This one was thanks to Lisa again. She was signed up to race the Lake Hawea Epic with some mates. One of them dropped out so I was talked into a 125 km XC race. When I missed the last registration date, I realised that I could still tag along and hit the fun trails in neighbouring Wanaka instead.
The racers had an early and cold 7am start. I wasn't up that early. I waited for the sun to rise and as the morning mist and frost burned away, a goat stared at my breakfast through the kitchen window. I feel like this should have had some deeper meaning, a message for the day to come. I think he was just cold and hungry though.
The first stage of my ride was to actually get to Wanaka. Fortunately the locals have built a wide and fast track between Lake Hawea and Albert Town. From there you follow a river-side trail into Wanaka, or stop before the town at Sticky Forest like I did.
On Trailforks, Sticky Forest looks like a mash of trails thrown on top of each other. And that is pretty much how it feels when you get in there. Trail start posts are lined up next to each other in places and the trails themselves wind down next to and over each other. I was really impressed by the variety of trails on offer. There is something for everyone in Sticky Forest. I saw families with young kids, teenagers sending jumps on bikes that didn't look strong enough, and the enduro crowd making the big jump lines look easy. In a small area you can find any trail to match your level or push your skills up a notch. Jumps, corners, drops, rock gardens, and even steep, loose and rutted descents are there.
On the way back home I rode part of the Hikuwai Loop, a 5km long (in total) flowing singletrack suitable for all levels, but with a few drops and jumps on the wider sections if you want some more fun. I exited the loop by shooting down Rockabilly Ditch. Only 260m long, Trailforks describes it as a rock garden from top to bottom. It wasn't wrong and I wasn't disappointed
I crawled back to Hawea along the same track that I had bounded down a few hours before full of enthusiasm. My day in Sticky Forest had broken me and I was truly exhausted when I got back. I was somehow persuaded to ride up to the Lake Hawea Hotel to watch the prize giving as soon as I arrived. As the winners were congratulated, I recovered with a couple of cold beers.
The following morning, after a massive meal and a huge sleep, the goat was staring at me again. I went outside with a handful of nuts and tried to make friends. It wasn't interested at all and just carried on staring at me.
Before driving back to Christchurch, we took a quick blast around the local singletrack below the Hawea Dam. Actually 'blast' is an overstatement. Our legs were suffering too much for that. The trails were really fun though! Tight and twisty with nice rocky features to keep you on your toes.
I highly recommend checking out Wanaka. Apart from the mountain biking, there are loads of other activities for your significant other and children. On top of that it looks spectacular. There are amazing views in every direction.
Thanks to Lisa for making it happen, Nathan for driving and George for the pasta!