We were ensconced at alpine resort Vulpera, opposite Scuol but on the wrong side of the railway tracks and river. The faded once grand hotels and 80s budget apartments have been left to the vampires, vultures, chain smoking Italian road workers, and us mountain bikers. A bouncy castle, mini golf and kids swimming pool had invaded our front lawn, but an amazing piece of single trail descended from this to the mineral springs and back along the other side of the river into Scuol, bliss.
As we pack, shop and reluctantly bid farewell to Davos, we take a moment to reflect on a marvellous two weeks of riding, before heading for Scuol just 50kms away over the Fluela Pass. We adored Davos for its stunning trails, weather and discount guest pass covering bikes on lifts, trains, boats, buses and planes. Every trail and every day was a revelation. Our trips are studiously marked in sunflower fluoro highlighter on the 'single trail topo' map. A spiderweb of good times, challenges and climbs.
Beyond the twin set and pearls of Alexandra lies the badlands. It's dry, it's dusty and features an 11 metre clock surrounded by thyme. It's on the wrong side of the “Otago Rail Trail” tracks, Manuherikia River and derelict water race, and receives less rainfall per year than Fiordland often gets in a day.
Mt Hutt ski-field road climbs relentlessly in the Hakatere Conservation Park, but lucky for us the most excellent “Bike Methven Club” has built 30+ kms of trail in the Mt Hutt Mountain Bike Park. After the forestry plantation was logged and replanted the club purchased the land and restored their original MTB tracks, and have been busy building more.
A favorable weather pattern presented Dave Mitchell and Ditte Van der Meulen with the only excuse needed to head south to the tracks and trails of Otago and Southland. A road trip on the cusp of autumn was soon conceived with their van packed to the gunnels, maps selected and bikes prepared within an inch of their lives.
The mono culture of grapes on the Wairau Valley floor stretches forever towards St Arnaud, and across the bridge on SH6 the foot hills above North Bank Road contain the second mono culture, pine trees. They follow the grapes towards St Arnaud, fill up the gullies and ridges to the native bush line and have self seeded their way onto open tops and into vacant clearings in the bush.
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.
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.