By Ambassador Jake Hood

My friends are really smart. They have vastly higher IQ than me, but for how smart they are they’re really good at coming up with really dumb ideas. The following trip is one of them.

Around the end of March Scotty Newman, Tom Cappleman and Paul Grey set off on a 2-day mission called Boat to Bivvy. It consisted of getting the 2am ferry on a Friday from Wellington to Picton. Getting off the ferry at 6/7am, riding 50 km to the bottom of Mt Sunday. Hikeabiking up and staying in the bivvy for the evening. Getting up early. Riding back down the trail and then riding back to Picton to get the 6pm ferry back to Wellington. It looked like an epic but brutal trip. A storm had come in on them as they were halfway up Mt Royal, making for interesting conditions. The road part was really hard going as well. Scotty and Paul had told me, “It was the most in the box I’ve ever been. The last small hill back into Picton felt like Everest to us, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so broken.” Now I’m just going to say this. Paul, Scotty and Tom are beasts. They have that all-day diesel. They will outride anyone. Trust me. If you think that “oh they only rode 50km on the road each day and just pushed up a 1300m mountain” is easy… then I recommend you try it and let me know how boxed you are afterward. 

About midway through winter, I got added to a chat group.  My phone buzzed, “Tom Cappleman had added you to Ferry to Fishy”. I started to read back through the messages. What were they planning? What was I about to agree to? (mostly because I’ll say yes to any bike-related adventure at the minute). Apparently, Boat to bivvy wasn’t hard enough. Why not add an extra 20 km of road to the journey each way…. Sure…..  

The original plan was pretty similar to boat to bivvy. Jump on the 2am ferry on a Friday morning. Get off at 6/7ish. Hit the bakery in Picton for coffee and food. Ride 70km to the bottom of Mt fishtail, spend the night in the hut. Get up early ish. Ride down,pPunch the road back to Picton (try not to bonk) and jump on the 6pm ferry back to Wellington. 

I was in. It sounded great but at the same time really hard. Going off what the boys had said about the last trip. I mean 20km isn’t much normally. But 20km when you’re in the box is a whole different story. 

The trip was a few months away. Any smart person would maybe have started putting in a bit of training for this trip but like I said from the start. I’m not the smartest. I’d been struggling a lot of winter to get the motivation to ride. The damp wet windy days of Wellington really didn’t make me want to go out on the bike. Much more time was spent being a slob on the sofa. Throw a lockdown in there and basically any fitness I had in summer was long gone. Fortunately for me though, the rest of the crew were on the same vibe. Paul had got extra into his biscuits. Scotty was just getting slammed at work due to administering covid vaccines like they were going out of fashion and Tom.. Well Tom becomes a hermit in the winter. He basically doesn’t touch his bike. Tom is a very wholesome human. Baking his own bread during lockdown. Poached eggs for breakfast everyday. He works from home so has a lot of time to just do wholesome stuff.  Just a lot of wholesome content from Tom and his Gf Siobhan (Shev). One day we all saw Shev. “I’m feeling nervous about Tom. He’s been really good at laying on the sofa and only eating a diet of beige food. The other day I saw him eating a hash brown bagel. It’s really concerning. I’m changing the name of the trip for him to “Fatty to fishy”.  

So I guess we were all in the same boat (pun intended). It was going to be another off the sofa effort. The question was where any of us were actually going to make it? Well there was at least one of us that would make it. We had a late recruit to the crew. Evan Powell. Evan’s a beast, ex world cup racer and that had been living the sea to sky for the last 10 years. He’s a fit as a fiddle. At least we could draft him.

A few weeks out Paul booked the ferries but the 6pm back to Wellington on Saturday was full. So the plans got changed and we booked the ferry back on Sunday morning. And here is where the whole goal of the trip changed. In Picton, there is an amazing Irish pub called Seaumus’s. Paul, Tom and I had been there previously and had such a great time there. It’s a magical little pub that we quickly referred to as “the best bar in Wellington ” because it’s on Wellington St. Scotty hadn’t been before and we had talked so highly of it that the whole trip premise shifted from doing this cool hut mission to a 140km ride so we can go to Seumus’. The other advantage of the Sunday ferry was it gave us no time limit to get back to Picton on Saturday. 

I finished work early on the Thursday. Getting out at 4pm. I went home and got the rest of my gear all packed up. Fitted the bar mount bag to my bike. Double checked my camera, and finished packing my bags and then proceeded to try to eat as many carbs as I could for the rest of the night to the point that I felt uncomfortable sitting slobbed out on the sofa. Paul had texted through early in the day to say our ferry had been delayed an hour or 2 due to bad storms days previous. We wouldn’t have a definite boarding time till about 10pm. I had planned on trying to be in bed at around 8pm ish to get a few hours sleep before the ferry but that didn’t really happen. I got in bed at 10pm but couldn’t sleep as I was excited about the trip ahead. I think I got maybe an hour of sleep. 1:30am rolled around. I got out of bed and changed. Grabbed my stuff and set off to the ferry terminal. Riding through Wellington at that time on a Friday morning was surreal. There was this eerily quietness. It was so peaceful, not a lick of wind. It was amazing. There was an energy about it or maybe that was my nerves about the next 48 hours. 

I met Paul and Scotty at the terminal. Evan and Tom weren’t far behind. We got escorted into a small room with our bikes. We had about 40 mins to kill before boarding would commence. You could tell it was early morning. None of us looked that awake. Not much chat was happening. I think we just wanted to be on the boat and in the cabins. Finally, boarding time came around. We tied the bikes up on the ferry and headed straight to the cabins to try to maximize our sleep time. I was bunked up with Evan. I got my head straight down and tried to sleep but alas it wasn’t to be. Myself and sleep are two things I wish got on better but we don’t. After a while, I gave up and resorted to listening to podcasts. A comedy podcast called 2 bears 1 cave was my choice. If I couldn’t sleep then I may as well have a giggle. I listened to about 2 or 3 episodes as the ferry bobbed and rocked its way across the Cook straight.  The cabins were a game changer. The ability to just lay in a bed while we crossed the strait was amazing. No seasickness. It was almost relaxing.


I’d set my alarm for just after sunrise. Around 5.45am-ish. I knew we would be in the sounds by that point and hopefully, the skies would be clear and we would see the sun cast its golden rays down the sounds. Luckily it was. It was glorious. There was no wind. The storm that was meant to be hanging around had passed. Clear skies. It was looking like the weather was going to play ball with us. I snapped a few shots but wished I had brought my 70-200 lens to do justice. 

As we got close to Picton everyone started to rise. Tom had a gleam in his eye. He was ready for it.  We sat in the main lounge area talking about how much of a game-changer getting a cabin for the overnight ferry across. Eventually, the ferry docked up in Picton. We jumped on our bikes and headed straight to the bakery. 

Picton Village Bakery is a must-go if you are ever there. You walk into the bakery to be overwhelmed with all the yummiest treats and baked goods. Pies, sausage rolls, filled rolls, and all the sweet treats. I’m not normally a breakfast person. Normally I just have a coffee and skip the food part but today I thought the more calories I could get in the less likely to bonk I would be. 

Finally, we hit the road… Well not before doing a quick lap of the skatepark. It’s a tradition. One quick lap… Then finally we actually hit the road. We got in a chain gang formation and Paul took the first turn on the front. The pace we set off at was hot. Like stupidly fast. We were a bit excited. There is a small hill as you leave Piction. I remember us charging up there and thinking, “God I don’t know if I can hold this pace, why are we going so fast. We have all day.” But like most stubborn males we just keep going at that pace. Every time someone would take a turn on the front the pace would increase. It was getting to a stupid pace but it wasn’t going to be sustainable. Maybe it’s because we never do the “chain gang” thing since we’re not road cyclists. Maybe it was because we were super excited about the trip. I think part of it was just trying to get the part between Picton and Spring Creek done. It’s a 21.6 km stretch of state highway 1. Lots of really fast-moving cars and big lorries. There is not a whole lot of shoulder space so traffic feels like it’s pretty close.

We just kept the pace up, just trying to smash the 21km out, but about 15 km I started to feel bad, My stomach was turning. I felt like I needed to throw up, I shouted to the group and we pulled over just outside of Tuamarina.  As we rolled to a stop Scotty (the Doc) looked at me. He described me as whiter than a ghost. All the colour had disappeared from my body. I felt ill. Something was up with my stomach.  I think it was probably the fact I had eaten breakfast. We took 5. “Man, that pace was hot. Why are we going so quickly?” I asked. “I actually don’t know,” said Tom, “I was just following the person in front’s pace.”  “Yeah I was just trying to keep that pace but I thought it was way too fast,”  from Paul. We quickly came to the conclusion that we were all a bit excited and needed to slow down a bit. We had a lot of time to get to the hut so smashing it the whole way wasn’t necessary. We made the rule that if that pace started to get up too much one us would call out and back it down. It was going to take a bit of trial and error. After about 5 mins I felt less sick. The colour had come back into my body. We jumped back on the bikes and set off again at a much leisurely pace

A couple of km later we made it to Spring Creek, We could finally turn off state highway one and onto State highway 62. A much quieter nicer road. It is a popular road for people wanting to do a wine tour. The road stretches for 12.7km and is almost straight.  Along this road there are 11 separate different wineries and 1 chocolate factory. We kept riding at a steady pace. Swapping turns at the front. You could see Mt Fishtails in the distance. Every pedal stroke was getting us closer to it.

The road was so straight. I remember thinking to myself, Why do roadies enjoy this. Riding straight roads for miles and miles. Like what enjoyment is there in this.” We passed winery after winery. The sun was baking down on us. You could see the heatwave in the distance on the road. It just didn’t seem to have an end. It was so long and straight that you could see the curvature of the earth (sorry flat Earthers). Beads of sweat were dripping down my face. The long sleeve black top was a bad idea. After about 10 km of riding straight along we stopped off at a cafe for some refreshment and snacks. 

Oat flattie, cola, and a snack were on the cards for me. We all sat down in a shaded area and discussed what enjoyment roadies get out of riding stuff like that. Like we had a big carrot on a stick in front of us which is getting to Mt Fishtail and staying the night (and well also the fact that this whole ride is based on going to Seaumus’s at the end). But what is the carrot for roadies? Is it just the flex so they can put it on Strava? Or is it because they have spent so much on the bikes that they feel the need to ride them? Is it that the long black is really that good at the cafe they ride to? Who knows, The conclusion that we came to is that roadie miles aren’t for us. We need an adventure. Something that’s going to put us in the box. Something that will make you question what you’re doing halfway through doing so.

I changed out of my black long sleeve and chucked a T-shirt on. I checked my phone to see how far we had come. 32.5km. We were nearly halfway and my body was feeling good. I was feeling fresh and ready for the second half.  Refueled and hydrated on caffeine, sugar, butter, and gluten we set back off on the road to Fishtail. I took the lead for the rest of the straight. The rolling sound of sticky dh tires on hot asphalt was almost a soothing sound. Finally the straight came to an end. Thank god. Straight flat roads aren’t for me. We turn onto st highway 6 to cross the Wairua river and then quickly off highway 6 to a back road that would take us to the turn-off to Fishtail. The road followed the way of the river. Vineyards turning into farmland and finally forests. The Richmond mountain range soon dwarfed the flat country we had just ridden through. 

By about this point in the km smashing we finally kind of nailed the pace. It was nice and leisurely. Evan was like “couple hours boy”. This would turn into a running joke of the weekend. With about 10 km to go my bum started to get sore. I had to adopt a sort of half sat on the saddle half standing up approach to the last part. I just wasn’t used to spending that long sitting in 1 position. 

Eventually, we hit the turnoff to the gravel road to Mt Fishtail.  We had made good time getting here. 3 hours with a couple of stops and a 30min break halfway. The gravel road was a nice change from the tarmac but as we set off I could feel my legs starting to get a bit sore. The road wound its way up into the mountains before finally hitting a car park. From there it was a single track that followed its way up the river that flowed through the valley. Eventually, we hit the suspension bridge. The first technical hurdle of the trip. It was just wide enough to be able to push over. To cross the bridge you push your bike across on the back wheel with the seat post fully extended so you could use the seat to lift the bike over the small steps with your stomach while simultaneously balancing the top-heavy bike due to the handlebar bag while the suspension bridge swings side to side. Definitely wasn’t easy. 

The trail continued to follow the river further up the valley. The trees started to get dense, Greens becoming lusher as the trail started to get rugged. It was starting to feel like we were getting remote. Away from everything, Away from the hustle and bustle of the city we had just been 12 hours earlier.  

We met the river again and had to cross. Off came the shoes and socks. There’s no point in getting soaking wet feet before having to hike for the next few hours. The water was icy cold. Chilling to get the bone. Like daggers into the feet. Over the other side, the trail basically pointed straight up. “So we’re going up that?” I asked. “ Yeah and it’s pretty much like that till we hit the alpine,” Scotty said with a smirk on his face. He wasn’t joking. 

Finally, we started heading up Fishtail. From the get-go it was relentless. The gradient doesn’t drop below 13% and maxes out at 40% (maybe slightly more) and pretty much averages at about 30% most of the way. 30 to 40% is considered a pretty steep ski run for reference. 

There are 2 kinds of ways to tackle pushing up this type of hill. You either pick your bike up with one hand on the fork leg and the other on the crank arm and rest the bike on your shoulder/back. It’s a good technique, it lets you hike normally. Making big strides. Faster pace. The downside is you’ve now added an extra 16ish kg to your back that you are then carrying up the hill. The other is the classic push/pull the bike up the hill. Push your bike ahead of you. Clamp the brakes on. Pull yourself up. And repeat. I adopted both methods for this push-up.

In my head I kind of thought the push would be the easier part of the trip. I’d pushed up heaps of 1300ish hills before. I knew what it was going to be like. “Yeah I’ll manage no worries even if I’m tired”. It was the 70km that I was worried about. Boy was I about to get egg on my face.

We set off pushing up the hill. “Couple of hours boys,” Evan shouted. Spirits were high, laughing and joking away as we groveled our way up. The lush beach forest was being lit up by the beaming sunlight. The corn flakes all over the ground were reflecting the light and giving an orange-yellow tone to the forest.  In typical beech forest fashion, there was spider webbing all over the track in every direction. It was probably more roots than dirt with the occasional bits of mossy green clay. Pretty much everything you want for optimum grip…

About 40mins into pushing my legs started to feel like they had just ridden 70 km on the road. Fresh was not the word to describe them. The usual spring had gone. Little did I know this was about to be the start of my downturn. 

Up and up we went. It just got steeper and steeper.  In my head I was thinking, “How, how are we going to ride down this, this might be the gnarliest terrain I’ve ever seen.” Just massive roots, rocks with big steps that would swallow a wheel no worries. It’s big commitment stuff. Thread the needle and have your speed in check or well…well you won’t be walking out.  I’m a fan of this type of riding but I thought this might have been a step too far. “How do you ride this?” I ask. “It’s weird. You just do. Like it looks unrideable pushing up but somehow you can get down it if you just ride” Tom told me. 

I think the description on Trailforks sums it up best: “Relentless, extremely steep, and extremely technical – strewn with brutal rock gardens and gnarly root-infested chutes – Fishtail is a reputation track and among those that can actually ride it is considered possibly the best descent in New Zealand, and one of the best anywhere. To get to the top either push, carry and grovel with your bike up the track (riding up is impossible) or get a helicopter. Most people start the descent from the treeline but you could theoretically go from higher up if you happen to be Danny MacAskill or of similar ability. This is a backcountry track far from help if things go wrong so be prepared. In wet conditions, the difficulty rating goes from “extreme” to “ridiculous”. You have been warned.”

Scotty, Paul, and Evan were setting a blistering pace up front pushing. They were making light work of what Fishtail was putting in front of them. Tom wasn’t far off them and then I was trailing behind. My legs were starting to fade. I was trying to convince myself what was happening wasn’t happening. I couldn’t be. Tom’s meant to bonk. Not me haha. After the amount of shit we had been giving him it had to be him.

Probably about 500 vert meters up we stopped for a snack and regrouped. “This has gotta be halfway up right?” I asked. “Ehhh maybe.. Ish” Scotty chuckled. “Couple of hours boys,” Evan then said. I smashed a backcountry berry smoothie in me. Hoping that the 400 cal would restore my energy levels so I could get to the top.

We set off again up the trail. The trail started to narrow into a ridge. Rocks replaced what little dirt there was in between the roots. To the right of the ridge was a big cliff most of the way up. The trail weaved its way up the ridge. Making tight turns in between young beech trees and the occasional big fallen tree over the trail. 

The further we went up the worse I got. Everyone was off ahead but I was starting to slow down. My steps were getting shorter and shorter. I was getting weaker and weaker. I’d bonked. I was in the exact state I didn’t want to be. I would push for 5 min and rest for 5 mins. Swapping pushing styles but most choosing to push as I didn’t have the strength to sustain lifting my bike on my back. This was all happening at the same time as the trail got to its steepest part.

The smoothie I had downed didn’t help much. Well it didn’t feel like it did. I just had nothing. The others had stormed on ahead. Breezing it up like it was nothing. They waited for me at spots. I would show up 5 to 8 mins later. I felt bad for holding them up but everyone was cool with it. 

As much as I tried to fight against it, I was about to head really deep into the box and to be honest I was loving every minute of being in this bonked state. I focus on the good things. The fact I was in this beautiful forest, the sun glistening through with the best crew, about to stay at this tiny hut and get to ride down this in the morning before riding to Seumus’s. It really couldn’t be beat. Every vertical meter was a challenge. Every foot step took what energy I could find. I was the deepest I’d ever been and I was about to go deeper because there’s no turning back. You can’t just bail out. It’s getting to the hut. That’s the only option. There’s no turning back. No easy way out. You just have to keep going forward.

It definitely wasn’t what I was preparing myself for mentally. The 1000+ meter climbs in my head had nothing on this. At one point I remember getting to a big fallen tree across the track. “Ah fuck…How am I going to get over this”.  It was only just about waist height but I literally didn’t have the strength to lift my bike over. I sat there for a couple of minutes. Getting myself worked up enough to lift my bike over. “3, 2, 1” as I count myself down before hucking my bike over the tree. I then sort of just rolled over it, glad that no one was around to see it. 

The trees started to thin. Rocks and shale replaced beech trees and roots. Beech to alpine. The hut wasn’t far off. Evan’s friendly face popped up from behind a bow. “Couple of hours”…. “How you doing bud?”. I just smiled and replied “Yeah pretty boxed hahaha”. We took a few minutes. Now that we were almost out of the trees, you could see the landscape. The views were stunning. What an amazing place. 

The track mellowed out from here. Traversing up and down. Evan and I chatted away as we pushed further into the alpine. It kept my mind off how low on energy I was but my balance was starting to go a bit. My brain function wasn’t normal but we just kept pushing on. Eventually, the hut came in view. We caught up with the rest of the crew who had been waiting at the start of the scree slope traverse. It was great seeing them. Tom, Scotty, and Paul all had massive grims on their faces. We had nearly done the first half. The hardest bit. It was a good feeling. 

The last bit was a traverse along the side of a scree slope. A track had been worn in through people walking to the hut. With bikes on our backs we headed across. I took my time. My balance had been getting worse and worse and the loose scree wasn’t making it any easier. There were more than a few wobbly moments along the face, one resulting in a full hand on the ground rebalance moment but I made it across in one piece to be greeted with Mt Fishtail hut. What a sight.

Fuck yeah. We made it. Everyone else was in a better state than me but we had made it. Fishtail hut is perched below the summit of Mt Fishtail on the side of the scree slope. It’s a really small hut with only space for 4 people inside. Our plan with heading here on a Friday was that there was more likely going to be no one staying the night as there were five of us but that wasn’t going to be the case.  

A lovely Japanese couple (Ian & Cathy) and the massively beautiful Alsatian (Lola) were at the hut before long we got there. It was about to get cozy. Ian and Cathy were so lovely. They said they would share a bed to make space for us, (which honestly I don’t know how they did because DOC beds are tiny). We got chatting and they told us all about the massive hikes/tramps they had done across the world. Stuff like the Colorado trail and other famous hikes like that. It was cool hearing their stories. 

Within no time of being at the hut we had the stove out and water on the boil for tea and backcountry meals. Somehow I’d regain energy. Maybe it was the high of making it to the hut but words can’t describe how good it felt to be chowing down on some hot food. As we got to the hut we maybe had 2 hours of light to spare. The sun was casting these amazing rays over the valley from the hut. It was just beautiful being up there. No wind. Amazing views. Great company. 5 star dining. No noise. What more can you ask for?

As the sun started to set, it lit the place up with an amazing bluey/purple/reddish colour. I couldn’t put my camera down. Giving this amazing glowing dusk light. Flat but vibrant. Just a joy to shoot in. The hut was just popping. It really was just the cherry on top of a fantastic day 

As the light faded out to black we hit the hay. Paul and Tom bivved outside, with the rest of us piled in the hut. I thought for sure I’d be out instantly asleep but well my brain had other ideas. The curse of an overactive evening brain kicked in again. I resorted back to putting my earphones in and listening to podcasts till I finally dozed off.

Now I have one regret from this trip and it was not getting up early and watching the sunrise from the top of Mt Fishtail. The others had planned to get up early and walk up to the summit for sunrise. I would give it a miss after how bonked I was. I knew the way back was going to be hard and waited to save what energy I had for that. Waking up to the sound of them getting back I instantly regretted my choice. Paul showed my pics from the top. It looked stunning. An amazing sunrise on what looked like the moon. Ah well, can’t dwell on these things. 

It was a crispy morning. The ground had frost all over it. God knows how Paul and Tom got any sleep. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky but there was some wind. Wind that would work against us later. I was hoping for it to be slightly overcast to help with the light for photos in the woods but it wasn’t meant to be. Patchy harsh light was all there was going to be. We faffed about a bit in the morning. Eating as much food as we could in between a lot of cups of tea and coffee. Ian, Cathy and Lola set off while we were faffing about. We kind of had no big rush to get back to Picton as we didn’t have to catch the ferry that night. With the bike and bags packed up we set off. 

Back along the scree slope traverses we pushed but this time round it was far easier. Out of nowhere a random rock tumbled down the slope and straight into Tom’s back wheel. It claimed 3 spokes in the process. Fuck….. We hadn’t even got going. The best move was to get off the scree slope before we assessed the damage. We pushed on to the ridge and found a spot of shelter from the wind. “3 spokes?? How? How does that happen? ” Tom chuckled. Some backcountry bush mechanics later and we got the bike back up and running.

Finally time for some fun…  Well maybe… It might just be a case for fear in the eyes for this trail on the way down. 

We set off in a train formation. Straight away we were blessed with an amazing right to left turn on some scree. One foot off drifting into the left before the bike caught and dipping into the right. Oh yeah. That’s how you start a trail!! It got the fizz levels up before the trail really started getting going.

I think we all started off a bit tentative and the open ridge was a good warm up for us before dipping into the trees. Blasting along the rocky ridge. Having to be precise with our lines and skip over the big holes. My bike was feeling amazing. The rear end was just fluttering over the high speed chatter. Quick dashes left and right. Trying to find the best line through the big rocks.

We hit the tree line and stuff started to quickly steepen up. The adrenaline was pumping, the caffeine was flowing. The slow doziness of the morning was far gone, just in time as it was about to get hectic. 

The great thing about this tack is it’s kind of widish. (Well compared to the normal bullshit we ride). There is no defined ride line due to it being a walking track. There’s probably not a lot of people who would want to ride this but this was our bread and butter. A lot of thinking on your feet, hoping you’ve managed to choose the right line that will get you down the section you just tipped into. Almost fight or flight. You have to get creative. Use all the terrain you can. Not just stick to the most worn in line. 

We stopped a little way into the tree line. Everyone was just buzzing ear to ear and so much was still to come. I set off in front while the others waited back. The plan was for me to ride ahead. Find a spot, set up my camera, and shoot them coming down. I rode down till I hit this cool rock garden in the beech. There was a crazy gap line over the rocks that maybe someone would hit but it was a blind huck and pray move. A minute or so later I could hear someone coming down and not slowly. Paul came blasting through hanging off the back of his bike, mouth wide open, and just hit the gap like it was nothing. What a sight to see. “Jesus” I shouted as he flew by me. There was something in the air that day. Not long after that, there was a crazy rock roll, super-narrow run out. Super sketchy that Scotty dropped into and made it look like it was nothing. Lower down Tom was doing some mad hop onto a log and off, Some real Danny McAskill stuff and then Evan was just riding his hardtail way too fast for that trail. So impressive from everyone. We just all were riding like heroes which was probably good as we needed to bring our A game for this trail. It wasn’t the trail to really be rolling the dice but we definitely were a number of times.

The further we headed down, the steeper the trail got. You had to keep your speed in check or it would get away from you… although there were a few times I definitely was going way too fast.  Luckily the trail was pretty dry so you could find some grip on the beech roots that littered the trail top to bottom. You dodge and weave your way through the beech with your wheels bouncing off big holes and steps while you try to find traction to slow yourself down and hoping you put your wheels somewhere that’s not going to cause a huge crash. You have to be precise. Dance the bike about, be light, and then when you see a patch you can use it for grip, commit to it. It was fucking fantastic. I don’t think I’ve ever been so alert and focused whilst riding a trail before. The further we got down the more confident I got. Giving it freeride flicks, scanding into turns. 

It just kept delivering. Every section was better and better. It kept getting harder and harder. The tech just kept coming. Tom was right. You do just ride it. You ride on instinct. You find the flow. It was almost like that mythical zone racers search for, the flow state. It still amazes me what you can ride on bikes. It is amazing what you can ride down/over/do on a bike. What an incredible machine.

Eventually, we neared the end of the track. There was the grossest gnarliest 40/60ish meter rock garden ahead of us that was covered in wet slimy moss before having to navigate maybe the techiest turn on the trail before hitting the river. I was really scared about this rock garden. It was rideable but it really looked like it was going to be another dice roll. Once you were in you didn’t want to stop. If you locked the brakes you were going to go down hard. You couldn’t let your front wheel slide offline or again you’re going down hard and to make it worse there was a drop mid-way through you had to line up. I followed Paul in just hoping to god we made it through. The bike was dancing below. But I just focused on the end. Paul just made it look easy but I did what I didn’t want to do and managed to stall just after the drop. The safety tripod got deployed and somehow I managed to get it back going back. It was touch and go. It ended and I was safe. The next turn is something I’ve managed to block out my mind. It was so janky and such a horrible move that I just don’t want to know about it. I’d rolled the dice enough that day and the end of the trail was like 5 meters away. To me, it just wasn’t worth the risk. Again Paul did something ultra human and managed to ride it. How? I don’t know but it was impressive. We waited at the river for a bit. A bit too long. Something must have happened. We started walking back up but then the rest of the crew came down. Scotty had had a crash in the rock garden, going straight down on his face ‘I didn’t even get time to get my hands out”. Scotty looked a little spaced out and I’m not surprised. It wasn’t the place to crash but luckily he was okay. 

We had made it down. What a trail. What a hut. What a great time. We had all killed it, all rode like heros. It really doesn’t get better than that. 

The shoes came off again as we crossed the icy cold river again before heading back down the trail to the swing bridge for lunch? Brunch? Food stop? I had no idea what time it was. Scotty looked to be in a bit of pain. It wasn’t a place you wanted to crash. Just big rocks everywhere. He took some painkillers while we ate some food in the sun. Evan decided that he didn’t have enough of the freezing cold water and jumped into the river.

We got packed up again. Crossed back along the awkward swing bridge and followed the rest of the trail back to gravel and then back out on the road. I looked back at where we had just come from. It was so far away. At nearly the top of a mountain.

Before we started grinding our way back to Picton we pumped our tires up to maximize rolling efficiency. A rule was set that the pace had to be chill and if it was getting out of hand someone would shout out. This turned out to be a great move. The leisurely pace made things so much more enjoyable. We cruised back along the road taking turns on the front. Following the Wairua river back to the vineyard. “Couple of hours boys.” The carrot this time was Seumus’s. Well, it was the really big carrot of the whole trip. I was just dreaming about how good it’s going to be getting my chops around the rim of a cold freshly poured Guinness, eating some hearty comfort food and just settling in for the night.

The farmland turned to vineyards and before we knew it we were back at the cafe we stopped at the day before. We stopped in for coffee and food. Trying to get what calories we could in, as the last 21 km from Springcreek to Picton was going to be brutal. There was going to be a bad head wind for that last stretch. It was going to be hard going. Evan also wasn’t joining us for the last spell. He was peacing out at this cafe. Parent duties were calling and he was getting a flight back from Bleinheiiem to Wellington that evening. We listed off so many reasons why he shouldn’t get on the plane. Why he should ride to Picton with us. Wwhy Seumus’ was the best pub in Wellington but he made the sensible choice and hung around Blenheim till his flight later that day.

Paul, Scotty, Tom and I were starting to feel the kms. The legs were getting sore. Energy levels were depleting. The 10km from the cafe to Spring Creek was the start of things really starting to slow down. We weren’t cruising past vineyards like they were nothing anymore. It was a lot harder. The bonk was coming but when would it hit? 

At Spring Creek we stopped off at the 4 square for some red ambulance (can of coke)  and snacks. Scotty, Paul and Tom sat on the bench outside the dairy. They looked how I felt. Just hovering above the bonk. Holding it together. We sat there for a while, dreading the next 21km back to Picton, riding into the head wind with trucks and cars passing us at high speed. It wasn’t going to be enjoyable.

Another plan got made up this last leg, we would take short turns at the front. Easy pace and if we need to stop we would find the next place to pull over and rest. Setting off my legs had gotten stiff. I’d been sitting too long.  As we spinned away they began to loosen up but there wasn’t much left in them. The head wind was brutal on the way back to Picton. We kept doing small turns on the front until Tom just got in a groove and put down a massive 6km stretch, he just kept going and going. 21km felt more like 50. There wasn’t much chat going. Just quietly grinding away. When we hit the downhill stretches it still felt like we were going up due to the wind. My bum had gotten really sore again so I was adopting the half stand half sitting for the last 10km. I kept trying to do the maths in my head of how far we had to go. Kept just looking for signs and calculating. Eventually we passed the sign for Picton airport. Only a few kms to go. The last small climb came into sight. “Could it be?” I thought to myself. What seemed like it was going to be another Everest somehow disappeared. We’d made it. It was all downhill to Picton in a speed tuck position.

“Welcome to Picton” read the sign as we trucked by on our way back to the hostel. High five and smiles all round. High on the euphoric feeling of being down we rolled back to the hostel.

I grabbed a 6 pack of beers for us on the way back to the hostel. Our thirsts need to be quenched with some grains, hops, yeast and water. We checked in, grabbed the bags we had left the morning before and crashed out in our dorm room. The beers got cracked open and cheers were had. Crisp refreshing hazy IPAs were what we needed. That was a damn tasty beer. We got showered, changed and chilled out in the room till we felt normalish before heading out to the best pub in Wellington.

Seumus’s lit up Wellington street like a Christmas tree. A glistening light. The whole reason we had ridden 140km was for this moment. Finally, we were about to get that carrot that had been dangling in front of us for so long. Time to settle in for a great night in the BEST BAR in Wellington……St. You open the door to be greeted by a classic old timey pub. One that could have been there for years. One that doesn’t try too hard. It’s not trying to be hip/cool/trendy. Just a warm welcoming vibe. People of all ages from different walks of life all with their own stories. The dark dingy low light that makes you feel at home and relaxed. The pints are proper pints, none of these pints that are really just a half. The music is low, loud enough to set the atmosphere but not so loud that you can’t hear people. No Tv screens to distract you and staff that want to know about your stories. It is honestly the finest pub in Wellington….st.

We sat down and before we knew it there were 4 Guinness at our table. “Cheers”.  I got my chops around the rim of the cold pint glass. The liquid black gold hit the taste buds. The dark rich malt cream coffeeish caramel fluid was exactly what I was thinking about a couple of hours ago. Fantastic. The waiter came over and took our order for food. As you could probably imagine we were pretty damn hungry and didn’t hold back on the order. 2 steaks, 1 bangers and mash, 1 fish pie,  1 bucket of mussels, 1 kg of chicken wings, 2 garlic breads. Her face looked confused “Really? All of that? You’re really  going to eat all of that?” she said. We just told her what the  last 2 days had consisted of and she then smiled and laughed. “Ah this makes sense”.

As the Guinness was flowing we reminisced about the trip. About how great it was, How good the trail was. How getting absolutely boxed and then pushing through is such an amazing experience. It was just magical. Our food then came out and my god did it look good. Big hearty plates of wholesome comfort food that was just what the doctor ordered. From the outside looking in it would have looked like a plague of locusts devoting a field of crops.  The food was great. Hitting the spot. Exactly what we had been looking forward to. Another round of Guinness then followed shortly followed by a dessert order. 

I really can’t say enough good things about Seumus’s. It’s just simply fantastic. I mean the whole trip was based around going there (well not really but that’s what we told ourselves). Late in the evening we stumbled back to the hostel. Significantly full. We all passed out asleep pretty quickly that night.

The morning broke and we got our stuff packed up. Hit a spot in Picton for breakfast before heading to the Interislander ferry. It was a grey miserable day. We had definitely lucked out on the weather with our trip. We jumped on the ferry and set sail.

The whole way back to Wellington we started planning what the next mission was. What dumb big ride could we do. Do we do another overnighter or do we do a multi-day trip. Stay at a hut or just bivvy somewhere. The ideas just kept coming. A place we should ride to then go ride. Huts we should stay at. Mountains we should summit. There are a few ideas in the pipeline but we settle on a great multi-dayer. “The RoyalRichmond Rumble.” Boom. I already can’t wait for it.

We docked back in a very wet windy and wild Wellington. Ferry to Fishy completed. High five and smiles all round. It was maybe one of the best trips I’ve been on. One that I’ll remember till my last breath. Everything about it was great and it lit a fire in me for more. More of the adventure. More of the getting away from everything. More of the doing something you know is going to box you. More spending quality time with great friends. Seeing more of the country. Traveling distance by bikes. It was only 2 days we had been gone but it felt like a week. I can’t recommend it enough. So get out there. Make a plan for a mini mega mission and make it happen.