Cycling in a skirt

One life, some bicycles. A million possibilities, zero clue!

It’s beginning to look not like Christmas


If, like me, you have grown up in the northern hemisphere, December is  most definitely a time of winter. It’s a time of crisp, cold weather, warm fires, woolly gloves and scarves and very occasionally, if you’re really lucky, a snowman. In no way is it synonymous with bbq’s, beach wear and sun cream. That’s just…..odd! For the last few weeks I have these thoughts on a distubingly regular basis everything I want through a New Zealand high street. The perky Santa decorations and twinkling snowflake lights feel so incongruous against a backdrop of blue skies and bright sunshine. My northern hemispheric brain just can’t grasp it.
To be helpful, the New Zealand summer weather has taken a turn for the European, having, after a spell of sunshine, reverted to days and days of torrential rain and cold. So much so that we can no longer enjoy sending smug photos back home to loved ones where we stand around posing in shorts and t-shirts, especially since a phone call home established the temperature in England was higher than here.

One thing New Zealanders and the British have in common though is our limitless capacity to talk about the weather and to plough through it regardless. As my teacher always said as she ushered us outside for another playtime in the pouring rain,
“You’re not going to shrink!”  Having only grown to 5 foot 4 though, I’m not so certain?!

Despite the wet weather we are actually very lucky to have had somewhere warm and dry to stay for the last 2 weeks where we’ve ventured no more than a few miles from Masterton, our last stop. We’re still cycling, but in a whole different way, having taken up residence at a local bike park.

Help X, Woof-ing, Workaway are all some of the many volunteer programmes running across the globe that help connect people who want to give some time with those that need a hand. Think dating site for volunteering.

They are all slightly different, but most offer a place to stay in return for an agreed number of hours of support a week on an amazingly wide variety of tasks. Over the last decade I’ve had the good fortune to take part in a number of these programmes abroad, ranging from teaching children in South America to looking after chickens here on the South Island. All fantastic experiences which not only enable you to learn new skills, but also  to better connect with places and communities, find out what it’s like to live somewhere, to run a business, to work in a different environment.

After months of moving on every few days, it’s also been a terrific way to put down some roots, albeit temporarily, to talk to people who are more than passing faces in a campground and to understand a place and it’s inhabitants a little better.
We’ve also gotten to spend 2 whole weeks in the same bed, a real bed that doesn’t need inflating every night, and that has been an indescribable treat.

Rivenrock mountain bike park where we have been based is a small, family run business in the Waiarapa region near Mount Holdsworth, about 2 hours north of Wellington. It has a range of downhill trails, from beginner friendly greens to technical blue intermediates and hard core, precipitous, gnarly black runs.
After 2 weeks I feel I can say with confidence that I’ve tackled nearly all the tracks here. I would add though that it has mostly been with a strimmer and weed sprayer.

Having ridden in many bike parks around the world, it is only now that I can begin to appreciate how much work they are to run and maintain. It’s not just a case of carving a track from a hillside, a task alone that takes hundreds of painstaking hours, mostly hand digging, placing individual stones to make the most of natural features.
After this labour of love has been completed, mother nature then works tirelessly to reclaim it. It’s a constant battle to fight back grass and weeds, blackberry brambles alone can grow up to 3 metres a week and can savage an unlucky mountain biker.
And what plant life doesn’t encroach on, wildlife and weather will happily demolish. The local cows and sheep it seems are no respecters of trail etiquette and will happily trample carefully built features, leaving big steaming dirty protests into the bargain. The incessant rains also mean floods and landslip regularly rip through the trails wiping out whole sections and producing days or weeks of repair work. It’s never ending.

There has been something both exhausting and satisfying however in trying to beat back the encroaching foliage in a never ending campaign of hack and spray, even if it does feel like King Canute trying to hold back the tide. As we don our sexy white hazzard suits (mine with room for growth of several people and a gusset hanging somewhere by my knees) and shoulder the backpacks of weedkiller ready to do battle with brambles, there’s a sweaty sense of pride in producing a well groomed trail. If only until the next growth spurt.

The view from the ‘office’ each morning is also something pretty special. Driving the little 4 wheel drive (side by side) vehicle up the steep hillside every day to an ever changing vista of rolling green slopes and distant mountains can’t fail to make you smile, even if the hillside is covered in rain.
We’ve also discovered the full capabilities of the side by side we’d been using, including its impressive ability to climb up steep slopes and balance precariously on 3 wheels when tackling tight corners. My faith in its stability was slightly less than in Mike’s driving, having opted to walk on occasion rather than clutch the roof bar in fear as a passenger.

And when not walking the trails, we were out riding them. Taking full advantage of the uplift and some borrowed bikes we got to whizz down in minutes what had taken us hours to walk through when weeding. I’d like to say we shredded (mtb term) those trails in style but that would be a blatant lie. We did however get top to bottom a number of times without even a bramble scratch and may even have improved our skills along the way.
There was opportunity too to walk miles of tracks around the beautiful Mount Holdsworth area, to swim in the river, to talk to the different people riding through the park or just sit and watch the clouds scudd across the vast sky.

What I’ve loved is the opportunity that the experience brings to connect to a place, to learn more about how it came to be and what it takes to make it tick today. I’ve loved being tired out in a totally different way from different activities other than bike touring and the time to better appreciate just a small piece of the area.

Time however to move on and a different kind of Christmas beckons, this time in Wellington. No trees and tinsel but hopefully some sunshine and some festive cheer NZ style.
We have just a few days in this most southerly point of the North Island before a short ferry journey over to the South Island and a new set of places to see.

Looking at the map we’ve covered quite a distance since we arrived in Auckland back in mid November, nearly 900 miles by bike and 26,000+ feet of climbing with everything from headwinds to heatwaves. Very much looking forward to what a new island and a new year will bring.

Roll on 2023 and happy Christmas to all. Wherever you may be, wishing you tailwinds and open roads.

Huge thanks go to Henry, Liz and Daryl and all at Rivenrock for making us so welcome that it was hard to leave.


If you enjoy reading about adventure, travel, cycling or all 3 why not check out my book: How To Cycle Canada the Wrong Way.


It’s the story of a forty-something woman with no clue in life and no cycle touring experience. What she does have is a sense of adventure, a second hand bicycle and a skirt and the idea of riding across Canada….the wrong way.

Available on Amazon in e-reader and paperback formats.

Author: cycling in a skirt

A forty-something, journeying through life on two wheels. Possessor of limited common sense and practical ability, but full of a passion for adventure, life and bicycles. Writing about the highs and lows of cycling, cycle touring, skirts, silliness and the daily struggle not to grow up and be responsible.

2 thoughts on “It’s beginning to look not like Christmas

  1. Beautiful spot, I’d find it hard to tear myself away!

    Hope you both have a lovely Christmas 🎄🎅

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I could have spent much longer waking up to those views. Wishing you and yours a very happy Christmas too and a new year of good adventures. ⛰🌞🎄


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