Zen On Dirt

Adventure routes, Obelisks, and rowdy descents into Alexandra

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Boy were we stoked to wake up in the Old Woman hut this morning. The wind was howling! There had been a couple of times that it had woken me up in the middle of the night, and I had promptly rolled over giving thanks to the four walls that surrounded us. That, and the mattress. As a side sleeper, I really appreciate a real-ish mattress over my sleeping pad.

Not only was it windy out, it was cold. The level of cold and windy where you had a given amount of time to get outdoor chores done, like loading bikes, before the hands got too cold to function. It was definitely a two cup of coffee type of a morning.

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But, the skies were clear, and we’d decided that if we woke to clear skies, that we’d take the ‘adventure’ route and stay high on some DoC tracks that recommended mountain bike use. The DoC here recommends mountain bike use in some pretty…ummm…interesting places, so I’m always a little skeptical.

But when in doubt, go higher.

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And boy were we glad we did.

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The track stayed a solid double track, sometimes chunky, sometimes smooth, always with huge views of the surrounding mountains, including the remarkable Remarkables.

And with a mostly eastward trajectory, the wind was finally in our favor. There was much happiness. Both because of the wind direction and our luck with taking the track.

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Our goal for the day was a rock called the Obelisk. We’d seen it on a map and decided that we probably should go see it. Our route planning is based on very thought out decisions.

Unfortunately, to get to the Obelisk, we had to make a 90+ degree turn, and our loved tailwind turned into a pretty heinous front/cross wind. And the Remarkable range had disappeared behind a wall of white clouds that seem to be moving in our direction. They say NZ weather in changeable, but it’s got nothing on Colorado in the summertime.

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We hid from the wind behind the giant obelisk for a few minutes and looked at our options for descending down to Alexandra. There was a loop used by local riders to get up there, they had a climbing route, and a descending route.

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Given the type of descending Kiwis seem to enjoy (crazy gnar gnar), I was a little skeptical of taking the down route, but it seemed to get us out of the wind quicker, so we went for it.

What followed was 5,000 feet of nearly all fall-line descending that was all rideable (except for the part were we lost the track and had to hike back up). It was steep, occasionally rutted, and a heck of a lot of fun.

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What a great way to lose altitude.

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We stopped for our required snack break before entering town. We’ve decided that the worst possible thing to do bikepacking is to get to town hungry, because then you’re stressed by a new place, dealing with the hangries, and generally form a negative opinion of a place. So we ate pretty much everything we had left, which wasn’t much.

Then into town for a cafe, some internet, some pizza, and some evening snacks before heading back out of town for some camping. We were knackered, but beyond stoked. It was like a whole new country here in Otago. The Fiordlands had amazing mountains, Southland had a beautiful coast, and now Otago was showing us great routes through open mountains.

And apparently it rarely rains. Which I don’t buy, because it definitely is raining on us right now in the tent.

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