Carly is a self-confessed adrenaline junky. Last year she decided to visit New Zealand and take part in an arduous mountain run, the Kepler Challenge. What better way to recover from a full-on day running than hire a Thrifty 4WD equipped with 2 Adventure Capital mountain bikes and hit some iconic Southern Lakes trails!
Here’s Carly’s account of her travels.
My boyfriend and I recently decided to take a quick trip over to NZ. I’ve been completely in love with the place since I was a kid and have made the trip over many times, but this was a first for my boyfriend.
I’ve tramped, I’ve bungeed, I’ve white water rafted, I’ve been to the North Island, the South Island and countless places in between. So I wanted to do something different this time, but something that would still give him a unique NZ experience jam-packed full of fun.
Now, I’ll admit, I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie – but my boyfriend is quite the opposite. While I get my kicks doing endurance races or jumping out of aeroplanes, he’s more of a coffee savant who enjoys planning his days around where we’re going to breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But kudos to the man – he’ll try anything once! So when we found out about Thrifty’s new car and bike hire package, we put our bets on mountain biking. The perfect combination of thrills, spills and chills, we thought, and we weren’t disappointed.
With only 7 days to spend in NZ, our plan was to enjoy the first 3 days in Wanaka, topped off by 4 days in Queenstown.
We got a direct flight from Sydney to Queenstown (which only took a remarkably short 2.5 hours!) and picked up our Toyota Highlander, with two mountain bikes – including helmets, bike locks and a little repair kit – already loaded in the back. And just like that we were off.
Day one in Wanaka we decided to keep things simple and test the legs. With the help of a few maps from the local information centre, we chose a cruisy ride around the water to what we thought was a nearby bustling hub called Albert Town. Turns out the town is falsely named and is really just a couple of shops – but they provided a much needed afternoon beverage, and the ride was absolutely stunning; an almost perfectly flat bike path that meandered along rivers and streams, past flowers and picnickers. It was something out of a fairy tale.
Day two we decided to get a bit more adventurous. The lady in the information centre told us about a purpose-built, one way bike track just outside of town called Dean’s Bank. Given we’re complete biking novices, we were a bit unsure if we’d be cut out for it, but thought we’d rock up and see what it was all about. Thank god we did. It was the most fun I’ve had on a bike since I was a kid.
Apart from the first hill, which was an absolute zig-zagging killer (but actually taught us a lot about how to change gears!), the track was a smooth, undulating roller coaster of twists, turns and spectacular views.
We had a couple of tumbles, I’ll admit, but both were photo-worthy and a source of mocking laughter for the remainder of our holiday. The beauty of the track was that it wasn’t too steep so you could go at your own pace. Words can’t describe it – it was truly tremendous fun and I’d recommend it for anyone and everyone with an average level of fitness.
Then onto day three. We got a bit ahead of ourselves here and decided to try out the woods near the centre of town called ‘Sticky Forrest’. Big mistake. We somehow found ourselves on what we can only guess was some kind of black diamond track – insanely steep cliffs, incredibly thin tracks, and all kinds of hazardous roots and trees trying to take you down. Apparently there are some easy, family friendly tracks in there, but we didn’t find them. I’d recommend this one for the more experienced cyclist, or those who are better at reading signs and maps than we are!
So having narrowly escaped death in the woods of Wanaka, we packed our bikes into the back of the car and headed to Queenstown.
Ahhh Queenstown – there’s really no place like it is there?! Heaven. On. Earth. We squeezed a heap of action into our four days there – the more relaxing of these being endless Luge competitions and a daily Fergburger, coupled with a bottle of wine by the water. But on the mountain biking front we had two stand-outs.
Firstly let’s talk about the Queenstown Bike Park. Omg. Omg. OMG. Let’s just say once again we completely over-estimated about ability on two wheels, but it was definitely memorable. We bought a half day pass for the gondola and managed 6 runs in that time. We only took the green runs, which were still pretty challenging for new starters I must admit. But by the third and fourth runs we were getting a bit more confident, and even doing a few little jumps here and there. Would we do it again? Probably not without more gear – like knee and elbow pads – but it was worth the laughs (and screams from me). Not to mention the quad workout!
Probably our most successful day of biking was hitting the Queenstown Trail, following a gorgeous loop out to Arrowtown and back. Once again, the scenery was truly the superstar; more picturesque rivers, more gurgling streams, rolling hills, quaint bridges, cute cafes. Suitable for all ages and ability.
NZ by bike – unimaginable beauty, incredible fun. Thank you Thrifty! We’ll definitely be back.
If you are keen to check out some of the rides Carly talks about you can get more information here: