Everyone talks about good natured Kiwi hospitality and there’s definitely no shortage of it on the Whakarewarewa trails. I rolled into MTB Rotorua last week with a Manky in my hand and a confused look on my face. Brad and Tu were quick to drop what they were doing (living the dream, by all appearances) and direct me gently towards their big map board. In the space of five minutes I’d been hooked up with a ride plan and a list of trails, highlighted for convenience and been given a run down on the best was to tackle the forest. Slightly better than the confused wanderings that had started the day. Rotorua has got what’s probably the best condensed trail network in the world (judging by the responses from those who’ve ridden further afield than me), and that map is covered in a shitload of little squiggly lines, tiny arrows and weird trail names. A few days in the forest though, and it all starts making a little more sense.
I’ve been here ten days, been riding seven of those, and already I’m starting to find my favourite loops. The joy of this place is that in comparison to Tasmania, even the hardest climbs are fairly mellow, and usually quite short. That, and all the amazing trails of course. Anyway, with the whole debate about whether or not marriage is between a man and a woman, I’m going to throw my hat in the ring and say I’d like to marry Split Enz. Not the band, but the ridiculously good, swooping, whooping, rolling, bermed piece of heaven that descends the back of the forest and leaves you with that feeling of pure bliss and euphoria. I think we might adopt Billy T and Pondy DH/New as our children, and invite Be Rude Not 2 and Mad If U Don’t to come live in the spare room. We can invite Dragon’s Tail and Rollercoaster over for dinner every night, and Huckleberry Hound, Little Red Riding Huck and Corners can spend sunny afternoons playing the the backyard. So long as we’re all together, everything will be alright.
But anyway, back to the friendly locals (no Tongan bride yet sorry Ben). The next day I rocked up back at MTB Rotorua and got hailed by name. Those guys spend all day talking to (temporary) strangers and still remembered the guy with the funny name and stupid face. That kinda stuff goes a hell of a long way towards turning a place from a network of great trails into a great trail community. It’s a good reminder of why this “sport” is so awesome.
That arvo I trusted my bike to a spidery looking trailer latched to the back of an old bus and promptly felt my rider’s guilt jump through the roof. I’ve become a fast convert to the joy of shuttles and repeated runs down awesome trails, but it still feels a little wrong. Luckily the best trails start a bit beyond the drop-off point, so at least the legs get a tender workout. It’s still not quite the same as grinding half way up Mt Wellington, but it’ll just have to do.
More talkative locals meant the evening ended with a twilight run, following (another) Brad and his dog Maxxis down trails in the gloaming, squinting into shadowed corners trying to figure out whether that dark patch was a rut, a stick or a pile of bloody pine cones (trail grenades). Chasing a local on a Santa Cruz V10 Carbon DH bike down trails in the dark is probably not the safest way to finish a day, but a few moments of “oh shit!’ and a couple of minutes to extract my balls from my throat and things worked out pretty damn fine. I even got a lift back to the hostel, which swept away any doubts I had about the decency of the human race (well, the ones who ride bikes at least).
So Rotorua’s undoubtedly been living up to the high expectations that were heaped upon it, given the mad ravings of many a BnC member (and pretty much anyone else who’s been within sniffing distance of the place).
Life on a MTB ain’t nothin’ but good times and tired legs.
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