Thursday, November 03, 2011

Escaping zombies in Fiordland

Ollie low on the Borland Saddle climb
All photos Dominic Blissett

With good friend Ross set to enter a lifetime of martial bliss with the lovely Anna, his mates saw fit to celebrate the end of the bachelor lifestyle with a stag party located in a secret Fiordland location. Codenamed Operation McSidey, our transportation down to the drop zone took the form of Dom's Toyota Granvia, which was loaded with gear lunchtime Thursday for the long haul south.

Throughout the weekend Dom displayed excellent endurance driving, steering the bulky van all the way south. Stopping only for feast of pizza at Dunedin's Ra bar, we were audibly assaulted with the rants of a crazy old timer. The 10 hour journey had the potential for high levels of boredom and were it not for the fantastically gripping stories of flesh-eating zombies being blasted out of the stereo we may have turned into the very zombies the tale described.

Ross was already a fan of the riveting audio play We're alive, and by the end of the journey the van was deeply engrossed in the tale and eagerly awaiting the next chapter. So enthralling was the tale that it is  serious contender for space on my Ipod, with the story providing entertainment for some of the long, lonely journeys that lay ahead.

Crashing at the McCulloch's place, we rolled out mid morning, stocking with food and ammunition for the raucous weekend that lay ahead. While the exact details of the weekends events are classified, the zombie story was rather prophetic and by the end of the two days, the level of carnage would blow that of a big-budget explosion addled movie out of the sky.

One part of the weekend I can comment on was a fantastic riding excursion that Dom and I took to the crest of the Borland Saddle. Feeling the itch after so long in a car and then a day of sitting around, the ride was heaven and we had the good fortune of being in this notoriously damp, moose-hiding terrain on perhaps one of the only dry days in a year.

While the sign claimed closure due to snow (small matter for our pedalling steeds), the road up was in great condition, baby bottom smooth and with a relaxed grade that never steepened as it snaked its way up to the 1000m saddle.

Dom had recently taken possession of an SLR camera and I offered to play model, hardly a chore when surrounded the spectacular vistas prominent in this remote part of our country.
Both aboard singlespeeds, the seemingly endless descent saw ridiculous displays of spin-and-tuck which are well known to one geared purists.

Spin, tuck and repeat
We were content to roll back to the lodge up till the point when we spied some gnarly beech singletrack at a fork in the road. It had been some time since my wheels had touched the beech strewn hero dirt, too long in fact, and the gnarly trail we were treated to added an entirely new dimension to the ride.

Delightfully prominent roots broke up the smooth trail, with steep steps and switchbacks proving a stomach clenching challenge with seats up and travel low. At one point the trail sidled past a curious limestone outcrop, and we threaded handlebars between trees and the wall before stopping to investigate the strange feature.

While the trail was bone dry, the bush surrounding it was lush and radiant, with fern clogged gulleys and root littered flats adding spice to the lower parts of the trail. Finishing up with a roll down the river, both Dom and I were suitably stoked, and returned to the lodge beaming with the satisfaction that can only come from premium singletrack.

In our absence the camp had been infiltrated by a posse of human sized gorillas, and the hilarity that ensued as they tormented the inebriated stag left me cautious if I were ever to have my own stag party.

Back in the van and heading north, with the dulcet tones of the zombie apocalypse lulling us into a bacon induced kip, I reflected on the tight bonds that had been formed between Ross and his mates. Surely this reason alone is a good enough to justify this sometimes destructive ceremony, and this was certainly the case for this Fiordland adventure.

That Dom and I had happened upon such a sparkling gem of singletrack was icing on the cake, and the whole Fiordland adventure made for a fantastic long-weekend escape.

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