35 Days, 9 Cities & 1 Bike: Sequoia Schmidt’s Intrepid NZ Book Tour

Sequoia Schmidt NZ Book TourSequoia Schmidt is no stranger to adventure. The daughter of renowned mountain climber Marty Schmidt and sister of 25-year-old Denali Schmidt, who both died in an avalanche on K2 in 2013, Sequoia is about to embark on a 35-day cycle tour across New Zealand to promote her recently-released book Journey of the Heart: A Sojourn to K2.

The book documents another intrepid journey in her life – her trip to K2 Base Camp in 2015 to retrace her late father and brother’s footsteps, and “respect the mountain and the climbers who came before.”

Born in the Hawke’s Bay but now living in California, this is Sequoia’s first time back in New Zealand following the deaths of her father and brother. She’ll be stopping in nine cities along the way, conducting book readings, Q&As and signings, starting in Queenstown and ending in Auckland on May 4.

Sequoia will be pedalling her way around New Zealand on a Surly Long Haul Trucker, picking it up from our Christchurch branch and returning it to our Auckland branch at the end of her tour. This is a robust, comfortable bike that’s perfect for the kind of long-distance trip that Sequoia is about to embark on. (If you’re considering cycle touring around New Zealand, check it out on our website).

Fancy meeting Sequoia and hearing more about her amazing adventures? Here’s a list of her tour dates:

Queesntown: Lakes District Library, 11 April – 5pm.
Dunedin: City Library, 12 April – 5.30pm.
Christchurch: Upper Riccarton Library, 13 April – 5.30pm.
Wellington: Central Library, 20 April – 5.30pm.
Palmerston North: Central Library, 22 April – 12.30pm.
Napier: Public Library, 24 April – 5.30pm.
Tauranga: Library, 29 April – 12.30pm.
Hamilton: Creative Waikato Space, 1 May – 6pm.
Auckland: Central Library, 4 May – 5.30pm.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Mountain bike fan? Crankworx is taking place in Rotorua right now. This is the first major event of the new season and there’s heaps going on, including the Rotorua Pump Track Challenge on Friday 31 March and the Crankworx Rotorua Downhill on Saturday 1 April.


Great North Island Day Rides: Ohakune’s Old Coach Road

old coach roadFeaturing volcanoes, viaducts and spectacular views, Ohakune’s Old Coach Road is a fascinating half-day or full-day adventure on the fringes of Tongariro National Park.

Constructed in 1907, this cobbled road was originally used to ferry goods and passengers between the northern and southern railheads. The route was abandoned upon the completion of the North Island Main Trunk line in November 1908, and lay forgotten until 2002.

Today, the 15km road serves as a popular cycle and walking track. If you’re only planning to ride one-way, the route from Horopito to Ohakune is easier, with a mainly downhill gradient all the way. If you’re cycling both legs, start out at Ohakune and get the uphill slog out the way first (although there are only one or two steep sections and most of the track is easygoing).

Various impressive sights line the route including the only two curved viaducts remaining in the Southern Hemisphere. Taonui Viaduct and the much-larger Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct were constructed in 1907–8 under tough, working conditions. Thanks to recent restoration work, Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct (where AJ Hackett established bungy jumping) is crossable.

The road also dives through the pitch black of the curved Hapuawhenua train tunnel, and meanders alongside ancient forest where you can catch glimpses of giant rimu and spiky mountain cabbage trees.

Vintage car fans should also request a diversion to Horopito Motor Wreckers, commonly known as Smash Palace due to its role in a cult 1981 movie of the same name.

Experience this ride with a combined campervan and bike rental. This is a great way to see New Zealand and sample a selection of cycle trails along the way. Head here to see the full range of vans available.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Old viaduct near Old Coach Road, Ohakune. Jim Swanson.


Catch the Autumn Colours in Queenstown

Few places in New Zealand experience autumn colours like the Southern Lakes region – Queenstown, Arrowtown, and Wanaka. Around April, the hills are ablaze with golden hues, providing picture-postcard views at every turn.

One way to immerse yourself in this stunning landscape is to cycle the Queenstown Trail. Linking Queenstown, Arrowtown and the Gibbston Valley, this 120km network of trails offers everything from easy lakeside jaunts to more ambitious, long-distance treks. Here are three riding options.

Lake Hayes Circuit
An 8km loop around New Zealand’s most photographed lake. Experience stunning mountain and lake vistas as well as a peek at some of the area’s fanciest homes.

Arrow River Bridges Ride
16km of easy riding which zigzags across five bridges over the Arrow River, takes you alongside AJ Hackett’s Bungy, and meanders through the magnificent wine-growing region of Gibbston Valley. This ride begins in Arrowtown, which is widely regarded as the best place in the country to soak up the autumnal hues. (If you’re only travelling one-way, its better to start out from Arrowtown for a predominantly downhill ride.) The town also hosts a boisterous Autumn Festival at the end of April (running from 20 to 25 April in 2017).

Lake Wakatipu Ride
Incredible views and easy-going riding are the features of this 15km trail around Lake Wakatipu. Numerous cafes and restaurants offer refuelling options along the way.

If an all-inclusive guided tour of this region is more to your liking, check out our 6 Day Southern Lakes Christchurch to Queenstown Cycle (GR023), or our 6 Day West Coast Queenstown to Christchurch Cycle, both of which offer autumn 2018 departure dates.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Image: The Remarkables. Mike Hermary


Have You Got What It Takes to Enter One of the Gems of New Zealand Adventure Racing?

spring challenge nzSpring Challenge is an all-women adventure race that’s been running in the South Island since 2007. Last year, 1350 women rafted, mountain biked and hiked their way around Golden Bay, with another 540 women taking part in a similar event on the North Island.

One of those racing at Golden Bay was Natural High’s Cecileah, who was a last-minute injury replacement for a friend’s team. Despite her late call up and rainy conditions, Cecileah loved every minute of the event, especially the mountain bike section.

“The best part was the sense of achievement completing all the disciplines – rafting, mountain biking and running rogaine plus surprise canoe towards the end!”

Cecileah and her team took part in the six hour event. There’s also a three hour and nine hour event to choose from, depending on your ability level. Each team consists of three women, and the team stays together throughout the course.

This year, dates and locations for Spring Challenge are:
South Island: Geraldine, 29 September – 1 October 2017.
North Island: Auckland region, 13 October -15 October 2017.

Both the South and North Island Challenges involve elements of mountain biking, hiking, rafting and navigation.

Based on her experience, Cecileah recommends plenty of strength and endurance training, as well as map reading skills and rogaining. Her teammates also booked some mountain bike skills training with Natural High, which helped improve their confidence and riding ability.

Entries for this year’s Spring Challenge open at 7am on Saturday 1 April and book out fast, so if you want to get involved make sure you’re poised over your keyboard bright and early. You’ll find full entry details on the website: springchallenge.co.nz.

You will need a mountain bike to compete in this event. If you’re travelling from overseas or another part of New Zealand, we have top-quality models available to hire. We also offer mountain bike skills training on local hills in either the South Island or North Island, so if you’re not a confident rider or would like to improve your riding technique and gain an edge on the competition, get in touch today.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Cecileah and her teammates on the finish line of the 2016 Spring Challenge.


Cycle Touring Just Got Easier…E-bike Hire Now Available

If you’ve always wanted to join one of our cycle tours but have been daunted by the daily distances, or worried that you won’t be able to keep up, we may have a solution…

We’ve recently introduced a range of pedal-assist electric bikes to our hire fleet. Because the engine only kicks into life when you’re pedalling, they handle just like a regular bike while giving you extra power to tackle hills, headwinds and longer distances.

The benefits of riding an e-bike:

  • Makes hills easier to climb
  • Helps you combat the slowing effects of headwinds
  • Enables you to cover greater distances with less fatigue, and keep up with fitter riding companions

We’re currently offering two e-bike models:

Avanti Montari E
The perfect trail bike. A light alloy frame coupled with Shimano’s STEPS electric motor will have you covering more ground with ease.

Avanti Discovery Low E
A commuter/town bike ideal for city touring. This bike features a soft seat, upright riding position and Shimano STEPS electronic assist.

At present, we only have a limited number of these bikes available – and they’re already proving popular – so availability is on a first come, first served basis. If you’re mulling over booking a cycle tour and think you’d like to include e-bike hire, please let us know as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Send us an email today with your requirements. We’re also taking bookings and requests for e-bike hire for summer 17/18.
Have a great week,

Steve


Port Hills Update + Multiple Riding Options Around Christchurch

port-hills updateDue to a recent spate of bush fires, many of the mountain bike tracks in Christchurch’s Port Hills are currently closed to cyclists and walkers. The new Adventure Park, which opened in December 2016, is also closed until further notice.

If you’re planning a trip to Christchurch to sample the trails and hills, fear not, there are plenty of other great riding spots to choose from.

Within Christchurch itself, you have a number of options, including Bottle Lake Forest Park, 10km north-east of Christchurch. This 1000-hectare pine forest offers eight tracks and mainly flat terrain, making it a great spot for families and less-experienced riders. Alternatively, head to the Waimakariri River Regional Park and McLeans Forest, where 36km of tracks for all ability levels await.

Fancy heading further afield? Located only an hour from the outskirts of Christchurch, the Craigieburn Forest Park is home to some of the best purpose-built singletrack in New Zealand. Mainly a mix of grade 3 to 5 tracks, these can be ridden independently, or linked with others to create a full day of challenging riding.

Hanmer Springs is a 90-minute drive from Christchurch, and offers a good range of singletrack for all abilities in and around the Hanmer Forest. Another popular ride in this area is Jacks and Jollies Loop, a 25km ride that starts in Hanmer Springs Village. The route circles Mt Isobel, passing through Jacks Pass and following the Clarence River, before entering Jollies Pass and returning to Hanmer Springs Village.

Poulter Valley in Arthur’s Pass is a 27km grade 3 route that follows a 4WD track alongside the Poulter River. The trip offers bikers great scenery, some tricky terrain, and a hut for an overnight stay.

We can help kit you out with bike hire for all these destinations. Find your ideal off-road companion on our website.

Have a great week,

Steve

P.S. You can keep updated with the status of tracks in the Port Hills on the Christchurch City Council website.


5 Reasons To Visit The Catlins

self-guided catlins cycle tourNestled between Dunedin and Invercargill at the very bottom of the South Island, the Catlins is a remote and beautiful region, filled with forests, bays and scenic reserves. Here are five reasons to pay it a visit.

Nugget Point
This dramatic spot is home to one of New Zealand’s most spectacular old lighthouses, built in 1869. Fur seals bask on the rocks, alongside Hooker’s sea lions and elephant seals (the only place on the New Zealand mainland where these species co-exist). Visit just before sunset, and pay a visit to the hide at Roaring Bay, where you can watch yellow-eyed penguins coming ashore.

Wonderful waterfalls
The cascading, multi-tiered Purakaunui Falls are said to be among the most-photographed in New Zealand, and can be easily reached via a short bush walk. Other falls worth a look include Mclean Falls, in Catlins Conservation Park, and Matai Falls, 18km south of Owaka.

Secluded beaches
Isolated, rugged beaches are dotted all over the Catlins. Curio Bay is famous for its “petrified” or fossil forest, which is 160 million years old. This is also a good spot to watch yellow eyed penguins coming ashore after a day at sea. From Curio Bay, take a short walk to Porpoise Bay, where you might catch a glimpse of the endangered Hector’s dolphins playing in the surf during summer months.

Quirky attractions
There’s some eccentric folk living in the Catlins. Like Blair Somerville, the owner of The Lost Gypsy Gallery in Papatowhai. This interactive art gallery, filled with “self-wound automata and things that go whirr” attracts a steady stream of international visitors every summer, and has even beaten Te Papa to the title of Best Museum and Gallery in the Rankers travel awards for the last three years. Another attraction worth a look is Owaka’s Teapot Land, run by Graham Renwick. His collection of more than 1000 teapots, can be visited for free.

Challenging riding
Remote settlements, big distances and even bigger hills – riding the Catlins is for fit, experienced riders only. The main route through the Catlins (called the Southern Scenic Highway) is now sealed, but many side roads are windy, gravel affairs. Cycle tourists will need to carry their own food and water as the distances between towns are large, and will need basic bike maintenance skills.

Want to experience this pristine wilderness for yourself? Take a look at our 6 Day Self Guided Catlins Coast Tour. This tour includes rental of a Specialized Hardrock 29er or Specialized Pitch 650b mountain bike fitted with pannier rear rack, rear panniers, cycle helmet, basic bike computer, and full repair gear. You’ll also receive detailed map and route information and accommodation suggestions. Get in touch today to book.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Nugget Point.


Discover The Bike Station Nelson

the bike station nelsonCecileah, the kids and I spent Waitangi Weekend in Nelson. While we were there, we met up with Brendon and Rochelle Mathews, who’ve recently opened a new bike shop in the city centre.

The Bike Station is a bike shop with a difference – as well as stocking a wide range of bikes and gear, and offering daily bike servicing and repairs, they also serve excellent coffee and food. There’s a big table to sit around, heaps of biking magazines and a relaxed, friendly vibe. It’s a fantastic spot to revive flagging energy levels, meet fellow cyclists, and pick up some local knowledge.

Biking is becoming increasingly popular in and around Nelson, and with good reason. Boasting a warm, sunny climate, good beaches, and some of the finest national parks in the country – Kahurangi, Nelson Lakes and Abel Tasman – the region lends itself to adventures on two wheels. The area is also home to two of New Zealand’s Great Rides:

The Great Taste Trail
Serving up relaxed riding, stunning coastal views, and a seemingly limitless supply of cafes, breweries and vineyards, this 174km loop meanders through the picturesque Nelson and Tasman region. Mainly flat riding makes it a good choice for families and less experienced cyclists. Like all Great Rides you can tackle the entire route over several days, or pick and choose sections to ride as a leisurely half or full day adventure.

The Dun Mountain Trail
This one-day mountain bike trail follows the route of New Zealand’s first railway line to the summit of Dun Mountain, before descending back down to Nelson. With a starting point just a short ride from the city centre, it’s one of New Zealand’s most accessible back country rides. Completing the full loop involves a technical downhill over loose, rocky terrain, so it’s best suited to fit and experienced mountain bikers.

We’re now partnering with The Bike Station to offer a depot for people to start or finish bike hire with Natural High in the Nelson region. So, if you’re keen to discover the sights (and tastes) of this vibrant area drop us an email, and together with The Bike Station team, we’ll get you sorted.

You’ll find The Bike Station at 54 Vanguard Street, Nelson. Opening hours are 7am – 6pm Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm on Saturdays, and 10am – 3pm on Sundays.

Have a great week,
Steve


Ride the Twin Coast Cycle Trail

Ride the Twin Coast Cycle TrailA subtropical climate, miles of captivating coastline, and a fascinating history make Northland a great, all-year-round holiday destination. And now there’s yet another reason to visit: the New Zealand Cycle Trail’s northern-most Great Ride – the Twin Coast Cycle Trail – is officially open for business.

Running from the beautiful Bay of Islands on the east coast, to peaceful Hokianga Harbour on the west, the Twin Coast Cycle Trail offers riders the chance to pedal right across the width of New Zealand. Along the way, take in lake, river, bush and farmland views, the delights of small towns like Kawakawa and Kaikohe, and significant cultural sites such as the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihi.

Mostly following disused railway trails, the route is flat and easy to ride. (The stretch from Okaihau and ending at Mangungu Mission is the most demanding). Like all Great Rides, you have the option of riding the entire 84km length, or splitting the route into shorter half or day rides.

Trail Highlights

Packed full of stunning coastal scenery, the Bay of Islands is one of New Zealand’s must-see spots. It’s also an area of enormous historical significance. It was here that the Treaty of Waitangi was drawn up and first signed by 46 Maori chiefs in 1840. Take a visit to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds near Paihi, to learn all about this significant event.

The Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa are definitely worth a pit stop. The quirky structure features curved shapes and brightly coloured ceramic tiles and bottles.

Near Horeke, you’ll get to cycle a 1.25km boardwalk, the longest boardwalk built on any trail in New Zealand.

As you make your way along the trail, keep an eye out for the distinct poupou carvings. Hand-crafted by local iwi, these recall the history and stories of the area, and are used as trail markers.

Beautiful Hokianga Harbour is a quiet and peaceful spot today, but it used to be one of the busiest and most populous parts of New Zealand. Even before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840, its shores were being milled by timber men working from up to 20 ships at a time.

Fancy riding the Twin Coast Cycle Trail? We can supply you with bike hire. Send us an email if you’d like to start planning a trip.

Have a great week,
Steve

P.S. Although the Twin Coast Cycle Trail is officially open there are currently two short temporary detours – one on Ngapipito Road between Moerewa and Kaikohe, and another on Horeke Road. The detours require cyclists to ride on the road for about 500m before re-joining the formed trail. Check the official trail website for updates.

P.P.S. Talking of Waitangi…New Zealand is celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi this coming Monday (6 February), which means both our Auckland and Christchurch branches will be closed.


Small City New Zealand: Dunedin

yellow-eyed-penguin in dunedinOften referred to as the Edinburgh of the South, Dunedin is one of the best-preserved Victorian and Edwardian cities in the Southern Hemisphere. With miles of rugged coastline on its doorstep, and an impressive wildlife population, it’s a city well worth checking out. Here are a few of its highlights.

Wildlife
The Otago Peninsula, which stretches along the southern edge of the Otago Harbour is home to New Zealand fur seals and sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins, and the only mainland royal albatross colony in the world. Visit the observatory at the Royal Albatross Centre to view parents returning from sea to feed their chicks, or watch the yellow-eyed penguins go about their business at Penguin Place (the best viewing time is dusk, when the penguins return to their burrows from the sea).

Heritage
During the gold-rush days, Dunedin was New Zealand’s biggest city. The wealth and prosperity of that era is reflected in the city’s buildings and beautiful examples of Victorian architecture are dotted all over the city. You’ll likely recognise the Dunedin Railway Station – it’s the most photographed building in the country. Other fine examples include Dunedin Prison, the Old National Bank Building and Speight’s Brewery, where you can take a tour of the stills and sample some of their offerings.

Dunedin Street Art Trail
Experience 25+ pieces of artwork by local and international artists nestled between alleyways and showcased alongside historic buildings. A great way to discover some of the lesser-known parts of the city. Pick up a map from the Dunedin i-Site.

Baldwin Street
Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest street in the world, this makes for a short but strenuous outing!

Hit the beach
Dunedin has numerous beaches scattered along its coastline and around the Otago Harbour. Overlooked by popular cafes and bars, St Clair Beach is a popular hang-out spot and home to New Zealand’s most consistent surf break. At the southern end, you’ll find the St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool, an open-air public swimming pool nestled within rocks just metres from the ocean. For a more rugged experience, seek out Tunnel Beach, where a magnificent sandstone sea arch and man-made tunnel leads to a secluded beach surrounded by fossil filled cliffs.

Several of our cycle tours take in Dunedin, including the 6 day Self-Guided Catlins Coast Tour, the 7 Day Road Cycle Tour Queenstown to Dunedin (guided) and the new Twin Trails Tour, which incorporates the Alps 2 Ocean and Otago Rail Trail. Get in touch if you’d like info on any of these tours.

Have a great week,
Steve

Image: Yellow-eyed penguin by Brian Ralphs.