The Heaphy Track is one ofNew Zealand's great multi-day backcountry rides - 78 outrageous kilometres of benched singletrack snaking its way across the top of the South Island.
In 1929 my father, Ray Chapman-Taylor, and his friend Ray Williams decided to bike home to Napier from Otago via the Haast Pass and the West Coast. They mounted basic bikes with no gears and rudimentary brakes on a route with no bridges and only a cattle track across the mountains. What follows is best said in his own words.
One of the best and longest stretches of single track in Canterbury - curving through the beech forests around Mount Oxford. Beware of wasps in the summer.
The historic coal town of Blackball is tucked away on a terrace above the West Coast's Grey River. Once famous as the birthplace of the Labour Party and our nation's trade union movement, it's now a shadow of its former glory.
On a foggy winter day last year an email arrived from Simon Kennett suggesting a multiday mountain bike 'brevet' around the top half of the South Island - informal with self enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and at first nervous glance a long hard race against yourself.
Exploring the backcountry with your bike is a blast. And packing some extra kit to spend the night makes it even better, extending your range into remote regions and enhancing the outdoor experience... Maggi soup, cheesy one-pot pasta and steamed pud never tastes so good as when capping off a big day.
Sou-westerly clouds scud across the pre-dawn sky as we park up at the Skippers' turn-off. It's toasty inside the car. Outside, it's shockingly cold. We face a grim weather forecast. An ark might be needed if the gods deliver the promised floods of biblical proportions.
Perched on the slopes of the Carrick Range behind Bannockburn in Central Otago is the old gold mining settlement of Carricktown. Its ghosts haunt the remains of their industry from a century ago... old stone huts, water races, abandoned mine shafts, mullick heaps and a labyrinth of tracks. I have a longstanding love affair with this part of the country.
We allow ourselves to be consumed by truly important things at Ground Effect - like the art of pouring the perfect espresso, pursuit of the definitive muffin and scheming the next cycling adventure. Great mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics. We reasoned "wouldn't it be cool to compress some of our favourite rides into a single mega road trip?".
We found ourselves stranded in a slot canyon, staring over the valley to the silhouette of some massive bluffs while perched atop equally precipitous cliffs... yet we were oblivious to the (presumably) outstanding scenery. It was dark and we were trying to evade the evil clutches of Pureora Forest.
Orchestrating multi-day mountain bike traverses has become an unhealthy obsession over the past few years. Last summer's jaunt was conceived over a hearty helping of kumara balls at Main Street Café one night - it's curious how a full stomach clouds one's judgment in matters of endurance and suffering.
The Marlborough region at the top of NZ's South Island is a mecca for mountain biking - you could lose yourself there for a fortnight and still find new trails to explore.