Cycle Trail all the way from mighty Aoraki/Mount Cook to the Pacific Ocean. Begin in style with a heli flight across the Tasman river before cycling through the vast tussock lands of the Mackenzie Country and along the braided rivers and vineyards of the Waitaki Valley. Hand-picked accommodation is a highlight of this tour – you’ll stay at a mix of lodges, premium backcountry farmstays, motels and luxurious glamping tents. Learn more >>

Pair riding with dining
Sublime coastal scenery, relaxed riding and a smorgasbord of local brews, wines and cafes await on the Great Taste Trail. Discover the city of Nelson, sail through the Abel Tasman National Park on a catamaran and enjoy a half-day walk on the famous Abel Tasman track. Learn more >>

Have a good week,

Steve


Time To Book Campervan Hire?

west coast cycle toursSummer’s just around the corner and we’re gearing up for another busy season. A quick heads-up that if you’re contemplating campervan hire, book early. Our vans are popular from Christmas through to March and we’d hate for you to miss out.

Not sure where to go? Make sure you put at least one of these scenic routes on your itinerary:

The Lost World Highway
Built on colonial bridle paths formed in the late 19th century, this is New Zealand’s oldest touring route. It stretches for 155km from the North Island’s Central Plateau to Taranaki on the west coast.

East Cape
Encounter the longest wharf in the southern hemisphere and the most easterly point on mainland New Zealand as you cruise the coastal roads of the East Cape. 

West Coast of the South Island
Surf-pounded coastline, lush rainforest, glacial rivers and intriguing geological features – no wonder Lonely Planet named this route one of the top ten coastal drives in the world. 

Te Anau to Milford Sound
Featuring mountains, rivers and rainforest, the road to Milford Sound is almost as spectacular as the Sound itself.

All campervans come fully equipped with bedding, kitchen and general household essentials. And if you want to make the most of your adventure, we can also include bike hire. 

Take a look at your options on the website and get in touch if you have any questions.

Have a good week,
Steve


Push Your Limits On These Classic NZ Climbs

Push your limits on these classic NZ climbsNew Zealand isn’t short of topography. If you love a challenge, put these routes on your bucket list.

Lake Taupo loop
The 160km circuit around Lake Taupo is an up and down affair, with plenty of tough climbs.The highest point on the loop sits at 650 metres. The route is also a popular category in the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, which this year takes place on 30 November (and if you really want to test yourself, you can opt to do it a whopping four times).

Banks Peninsula
Hills, hills and more hills await riders on the Banks Peninsula. But since they’re accompanied by quiet roads and stunning coastal views, it’s won’t be all hardship. Our three day, self-guided Banks Peninsula tour offers an enticing introduction to this little-known region. With just under 5000 metres of climbing, this is not an adventure for the faint-hearted, encompassing a mix of on and off-road riding, remote gravel tracks, and a disused rail trail. There are also opportunities to incorporate rugged single track.

Arthur’s Pass
Arthur’s Pass, climbing to more than 900 metres through Arthur’s Pass National Park, is the highest and most spectacular pass across the Southern Alps. Although the most direct route from the West Coast is along SH73, a more attractive option for cyclists is via Lake Brunner. The small township of Moana on the shore of the lake makes for a good overnight stop.

The serious climb to the pass begins after the tiny settlement of Otira, taking you high into kea country. Arthur’s Pass Village is just a little further on. The landscape shirts dramatically on the eastern side of the pass, where you’ll encounter wide, shingle-filled riverbeds and vast swathes of beech forest. After Porters Pass (at 950 metres), the descent to the Canterbury Plains begins.

Crown Range
The route from Queenstown to Wanaka over the Crown Range is known for its zig-zags – lots and lots of switchbacks that inch you closer to the Crown Range Plateau. The rest area at the top is deceiving – the actual summit is a further 5km of climbing away. Make sure you stop by the historic Cardrona Hotel for a well-earned drink. From there the last 25km to Wanaka are either flat or downhill. 

Have a good week,
Steve


10 Reasons To Go Guided This Summer

go guided this summer

1. We do all the planning.
Not everyone wants to spend hours poring over maps and guide books. Book a guided tour and all you have to do is turn up and ride.

2. You’ll see all the best bits … plus those lesser-known locations you’d find impossible to discover on your own.
Every route we offer has been carefully designed to show you the best scenery, sights and excursions. 

3. You won’t get lost.
Cycling alongside you will be your knowledgeable, friendly tour guide. Your guide will provide local insight, mechanical support and encouragement … and ensure the snacks are ready and waiting during refreshment stops.

4. Ride luggage-free.
We’ll ensure your bags are safely delivered to your next overnight stop. 

5. Take a break from the bike at any time.
A support vehicle will always be on hand to give you a rest from the saddle, or shuttle you up the steep bits.

6. We cater for different riding abilities.
Each trip we offer is rated for overall difficulty, based on the daily distances and the terrain covered. Easy tours are suitable for people who just want to ride, relax and enjoy the scenery. They cover lower distances per day – around 40 to 50 km – over relatively flat terrain. Moderate tours cover longer daily distances – around 50 to 80 km – with more hills. Challenging tours can cover over 100 km a day, across rolling (and sometimes steep) terrain with repeated climbs. 

7. Kick back and relax each night at carefully-selected, comfortable accommodation.
You could stay at a castle, or on a boat on Milford Sound.

8. Most meals are included.
These vary between shared, family-style dinners at the end of the day, big lunches at scenic spots along the route, and opportunities to dine independently and discover local cafes and restaurants. 

9. Top-quality gear.
We have the largest selection of premium quality bikes and gear in New Zealand to ensure your bike suits your journey and ability level, and is comfortable to ride.

10. It’ll be fun!

Check out the full list of guided tours on our website. And if you’ve got any questions, drop us an email.

Have a good week,
Steve


Meet Natural High’s Newest Team Member

Meet Natural High’s new Operations Assistant Manager, Kirke Ranson, who works in our Christchurch branch. Kirke hails from the small town of Paraparaumu on the Kapiti Coast.

What first got you into riding?
First got into mountain biking about 10 years ago doing adventure racing. Fell in love riding single trail and haven’t looked back! I enjoy mostly riding a mountain bike. Getting out on a trail and feeling the flow is unbeatable.

Favourite ride?
Riding in the Redwoods Forest in Rotorua is pretty special. A vast amount of trails and amazing loam soil makes for epic fast-flowing rides.

Best spot for after-biking drinks?
Anywhere you can share a beer and a good yarn about the ride.

What do you like to do when you’re not riding?
I love getting out in the wilderness for hikes or riding my snowboard when there is snow on the hills.

Do you have any must-do rides or destinations?
There’s plenty of new stuff in the area that I have to check out. Would love to get up to Wairoa Gorge in Nelson.

Images: Courtesy of Kirke Ranson.


The Deep South Is Calling!

Looking to experience the remoter side of New Zealand? The 7 day Queenstown to Christchurch road tour takes you deep into rural South Island life where quiet roads, isolated bays and windswept coastlines await.

Trip highlights:

  • Meander alongside the beautiful lakes of Te Anau and Manapouri.
  • Cycle the rugged Catlins coastline, home to fur seals, Hector’s dolphins and yellow-eyed penguins.
  • Walk to Mclean Falls and Cathedral Caves.
  • Challenge yourself on the rolling hills of the breathtaking Otago Peninsula.
  • Visit the only mainland breeding colony of northern royal albatross in the world.

This tour is graded moderate. You will need to be a competent road rider and should be able to cycle comfortably for up to 4–6 hours or around 80km/50miles per day. There are some long undulating and hilly sections.

Accommodation, most meals and daily luggage transfer are included. You’ll also have the luxury of being able to hop aboard the support vehicle should you feel like a breather at any point.

The December tour departs from Queenstown on 6 December 2019. Get in touch today to secure your place. We’ve also got departures running throughout the summer – check the website for details.


Hidden Gems: The Whirinaki

Mountain bikers flock in droves to ride the trails of Rotorua, but head a little further south and you’ll find the Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park, home to ancient forests and two, lesser-known mountain bike trails.

Where
90km southeast of Rotorua, off Te Whaiti Rd, via SH38. You can access the park through Minginui village and up River Road to the River Road car park.

Why go
The park stretches across 56 hectares and is one of the best remaining examples of lowland podocarp forest left in New Zealand. In the 1980s the forest was the site of one of New Zealand’s biggest conservation battles, as activists sought to protect the ancient trees from continued deforestation. Today, it’s co-governed by the Department of Conservation and local iwi Ngāti Whare.

Trails and ability level
For less experienced riders, the Whirinaki Mountain Bike Track provides an easy introduction to backcountry riding. The full track is 16km long and takes around two to four hours to complete. You can also choose to ride shorter sections. The inner loop is a grade two, while the outer loop is a grade three.

For a more adventurous forest experience, hit up the Moerangi Mountain Bike Track. This 35km, grade three ride incorporates several hilly sections and takes around five to six hours to complete. Three huts situated along the route provide great rest spots, or stay the night and turn the ride into an overnight trip.

What to see
Podocarps up to 65 metres tall and reaching three metres wide. Beautiful river flats and rolling hills and gullies. Large populations of native birds including kākā and robin. Staying overnight in a hut will enable you to hear the night animals, such as ruru/morepork, wētā and kiwi.

Like to ride the Whirinaki? We can hook you up with bike hire, or combine bike hire and campervan hire for the ultimate road trip.

Have a great week,
Steve


Got Cycling Plans For December?

queenstown to wanaka road rideIf you’re looking to squeeze in an adventure before the end of the year, check out the 6 day Queenstown to Christchurch road tour. This fully guided tour takes in primal rainforests, the icy wonders of the Fox Glacier, and the dramatic coastal scenery of the West Coast.

Trip highlights 

  • Cruise the twists and turns of the wild West Coast.
  • Pit yourself against the Crown Range, New Zealand’s highest road.
  • Swoop down Haast Pass on quiet sealed roads.
  • Visit Hokitika, craft capital of the West Coast and home to local green stone (pounamu).
  • Sit back and admire the view from the TranzAlpine train as you cross the Southern Alps on your return to Christchurch.

This tour is graded moderate to challenging. You will need to be a competent road rider with a good level of fitness. You should be able to cycle comfortably for up to 6-8 hours or around 100km/60miles per day, with some extended uphill ascents.

The tour includes all accommodation, most meals and daily luggage transfer. You’ll also have the luxury of being able to hop aboard the support vehicle should you feel like a breather at any point.

Our December tour departs from Queenstown on 6 December 2019. Get in touch today to secure your place. We’ve also got departures running throughout the summer – check out the website for details.

Have a good week,

Steve


Hidden Gems: The Motu Trails

Where
The eastern Bay of Plenty on the North Island, home to beautiful beaches and a gentle pace of life. The little coastal town of Opotiki makes a good base for exploring the trails.

What’s on offer
Three different trails, suitable for a variety of riding abilities. The Dunes Trail is an easy, 22km return ride perfect for beginners and families. It starts from Opotiki and follows the coastline to Jackson Road. 

The Motu Road Trail is a 67km one-way ride, suitable for intermediate bikers. It runs from Jackson Road to Matawai – connect with the Dunes Trail to start or finish your ride in Opotiki. You can ride in either direction, but there are more downhill sections if you start in Matawai. This track offers a great introduction to backcountry riding, without having to venture too far into the wilderness.

The Pakihi Track is for advanced riders only, and runs one-way only from Motu Road to Opotiki (44km). It runs through native forest before following the twists of the Pakihi River. Watch out for steep drops to the sides of the track. You can return to Opotiki via gravel and rural roads.

Combine all three rides for 91km of spectacular riding. It’s possible to ride the loop in one day, but most people take two days. Or, link the Motu Road Trail with the Rere Falls Trail and ride all the way to Gisborne.

What to see
The spectacular Motu Falls are worth a detour. They’re located 5km from Motu on the Motu Road Trail.

Hukutaia Domain, south of Opotiki, has a fine collection of native plants, including a 2000-year-old puriri tree.

Pakihi Hut, which stands high above the Pakihi River, provides a great spot for refuelling on the Pakihi Track (or spend the night and turn your ride into a leisurely overnighter).

The Rere Falls Trail will take you past Eastwoodhill Arboretum, home to 135 hectares of exotic and native trees.

Where to stay
Opotiki has lots of accommodation options. There’s also a shuttle service to get you to and from the tracks you want to ride. 

We can hook you up with bike hire, or combine bike hire and campervan hire for the ultimate road trip.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Beach Holiday Park by Robert Engberg. CC BY 2.0.