The day after a 5 day ENDURO adventure race such as the Trans NZ that finishes in Queenstown, you have a number of options available to you for consideration and consumption:
- Buy a lift pass for the bike park in qTown, do one run, realise how fucked you are and give it away to a Grom or any one of the homeless English dudes riding Glory’s with worn out Maxxis rear tires
- Eat donuts at Fergbaker whilst standing in the queue for Fergburger – Convince yourself its ok to eat until you want to vomit after 5 days of gels
- Sit around eating Ice Cream and pretend you’re looking at the lake when in fact you’re scoping the endless supply of Lulu Lemon models strutting past #queenstownsugardaddy
- Drive from one end of the south island to the other because Multigirl hatched a plan for a ‘girls ride’ in the Marlborough sounds and you feel its perfectly ok to gate crash it.
I chose the last option obviously, against perhaps the better judgement of my body. Its around 13 hours door to door from Pinewoods to Havelock, which at the time feels like a completely fucked idea, even if the scenery is mind blowing. But, assuming you’re doing this in summer, it turns out the next day to be all worth it. You can end up in worse spots:
The other upside of this mega transfer? Riding the legend that is Nydia Bay. Aside from the fact that it was scheduled to be Day 2 on the upcoming NZ Enduro race, this whole area is rammed with some of the most hallowed riding in NZ, backed by the Nelson MTB community, which would easily go head to head with Rotorua as one of the most skilled and passionate in the country. And in this context, Nydia Bay is one of the big rides.
So here’s the important thing to know upfront about riding Nydia Bay – There’s a weight of expectation that you’ll be amazed by riding here and declare it absolutely epic, well, that’s the distinct impression I got from doing a bit of research. To not absolutely go gaga over it may be akin to dirty blasphemy. Certainly its location alone gives you the impression its going to be as scenic as fuck:
Now, I’m absolutely not going to argue with its beauty… That’s not in question, but as I would find out, that beauty is matched with its brutality. You feel me?
And the above map highlights an important aspect of this ride. Unless you’re relatively epic and have 15 hours to spare, this is a point to point ride. Ah, cunty logistics I hear you cry! Well yes, but that’s why you need to call Shane. In fact, even better, stay at Shane HQ in Havelock at the Bluemoon Lodge. Shane is not only as local as fuck, but happens to like a good shred and importantly, for a small fee, will more than happily shuttle you out to this stunningly golden spot to get the Gnar party started:
If that’s part of the beauty, then fuck me if taking a look at the first drop in didn’t play the role of the beast, in what’s basically a scene straight out of Predator, the jungle/forest gave an indication it was ready for a big day, even if you weren’t. Mother nature handing out zero fucks if you’re a bit fatigued. There was something out there, and it wasn’t no man…
I had sort of thought that perhaps after a day off I may bounce back from feeling tired in qTown and even if I didn’t, then at least my skills and dirt ninja powers would have been sharpened. File under wishful thinking, as I was quickly woken up to the fact that riding this terrain blind brought its own challenges. I suddenly realised it felt a lot more raw and real than perhaps some of the riding I’d done that week… There was no nice dirt line worn in, no tape, no pink dots and no familiarity. Filling that void? Good old wild NZ trail…
It didn’t take long to get the message that you needed to respect this terrain a little, mossy rocks, off camber, roots (turns out it was only the entree), sniper branches and then other little surprises were all queuing up to have a crack at you:
About a quarter of the way down the first run it occurred to me that I was hearing the killer bees buzz from the CK rear hub a LOT, fuck all pedal action going in down here, just a lot of body english and pumping to try and stay on line and out of early trouble, as did I mention, not a lot of mobile phone coverage around here just quietly…
I liked the lower sections of the first 400m drop run a lot more than the middle, that would be because it was devoid of the massive root sections and off camber rocks that said with a smirk: “We’d like your front wheel please for the starter, followed by the collarbone for the main“.
I tried to disguise that I was a bit ‘Meh’ with it all, as after all, how DARE anyone come here and not portray anything other than Faux-Stoke. Multigirl however was significantly more pumped up than I was, even giving it the appropriate sound effects when the Dirty fisting went down…
Once you bust out on to Duncans Bay road, hang a right and head towards, well, Duncans Bay. Take a moment to enjoy a breather, as its about the last chance you will get for the rest of the day to not feel under the pump by angry iconic wilderness. Ok, so whilst the first run felt like a bit of a struggle, the reward at the bottom is well worth it, I mean fuck, this is seriously scenic shit right here:
Next up on the menu? Well, for one to get to Nydia Bay proper, one must first go up to go down. “Its sort of rideable” said Shane, which as I found out meant a combo of riding, getting fucked by roots, saying cunt, walking and repeating that process for about 47 minutes. Make no mistake, the climbs here are brutal from both a gradient and obstacle perspective. Strong back country riders will love the challenging nature of the ascents, which require as much panache and skill as they do power and endurance.
As it turned out, I had none of those aspects available to me and the punishment of Trans NZ quickly caught up with me. But, in line with the theme of the day, while you’re being brutalised, at least its a beautiful outlook… Like the Club Med version of Shawshank:
Through this toil and sweat induced eye stinging slog, the moment I had been waiting for arrived – When we came across the mandatory photo spot. A rare opening in the dense native bush means that this very location almost has its own Instagram account. Like an Insta-Sheep, I wasn’t about to stray from the herd and got busy climbing up the bank like all the pro’s do to capture the essence of riding your bike in this location. Fuck me if that isn’t poetry basically:
I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but holy fuck I was motherfucked by the time we crested out on the ridge above Nydia Bay. Which brings me to an important Dirty Point – Make sure you come on this all day mission equipped with the necessary supplies and with a few litres of fluid. It was as hot as Scar Jo’s inner thigh and as a result I was equally as sweaty.
Whilst ENDURO faffing at the top, in order to buy myself some much needed chill time so I didn’t munt myself on the DH, I managed to recon out what was ahead. In theory, this was Stage 2 on the NZ ENDURO race, so I was intrigued to see what was UP. Or more accurately, what was off camber and slippery as all fuck:
Meanwhile Multigirl was unimpressed with my faffing, persistent jokes that I would document her toilet break on this blog and the endless 26er jokes. A fun day out for everyone:
Below us lay the prize and the whole point of this rad gnar mission: Nydia Bay… I couldn’t see a lot of cafe’s down there, which was concerning given every molecule of my fibre wanted a Raspberry & White chocolate muffin and/or Bacon. The other craving I had? A flowing downhill with berms, open sight lines and perhaps some gnar that wasn’t off camber or that looked like it wanted to main me to get down there…
Like a Virgin, I thought the first finger was a bit eye watering, but guess what, there was a LOT more to cum… Dropping into Nydia Bay proving to be anything but a relaxing experience. Just when I could taste the legendary Carrot Cake at On the Track Lodge and dream about the Insta-Bangers that awaited, the trail had other ideas. Holy FUCK, it was Gnarmageddon time:
You see, here’s the thing – It took me a little while to work this out, but the key secret to riding into Nydia Bay is to do so FULL gas, you have to carry speed to skip across the top of all the gnar and evil roots. The moment you slow down or lose momentum you’re fucked, as it just beats you into submission. However, to do this you need two things:
- To be Jamie Nicoll – Two time winner down here in the NZ ENDURO and local beast on a bike
- To have great skills, a switched on attention span and be relatively strong
I didn’t qualify for any of those aspects, but when I did manage to let go of the Saint levers and take the #highlinebro, it rewarded me handsomely, even if the high line did feel fucking dodgy at times:
I did have one thought while struggling like a beginner down this beast of a downhill and that was simply this: Fuuuuuuuuuuck coming down here in the wet. As in, just say NO kids, as it would be a fucking nightmare of epic proportions. If someone guilt trips you into it, bring a Motocross bike. This action was hard enough in the dry:
Yeah…. Fuck, this was feeling straight up hard to be honest. I suspect fresh it wouldn’t have been quite a mind fuck, but I was under the pump down here to try and keep my shit both together and upright. Its a constant assault on your skills to keep it rolling. Section after section just wants to beat the shit out of you while it steals your momentum and laughs at you as you feebly fight back. Its pretty much like getting into the cage of death with the ROCK, yes, that’s a cheap segway to this photo:
Quit your moaning T-Rex arms, who cares if you get beat to shit and feel like you don’t deserve your Nomad 3 when you end up with Nydia Bay as your reward? And yes, its mandatory to ride out on the Pier/jetty thing to capture video footage for the Dirty shredit to come…
This place is freak show awesome. No roads, no cars, no shops and pretty much no people either. I’m not much of an adventurer, but being out here felt pretty awesome and more than made up for the pain of accessing it. You’ll end up riding quite slowly as you look out with a goon like expression on your face as the majesty of the place, its fucking rad as a summary.
Dirty tip – So, there ain’t no shops around these parts, so self sufficiency is key, especially with water and food. However, all is not lost if you do fuck things up as the On The Track Lodge is waiting for you assuming you survive the mega second descent, its like an oasis in the valley of Gnar and holy fuck was I pleased to see this place:
Much to the delight of everyone, I took the opportunity to dry my hairy carcass and kit in the fur singeing Tasman sun. Whilst it may have seemed like I was pissing in the wind, in the time it took me to destroy the Nek Level carrot cake being dished up, all my drenched shit not only dried out, but then felt like it had come out of the oven. Mother nature, fuck YEAH:
I knew there was a major systems melt down after leaving On the Track lodge, the hint? I had smashed a sarnie, epic carrot cake and as much coffee as I could get my sweaty hands on and I still felt completely empty. Not a great feeling when you’re already at the back of the group on the plateau on the way to the climb wondering how the fuck you’re going to get up there.
How fucked was I? Its possible it took me an hour to climb 2.7km’s and 339m. Yes, when you digest those numbers it highlights I was in deep shit. I can’t recall feeling this finger banged on a ride for a long time. Perhaps a bit like Day 6 on TP? Just that empty feeling when you truly know that all your reserves have been ripped out of you and you’re eating into the dark recesses of your soul. Woah, drama bear. Possibly stopping to take photos and eat plant leaves contributed to that hour:
Yeah ok, so I was broken and at that point, given the setting I would have loved to of gotten back to da choppa. But, the only way out from here is to keep on pushing, literally for me, through the next DH, final climb and then the last descent. This is a fucking big day, make no mistake. I had about as much power left as a sloth addicted to meth and the thought of another Gnar DH run was giving me pause for thought.
-15% average and guess what was waiting, more relentless off camber roots lining up to say: “Fucking smash us with speed and momentum or we will gang bang you brah“:
Note to self the sequel: Don’t ever fucking come here if there’s even the suggestion of moistness… I don’t often suggest running away from wet roots, but I will make an exception here. I go riding on my mountain bike for the downhills, so you can imagine the internal conflict when I just wanted it to end. By the beast of a trail didn’t want it to end… Oh no, it wanted MORE… The only way through it is to boost the fuck out of all of this shit and pray your front wheel stays out of the shit.
Thank fuck it was dry, not that it made a lot of difference to me. Its not often that I stop on a downhill to eat food, but I made an exception here. Partly to refuel, but also to marvel at how mother nature had managed to come up with some much challenging riding, rammed into such an awesome setting and location. I really wanted to appreciate it like it deserved to be, but all I could think was: “I am not fucking racing down here”
They say to never make big decisions while you’re drunk or sexting work colleagues, but perhaps add to that list while you’re hungry and have been beaten into submission by beautiful native gnar. I suspect 90% of my decision to pull out of the NZ ENDURO was based on the moment I had to have a little time out on that descent.
My mind was clouded, but the nature of the off camber rooty gnar just felt fucking endless… There was no reprieve, just more and I was losing my shit with the constant stalling out, restarts, fuck ups and just general beat down. Make sure you come here with your A Game YO.
With my pussification complete, it was into the final climb, a contrasting pine forest grind to finish everyone off, before the short but rippingly sweet blast out to the road back to Havelock. The Dirty girls were stoked to have knocked the bastard off:
Dirty Tip – When you drop on to Kaiuma Bay Road you’ll want either a van pick up (Thank you Shane) or a water taxi back to Havelock. Or, if you’re a beast then perhaps you could ride the 11km’s back, but after 6 hours of beat down that could super get fucked.
My last piece of ridiculously obvious advice is to turn up to this mission feeling fresh and on your game. Its some extremely demanding riding and we were lucky enough to have rare dry conditions, apparently it was riding mint, something that made me raise an eyebrow.
Did I love it? Shoot me now NZ MTB community when I say no… Yes, my view is tainted by fatigue, but given everything I have done in the last 3 years I’ve had a lot more fun riding trails that are hard, but where I can stay on my bike a bit more. As an experience its a must do around these parts and it will absolutely reward strong all rounders, just get a patient crew together, sort your logistics and hold out for a mint weather day! Strava file here for dirty foreigners. Make no mistake, the scenery is utterly amazing.
A massive thanks to Sarah and Multigirl for tolerating my broken state and to Shane for the excellent kiwi as fuck commentary and logistical support.