From the Ocean Atlantique to the Mer Mediterranee the Pyrenees mountain range undulates from east to west for over one thousand kilometers. Its summit chain pretty much marks the border between Spain and France, with the small enclave of Andorra slotting in along the way, like one small piece of a massive rugged jigsaw puzzle.
It was playtime so Ditte and I headed down the road to the huge Rotorua Redwoods sandpit devouring Tuhoto Ariki and a bunch of connecting tracks to the end of Blue Lake. This was followed by a pilgrimage to Rainbow Mountain's gnarly singletrack uphill and awesome downhill to the Kerosene Creek hot springs.
A tropical cyclone had brushed the top of the North Island causing slips and track closures across Auckland's Regional Parks and the Coromadel, and a missing chain link in our carefully crafted ride plan. We pumped up the tyres, lubed the chains and headed down the shallow arc of the Bay of Plenty through kiwifruit and avocado orchards to Whakatane and then up to the magic kingdom of Opotiki.
The Urchin camp site provided a good base for a buzz around Tree Trunk Gorge. This trail starts and finishes on beautiful singletrack with old forestry tracks narrowed down by manuka and broad leaf regeneration out to the road.
The wind sculptures were going berserk beside Cobham Drive as we watched an airplane drift and slide sideways onto the Rongotai runway like the original Mini in the only Pork Pie movie that really made any sense. Wellington was living up to its rep in more ways than one.
Nelson was enjoying a spell of fine weather, that is more often than not, reserved for the golden province of the mainland. It had been mega windy and changeable further south and nothing but shite and rain further north, so our North Island aspirations would have to wait while we frittered away our time on Nelson's awesome MTB trails.
The Trentino region has its fair share of calcium carbonate (limestone), and you would think that the Valle del Sarca that runs down to the northern end of Lake Garda and its surrounding mountains are made of nothing else.
On any clear day from the cobbled streets, court yards and balconies of Bormio, the stately peak of Cima Bianca (Bormio 3000) looms large with the snow capped Monte Vallecetta rising up into the heavens behind it. We had a cunning plan and drove up to Bormio 2000 (1938m) to start the mean 1200 metre climb to the top (Bormio 3000).
This high altitude mountainous landlocked peninsula is about 1200 square km of mountain biking joy in a convoluted sort of way. Bordered to the north by the illustrious mountain biking nation of Switzerland and to the east and south by a couple of Italy's innumerable provinces, it shares its incredible mountains and stunning vistas with Switzerland.
Yes, the Bike Republic of Soelden in the Oetztal Valley officially announced their independence from Austria, to pursue the mountain bike dream un-encumbered by democracy and the ghost of health and safety, its politics and regulations.
Zillertal is famous for its beer and its Radler. For over 500 years the Zillertal Brewery has been supplying the strongest beer festival in all of Austria and its Gauder Bock has reached cult status among the many local and overseas fans that visit the Gauder Fest.
In retrospect, our last week of riding in Ischgl rushed by, like an out of control quad-copter in Dr Who's Tardis. I concede, we may have gotten overly familiar with this Austrian valley, its catchment and the craggy mountains that influence its ever changing weather.