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.
Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch? and they were right, but the cable cars, public MTB carrying buses, indoor & outdoor swimming pools, road tolls, and museums via the nifty “Silvretta Card” are.
The mountainous Parque Nacional de Picos Europa resides a couple of hundred kilometers inland from the northern coast of Spain. It's a park of steep and rugged limestone cliffs, valleys and mountains.
Greetings from the country that brought you the Spanish Inquisition, Siesta, Paella, Corrida de Toros and the Seat Ibiza. After being overwhelmed, in a good way, at the Keukenhof by a zillion varieties of beautiful tulips we waved goodbye to the land of windmills, dykes, Ditte’s family and of course tulips.
Golden Bay is a magic place to visit, isolated from the madness of the mainland by that marble mountain they call Takaka Hill. It has kept the barbarian hoards at bay and even the Romans were reluctant to invade until the locals built a decent road up and over the big rock. Their preference was for a tunnel.
At some point in a life time as the years tick slowly by, you say “Last Ride” and sometimes you truly mean it. It may be during a favorite epic, or just before you turn that first pedal stroke, or a random thought whilst pawing over a well worn map.
Under a steel grey sky the DOC camp at Lyell remained half asleep, as Ditte and I started up the old dray road towards the Lyell Saddle. We had been riding both ends of the track since the late eighties but never in our wild and wooly dreams thought they would be joined. But that day came and went in 2015.
If Molesworth Station was a country, it would be twice the size of Hong Kong and almost as large as Luxembourg. An activity permit from DOC is required to access the central zone of the station and was duly obtained. Starring the lovely Ditte van der Meulen and Cherie Rusbatch, and following in their peddle strokes navigator Dave Mitchell and gun slinging Richard Western and their faithful steeds Norco, Yeti, Range and the Tallboy, with a limp.
The infamous James Gang hung out on the wrong side of the railway tracks for the most part, as we all have at some stage in our lives, but this didn't stop them from scoring a sainthood somewhere along the way.
On the promise of a sunny long-range weather forecast generated by some hobbits in Norway, Ditte van der Meulen, Joe Arts and myself headed to the west coast for an overnight jaunt on the Heaphy. September's clock was counting down the last few days of the Mtb season and our gang of three were intent on not missing out.