Not twelve months ago, in summing up a curve-ball laden road cycle tour of Tasmania, I described it as "a spot that is begging for a rerun, perhaps with a mountain bike and campervan." Not one to let a good conclusion go untested, once it became time to sort a summer holiday, I began digging into the idea.
Having committed to riding mountain bikes, the travelling party soon followed. While Kaitlyn hasn't touched her bike since starting university some 5 long years ago, Khulan averages a few rides on hers a week, and by now has probably spent more time mountain biking in her life than I have in mine. While I can still hold my own on a climb, it only took a couple of years for her skills to surpass my own, and the gap has only widened since! Wonderfully, she was interested in joining Sarah and I, and we booked a period which would include Katy's final law exams, hopefully to soften the blow on all of us that she wouldn't be joining us this time.
I was initially less sure about the motorhome side of the equation, but upon exploring options for getting three people and three large mountain bikes around Tassie, it did seem like a good way of ticking both the transport and accommodation boxes off. I booked a whopping 6-berth vehicle, figuring that while Khulie and the parents slept in two of the double beds, the three bikes could occupy the third. None of us had any campervan experience, so there was an appealing novelty factor too.
Transport to the airport was a bit of a hoot. Stacking three bike boxes on the roof of our corolla might have been possible, but I discovered one box sat very nicely between the boot and our bike rack. It was remarkably satisfying getting three large boxes, and three beautifully proportioned riders across town, and thanks to my brother Ed's imminent PhD graduation, my father Geoff was on hand to be our driver.
Unwilling to inflict the drive on Geoff at 3-something in the morning, let alone ourselves, we booked a room at the airport Rydges, and the next morning, after a smooth check-in process, hit the Air New Zealand lounge moments after it opened at 5am. Khulie was a bit battered and bruised once we finally buckled up on our flight to Hobart - a quick dash back to the domestic terminal was required to retrieve her helmet, but her carry-on load was lightened due to some oversized lotions and potions. I guess in the scheme of things better to be replacing creams than a helmet.
Thanks to the early start and the 2-hour time difference, it was only late morning when we landed in Hobart. I caught a cab to pick up our RV, and that done it was a short drive back to the airport to collect Sarah, Khulan and our luggage, ever mindful of the necessary 3.5m clearance! When I stood at the doorway with the first box, the door suddenly seemed incredibly small and the box incredibly big. It was some relief to get not one but all three boxes up into the vehicle, and our game of 3D-Tetris underway.
Mount Wellington, Hobart
By the time we'd plugged in to our first powered site at the Hobart Showground Motorhome Park, hangriness was threatening to overcome both Khulie and I. We set out on foot to a nearby cafe, and ate before either of us were tipped over the edge. Our return trip took us past a huge outdoor store, where Sarah and I picked up a pair of heavily discounted jandals each, which were put to great use for the remainder of the holiday. Bellies full and feet freshly shod, things were looking up!
Back at the RV, we decided to assemble the bikes, and that done, put them to some good use. The North-South Track on the flanks of kunanyi Mt Wellington beckoned!
By good fortune rather than good management, our parking spot was perfectly positioned. We were not only a few minutes' ride from the Intercity Cycle Path which would take us into Hobart, but also just down the road from the Glenorchy Mountain Bike Park, from which we'd emerge a few hours later. What's more, a stonking tail wind would help us get our legs warm and take the emotional edge off the paved start to the ride.
It took us a couple of hours to get onto the North-South Track itself, forgoing the final paved kilometre by skipping the very top section from the carpark at The Springs. We'd climbed almost 600m vertical to reach our version of the trail head, but within 600m horizontal, it dawned on us that we would be justly rewarded. Indeed, it was apparent our very first ride was setting the bar incredibly high, and it wasn't lost on any of us that this might just be the best track of the trip.
When the bush wasn't blowing my mind, the use of rock in the trail surface was.
When we reached the upper boundary of the Glenorchy mountain bike park, the style of the trail changed dramatically a couple of times, becoming narrower and steeper initially, and then into a slalom of jumps and huge berms. It paid not to be distracted by the grazing kangaroos!
As shake-down rides went, this was one hell of a pick, and it was well worth sneaking in. In all, the loop was 38km and soaked up about 5hrs, including a sit-down dinner and a supermarket mission.
Maydena Bike Park
The next morning, we drove 80km to Maydena, a small settlement part way down a long dead end road. Upon arrival, we rebuilt the bikes from their travelling configuration (front wheel installed for Khulie's bike, and both pedals and wheels added for the parents'), and that done, made our way to the Maydena Bike Park Guest Services centre.
Having done zero homework, I was guided through the various options by a helpful staff member, drawing the conclusion that for the first day at least, we'd require only a $20 Mountain Pass each. This gave us access to a 380vm ascent on a series of Climbing Trails as far up the park as the Midline traverse, beyond which we would need to use the shuttle.
|Sarah on Giddy-Up
Between Midline and the bottom of the park was the top of the "Lower Mountain Uplift", and while consulting a large map there, we were helped by a friendly Australian, who described our "decision paralysis" quite accurately, and then helped ease it somewhat with suggestions!
|Heading along Midline to the Outer Limits track
Having made two ascents to Midline, and enjoyed some very well designed and built track below it, we retired to Left of Field campground, about 12km back down the road, and after showers, walked to the nearby pub for dinner.
The next morning, it was pretty wet, and for a while we contemplated alternative options, including a drive to the Gordon Dam at the end of the road, and even a gravel road loop. In the end, we hardened up, and decided to have another two and a half laps of the lower park, the last of these fueled by a very good pizza from the park cafe.
For our third and final day, we upgraded to a shuttle pass in order to enjoy the upper reaches of the park. The first descent was very cold, and I was glad to have worn a woolen t-shirt under my riding jersey and jacket. To this point, Sarah and I had generally ridden the same trails as Khulie, but we separated more often so she could enjoy putting her superior skills to good use!
We did three full uplifts, each giving us a good 40-plus minutes of descending time, peeling off a whopping 700vm per lap.
|Sarah on Green Room
By the time we were done, the three-ride mix of pedaling and shuttles seemed perfect. There were many more trail choices below Midline, and the climbing trails had been a fun and cost-effective way of sampling them.
We did find the track grading a bit hit-and-miss, with some of the intermediate (Blue) tracks definitely being a step up from the harder (Black) trails. We found it was best to keep your wits about you at all times, and be prepared for the odd tactical walk!
|Yeti SB115 looking splendid atop the Maydena Bike Park
After a bit of bike cleaning, we settled in for the three hour drive to our next spot - Queenstown on the West Coast. Sarah and I had toured on much of the route we drove, and it was fun to reminisce.
Mt Owen MTB Trails, Queenstown
We awoke to pretty grimy weather, and I was kind of glad I hadn't been organised enough to book shuttles into the upper reaches of the Mt Owen MTB Trails.
|Shuttle-only access to the North Owen Descent
Nonetheless, we were able to climb almost 400vm over six very nicely designed kilometres of trail, before clocking up almost as much distance on the descent.
|Near the top of Sledge Track
The network basically followed a ridge parallel with the road we'd driven down the evening before, with the spectacular Horsetail Falls feeding the valley between them. We were afforded great views over Queenstown itself, and the road, and at various times could make out the airport perched atop a hill.
|Going down on Sticht Up
|Welcome to Queenstown
In the Tour de France, they'd call this a transition stage, but the short ride in cold conditions helped break up our driving foray into the West Coast. I'm sure that a sunny day would call for at least one uplift to the top of Waterfall.
After a bit of arithmetic, I decided to forgo a visit to the Silver City trails in Zeahan, instead driving as far as Devonport to set us up for our next ride in the Wild Mersey network - a recommendation from a fellow I chatted to during one of our shuttle rides at Maydena.
One of Khulie's superpowers is the ability to sleep upright, and as far as I could tell with regular glances in the rear-view mirror, she missed a fair bit of the scenery on the 200km drive. Much of the route was new to me, and overlapped with last year's riding route only between Tullah and the Cradle Mountain turn off. Sarah and I had a short walk to see the Anthony Dam at Lake Plimsoll, though the best views from below the dam were probably off the road. Cycle tourists take note!
|Looking up Lake Plimsoll from Anthony Dam
Our overnight stay in Devonport was short but pretty action packed. When we arrived at our campground in East Devonport, the whole side of the town was experiencing a power cut, thanks to someone in a ute who had recently decided to take on a power pole. From our table at an Indian restaurant by the Mersey River, we watched one of the massive ferries departing for Melbourne. It couldn't have been much more than 100m from us, and the restaurant was virtually at sea-level, and the boat was incredibly imposing from our vantage point. After we'd turned in, the heavens really opened, but at some point our brains decided that we no longer needed reports of the heavy rain on the campervan roof, and we all slept soundly enough.
After breakfast, we made the short drive to Sheffield, where we had an extra coffee and picked up a paper map of the Wild Mersey trail network from the information centre. Google helped us to find the trail head carpark off Nook Road.
For me it was pretty much love at first sight. A section of the Tasmanian Trail bikepacking route took us through to the small town of Railton, along which time we snuck in a beautifully designed wee loop of Shredwater Creek + Ewoks. Perhaps the heavy overnight rain in Devonport had completely bypassed this area, but if not, the area had drained incredibly well, and fears of a mud-bath were unfounded.
|Tasmanian Trail section aka the Railton Rattler
We stopped for a pick-me-up at a very bike friendly cafe in Railton, replete with MTB magazines on all the tables, before setting off on an almost 100% single track loop back to our vehicle in Sheffield.
As we climbed away from a suburban area on Green Hornet, I thought I saw either a small snake or a large lizard. Whichever it was, it disappeared pretty quickly off the track as I passed it.
After a couple of short but fun climbing trails, we were offered a track which wasn't on our paper map - Raptor Ridge. We'd just added a short loop, and so incorrectly assumed this extension wouldn't be much longer. WRONG! The extension actually added 10km, and took us an hour and a half! The track was sweet, but it was both physically and mentally demanding.
|Trying to keep the troops entertained!
Back on the main loop, we continued climbing. We lost Sarah for a few minutes when she decided to take an unintuitive turn up at a 4WD crossing. That was briefly stressful, but was no match for what came next.
With words like "exquisite" and "sublime" running through my mind, I was greatly enjoying a technical climb, and like a typical Kiwi cyclist with nothing particularly worrisome on the ground to watch out for, was intently focused on a spot just beyond my front wheel. Consequently, I didn't spot the snake sunning itself on the trail until I was alongside it. At that point, stopping would have been catastrophic, as one of my feet would surely have ended up on or very near the snake, so I pedaled increasingly frantically. Initially this propelled my bike forward, but then my chain dropped and for a couple of pedal revolutions my bike went nowhere. At that point, I hit the eject button, and ended up in a heap off the side of the trail. I didn't lie there for long, not really knowing where old-mate snake was...
Back on my feet, I looked at my bike only to see the snake's head trapped between my chain and the lower jockey wheel of my rear derailleur. In many respects, my dear Yeti could not have done a more perfect job of saving me than this, with the pointy end of the snake being kept well away from my ankle...
By this stage, Khulan had stopped a few metres away, and we both watched as the snake successfully extricated itself from my drive train, and slithered away into the bush.
I ran diagnostics, and concluded that all my divots were caused by hitting the ground, rather than directly due to the snake. It seemed that I'd probably live to tell the tale. Far from feeling great about that, this whole experience was a real buzz kill, and very chilling.
For a start, I felt stupid for not being better prepared to avoid this, by adjusting my riding style to suit the potentially treacherous trail conditions. It was also incredibly freaky to come so close to having a serious incident with this "large and highly venomous" Tasmanian Tiger Snake. Getting bitten would have put us all in a really bad situation, and we hadn't studied up how best to act if it did happen (i.e. we hadn't read the likes of this advice in advance which compelling advocates for staying completely still).
The good news was that I'd appeared to dodge a bullet. The bad news was that we still had plenty of riding ahead of us. Taking point once more, I desperately tried to interrogate every tree root, fallen branch, shadow and blemish on the trail ahead, this time well before passing it. Between that impossible task and the snake encounter, the absolutely stunning trails through to the end of our 50km loop were not much fun, and I was absolutely frazzled by the end of it. The distance blowing out the way it had, plus the drama, had worn all of us down.
Luckily we were the only ones that day who had bitten off more than we could chew...
After loading the bikes we were able to calm our nerves with a 150km drive to Bridport. In hindsight, we should have stopped for dinner in Launceston, but fortunately a pub were willing to serve us after their kitchen had begun to wind down for the evening.
The next morning, it was a relatively short drive to Derby, where we set up camp in Derby Park in the absence of a powered campground. We were a touch unprepared for there to be no convenience store in the wee town, so had to make a couple of trips to nearby Branxholm - no big deal in a car, but a bit of a drag in a motorhome!
We found a flattish parking spot, and who did we find as our next door neighbour? None other than the fellow who'd kindly given us advice at Maydena. This time we properly introduced ourselves to Kevin, who was making his second months-long break from work and as a result knew Tasmania and its MTB jewels very well. He was getting ready to head out for a ride on his E-bike, and invited us to join him.
Kevin treated us to a short but stunning loop in Blue Derby, the self-proclaimed "home of Australian mountain biking". The orientation ride was really helpful, the trails were beautifully designed and built, and fun to ride, AND THERE WERE NO SNAKES TO BE SEEN.
|Below Tasty Trout Falls
|Heading into Krushka's
|Khulie on Krushka's
|Khulie, Kevin and Sarah at the top of Twisties
|Heading into the long and (fortunately) lit Derby Tunnel
|Derby main drag
After showing us back to the trail head, Kevin headed in for another lap, while we celebrated with a half dozen donuts from one of the main bike-stores on the main road. It remains curious to me that a town that can sustain no fewer than five bike shops doesn't have a shop where you can buy groceries (the Post Office sells a few bits and pieces, but I think stock goes pretty quickly, e.g. all the loaves of bread first thing in the morning). That said, at least there were plenty of dinner options, and we opted for some delicious wood-fired pizzas.
The next morning, we set out on our own. One of the nice features of the Blue Derby network are a set of seven loops of varying lengths and grading. These are displayed on a map board at the trail head, but better yet are signposted throughout the park, and are easy to follow. We (or, I, on behalf of...) chose loop 7, which is the longest of the loops, and usefully, less difficult than "Very".
We were soon heading up a nifty set of switchbacks, and enjoying what I have no doubt are among the world's best climbing berms. Sarah decided to follow Khulie and I up a rocky short-cut, but didn't quite give it the commitment it required, and my photo captured disaster-in-progress rather than success.
From there were gathered ourselves, and headed up to the Black Stump shuttle point and beyond. A trail aptly named Dambusters took us around a lake perched a couple of hundred vertical metres above the town.
|De La Vu
Sarah and I decided to join Khulie on a descent of Cuddles, and soon found ourselves at the top of an imposing rock face. There were a couple of lines which looked rollable, including the one that Khulie had long since taken. Among the spectators at the bottom was Kevin, and we were peppered with advice about how to proceed (and how not to). I had a mind to attempt the middle line, but as if the track weren't intimidating enough, the hollering from below had me chicken out. I stewed on that for the rest of the ride, testament to the saying "better to regret something you did, than something you didn't".
|Khulie on Cuddles
Loop 7 done, Sarah and Khulan were happy to head back to the camper. I'd had a mind to add on Loop 3, but made do with a blat around Lake Derby. But not before popping in to a couple of shuttle operators. The second I tried, Vertigo Bikes, had not long before cancelled a shuttle of Blue Tier and Altas, two of the higher profile rides in the area, but with the three of us keen, kindly agree to haul us the next day.
|Lake Derby, in front of the bike shop laden town
The shuttle booking wasn't quite what I'd intended, but I realised it was likely the only way it was going to happen. The Blue Tier trailhead was almost an hour's drive from Derby, and sets you up for a lovely 22km ride into Weldborough. From Weldborough, the ride up to the start of Atlas would have only been 7km on a 4WD road, but our package included a shuttle of this leg as well. I figured best just to embrace it!
Aside from the chilly start to our third day at Maydena, the temperature had mostly been perfect - never too hot, and generally not too cool that a riding jersey wouldn't suffice. This morning was a bit of an exception though. I used the same strategy as I had with the Maydena shuttles, and wore a merino t-shirt under my long-sleeved jersey. Sarah seems to be warm no matter what - sturdy Mongolian stock, I guess - but Khulie only had a couple of winters there, and to make matters worse, I hadn't provided clothing advice before we'd left. Luckily, in the first 10km of trail, we only descended 50m, so there was plenty of pedaling to generate some heat.
We'd now become well accustomed to the Tassie style, and expected the beautifully shaped trail, and stunning use of rock as "natural" armouring. Blue Tier was no exception, but strangely none of us were willing to rave about the trail once we were done.
|Thanks for the special service, Vertigo MTB
Kevin hadn't been a big fan of Atlas, but for some reason, I really loved it, and in some respects, it might have been the track of the trip for me - our very first, the North-South Track in Hobart, being the closest contender. Eventually, we converged on Dambusters from Day 2, and soon after, sidled across to join Krushka's once more. Khulie descended on Trouty, while Sarah and I took a less technical but much longer series of tracks back to base.
We farewelled Kevin, and thanked him for his helpful advice both at Derby and Maydena. An hour's drive later, we were on the hunt for dinner in St Helens. After our dinner-like feast at lunchtime, we made do with a picnic lunch, albeit in the camper, and back at the Big4 campground.
St Helens Mountain Bike Trails
The next morning, I was the only one with any inclination towards an additional ride. Unfortunately the timing and relative location of the trailhead meant that we would need to check out from the campground, and the park hub was deserted when we all arrived after a 5km drive. I aimed to ride for only an hour, and figured that Sarah and Khulie could give their bikes a fit-for-NZ-biosecurity wipe down while I rode.
I didn't quite wrap my head around the stylised maps at the St Helens Mountain Bike Trails carpark. There were three, each at a different zoom level, but I didn't click that they weren't completely nested, so the most zoomed-out map didn't have everything on it. The user was meant to splice them together, which this user didn't realise... Anyway, I wasn't intending to go far, so jumped on the first track away from the Trailhead, and followed the arrows!
|Makes perfect sense, now I'm not in a rush!
I wasn't carrying a pump, so wasn't delighted to see a lot of very angular rock on the tracks, but I managed to avoid having any issues. Despite being dry and a bit skatey in parts, the design was familiarly awesome, and I really enjoyed the solo blat. Without consulting my photographs of the maps, I turned back half way up Garn Up, and that brought me back to the carpark only slightly outside my predicted hour.
That had us well on track for the 240km drive to MONA, for which we had 2pm tickets booked. I made an ill-fated and premature stop for food before we hit State Highway 1. Khulie reported that her coffee at least smelled like coffee!!! Khulie seemed to enjoy her first visit to MONA, and Sarah and I both agreed that twice was probably enough. In any case, it was well worth giving up a bit of flexibility for.
|Looking at Mt Wellington and the Glenorchy bike park from MONA
6-berth Deluxe Motorhome
I said to a few people before the trip that I expected to either love or hate my first campervan experience. A few dents in my head aside, the latter certainly wasn't true.
The vehicle was surprisingly easy to drive, though my experience improved when I found how to turn off the lane encroachment alarms - it would ping me whenever I tried to smooth out a corner, either by cutting into the shoulder, or crossing the centreline, and avoiding this was both stressful and meant the van rolled around a wee bit more than I liked. I also ended with slightly more tolerance for campervan drivers that do not pull over to let following vehicles pass - at least on the narrow Tasmanian roads, this was surprisingly difficult to do.
Khulie and I were definitely in sync inside the vehicle, and seemed to flow around each other well. Sarah was more often in the wrong place at the wrong time!
We had three configurations that we swapped between:
1A. Bikes mid-vehicle with the rear in dining mode. We ate breakfast together at the back of the vehicle each morning, with a bit more space each than we'd have got in the middle berth (which also had a table). Khulie's bike went into one of the two small boxes inside the single larger box, with both pedals on and the front wheel removed. With the rear padding on the seats in the central berth, the large box would be nicely wedged in, and we didn't have to secure it. We would take both pedals and wheels off the two Yetis, and rest the frames vertically inside the third bike box. After a bit of experimentation, the best approach seemed to be to have the forks in the centre of the box, and in the corners have one of our handlebar grips. A bungee kept the frames together and a second bungee to Khulie's bike was used to stop the box from tipping out.
|Early version before we'd realised the merits of removing all pedals
1B. Bikes mid-vehicle with the rear in sleeping mode. We'd set this up just before bed-time. The rear table became a mattress base, and we'd have to move some padding around to build up the mattress. We'd jointly committed to never using the in-van toilet, and also chose not to bother with the shower, so the bathroom compartment became a useful storage facility for Sarah's and my bedding during the day.
We never took the boxes outside, so they remained pretty clean. Moving them around in the vehicle did add some wear and tear though, and had they not got a drenching on arrival to Auckland, probably would have been destined for the recycling bin anyway.
I regret not watching the instructional video a couple more times, as I never fully got my head around the power systems in the vehicle, and in particular the LPG option. We were pretty light users really, even considering the two nights in Derby Park where we couldn't plug in, but it would have been good to have a better sense of what the contingencies were, and to know how far we could squeeze the power consumption while free-camping. Another time, perhaps!
Ever so occasionally, I wouldn't think far enough ahead, and stowed the bikes post-ride in the wrong place, but by and large, operating in and around the vehicle was a fun use of my overly analytical approach to life. I drove Sarah a bit crazy, as she was used to being the bossy one in the home, rather than the object of bossiness. And, comically, back in Karori, our home feels a touch too large, and moving around it to do things (or find one another) is taking some getting used to!
* * *
All three of us agreed that this was a wonderful holiday!
I clocked up almost 275km of riding, on my brand-new-to-this-blog 2022 Yeti SB115. I've had it since March, and bought it hoping it would reinvigorate my interest in riding. While I haven't ridden it a huge amount, every ride has put a smile on my face, and it has helped mix my exercise regimen up a bit. While Sarah is on a beefier SB130, the 115 really seems like a great match to my skills and inclinations. The bike and I seemed to work very well together, and while I had a few refusals and short walks, the fat tyres, suspension and frame geometry all contributed to papering over the cracks in my technique, and I very much enjoyed the riding as a result.
Try as I might to elicit some direction from Sarah and Khulie, the destination choices ended up being all mine. I haven't bought a MTB mag for years, and nor have I done many events, so am not really in tune with what is cool these days. However, I knew to expect good riding at Maydena and Derby, and our touring route a year ago had me curious about Mt Wellington and Queenstown. The rest I pieced together on the fly, with various online sources as reassurance - this expose from Flow Mountain Bike would have been a great source from the get-go, and probably wouldn't have made much of a difference to our ultimate itinerary (though might have had us regretting the "shortness" of our 10-riding-day window). In terms of the "ones that got away", top of the list next time would be the Bay of Fires ride from the start of Blue Tier out to St Helens, and Silver City out of Zeahan.
|Previous touring route, plus the MTB destinations named in red
As far as mountain bike destinations go, having sampled Tasmania in this way, I cannot recommend it highly enough, particularly to those that aren't averse to pedaling. The trail design and construction starts to feel very familiar, but it really is top shelf, so never starts to feel boring. Stitching the destinations together isn't trivial, i.e. you do need a vehicle, and while we didn't explore Airbnb-type accommodation options, I'm sure there are plenty that would make a station-wagon or similar a viable option for a couple of people. The wildlife is mostly of the cute variety, but do watch out for the snakes - a close encounter is fucking terrifying, to put it mildly.
The cost of living in NZ has been prominent in the media for a long while now, so I was quite surprised by the high grocery prices. Meals out were also expensive, so worth planning around that. Maydena, Queenstown and Derby all had paid riding options (indeed, at Maydena, you couldn't ride at all for free). In future, I'd tend to reserve shuttles for the long point-to-point options rather than the multiple uplifts of a single hill. Otherwise, you're looking at adding $100 a day to your budget, which adds up very quickly (especially with multiple riders).
At regular intervals, we lamented the absence of Kaitlyn, even acknowledging that the RV would have been pretty cosy with a fourth person. From time to time, someone would bring up an anecdote from some of our early family holidays, but particularly our last to the Bay of Plenty. Kaitlyn will move to Melbourne soon to finally be with her man, Danny, and we all wonder if a campervan holiday might be a good way for her to get acquainted with back-country Victoria, and us to spend some quality time with her. In June we will reunite for a two-week (no bikes) trip to Mongolia - Khulan's first in over a decade, and Kaitlyn's first-first. Where one door closes, others open, and rest assured we will look for any opportunity to pop over for a visit. In any case, Katy was never far from our minds, even though this trip format almost surely wouldn't have suited her well.
It is easy to forget how far Sarah has come from the early crash-marred days of MTBing. She did end up considerably more bruised and battered than I was, but nonetheless seemed to have a very successful time across a range of challenging terrain. No surprises that she remains my very favourite travelling companion!
Having Khulie with us was both an honour and a pleasure. I dare say she feels grateful for being invited, but to my mind the gratitude is more appropriate in the opposite direction. I've no doubt that she would have had a wonderful time riding with anyone but her parents, and would have instantly made friends with the cooler set that were in abundance at Maydena and Derby in particular. It was nice that she didn't ditch us, on many levels. When she started out-riding me on the descents at 15 or 16, it never struck me to feel stink that I was slower than my daughter, and today, I feel a great sense of pride, admiration and love for her generally, but also for her incredible talent on the mountain bike in particular. We were also regular beneficiaries of her work ethic, particularly when it came to assembling or disassembling the bikes. She was a great companion, and a privilege to ride and be with. I can't wait to do it again some time.
After an incredibly shitty year at work, this trip feels like just the anti-venom I needed, and a very nice note to end 2023 on. Wishing any and all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.