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New Zealand: DOWNHILLLLLLLLLLL

Finally the day arrived.

Within a day of our putting the tent up near Queenstown, Sean had found a shop from which to hire a proper mountain bike rig, together with the necessary downhill helmet.  Julia was quick to point out that the man who served him evidently had brain damage. The entire one side of his face had dropped and was sagging below his chin.

“I’m just saying” Julia insisted. “That that was PROBABLY a mountain bike injury.”

“No” Sean argued back. “You don’t know that. He could be a stroke victim.”

“I’m just saying….” Julia went on. And she nodded at Oak and Oak – still recovering from his Abel Tasman trampoline induced concussion incident – nodded back sagely.

“Be careful out there, Dad.”

And so off Sean cycled. Mostly oblivious to the potential danger of the sport, and happy to be riding again at last. First stop was to the cable car at the base of the run, where all the other rad dudes were hanging ready to risk life and limb just for the thrill of it.

Downhill getting the lift up

Of course, whether you are cycling or not it is still possible to get the cable car to the top of the mountain run – and hundreds of other tourists do. So Oak and Julia at least had a chance to enjoy the view from the top too, even if they didn’t have to earn it so hard this time. Perhaps one of the most incredible views of the trip awaited them – and that had to be saying something. The height was literally dizzying – and Julia and Oak were very lucky to get a pristine, cloudless day for their ascent.

Queenstown View

Soon Sean on the other hand was hurtling downhill. It was actually his first time in a downhill MTB park, and as such he made the mistake of thinking that this park grading would be the same as his MTB encounters in the UK. Thinking he was well used to a black run, Sean threw himself down the black here with confidence – only to discover it was more like hurtling off the edge of a cliff.

The MTB park grading in Queenstown was a completely different world to cross country and general trails. Incredibly steep, full of big jumps that were impossible to avoid, rocky, fast and technical. This route demanded his 100% commitment.  In fact when he finally reached the bottom and spoke to some of the cable car cyclists going back up, they told him that they’d all taken a couple of years of constant riding to work their way up to the black.

At least his bike was up to the task though – properly tooled up with his downhill Mondraker and full face helmet, Sean ended up having an absolute blast.

The Mondraker has what’s called “World Cup Forward Geometry”. This has two meanings – forward geometry means it has an incredibly long wheel base as per the current trend. But this also means you have to completely change your riding style in terms of weight distribution. Specifically, weighting the front wheel to stop it washing out. These dynamics only added to the black run entertainment value.

The “World Cup Geometry” means the bike is designed to handle well at speed – 30 mph plus. If you ride below this the bike’s handling will be a hindrance to you rather than a benefit – so this is also a bike for the fully committed MTB rider.

But if you are – this is a truly sublime ride.

Sean and his Mondraker DH

Not content with just the biking either, Sean also got to indulge his childish side and sneaked  a turn on the luge too before heading home.

Oak was distraught to be honest – to come all this way and to miss the damn go kart. But since his mum was more than a little paranoid that he might fall off again and that even more time would be spent receiving care from the New Zealand national health service – he had to make do with more cakes. With edible flowers naturally.

This leaves us unfortunately very near to the end of our NZ blog series. Sadly, and partly due to his lingering concussion, our son had yet another playground accident – he fell off a high swing and actually broke two ribs. Which, as well as causing him immense pain, actually pulled all future cycling plans in this trip to a grinding halt.

It was also starting to snow. Oak was camping with broken bones. Really it was time to go in search of some creature comforts. So we end this series the one more blog where we shall cover in a photo series some of the remaining adventures.

Expect waterfalls, dolphins swimming alongside the boats, lush deep forests, long and momentous drives back up through Canterbury, earthquake decimated cities, volcanoes, natural hot pools, swimming in ancient Lake Taupo, Auckland in the blazing sun…. And the Northlands. Maori street dancers. Mud baths healing our weary bodies. The grandfather tree of Tane Mahute. Empty beachscapes. Ah forever we shall leave our heart in the Northlands.

Until the next time……

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