What You Need to Know About Night Riding

night ridingWhen the days are short and you work full-time, night riding is often the only way to get your full cycle fix for the week. Both Logan and Dan love getting out on their bikes at night. Here are a few handy hints if you fancy doing the same:

Essential Gear
Dan: Lights are an (obvious) essential, but the front light has to be good quality with a long bright beam, something around 500 lumens upwards is ideal. The best places for night riding often have no street lighting so you need something to show the way.

I also recommend (especially for mountain biking) a front light attached to your helmet so you can see around the corners before you get to them (as you naturally would in the daytime). So best case setup would be one light on the handlebars and one on the helmet.

Logan: MTB night riding is generally a winter thing, so dress right for the conditions – warm gear/jacket etc. Clear lens glasses can be a good idea to protect against kamikaze bugs flying at your lights.

Safety
Dan: I guess just be more alert than normal when riding on the road, make sure you can be seen by other vehicles and that your lights have enough battery to last the ride.

Logan: Ride with someone else and make sure you tell someone where you are going riding and when you expect to be back.

Best Spots Around Christchurch
Dan: The Port Hills are popular with road riders at night, but even more so with mountain bikers. Tracks like Rapaki and Bowenvale Traverse are very popular. It’s pretty cool looking back down when you reach the top, to see light trails all the way back down to the city! I also hear that McLeans Island and Bottle Lake are busy at night but I haven’t checked them out yet.

Best Spots Around Auckland
Logan: Wednesday night riding at Woodhill is super popular. You can hire lights if you’re trying it for the first time. The Runway MTB Park is a great spot for a quick night ride after work for people near the airport. Totara Park in Manukau is also a good track for night riding.

Want to up your mountain bike skills so you can head out after-dark with confidence? We offer a half-day of mountain bike skills training in either Christchurch and Auckland. For more info, or to book a session, drop us an email

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt

Image: Phil and Pam Gladwell


Flashback to That Time We Took 30 Irish Rugby Fans Cycle Touring During the 2011 Rugby World Cup

custom cycle tours new zealandOne of the most memorable cycle tours we’ve organised was a 10-day tour of the South Island with 30 Irish rugby fans during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The tour was a fundraiser for the IRFU Charitable Trust which raises money for seriously-injured rugby players in Ireland.

After watching their team defeat Australia in Auckland (Ireland’s first ever win against Australia in the Rugby World Cup!) the group flew to Christchurch to start their (tough) journey to Dunedin: up Porters Pass, down the West Coast, over the Crown Range from Wanaka to Queenstown and then south to Dunedin in time to watch Ireland take on Italy at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

During our nine days in the saddle we experienced the full range of South Island weather: snow and icy temperatures on Porters Pass, blue skies and sunshine on the way to Haast, more snow on the Crown Range. Luckily we kept plenty of Guinness to hand! It was a lot of fun.
group cycle tours new zealandCustom tours are something we love running and we think we’re pretty good at them. Just recently we guided a group of friends along the Alps 2 Ocean trail and earlier in the year I led the Fireflies Antipodes Tour from Christchurch to Queenstown, which raises money for blood cancer research.

So, if you fancy riding in New Zealand with a group of friends, family members or colleagues – or you’re looking for a fun way to raise money for charity – drop us a line. We can help you put together a custom route that suits your riding preferences and abilities and we’ll take care of all the essential logistics, too (things like accommodation along the way, luggage transfer, bike hire and those all-important food stops).

Basically, we do the hard work (both before and during the tour) so all you have to do is focus on the riding. Email us to get the ball rolling.

Have a brilliant week (very cold here in NZ right now – if you’re a skier or a boarder this is your year!)
Andrew Hunt

P.S. We love organising short rides for work groups, Christmas functions and team building events, too. Shout out if that’s something we can help you with.


Get Your Camper Running: A Coromandel Road Trip Itinerary

coromandel road tripWith its beautiful beaches and fine coastal scenery, the Coromandel Peninsula is the perfect place to head with a campervan. Here are a few essential pit stops along the way:

The Coromandel Forest Park
This dense forest covers a huge area of the peninsula. The most popular part of the park is the Kauaeranga Valley, just out of Thames, where you’ll find DOC campsites and numerous walking tracks. To work up a sweat, tackle the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail – a three to four-hour hike to a jagged limestone outcrop known as the Pinnacles. Great views of the surrounding countryside from the top!

SH25
North of Thames, SH25 snakes its way along the coast, past pretty little bays and peaceful beaches. Stop for a picnic, a swim or to throw out a line – the fishing is excellent right along this coastline.

Coromandel Town
This sleepy little town wasn’t always so quiet – at the height of the gold rush the population swelled to over 10,000! Today it’s a good spot to stock up on supplies and wander the shops.

Driving Creek Railway and Potteries
Potter and railway enthusiast Barry Brickell originally built this narrow-gauge railway back in 1975 to transport clay, firewood, coal and other materials to his pottery studio and kilns. Over the years the tracks have expanded and today the railway is a popular tourist destination, taking visitors on a one-hour return trip through native kauri forest to a spectacular vantage point called the Eyeful Tower. Stick around for the video afterwards about Barry’s colourful life. You’ll find the railway a short drive from Coromandel Town.

Fletcher Bay
For complete isolation, point your camper north to beautiful Fletcher Bay. There’s a DOC campsite located right on the beach and it’s a great spot for swimming, boating, diving and fishing. Another excellent excursion is to mountain bike or walk the coastal path between Fletcher Bay and Stony Bay. It’s a 10km return walk or an 8km cycle. The biking is steep in places and only suitable for advanced riders and people with a good level of fitness. The pay off? Great views of the Coromandel coastline and offshore islands (Great Barrier Island, Cuvier and Mercury Islands).
Be aware: the road from Colville is unsealed and bumpy.

Whangapoua
The east coast of the Coromandel boasts the best of the beaches. From Whangapoua you can walk to the white sands and crystal-clear waters of New Chums Beach. With no vehicle access, it will feel like your own private paradise.

Cathedral Cove and Hot Water Beach
The complete opposite of New Chums Beach! These are both hugely-popular spots with tourists so expect a crowd. Cathedral Cove is only accessible at low tide – there’s a walking track from the car park or your can walk from Hahei Beach. Hot Water Beach is famous for its thermal waters. Come two hours either side of low tide and dig your own hot pool.

Worth knowing: Although it’s not particularly large, the narrow, winding roads of the Coromandel can take a surprisingly long time to navigate. And definitely avoid the Christmas and New Year period, when the whole of Auckland descends upon this picture-perfect paradise. (Summer weekends can also be busy – visit mid-week or out of season to experience the best of the Coromandel.)

Head here for campervan details:
http://www.naturalhigh.co.nz/campervan-rentals

Have a great week,
Andrew Hunt


Why a Three-Week Bike Hire Turned into Ten (Despite An Unfortunate Incident on Day Two)

solo cycling in nzLotus is from Taiwan and she recently hired a bike from us to cycle around the South Island. Her trip didn’t start well…on her first day she rode down the motorway (illegal in New Zealand) and on her second day her bike blew into a lake! But it got better. So much better that she ended up cycling for over ten weeks! Here’s her story:

What were your favourite places and why?
My favourite cycle trail was the Tarnbrae Track (Lake Ohau) The view was so beautiful and the track is nice for the mountain bike.

My favourite road was State Highway 73 (which connects the East and West coasts via the Southern Alps). Although the Otira Gorge is difficult and dangerous, the view was amazing. The road is big and flat. It was safer for bikes. The downhill was nice, but it was a little dangerous because the wind was strong.

The most natural road was the West Coast. When I went to the West Coast by car I just saw many trees. On the bike, I could hear waterfalls and birds. I felt I rode in the forest, not a road.

What kind of weather did you experience?
Sunny, rainy, windy, snowy, hailstorms and an earthquake! The weather in New Zealand is variable. Because of that, I saw lots of different scenery. After rain, I would always see a beautiful rainbow.

Did you feel safe throughout your trip considering you were travelling alone?
New Zealand (especially the South Island) is a safe and nice place. I like to travel with the bike alone, because I ride slowly. I prefer alone – I can talk with myself and face myself and enjoy every moment and meet a lot of new friends.
cycling around new zealand

On my second day, my bike blew into the lake. A nice, older man carried me by car to the Holiday Park. The Duvauchelle Holiday Park manager gave me coins to wash and dry my clothes. I was deeply touched.

When I knew the water was salt, I worried about the bike. I thought I had to tell Natural High the truth and get them to check out the bike. Dan taught me how to change a flat tyre and gave me bicycle oil. And he told me, ”enjoy, have a good trip, and keep away from the wharf.” (Ha ha, he was really sweet.) I felt so warm, because he was like family, like a father.

In a café in Little River I met a French family: Papa, Mum and four children (ages 15,13,11,8). They had a plan to travel around the world by bike for one year. When I met them, they had travelled 6 months already. That day was rainy, windy and cold – a nice Kiwi woman invited us to stay at her house for one night. Then I joined the French family riding from Little River to Christchurch.french family cycling

On day 39 I arrived at Bluff. When I was on the road from the Catlins, I lost my heart and energy. I didn’t want to keep going and I worried about time and money. Then I decided to go to Stewart Island. I stayed three nights on Stewart Island. I didn’t want to talk with people – I just enjoyed the silence and nature and freedom. Then I met a Kiwi, who had ridden his bike from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island. I went to his concert and I liked his voice and his songs. That night I was really glad and happy.

So I travelled alone, but I was not alone on my way.

Lastly, did you enjoy it?
Yes, I really, really, really enjoyed it! During my journey, I discovered:
The most powerful thing is nature
The most beautiful scenery is people.
The things that bring me most happiness are warm showers and sleeping on a bed.
The most important thing to be is happy and safe.

I thank Natural High, because a good bike was very, very important in my journey. It was my best friend in my trip and I think it enjoyed every moment!

Thanks for sharing your story, Lotus. If you fancy doing something similar (minus the bike in the lake!) you can check out bike hire here.

Have a brilliant week,
Andrew Hunt

P.S. Lotus’ route if you’re interested in knowing exactly where she went:
Christchurch-Akaroa-Christchurch-Rakaia-Ashburton-by car to Geraldine-Lake Tekapo-Glentanner-Mount Cook-Lake Ohau-Omarama-Kurow-Duntroon-Oamaru-Katiki-Warrington-Dunedin-Middlemarch-Ranfurly-Omakau-Alexandra-Clyde-Alexandra-Roxburgh-Beaumont-Lawrence-Tuapeka-Balcluthu-Catlins(Nugget Point)-Papatowai-Curio Bay-Slope Point-Invercargill-Bluff-Stewart Island-Bluff-Riverton-Te Anau-Mossburn-Queenstown-Arrowtown-Cardrona-Wanaka-Makarora-Haast-Lake Paringa-Fox Glacier-Franz Josef-Ross-Hokitika-Greymouth-Moana-Jacksons-Arthur’s Pass-Flock Hill-Christchurch.


Traditional Kiwi Tucker to Keep you Pedalling for Longer

classic kiwi tuckerFood never tastes better than after a few hours in the saddle. Here’s a selection of classic Kiwi fare that’ll help keep your motor running when you’re out on the road:

The humble pie
You’ll find this delicacy in any bakery in any town – they’re cheap, substantial and delicious. Popular fillings include steak and cheese, mince and cheese and bacon and egg. While you’re in the bakery, you may as well pick up a sweet treat for later. Lamingtons are a good choice. The Australians like to claim these coconut-covered square sponges as their own invention, but Auckland University reckons a collection of 19th-century watercolours by New Zealand landscape artist JR Smythe prove otherwise – the Lamington (originally called a Wellington) originated in New Zealand. Other confections worth a bite: ginger crunch, caramel slice or a freshly-made muffin.

A flat white
Not technically food but since caffeine is a must when you’re biking and Kiwis are serious about their coffee, the flat white deserves a mention. It consists of a shot (or two!) of espresso and steamed milk. If you’re thinking that sounds a lot like a latte, there are two crucial differences – flat whites have a more velvety texture and are served in a cup, not a glass!

Fresh seafood
You’ll find seafood on the menu just about everywhere. Look out for green lipped mussels in Marlborough, crayfish / lobster in Kaikoura, Akaroa salmon in Christchurch, whitebait fritters on the West Coast and Bluff oysters in Bluff. And you can’t beat a feed of fish and chips at the end of a big day in the saddle! Freshly caught snapper, terakihi and hoki are the most common types of fish used. Switch things up with a serving of kumara (sweet potato) fries.

A scoop of hokey pokey
Hokey pokey is the nation’s favourite ice-cream – it’s vanilla with pieces of honeycomb.

Hāngi
This is the traditional Maori method of cooking food. A deep hole is dug, lined with red-hot stones and covered with vegetation. The food – chicken, pork, lamb, potatoes, kumara and other vegetables – is placed on top, sprinkled with water and sealed with more vegetation. The hole is then filled with earth and left to steam for several hours, producing a meal with a rich, succulent flavour. You won’t find hāngi on the menu at regular cafes and restaurants but many tourism experiences offer a hāngi meal, especially in Rotorua.

If you’re a keen foodie, put the following on your agenda:

The Wildfoods Festival in Hokitika. Usually held in March.

The Great Taste Trail in the Nelson and Tasman region. Easy cycling with lots of great cafes, breweries and vineyards along the way.

Bluff Oyster and Food Festival. Held in Bluff every May.

Whitianga Scallop Festival. Every year in September.

A local farmer’s market. Always a great option for finding fresh, flavoursome and locally-produce


It’s Official: The Kiwi Night Sky Will Leave You Starry Eyed

starspotting in new zealandOne thing you must do when in New Zealand is venture outside after dark – our night skies are likely to be clearer and brighter than any you’ve ever seen before.

Little to no light pollution and crystal-clear air means a stunner of a night show just about anywhere in the country.

Not only are our night skies brighter, they’re also different. You’ll get to see features not usually seen in the northern hemisphere, like the Southern Cross and the Southern Celestial Pole, and if you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights.

Pretty much everywhere outside the main cities offers a spectacular night sky, but for truly first-rate viewing head to the Aoraki / Mount Cook Mackenzie region.

The Mackenzie Basin is the southern hemisphere’s first dark sky reserve, in recognition of its almost light-pollution-free skies. The reserve includes Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the villages of Lake Tekapo, Twizel and Mt Cook.

Tekapo has just been ranked the second best spot in the world for stargazing (behind San Pedro de Atacama in Chile) by reservation website Booking.com. The village has two observatories – Mount John University Observatory and Cowan’s Observatory – which run popular twilight tours.

In Twizel, Star Gazing Tours run guided tours of the night sky at private, out-of-town locations.

The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail runs right through the Mackenzie region – combine days in the saddle with starry-night skies! Read Rachel Lamb’s blog of her recent Natural High Alps 2 Ocean tour, here:
http://sungrl18.com

If you’re travelling around New Zealand at the start of winter, you might notice talk of Matariki.

Matariki is the Māori name for the small cluster of stars in the Taurus constellation that rise during the New Zealand winter. Matariki is an important time in the Māori calendar – it signals the start of the Māori New Year and was once an important indicator of forthcoming weather.

Matariki celebrations take place around the country. In Wellington, Te Papa have events running from 13 June to 12 July.

Image: Tom Hall


Where Did We Go For This Year’s Team Management Meeting?

west coast cycling

It’s become a bit of a annual tradition: head away with my branch managers for a spot of team building and strategising – from the saddle!

This year Logan, Dan and I took in the West Coast of the South Island: over Arthur’s Pass (in a bus, thanks to a slip on the railway line) then along SH6 through Hokitika, Ross, Fox, Haast and Wanaka to Queenstown.

The West Coast is truly spectacular (admittedly we say that about everywhere in New Zealand) and the road is brilliant for cycling – lots of twists and turns, medium climbs and rugged coastal views.

Dan reckons the fourth day from Haast to Wanaka – with its combination of native bush scenery, the Gates of Haast and views of Lake Wanaka and Hawea – was his favourite day’s riding EVER….although Wanaka to Queenstown, which featured a stop in the Cardrona Hotel and a long, long descent from the top of the Crown Range to Arrowtown, was a worthy runner-up.

Few places worth a mention along the way: there’s a food stall in Hari Hari which sells great sausage rolls and some seriously good caramel shortbread. And Fox Glacier Lodge is a very comfortable and scenic spot to spend the night.

To get an in-the-saddle experience of our trip, we made you a little video. Head here to watch:
www.youtube.com/christchurch-to-queenstown

Fancy wandering the West Coast next summer? We’ve got lots of different options:

6 day Queenstown to Christchurch
Starting out in the adventure capital of Queenstown, this trip takes you over the Haast Pass to the West Coast, where you’ll cruise the coastal road and experience the icy wonders of the Fox Glacier. A great option for the super-fit or time-poor.

9 day Christchurch to Queenstown
Over Arthur’s Pass aboard the TranzAlpine, then onto the West Coast road. You’ll get a full day to explore Franz Glacier before riding through Fox Glacier, the Haast Pass, Makaroa and Lake Wanaka to Queenstown.

10 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Queenstown T3
You’ll be driven over Arthur’s Pass to Punakaiki, home to the famous Pancake Rocks, before following the twists and turns of the West Coast road all the way to Queenstown.

15 Day Road Cycle Tour Christchurch to Christchurch
A classic loop that takes in Arthur’s Pass, the wild West Coast, the adventure capital of Queenstown and majestic Mount Count.

Dates aren’t yet finalised for next year’s tours, but drop us a line if you’re keen to tackle any of these routes and we’ll be in touch with the details.


From High Peaks To The Pacific: The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail

alps 2 ocean cycle trail Natural High tour guide Leona recently led a group along the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail.

This 310km route has fast become one of the South Island’s must-do trails – and for good reason.

Running from Aoraki/Mount Cook to the cool little coastal town of Oamaru, it’s the longest continuous ride in New Zealand and serves up a dazzling array of scenery; from sweeping mountain vistas to beautiful blue lakes and golden grasslands.

Along the way there’s intriguing Maori rock art, interesting townships, an old railway tunnel, great vineyards and some exceptional hot pools all waiting to be discovered.

There’s even the possibility of a helicopter ride, since the official start is on the eastern side of Lake Pukaki (just out of Aoraki/Mt Cook Village and not accessible by vehicle). Alternatively, you can kick off your riding from Lake Tekapo and ride along the canals.

The trail generally takes between 4-6 days to complete and is a Grade 2-3 ride (easy to intermediate). Be aware that it’s not all downhill riding – there are several steep climbs and lots of off-road terrain. You’ll want to be moderately fit and have experience riding on loose gravel.

The best way to get a feel for this ride is to read Rachel Lamb’s blog of the recent Natural High tour:
http://sungrl18.com

Cycling Tips also posted a brilliant account of the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail. Head to their website for a read:
http://cyclingtips.com.au

And if all this reading inspires you to ride the Alps 2 Ocean trail in real-life, we offer a 6-day guided tour. Find more details here:
http://www.naturalhigh.co.nz/cycle_tour/gr021-5-day-alps-to-ocean-cycle/


Small City New Zealand: Gisborne

small city new zealand gisbornePerched on the very easterly edge of the North Island, Gisborne is popular with surfers, beach lovers and anyone looking for a few days complete peace and quiet. It’s got some interesting cycling opportunities too…

Getting there:
Getting to Gisborne is all part of the experience – it’s a long way from anywhere else! From Whakatane you have two options: scenic State Highway 2 or the even more scenic (and considerably longer!) drive around the East Cape. If you have time, this is well worth the extra fuel – you’ll pass beautiful beaches and coves and small, isolated settlements. Highlights along the way include: Waihau Bay – where the movie Boy was filmed, Te Araroa – home to the largest pohutukawa tree in the world, the East Cape Lighthouse – the most easterly place in mainland New Zealand, beautiful Tikitiki Church – built in 1924 as a tribute to those who fell in World War One and Tolaga Bay Wharf.

From Rotorua, you can take State Highway 38 through the wilderness of Lake Waikaremoana and the Te Urewera National Park. It’s mostly unsealed and slow going but it’s a drive you’ll never forget! This route brings you into Gisborne past the Mahia Peninsula, a popular spot with surfers and fishermen.

See the sunrise first
Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun rise. Head to Wainui Beach, Tatapouri or any other easterly facing beaches to catch the show. (The town beach faces west, so it’s best for sunset viewings).

Surf’s up
Beaches and surfing are what life in Gisborne is all about. Makorori and Wainui beaches offer reef, beach and point surf breaks and are lovely spots to wander. Waikanae Beach is a good learner’s spot.

Follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook
There’s a monument to Captain Cook at the bottom of Kaiti Hill – the spot where he first set foot on New Zealand soil. Close by, there’s a walking track which takes you up Titirangi (Kaiti Hill) for fine views of the coast, another Cook monument and the Cook Observatory.

Tairawhiti Museum
Learn about East Coast Maori and the region’s colonial history. The museum has excellent historic photographic displays and a maritime wing, with displays on waka, whaling, Cook’s Poverty Bay and a vintage surfboard collection.

The Rere Rockslide
Head to the Rere River, 50km northwest of Gisborne along Wharekopae Rd, where you’ll find a 60m-long rock slide. Tyre tube or boogie boards are recommended to cushion the ride. A few kilometres down the road are the stunning Rere Falls.

Eastwoodhill Arboretum
35km from Gisborne, this forest and garden contains New Zealand’s largest collection of northern hemisphere trees and shrubs set among 100 hectares of hills, valleys and ponds. A network of easy walking tracks makes it a great day out.

Cycling
Riding around the East Cape is popular, although large logging trucks still use the road. It’s a 4-5 day trip that’s best ridden clockwise. Otherwise, pick up a map and explore the huge network of back country roads (these are mostly unsealed).

Mountain bikers can hit up the Whataupoko Reserve, which has great trails for all levels of rider. There’s also the Mander Road Mountain Bike Park. To ride here you’ll need to buy a permit from Avantiplus Maintrax, Bikeys or the Gisborne Cycle Tour Company. Permits are valid for a week.

The Rere Falls Trail is another great ride option. This runs from Gisborne to Matawai (or vice-versa) and links Gisborne to the Motu Trails. It’s 103km (one-way) and takes you past the Rere Falls and Eastwoodhill Arboretum.


Exploring the Eastern Bay of Plenty and the Motu Trails

Here’s an absolutely fantastic set of rides we haven’t talked about yet: the Motu Trails. They’re located in the quiet, unspoiled Eastern Bay of Plenty and offer three different riding experiences. Here’s the lowdown:

Dunes Trail
An easy, 22km return ride suitable for beginners and families.
Starting from Opotiki, this trail follows the coastline to Jackson Road. It’s an easy (grade two) ride, with lovely views of the ocean, White Island and the East Cape ranges. Take your swimming togs as there are plenty of spots to access the beach along the way.

Motu Road Trail
An intermediate ride, 67km one-way.
This trail follows the first road between Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty and runs from Jackson Road to Matawai. (Connect with the Dunes Trail to start or finish your ride in Opotiki). The route can be ridden in either direction, but offers more downhill sections if you start in Matawai. It passes through remote bush and farmland and there are several steepish hills – reasonable fitness is required! At Motu, you can take a short detour to the spectacular Motu Falls.

Pakihi Track
Advanced riders only, 44km total.
When the Pakihi first opened in 1914 it was a horse track that provided a link between the town of Motu and the coast. These days it’s a wild and exhilarating mountain bike experience. The track runs one-way from Motu Road to Opotiki. The top half careens through native forest, while the bottom half follows the Pakihi River. The track is well formed, with a steady downhill gradient all the way. Free-draining soil means there’s very little mud even after heavy rain. It’s rated advanced because in places there are steep drops to the sides. From the end of the track, you can return to Opotiki via gravel road, then quiet rural road. Just before Opotiki, turn right onto Te Rere Pa road, and then follow the Otara stopbank track for 4km back to the start of the Dunes Trail.

The Loop
Combine all three rides, 91km.
To complete the full loop, start and finish in Opotiki. Set off along the Dunes Trail, which links directly with the bottom of the Motu Road Trail. From here it’s mostly uphill riding to the start of the Pakihi Track, which takes you back to Opotiki. It’s possible to ride the loop in one day, but most people take two days.

For more information on the Motu Trails, head here:
http://www.nzcycletrail.com/motu-trails.