With the torrential rains finally subsiding and the sun making a long-awaited reappearance, we decided to head east to find some mountain biking trails. Nearer to Queenstown, our mountain biking experiences had been more akin to agricultural cyclo-cross, riding through and past cows and their manure, carrying the bike over numerous gates, and veering around bogged out parts of the trail. That’s not my favorite kind of riding, so we thought the drier parts of the Otaga region (not unlike the Eastern Sierra) would provide fewer opportunities to walk through mud…and around cows blocking the trail.
Near the town of Cromwell (40 minutes away from Queenstown), we found a wilderness area (called Department of Conservation here) with a trail that climbed up towards a few peaks. While the guide book described the climb as ‘gnarly’, we didn’t realize quite how steep the kiwi’s build their 4WD roads. Suffice to say there was a lot of pushing the bike up. While the views of nearby Lake Dunston and the higher (still snow-capped) peaks were gorgeous (and admiring them allowed us to catch our breath), by the time we ascended 1700 feet we realized the trail wasn’t really going to flatten out. So down we went, and the trail was quite fun, even though it wasn’t the singletrack we love.
Since this anaerobic jaunt finished so early, the next stop was the town of Alexandra (Alex) another 30 km southwest. Lake Dunston is a long dammed affair, and the road follows it to the town of Clyde where it ends abruptly in an enormous hydroelectric dam. The valley widens, and it’s apparent you’ve arrived in wine country without even consulting the wine trail map.
In Alex, we found a local bike shop (LBS), and the guys there gave us some useful information on where singletrack trails were. Since I was still skeptical that smooth, fun, fast trails with flow even existed here, N suggested we try the River trail that followed the Clutha River up to Clyde. I’m glad we did, as it was a 12 km trail that had banked turns and fun bits, all under a canopy of willows.
It was nice to see that flowy singletrack does exist here. And apparently there’s more of that to be found near Alex. Can’t wait!