Bike, beach, paradise
In their book Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides the Kennett brothers say: "Nelson has it all, the lucky buggers! From downtown cafes you can ride right out to primo purpose-built single tracks or awesome back country tracks."
The Kennetts - Paul, Simon and Jonathan - are New Zealand's most well- known mountainbikers, and have been heavily involved in the sport for 30 years. If they say something is good, then it must be.
In Nelson, they rate highly the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park.
Kaiteriteri, famous for its golden sand beaches and perfect climate, is just 60 kilometres from Nelson city. Traditional recreational activities there include sunbathing, swimming, kayaking and boating. The development of the Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park provides another good reason to visit.
The 180-hectare park arose out of a collaboration between the Department of Conservation, the Kaiteriteri Recreation Reserve Board and local riders. Together, they have created a recreational off-road biking venue on public conservation land, and the outstanding result caters for riders of all levels.
Access is easy, with the gate less than 1km from Kaiteriteri beach. The Tasman Great Taste Trail has now reached Kaiteriteri, and goes right past the mountainbike park. This means you can ride 59km on easy (grade 1 or 2) tracks all the way from the city if you wish.
The park's network of tracks is being created in a staged process. The first stage, completed in 2009, is a series of linked, easy-grade tracks that were built using a mini-excavator. All the tracks are wide, smooth and gently undulating, and are perfect for beginner cyclists and families.
Recent work has focused on intermediate-grade riding. Based on a mix of digger and hand-benched tracks, these offer more challenging gradients and include some narrow single-track sections.
Work is continuing on expanding the network with the support of the recreation reserve board and volunteers. Progress is so rapid, and the volunteers so enthusiastic, that every time you visit there is bound to be more track.
The Kaiteriteri Moutnain Bike Park is proving popular. In 2012, the track counter located on the Glade Runner track recorded 15,701 circuits. During the first six months of 2013, the park was visited by 11,170 riders.
This summer is shaping up to be an even busier one at the park as locals and visitors discover the joys of riding there.
The names of the tracks are an indication of the level of difficulty. But if titles like Cruise Control or Corkscrew doesn't tell you enough, there are coloured arrows to the marker posts.
A green arrow will steer you along an easy route, and a blue arrow to a more challenging moderate circuit.
Cruise Control is an easy-grade track that is gently undulating and perfect for family fun.
Corkscrew (sponsored by the Motueka Top 10 Holiday Park) is a moderate- grade track. The name says it all - you get two tracks for the price of one. There's a 3.7km switchback ride uphill to a great lookout point, and then a glorious downhill. This trail has been voted the People's Favourite.
If you want something challenging, try Flamin' Nora, a hard-grade trail on a very steep, root-riddled, beech-forested spur. This trail is aptly sponsored by Toxic Coffee.
When biking in an area as beautiful as Kaiteriteri, it is a good idea to stop and take time to soak up the surroundings. We have exquisite bush and birdlife in the Nelson region. Look out for (and listen to) tui, fantails, kaka and bellbirds.
Riders should remember to take an occasional break and relax. It is a happy coincidence that generous businesses and locals have donated seats, which have been installed in places with great views or for taking a breather before tackling the climb to the next spur.
When you have finished, there are more recreational activities at Kaiteriteri Beach, like swimming, sunbathing, eating, and drinking local wines and beers. As the Kennetts have acknowledged, we are lucky buggers to live in an area that has it all.
THE NITTY-GRITTY Entrance: Signposted off Martin Farm Rd, with parking available at the Kaiteriteri Beach carpark Map: Available at the Kaiteriteri Beach Motor Camp office, Motueka i-Site, Nelson bike shops and local retailers Track: Grade 2-5. Some forestry roads, but mostly single track; all tracks two-way and open to foot traffic unless signs indicate otherwise Duration: Your call. Choose to bike for 1-3 hours over a distance of 5-15km.
The Mountain Bikers' Code: Ride mountainbike and multiuse tracks only. If riding in forest or private land, ask permission from land owners before heading out.
Respect other users; always give way to walkers.
Leave no trace - never skid or drop rubbish.
Keep your bicycle under control.
Never spook animals, and leave gates as you find them.