"Take me to the April sun in Cuba"... and why not? As the temperatures plummeted and I anticipated another Wellington winter with layers of thermal tights and horizontal rain, my thoughts easily drifted towards the tropics for a dose of solar therapy.
Long weekends traditionally inspire epic trips to the hills amongst our friends. A session down at the pub one night - sorry café - resulted in a more sedate version for the forthcoming Show Weekend. A weekend where everyone's needs could be met - some of the time.
For years we've schemed of mountain biking in the USA. We knew it would be a mind-blowing good time. The tough question was "where do we go?" - the place is so huge and the possibilities for biking so enormous. We decided to concentrate on the places we'd heard the most about: South West Colorado; and Moab, Utah. We wanted to minimise long hauls in the car, and managed to link up the quintessential mountain bike destinations in a tight loop: Durango; Telluride; Crested Butte; and Moab - scoring a couple of weeks in each spot.
Maps, I love 'em. More than that, I get quite excited by them. I collect them like some people collect phone cards or personalised number plates. The metric 50,000:1 series is my favourite and I've managed to acquire the full set. I've done heaps of mountain biking up and down the South Island and a few years ago became fascinated with the prospect of joining the dots to ride it all in one go. After all - I did have all the maps.
Breakfast of fresh croissants and treacle-like coffee in a village café, temples of food on every corner and medieval architecture as far as the eye can see. If you've got a month to spare and a wad of cash looking for a way out of your wallet (or a healthy credit facility on the plastic), then this could be the go. Cycle touring in France is close to heaven on a bike.
The Lewis Pass area has truck loads of thermal springs, making it a crash hot destination for winter mountain biking. A classic trip is to zip up to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
This classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula. You score fantastic views but it can be bitterly cold. Ensure you carry the Akaroa (N36) topo map. Note: there is restricted access during lambing (August - October).
The Coromandel is an absolute mecca for mountain biking. And the Yuletide is a great time to indulge in some leisurely touring of the area, sampling the best rides while dedicating heaps of time to eating, drinking, swimming, reading and other essential activities as defined by Maslow.
In the far North Western corner of India is the remote region of Spiti which offers unrivalled opportunities for the keen cyclist. This predominantly Tibetan area boasts 1000 year old monasteries inhabited by monks whose every face can tell a hundred stories. It's like drifting back in life a couple of centuries. The riding is on sealed and dirt roads with a mixture of gradual ascents, steep switchbacks, mellow freewheeling, fast blasts, and mind-blowing views