I spent Easter in and around Dunedin. I got wet.
Remember that German bikepacking friend of mine? Well, she suggested a weekend of mountain biking in Dunedin over Easter. Eager as ever to see new places I said yes.
We left on Good Friday, early in the morning. A tropical storm had been hammering the east coast of New Zealand all night. I'm not sure what a tropical storm was even doing this close to the Antarctic and I didn't stop to ask it as we arrived soaking wet at Christchurch bus station. Following the unhelpful directions from the bus driver, we got the bikes kind of attached to the bike rack while getting even more wet. Neither of us were too enthusiastic about our bikes sitting in the rain and motorway spray for six hours but there was nothing that could be done.
Ten minutes outside of Christchurch the bus stopped. Not in the regular way a bus might stop at a bus stop though. The fan belt had broken. A new bus arrived and our luggage and bikes were transferred into the compartment at the back, out of the rain. Well worth the delay!
It carried on raining nearly all the way. We drove through several floods and many soggy towns. The trails were going to be a complete mess.
And they were! We had a look at Signal Hill on Saturday. It was really only a look. This is the hill where the Dunedin round of the NZ DH Championship is held with views over the city. There is a long winding trail to the top. At places steeper trails crossed it, cutting down through the woods. They looked like fun but all the rocks and roots were covered in slippery wet clay. It would have been suicidal at best to attempt the steepest trails. Instead I shot down the fast and technical (and mud free) Ginger Cougar before slowly descending on a slippery 4X track and somehow ending up on the waterlogged DH line and some other expert trail that briefly scared the shit out of me. By this time it was raining again.
Almost no one else was there riding so I reckoned the locals didn't want to rip up their trails. After some snacks we gave up on Signal Hill, deciding it needs its rest and a chance to dry out. Instead we went to Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street.
Obviously we rode up it. This wasn't much fun. It really is very steep. My lungs almost exploded near the top and a needed a surprising amount of time to get my breathing back again at the top. Going down was much more fun. Choosing a gap between cars failing to drive up (they couldn't get traction on the wet road) and tourists taking photos, we shot down at a terrifying speed. My Garmin clocked 77.8 km/h!
We then pushed up the hill to the Redwoods and did a few slow laps there, where the loamy soil is more suited to wet weather riding. It was still slow due to fallen trees from the storm blocking the path!
On Easter Sunday, Lisa went trail running with our host while I attacked the trails in Whare Flat. They were just as wet but rideable. Kind of.
I started with Snakes & Ladders, a long winding trail with many wooden features, drops, boulders and rock gardens. A true mountain biking trail built by mountain bikers. Unfortunately the wooden bridges had seen better days and had coat of wet algae slipperier than a slippery nipple. Consequently I ended up taking the "easier" routes around the bridges, which still keep you on your toes. Further down the hill there are beautiful singletrails to die for. The perfect balance of flow, technical rocks and roots, and most importantly fun. Wet, muddy fun! 3 Little Pigs was my favourite here, with Shenanigans a close second. The end of Shenanigans got increasingly waterlogged the further down I got, slowly turning into an actual stream. Great!
At this point I noticed that my feet were still dry for some reason. To get back up the hill I followed a narrow 4WD track, that was also a river. The top of it was big deep puddles that put an end to my dry feet. I was collected at the car park covered in mud, wet, bleeding and exhausted after only 17 km of riding.
Monday I spent at Forrester Park. A few warm up laps on the BMX track and then some laps of the National XC course, which promised to be steep, loose and scary with some jumps thrown in for good measure. It lived up to its promises but I was feeling weary so stopped after I had nailed the expert line. I rolled back into town and chilled for a few hours by the harbor.
We were meant to go and see the penguins that evening but it started raining. Not happy.
Anyway, Dunedin has some cool and well signposted trails to ride. I would't necessarily say it is worth going out of your way to go there, but if you want to check the city out, don't leave your bikes at home or in the van.