Guest blog written by Aaron Clark
One by one and two by two the guys arrived in Picton. The call had gone out from Camp Dad months earlier to assemble for the mission on the Queen Charlotte Track. The night was spent in Picton with an excellent feed and several beers at Oxley's as the following mornings plan was ironed out. The next morning we were the only ones stirring in Picton's excellent Top 10 Holiday Park in the wee small hours as bikes and packs were readied. Our bikes were dropped at Beachcomber Cruises, and while they were loaded we headed to the very excellent Gusto Cafe. With a hearty meal on board we were ready to head off. Soon enough we were cruising up the Marlborough Sounds heading for Ships Cove. The water was beautifully smooth as the sun came up, and with the bikes strapped on the back of the boat anticipation of an excellent adventure rose. We has a great range of bikes on board - Specialized were well represented with a couple of Enduros, my Fatboy, and Darryn's Turbo Levo (which would well and truly be tested for range and terrain handling ability), a 27.5 hard-tail, and another couple of trail weapons from Yeti and Santa Cruz.
Soon enough we were clambering off the boat and back on to Terra Firma with 70km of singletrack awaiting our attention and efforts over the next two days. Our first day was going to be approx 47km to Portage. The climb out of Ships Cove is very steep in places with a 12% average gradient, so there was much pushing with short sections of riding as our legs and lungs come to terms with the terrain. The bush here was beautiful, with ferns and smaller natives elbowing for room beneath the native canopy. Soon enough the climb ended and we were warming up our freewheels on the -15% gradient down to Resolution Bay. Then we made our way up the much friendlier climb that brought us views of Endeavour Inlet before we cruised down to Furneaux Lodge. From here the going was very easy, with undulating riding just above the water line until we reached our early lunch destination at Punga Cove. My supplies were supplemented by an excellent ice cream and cold Coke on the beautiful waterfront, then we were saddling back up for the steep climb to Kenepuru Saddle. From Kenepuru Saddle the next 21km were a mixture of long steep climbs, brilliant long downhills and gaps in the foliage providing the most stunning views of this paradise at the top of the South Island. Everyone was pretty happy to drop down from Torea to our destination for the night at Portage. Debretts is a wonderful place to stay and break up your trip - the spacious deck with amazing views was a great place to rest the legs while having a mighty BBQ and a few refreshing beers that we'd had shipped in. Having a hot shower with great water pressure and a comfy bed for the night really made a good impression.
Day Two started with a steep climb from Portage up to the track at Torea again. Thankfully the BBQ bacon and egg breakfast provided some stamina for the day ahead. Today faced us with another 42km - 20km of glorious singletrack, then an undulating road ride back to our digs in Picton. From the saddle at Torea we were back into the singletrack and down in granny gear. The Levo was in its element here with not even the occassional grade of over 20% fussing its upward momentum. Luckily every time you think your calves will burst there is a clearing with bench seats and amazing views. Here the guys would regroup, catch their breath and crack some jokes. The worst of the climbing is over by the 3km mark, then it's a great descent, then another climb of 1km. The riding from here on in is on great tracks with good gradients where the miles pass beneath your tyres quite easily. The last few kilometers into Anakiwa are simply sublime riding in stunning natural bush
At Anakiwa we re-grouped and had a good break. Some photos were taken, food devoured and locals chatted to. It's a pretty and relaxed place, and very hard to leave. From here we cruised 20-odd km back to Picton on the road, stopping to enjoy views, to enjoy an ice cream and a cold drink at Momorangi Bay on the way. Pretty soon we had finished our 90km trundle through Marlborough's finest and were relaxing in Picton, beer in hand. A great couple of days on the bikes!