Queenstown Trail, South Island, N.Z.

All rides on 29" hard tail with no luggage

Nov 2016

This time our day off was in Queenstown. We had already been up the steepest cable car in the Southern hemisphere to Bob's Peak. On the way up we had seen all the downhill MTBs slung over the cable cars, with their well padded riders inside. Going up to the lookout, you could see some of the jumps - they were enormous! So we decided a trail ride would suit us both much more. There are plenty of bike shops in Queenstown hiring bikes, so we picked one and booked a 9am pick up.

The next day, the 5 degree Celsius start was very brisk for my shorts, t-shirt and sandals! The bikes were ready and 2 minutes later we were down at the lake side following the trail along the water front. The views were spectacular, with the beautiful Lake Wakatipu backed by the snow dusted Remarkables. The first section around the Garden Peninsular  was reasonably busy with novice riders and morning walkers everywhere enjoying the experience, but after 3 km at Park street, numbers had dropped a lot.

The trail was well marked, with lots of map posts with "You are here" maps, distances forwards and backs. We also had a hard copy map  (available from just about everywhere) of the whole area, so were never lost. The trail is usually well compacted dirt, but is steep in parts. It is sometimes on sections of the area's old roads, but often not as well.

We stopped at Frankton Marina for a quick toilet stop and we were on our way again. We had to cross a major road at Kawarau Falls Bridge, so there was a steep short climb up to the road, and the Trail led you to the pedestrian crossing, but after that we were following the Kawarau River.

The Trail then heads inland passed some site works and the sewage farm. Sewage farms don't rate highly on most visitors to do list, but apparently birds like them for their rich feeding, and this attracts bird watchers. Believe it or not!

We then crossed the Lower Shooter Bridge. This bridge was for the old road into Queenstown, and the new bridge is visible nearby. The wind sweeping up the river was strong and fresh, but the bridge was great to ride over.

We then reached the turn off for Lake Hayes estate and a dilemma. Do we turn round and head back to town, or keep going and hope to get a ride back with the bike shuttle bus? We had not booked anything, so was not sure about the bus. But we were hungry to see more so we kept going.

Soon after, I started to think I had made the wrong call. After crossing Billies Bridge, we encountered many steep hills that had us walking and really started to slow us down. The only good thing was the views down the Kawarau River were great, and we got to see a couple of jet boats and and an aeroplane going passed. But then the trail turned inland into an almost Alpine scene, with long grass blowing in the breeze on treeless plains. And soon we were following the Arrow River to a huge surprise.

The Arrow River had carved itself into a gorge 30 or 40 metres deep. Riding along next to it, we spied a suspension bridge in the distance with cyclists on it. Soon, we were at the bridge, having to make our way over. This bridge is awesome - it was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Made out of string and sticks (well it felt like that!), it swayed and wobbled as we walked over (ride - you must be joking!). The 30m drop to the raging torrent below did not help my vertigo. But it will go down as one of my all time cycling highlights.

The Barefoot Tunnel is simply an underpass under the highway. After the tunnel the Trail follows this amazing sweep up the valley, with a steep drop on one side. Soon you are at Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, or Bungy Bridge as it is also know. Formerly part of the road, it is now used as a bungy jump or for zip lining. It was amazing to see people jumping off the bridge as we rode over it. There is a viewing platform nearby and it was sensational to see.

So now we called Queenstown bike tours to see if they could get us back to Queenstown. As it turns out, they were dropping a group of cyclists in thirty minutes who were doing the winery tour to Gibbston, starting at Bungy Bridge!  This gave us time to grab some food and a drink at the shop as well as watch the bungy jumpers. We had to wait 15 minutes while the winery cyclists were set up and  briefed. This group looked liked they were going to go hard (on the wine, not the Trail!), and we had a laugh thinking what they would be like in 3 hours at the pick up point!.

The last section between Edgar bridge, and Bungy Bridge was truly spectacular, and we were so glad we had not turned round at the half way point.

The lift back cost us $NZ30 each, which was very reasonable. So by early afternoon, we were back in Queenstown, dropping our bikes off and heading back to our accommodation after a very memorable ride.

Twin Coast Trail Ride, North Island, N.Z.

All rides on hard tail with no luggage

Nov 2016

We were in Paihai, on the Bay of Islands (North Island of NZ), and had a free day the following day, so we decided to try a bike ride. We had no idea of what was around or available, but a quick internet search turned up Top Trail Hire and Tours (toptrail.co.nz). We called Ray, who told me he could collect us from our accommodation in Paihai, at 9am the next day and look after everything. We had no idea where we were going, but left it all to Ray.

Ray was at our accommodation at 9am as promised. His mini bus could seat about 10 and he had a trailer that could have taken the same number of bikes. We dropped by his shop and grabbed a couple of mountain bikes and helmets, then he took us to the south of Kaikohe, the start of our ride today. By now it was about 9.45am, so plenty of time to ride the 30km to Okaihau. The first interesting feature Ray pointed out was some extinct volcanoes in the distance - we are not in Perth now!

The Trail had a familiar rail trail feel - nice and compact surface, no steep hills and nice and wide. We rode mainly through farm land, but the occasional section through the bush. The trail was always well sign posted and we were never unsure on which way to go. There were also a few gates to keep cars and motorbikes out as well.

We were skirting the aerodrome, but couldn't see any planes. After about 6km, we passed the edge of Kaikohe. We rode passed the old train station, and the historic pioneer village was only a couple of hundred metres away, but we were here to ride, and history could be done another day! Plenty of food and drink options were also available there, but as we were only 6km in to our ride, we didn't need anything. There were a couple of minor roads to cross, as well as the busier Broadway, but it was all well marked and safe.

The trail had plenty of interest placards along the way explaining things like Maori history and the kauri logging, They were always worth a stop to read. There was one old rail bridge - the trail didn't cross the stream on it, but next to it.

Sometime I climbed off the Trail and into the long grass to get some video or a photo. Walking through long grass in WA is a bit nerve racking as you worry about snakes, but as NZ doesn't have any, the biggest concern was tripping and twisting an ankle.

One of the highlights of the day was the 80m long curving disused rail tunnel. It was built in 1915. You won't need a torch to see, although we walked the length rather than ride it. It's cool, damp interior made a pleasant change from outside - the forecast was 29 degrees Celcius, so we were getting a bit warm.

We did notice a few mountain bike "loops" off the Trail. These usually had a map at the start and were usually single track sections for the more adventurous. They often re joined the Trail nearby. Blokes my age don't bounce well, so we stuck to the Trail.

Even though we usually rode through farm land or remnant bush, the flora and fauna was very different from WA. In many sections, tree ferns towered above us. Flocks of wild turkeys were regularly spotted, and the native birds were sort of the same as our Australian ones, but a bit different - to my untrained eye they seemed to be long lost relatives.

We were soon skirting Lake Omapare. Occasionally we would get glimpses of it, but usually it was hidden by trees. We also had to cross a fast flowing stream that was feeding it. There seemed to be so much water around compared to WA.

About 3 hours after starting, we had a short steep climb down, then up, to reach the Okaihau trail head. Ray said he would pick us up when we arrived, so we called him straight away and he said he would be there in about 30 mins. That gave us enough time for a quick look around (Okaihau is very small), a quick drink and icecream at the dairy (the NZ term for deli or shop), and a look at the Okaihau tunnel under the highway. Ray said the next section is even more scenic, as it follows the river, but that was enough for today. Just over an hour after reaching Okaihau, we were back in Piahai! Ray offers a great service at a reasonable price and we are happy to recommend him to anyone who doesn't have bikes or transport.

Our 10 km/hr average speed was low only because we stopped frequently to enjoy the scenery - we could have knocked it off in half the time. There were plenty of riders out as well, which is nice to see.

April 2016

Collie Darkan Rail Trail

29"er Soft tail, no luggage

Sunday morning was a cool dry start, about 11 degrees minimum, and this was a nice change after a bit of rain. It stayed cool all day and never got over 16 degrees, which was ideal for riding. We packed up our accomadation at Wellington Forest and were on the road to Collie by about 8.30am. We were in Collie about 9am to refuel and the 18 km drive along Coalfields Rd to the Trail head only took us a few minutes. The road goes passed some of the open cut coal mines, which is amazing to see. They are enormous.

I started riding from the trail head at the junction of Buckingham rd and Coalfields Rd, and it is marked clearly- as soon as you cross the Collie River again, it is on the right. It is about 1 km to the trail start. The trail was pretty solid, very smooth and mainly through farm land or bush. The Coalfields Rd is usually only 100 or 200 m away, but sometimes it is only 20 m and other times it is 500m away. There is a lot of old railway sleepers piled up off the track, but none on the trail. There is also a lot of dog spikes and other hundred year old rail hardware.
I overtook a group of 10 horse riders on the my ride, who were heading in the same direction. I over took them with extreme caution- I let them tell me when it was ok to pass. Passing a skitish horse was a lirttle nerve wracking, but fine. They were a nice friendly bunch and I am sure they were enjoying the trail as much as me.

The trail was closed in two section due to road works. Being a Sunday, I progressed along the trail with caution. The crossings were simply roads being upgraded and as there was no construction vehicles in operation, it was safe and easy to cross. Your experience may not be the same, so exercise caution and common sense. Both times the Coalfields Rd was close by, so you could cut down to that and cross there.

The trail was generally flat, and I was sitting on about 18km/hr. The profile shows a gradual rise from the 30 km Mark (crossing the Coalfields Rd for the first time) and the next 10 km are a little steeper. I noticed my speed would drop to about 14 km/hr. However the last 6 or 7 km where downhill and I sat on nearly 30km/hr. There were a couple of small bridges over creeks. They often had table and chairs, so we're nice spots to stop.

The only water along the way was at Collie or Darkan, or at Bowelling station. Toilets are only in Collie and Darkan as well. I had Telstra phone service at some places along the Trail.
I got into Darkan about 1pm. The trail ends as you cross the sealed road into the park (another trail head sign there), but I weaved through the park (the rail trail has disappeared) to actually finish at the train station. The station masters house is behind it, and an old gantry crane nearby- it looks very historic. I met my ride home there and we used the toilets and picnic tables. The near by Gull service station had a good range of sandwiches, fruit salad and home made cakes- something that really surprised me from the usual deep fried fare. I can really recommend it.

We went home via the 6 Mile settlers hut. This hut is 8 km up the Darkan Quindanning Rd, and was built in the 1900's. It has been left as it was built with rough hewn sleepers, white washed hessian walls and is tiny. It is well worth a look.

April 2016

Four Trails Ride

29"er Soft tail, no luggage

The plan came to me during a long hot WA summer, when it was too hot for off road riding. I was poring over maps and started to realise I could join four trails near Perth into a 70 km loop that would be perfect for training to ride the Munda Bidd trail.

So when Easter came around, I utilised my one available day for the ride. The weather forecast was for 32 degrees, which was a bit warm, but I had no other days available. I started the day early by spending $4.50 to catch a metro train to Midland, 16km East from Perth.
25 minutes later I was riding passed the old Midland train Workshops on the 3km journey to Bellvue, where I can join the Railway Heritage Trail. This route utilises the original train line from Perth to York and was built in the 1880's. This route is a 15 km long gentle climb up the Darling Scarp to Mundaring. The 300m vertical climb is made easy enough by the generally good solid surfaces.

Just over an hour later I was at the shady and scenic Mundaring Sculpture Park. This is where the Munda Biddi starts. 300 m after leaving the Park, the Trail turn towards the Mundaring Weir, just as the Kep track from Northam joins the same route. The 7 km Mundaring to Weir section was an old train line built in the 1890's to assist the construction of the Weir. the Mundaring Weir, the main water source of Kalgoorlie, 600km away in the dry dusty goldfields.

I am soon crossing the Helena River - from here it is uphill to Mt Gungin, a climb of about 300m over 10 km. That doesn't sound too bad, but the rough surface and pea gravel does make it a lot harder climb than the ride up the trail line to Mundaring. It was also getting hot - my little temperature gauge said it was now 30 degrees.
On this ride I took the touring route section of the Munda Biddi. It is a bit flatter and easier, especially as I am riding it uphill from the Helena River. I think some of the touring route follows the path of a wooden tramway from 1909. Named after the two owners, the Port and Honey mill sounds yummier than it actually was.

The pea gravel and sand on this section was especially tedious as after a long hot summer, it was very loose and soft. For those unfamiliar with it, pea gravel is small balls of weathered laterite, that is sometimes mined for alumina. When it is deep and loose, it is hard to ride, and when combined with a gentle slope upwards, it was enough to get me pushing. It reminded me that although most of the Munda Biddi has very little pea gravel, the first two maps have the lion's share.

I have come out of the bush on Holroyd Rd, but instead of turning left up Kingsmill Rd and heading into the bush again, I will turn right and ride through Pickering Brook, a small orchard town. The small historic display had a table and chairs, water (ideal as I was now very low, having consumed 3 litres), toilets and bins. This route passes a general store, but it was shut due to the public holiday. It is about 7km from here to the start of the Mason & Bird trail, along quiet Hills roads.

The start of the Mason & Bird Trail is near Victoria Dam, the original supply of Perth's water. I stopped briefly at the Mason & Bird Bridge. The bridge was built in 1872 by convicts and ticket of leave men (ex convicts) and is supposed to be oldest all wooden bridge in Australia - even the rails are wooden! From here it is a 8 km ride to the Maddington Train station, and my train back to Perth.

At the Maddington train station and I am about 20 km South East of Perth. I rode a total of 67 km according to my trip computer. It was now 3pm and turned out to be the hottest part of the day - 33 degrees. And guess what - the trains weren't running! So I dialled in a steady sustainable speed on the bike and rode the 20 km to my home in just over an hour. At least I could find a shop on the way home that was open for a cold drink!

This loop is a great day ride and an ideal practice for riding the Munda Biddi. Another $4.50 and 25 minutes I will be back in Perth.

Christmas 2015

Dual suspension, no luggage, sometimes with car support

Elleker to Denmark, Albany to Elleker

We are down in Denmark again on Christmas holidays, so Munda Biddi riding was on the plan. Our first full day was forecast quite warm (for Denmark) at 31 degrees, so we decided to make an early start. We were in Elleker, on map 9 at 7.30am and ready to ride soon after. My wife joined me on the first section - the Torbay rail trail, and a family with two little kids also left the store at the same time as us. The rail trail is flat and easy, although a little over grown in parts, and is ideal for a family adventure.

The Bornholm diversion was ok - the gravel road through farm land is bit boring, but on top of the hill the karri trees provided shade and the views were good.

The ride along Francis Rd in Tennessee was good. We stopped at the old shearing shed for some video, and although the track can get messy in parts, it is easy if you follow my ride notes. The last couple of km into Youngs Siding were on flat roads in farmland and it was getting hot early.

It was no surprise that the shop attendant as Youngs Siding said it was 34 degrees at 10.30am. It was getting hotter as I headed off, and when I turned up Sleeman Rd, I noticed my phone had over heated and switched off. I had to wait for it to cool down (10 minutes) before continuing. But it did feel hot along this section. It was a bit cooler along Keith Road, by the Hay River, but it was only when I was by the Inlet that it cooled off more.

Now I just headed straight into Denmark, not stopping to look at the Inlet. I followed the new cycleway along Hollings Rd. I rode into Denmark, then finished my trip at the visitors centre at about 12.30pm. It was a couple of km ride to our accommodation, and I got there about 1pm. It had been a slower, hotter day than I anticipated, but I got some good video, new GPX files, and some much needed exercise.

The ride from Albany to Elleker was done a couple days later. It was very easy - 18km, all pretty flat, and all on sealed roads except a couple of km on good gravel. I had a tail wind behind me for most of it, so it was finished pretty quickly.

Jinung Beigabup hut to Booner Mundak to Walpole

Once again, I cheated on this map. I rode into Jinung hut at about 7.30am, and was picked up at Mt Lindesay Rd about 8.30am. We then drove to Valley of the Giants Road, although I rode the sections that diverted off the road e.g. Kent River suspension bridge, or into Booner Mundak hut, so my GPX and RSS notes are accurate. The gravel road is long and a bit boring, and I prefer to drive it if I can instead of riding it.

My wife and I started riding at the back of Valley of the Giants - just in time for all the hills. My wife loved seeing all the Tingle trees, but the hills distracted her from the view. At Outer Break Rd we found a pair of lost Bib track walkers, but they were aiming for Sappers Bridge so we directed them the 2.8km down the Munda Biddi to get to it (they did not have a map). At Sappers Bridge, we reassured the rest of their party they were on their way.

After Sappers Bridge, it was very hilly, but the steep views down to the Frankland River with the karri and tingle trees made it a unique view. By now my wife was sagging, so luckily my Mum picked her up at Gully Rd while I rode into Walpole. We got there at about 4 pm, tired, but happy, as we had tracked about 108 km of the Trail today.

Denmark to Jinung Beigabup Hut

I left Denmark visitors centre about 7.30 on Jan 2nd. It was a fine day, with a forecast about 28 degrees - perfect. The ride along Ocean Beach Rd and towards Lights beach is all on sealed roads or bike paths, so it makes for a pretty quick ride. After a quick stop at Lights Beach, the trail heads away from the Coast under peppermint trees, with only occasional ocean glimpses. I was at Green's Pool at reasonable time, so I was not sharing William Bay road with too many cars. The single track up to Mcleod Rd was a bit steep, but I got my breath back on the flatter section that the Munda Biddi shares with the Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail. But once you turn left on Point Villier Drive it is a 2000m ride to the top of the hill. It was already warming up, so I was chasing shade on whatever side of the road it was. But it is sealed, and I was unloaded, so it wasn't too bad.

I then rode Fred's Road, with it's big downhill, to Scottsdale Rd and then on to the hut. I was there about 11 am, so bit a head of schedule. I got some video, had a bite to eat, and texted my wife (I had a reasonably good signal). I was on the Trail by 11.30am. By now, it was about 32 degrees.

I had ridden out on this section a couple of days before, so I thought I would try to navigate on the trails directly to Scotsdale Rd. I turned off the Munda Biddi Biddi at about 1.4km from the hut, but at 3.5 km I was on a track back at the hut, although about 200m away from it! I continued my endeavour, but instead of short cutting to Scottsdale near Mt Lindesay Rd, I ended up on Harewood Rd. This "short cut" added about 8 km to my 12 km trip! But once again, it reinforced that the Trail is usually flatter and easier then the alternatives.

Denmark Nornalup Heritage Trail

Today is a ride from the Denmark River to Parker Rd, a distance of about 35 km, plus a few km to ride to our start point. Ed and I left at our accommodation at 7.30am and were at the Denmark River bridge by 8am. The weather was warm, and forecast to be about 28 degrees. Initially a light breeze was behind us.

Most of the trail is car width old form, and is reasonable solid, although some later sandy sections saw us pushing a little. Some sections could do with a mow, but were easy enough to ride.

The trail goes through a mix of bush and farmland. The flies in pasture areas were very bad, but unnoticeable in the bush sections.

Ed saw a 2 metre snake on the Trail while I was taking photos, so I missed seeing it.

After crossing McLeod Rd, the Trail and Munda Biddi use the same road. But once the Munda Biddi turns off, the DNHT enters a less used and reasonable isolated section. It was also starting to warm up, and we were both flagging a bit.

We got to the Parker Road/South Coastal highway junction about 11am. The Old Kent River winery is about 500m away on the highway (head West, i.e. turn right at the highway from Parker Rd and you will see a sign for it very quickly). Look for the giant cobalt blue marron on the road side. It is the ideal place to meet our wives as they sold cold drinks, ice creams and snacks. We ended up staying for lunch - we had marron of course, and a glass of wine, before the quick drive home.