7 Day Rapaki Smashy

Tired, breathless and saturated, we finally arrived at the top of the Rapaki Track for the fourth time in as many days. The usually fantastic view that we’d become so accustomed to was hidden under a thick, milky cloud.

‘At least it’s not hot,’ Matt said, trying to inject some level of optimism into the morning bike ride. How had it come to this, when cycling in a cloud, soaked by rain, and being rewarded with a view similar to being on the inside of a cataract is preferable to a clear, warm, sunny day? Well, such is the power of the ‘Rapaki 7 Day Challenge.’ Grab a beer, get comfortable, and let me tell you a tale.

Over the past few years living in Christchurch New Zealand, a few of us have organised little challenges and events. In the past, we’ve had several Mega-Multi Sport Days, The Perfect Work Week and the 12 Activities of Christmas. Adam’s contribution to the growing activity list was ‘7 Rapakis in 7 Days’ – also known as the ‘Rapaki Smashy, unofficially sponsored by Emerson’s Pilsner.’

For those of you outside of the Garden City, the Rapaki Track is a 4km gravel road that climbs 300 metres up the Port Hills to an excellent view over Diamond Harbour and the Banks Peninsula. It’s a popular track for walkers, runners and cyclists, and is a rite of passage for anyone interested in the outdoors. It can be a tough time getting up there if fitness, enthusiasm, weather, or all of the above is against you. Why exactly it needed to be ridden over seven consecutive days is a detail you’ll have to take up with Adam. He did, however, offer some additional perks in an attempt to liven up what would otherwise be a horrendously dull challenge.

We would have to descend via a different trail each day, allowing us to take full advantage of the multitude of bike tracks that the Port Hills has to offer. More importantly, it would also counteract the monotonous task of riding up the Rapaki Track every day.

Also, each ride would be polished off with an Emerson’s Pilsner. Why an Emerson’s Pilsner you ask? Well, only someone who hasn’t tried an Emerson’s Pilsner would ask that.

There is also an additional detail to include. I’m sure to many seasoned athletes out there, this may not seem like much of a challenge. However, these things are all relative. We prefer riding down instead of up, or to a lesser extent, across. Basically, it was a challenge for us.

So, now that we’re all up to speed, here’s how it went.


It was hot. High 20’s hot. From a global temperature standpoint this may not appear like a big deal, but when the 1980’s penchant for CFCs and the hangover of a significantly reduced ozone layer is thrown into the mix, it all adds up to the sun feeling a lot more intense. So naturally, because of this, I decided to complete the first ride in the middle of the day. However, the muscles were strong and eagerness was high, both feelings that would steadily diminish as the week progressed. Under the relentless heat from the ball of fire that hung above me, I crawled the bike up to the summit, spinning the cranks and listening to the gravel crunch under the wheels. Slowly but surely I completed the first round of the challenge. Despite the air temperature being similar to what potatoes roast at – or Gas Mark 4 for those with gas ovens – it wasn’t actually that bad. Not too long and most of it manageable.

The next choice was which trail to descend via. I opted for Lava Flow – a nonsensical, rocky track that had me in a constant state of either, ‘Oh God, I’m about to go over the handlebars!’ or ‘NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!’ There are multiple lines to take, all of which seem wrong. I bounced and ricocheted my way through the jagged, pointy rocks towards the bottom. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best one to ride on my own, in my open face helmet, in the scorching sun, but you gotta do what you gotta do when it’s the Rapaki Smashy.

Making it down in one piece, I biked home and cracked open the first Pilsner of the week.


Today was a team effort. By which I mean, Matt, Adam and I. So technically a crowd I guess. Anyway, despite minimal interest from the original group of ten people, the actual number of official participants was distilled down to three individuals, which shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise when considering the details of the challenge.

It was slightly cooler than Monday, with the air temperature being around the baking of an apple pie level – Gas Mark 3. Chatting amongst ourselves, with the legs still having some miles left in them, the ride up went by fast enough. Arriving at the top and peering down into Diamond Harbour below, the experience was fine. The last climb was a bit of an effort, but otherwise OK.

While discussing which route to descend by, it was pointed out that the Adventure Park had reopened after the unfortunateness of burning to the ground earlier in the year – Gas Mark 9. Entering the park from above, we had the choice of two trails to descend via. Either an advanced, double black diamond known as ‘Kama Sutra,’ or an intermediate blue trail called ‘Loess Rider.’ Well, it was the Rapaki Smashy after all, and how hard could the black trail be?

Several seconds into the run it became very apparent how hard it could be. There were steep chutes, off camber corners, blind jumps and drops all over the place. I fought against the bike the entire way as it persistently attempted to throw me into passing trees. Despite its best efforts, we all made it to the bottom in one piece, and with relieved expressions and adrenaline coursing through our bodies, we rode to the safety and comfort of a victory Pilsner.



Also known as Strava Day. For those unfamiliar with Strava, it is an app that records the details of your bike ride, such as distance, ascent and time. It then helpfully rates you against all the other riders who have ridden the same trails, so that you can become massively competitive against total strangers.

We had joked about who could get the fastest time up the Rapaki Track during the week. Matt had ridden earlier in the day and set a new personal best, and subsequently threw down the gauntlet with the simple, provoking comment of, ‘Your go.’

So at 7:30 that evening, a sweating, wheezing mess of a definitely not competitive person could be seen pedalling his little heart out up the Rapaki Track. With my head down, staring at the hypnotic rotation of my pedals, trying my best to ignore raging lactic acid that was corroding away my muscles, I forced my way to the top. Dragging myself over the finish line, I slumped over the bars, violently sucking air into my lungs that were flexing like bellows trying to salvage a coal fire. Slowly my blurred vision began to focus and the feeling came back to my knuckles. Yeah, the Rapaki Track can be tough at times.

Now, how was I going to get down?

The most direct route was through Victoria Park, but that is where the gnarly trails live. As I was on my own and didn’t have a great deal left in the tank, I opted for a track called Fence Line – a great, flowy trail that runs above the tree line before dropping into the forest and getting decidedly more vertical and techy. It’s not in the same category as Lava Flow or Kama Sutra, but after blowing myload on the Rapaki track, anything more than horizontal felt like a Redbull Rampage line.

I cracked open a well-earned Pilsner and waited for my Strava details to upload.


Seeing as I had pushed my body to its limits the evening before, it seemed only logical to follow it with an early morning ride, as, you know, it’s the Rapaki Smashy. At 6:15 am, we assembled at the bottom of the trail and looked up at the Port Hills that were currently harbouring a thick, damp cloud. Today was the first day that the legs started to show signs of wear, and the lactic acid was keen to get back to work burning away in my thighs. Matt and I rode through the saturated morning air, discussing various ways Strava times could be improved; tyre PSI, locking out the suspension and two-stroke engines all seemed viable options.

Cold, wet and tired, we made it to the top with little fanfare. Stood at the summit, with the wind steadily sucking what little body heat I had away from me, all I could think about it was how much the Rapaki Track sucks. Some of those steeper sections are horrendous.

It was quickly decided to nail out a continuous run to the bottom via the twisting, turning trail of Gum Trees. It’s a track I hardly ride and is made all the more interesting when ripping past the peeling gum trees that line the trail. Making it to the bottom, we quickly got the sodden high-fives out of the way and returned to the sanctuary of our homes. Due to the early start, there was some discussion regarding when the Pilsner should be drunk, i.e. with breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner etc. Let’s just say that some people are more committed than others.


This evening was another team effort. All intentions of beating Strava times, or maintaining conversation, or generally enjoying being on our bikes were set aside for the duration of the Rapaki Track. It quickly became apparent that the multiple baths I had taken and protein shakes I had consumed in the 36 hours since I had last ridden the track had done virtually nothing. I couldn’t remember what happiness felt like. My life seemed to consist of cycling up an endless gravel road. I get to the top and just start again, like that Greek fella cursed to push a rock up a hill all day.

In an attempt to balance out the misery of the track, we opted for a slightly spicier route down because, you know, it’s the Rapaki Smashy. After a somewhat camp photo session, we cracked into Pedal Fine – a trail that gets me whooping in relief each time I make it through in one piece – and whooping in pain each time I don’t. It’s steep, tight, technical and relentless – adjectives I seem to instantly forget the moment I get to the bottom and the endorphins flood in.

The sun was still high in the sky as we settled down to another Pilsner, toasting only two more sessions to go.


Today we were aiming for a sunset/night ride, because, you know… you get the idea. We set off at 8 pm, which also meant setting off after consuming two beers, a pizza and an emergency evening coffee, which was a terrible combination and possibly the only time I really didn’t want to head out. Rapaki was Rapaki. We rode in silence to the top while I mentally added another item to my list of things I hate. I don’t hate many things – the list is only three items long, but each one is the Rapaki Track.

We rode to the start of a trail called the Flying Nun with the intention of catching the sunset. Of course we missed that, and to add insult to injury, riding the swooping, snaking track was a tad disorienting in the twilight, obscuring how nasty particular rock features could be.

Arriving at Victoria Park, head lights were adorned and I rode one of my favourite tracks in the park – Ponos. Recovering from a nasty winter where it was rutted to ruin, it’s now back on form, with an excellent combination of jumps, drops, technical challenges, runout open sections and the occasional dazzled rabbit frozen in the headlights.

We enjoyed a late night Pilsner at my place and discussed the ride at length. It was probably my favourite session of the week, but most likely because it meant we only had one more day to go.


Finally. It seemed like it would never arrive. On a sunny but windy day, three embattled heroes rode in silent anguish to the top. To be honest, I don’t want to talk about the track that shall not be named. The point is, we won.

At least, that’s what I thought. It turned out that the son of a motherless goat wasn’t entirely done with me yet (and yes, that’s a Three Amigos movie reference. That’s how much I hated it).

For the last day, we decided to ride to Taylors Mistake, a small bay at the end of the Port Hills where you can ride your bike straight from the trail onto the beach. Unfortunately, it was to be the longest, most demanding ride of the week, which would have been tiring for us even if we hadn’t spent the last six days on our bikes.

The incessant wind was actually quite nice as we rode along the top of the hills – another fine example of how The Rapaki Challenge once again jaded our perceptions of what was considered nice. The ride started well, but around halfway through the legs began to give out, along with my desire to continue with the challenge. Such was my level of disdain that I opted to skip some of the trails and ride the road around. This may not be considered in the spirit of things, but trust me, it was for everyone’s benefit.

The last trail of the challenge was Anaconda. An appropriate name because… actually, at this point, who cares. It’s fun. Go ride it. We ended on the beach where we drank beer and swam in the sea. It was also nice.


It’s been about six weeks since we ended on the beach, and for all of that time, I’ve been struggling to find an appropriate way to end the write-up. As much as I want to include some life-affirming, metaphorical quote, or add an inspirational insight that occurred to me when I was halfway up that monotonous, horrible track, nothing really springs to mind. And maybe that’s the point. There was no great justification for completing the challenge in the first place, and I don’t seem to be any closer to discovering one now.

But then again, how often does the opportunity to have a beer with breakfast and get a winning time on Strava come around?

The Mega Multi Sport Weekend III

My eyes scanned a third weather warning update in as many weeks. They were starting to become a regular feature this winter, a disruptive front of wind and rain that left a trail of closed roads, high river levels, and topped up ski fields in its wake. My heart sank as I got to the bit about it hitting Hanmer Springs – Friday night, through to Saturday. This was the exact time we were planning our third Mega Multi Sport Day. As is now becoming tradition, at least until I run out of ideas, every couple of months I throw together a new plan to complete as many activities as possible in one day. As well as getting everyone together for a bit of an adventure, it usually results in an entertaining story I can write about; whether it’s stubbornly going ahead in spite of a downpour, or getting airlifted to hospital with a broken back.

The setting for our third attempt would be Hanmer Springs, a quaint alpine town located in the Hurunui District of the South Island, New Zealand. Our list of activities would be as follows: skiing at the little known Amuri Ski Field; mountain biking in Hanmer Forest; hiking the Waterfall Track; tucking into a communal roast dinner; and finishing the day off at the thermal hot pools – and yes, a roast dinner does count as an activity. The emphasis of the day would be on enjoyment. Not to imply that the previous two attempts hadn’t been fun, but they had been quite time driven, requiring us to complete activities within a certain time limit to allow us to get everything in. This time I was hoping for a more chilled and relaxed day, hence ending with a roast and thermal dip. News of the impending front making its way up the country was concerning, as it would effectively kill a number of the activities, potentially reducing the plan to ‘Mega Roast Dinner and Sit in the Thermal Hot Pools Day’ – which in fairness, wouldn’t have been a total disappointment.

As predicted, the rain made its wet way up through the country, but a lot quicker and less devastatingly than first thought. Opening the curtains early Saturday morning to the expectation of a flooded Hanmer with the four horsemen of the apocalypse rowing past in inflatable dinghies, we were instead greeted with a cloudless, rich blue sky. It wasn’t long before the cars were packed with skiing gear and we were driving icy, snow covered roads towards Amuri Ski Field. The earlier front had left several inches of snow on the landscape, turning the St. James Conservation Area into a winter wonderland. This was excellent news for skiing, but terrible news for actually getting to the ski field. Arriving at the car park, it suddenly dawned on us that our mates weren’t close behind. We patiently waited. And then waited some more… but there was no sign of them. Other cars started arriving. This wasn’t good. We waited a bit more, but to no avail. Finally, we realised that we had no choice. We were a team. Never leave a man behind. All for one etc. etc. So I got the drone out and had a look. Flying it over the ski access track, we soon located our comrades, attempting to push their skidding car up the track. Oh, how we laughed from the comfort of the warm ski lodge, as they threw lewd gestures and snowballs at the drone.

They took their time, but eventually they made it to the little used ski field. It was mid-morning, and there were only a handful of ski tracks visible on a mountain that currently had half a metre of fresh powder residing on it. This was going to be epic… if I could just get to it. For those of you unaware of what a rope tow is, imagine a thick rope being pulled up a mountain by a series of burly, spandex clad men – the sort of types who attend tug-o-war competitions. The stout men pull the rope through at a constant rate, so you need to hold on with one hand as you get up to speed, and then clip on to the rope using a twisted bit of metal that you hold in your free hand. While this is happening, the sturdy men will whip and wave the rope around randomly in an attempt to knock you off. If you’re able to cling on, then they will do their best to dislodge you as you pass each of them, such is their dislike of snowboarders. If you’re lucky enough to make it to the top, unlike me, then you’re rewarded with the twisted metal attachment pinging off the rope and potentially hitting you between the eyes, if you’ve been foolish enough not to attach it properly.

Matt and Alex, the skiers in the group, casually rode the rope tow to the top, laughing and joking with the hunky men. Kat and I on the other hand, who were also the snowboarders of the group, battled against these stubborn gate keepers until, thankfully, the rope tow broke down. This left us with the option of calling it a day, or hike the short distance to the top of the mountain to get one run in. And so began the incredibly underestimated, sweaty, arduous slog to the summit. The panoramic views slowly increased in immensity as we ascended, step by slow step to the top. Forty-five minutes later, out of breath and soaked in sweat, we dropped in on what would be, at best, only a two minute run to the bottom. As it turned out, it was awesome. Making new tracks through soft, knee deep powder, suddenly all the clichés of snowboarding came true, such as the feeling of floating and whipping up fluffy white powder with every turn. Falling over was a joy, similar to falling from a great height into an open top truck stuffed full of marshmallows, unicorn fur, rainbows and happiness. For those two minutes, I never regretted taking up snowboarding over skiing. Whether that makes up for the previous two seasons of hardship and toil learning to board is yet to be seen, but I still smile when I think about that single, short run.

Arriving back at the ski lodge, grinning and high fiving, it quickly became obvious that that we had spent far too much time at the ski field. By the time we got back to Hanmer, had some tea (we’re predominately British don’t you know), had lunch, had some more tea, and got our gear together, it was mid-afternoon, and conversation was starting to focus on whether to spread the activities over the weekend instead.

Now, I have had a few conversations about how to write this. I was originally going to stay true to the ‘day’ part of ‘Mega-Multi-Sport Day’ and just lie, because, you know, how would you know? But then the risk of potentially being found out, and the embarrassment of someone spotting continuity errors in the video montage wasn’t worth it. So in the spirit of being truthful, I should probably point out that rope tows are not operated by several robust men. They are actually run off a diesel engine and a number of pulleys. There we go, full disclosure. We revised our plans so that the biking and hot pools would be on the Sunday. This meant that we could enjoy the roast without being rushed, and get our money’s worth at the pools. Unbeknown to us at the time, it also meant that we would have an awesome time sledging in a boat, and being towed on skies by a car, but we’ll get to all that.

As late afternoon approached, we arrived at the start of our second activity, a 2.5hr walk along the Waterfall Track that would take us to, well, a waterfall. It also allowed us an opportunity to walk the dogs, which was good for the dogs, possibly less so for anyone in the group who wasn’t partial to the sound of constant barking, or distractions when you’re trying to negotiate a steep, icy slope. Where we reaped the benefits of a fresh dump on the ski slopes, we paid for it on the walk. What should have normally been a straightforward walk in the woods, became an exercise in skidding, sliding and arm waving, as we slowly made our way towards the waterfall. On the plus side, it was lovely and picturesque. The setting sun cast purples and reds across the sky, framed by the white of the snow in the trees. Returning to the cars was a similar experience to walking in, except the barking and meandering dogs were replaced by cold and darkness.

The roast was splendid, thanks for asking.

A new day brought more blue skies, more frost and more good times. Venturing back into St. James Conservation Area, our morning activity would involve a trip down memory lane. To a simpler time before responsibilities, financial worries, or doubts at making a career from full time writing. It’s amazing how sliding down the hill on a plastic bag, or the lid of a box, or in this case, a toy boat that we found in the bach, can take you back to childhood. It appeared that sledging without a smile on your face was physically impossible. An oxymoron if you will. Like a Kiwi opening a beer bottle with a bottle opener.

After many, many nostalgic trips down the snowy hillside, things then escalated when Matt looked at his skis. Then at the truck. Then back at the skis, and asked, ‘Do we have a rope?’ And thus car skiing was born. A morning full of smiles continued with me waving to Matt as he skied up alongside the driver’s side window, all the while being towed along by the truck on our way back to the bach.

Arriving back at mid-day, we had just enough time for some lunch, tea, homemade carrot cake and more tea, before setting out on the mountain bikes. Unfortunately, this activity was a bit of a non-event as most of the trails were closed. Within an hour we were back at the house, just in time for another round of tea.

It was now mid-afternoon, and the hot pools were calling. My hope that the crowds would have thinned by 3pm on a Sunday was instantly dashed seconds after paying the entrance fee. Reliably busy, I have a bit of a love / hate relationship with the pools. Yes, it is nice to be in warm water, and I appreciate the increased level of freedom over my bath tub at home. However, sharing that same warm water with several hundred other people does taint the experience somewhat.

The activity was nice enough, essentially swapping the experience of hanging out with your friends and drinking tea, with hanging out with your friends, and many strangers, in warm water. All that said, it was a nice way to end the weekend before we headed back to Christchurch. Relaxing in the sulphur infused water, we reflected on the weekend’s fun. We had experienced our first proper New Zealand powder day, and been taken on nostalgic trips back to our childhood. Yes, I was disappointed about not getting all the activities completed in the one day, but if that was the worst thing to have happened over the weekend, then it was a worthy trade off.

For the a cheeky montage of the weekend, click here: https://youtu.be/CU0pXHJ2I2A

The Mega Multi Sport Day II

I sat on the wooden deck, stared out at the coloured remains of the set sun, and reflected on the day’s events. We’d completed the majority of the activities, the weather had been fantastic, and my choice of celebratory craft beer was, to put it mildly, a triumph. Generally speaking, this had been a massive improvement on the previous effort nine months ago. I sunk a little deeper into the Cape Cod chair, took another swig of my frankly delicious pale ale, nodded to myself with the smallest of grins, and decided to chalk up the day as a success. Granted, my top lip was still painful, and there was the small matter of Ed’s broken back, but you can’t win them all…

In August of the previous year, we attempted a Mega Multi Sport Day, which involved completing seven activities during one long day, that included; skiing, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, surfing, bouldering and caving. The weather was against us for that effort, and in addition to dealing with a horrendous downpour, I spent the majority of the day stressed as I attempted to keep the group on schedule, allowing us to complete all the activities in time. Learning from that experience, I had planned a similar event in early summer, mid-summer, late summer, early autumn (admittedly we did encounter some slight scheduling difficulties) to improve the weather odds, with an itinerary of more modest ambition. Friday night we would camp a short walk from Rakaia Gorge, located in the shadow of Mt. Hutt, in Canterbury. The fun would really start on Saturday, consisting of mountain biking at Mt. Hutt, followed by deep water soloing and bridge jumping at the Rakaia Gorge. We would then drive to Charteris Bay, located on the outskirts of Christchurch, for some rock climbing and pump track racing. The day would be rounded off with a victory BBQ.

Friday evening was spent in high spirits as we sat in a circle and discussed the various activities that lay ahead. Conversation routinely returned to the various potential outcomes, good and bad, of jumping off the Rakaia Gorge bridge. None of us had actually done it before, and minor details such as; bridge height, water depth, water temperature, if sharks swam this far up river etc. were unknown. The only advice we had was from a mate who had jumped off it while at university, who described it as ‘high enough that once you have jumped, you have time to regret it before you hit the water’. A nervous laugh was the last sound to be made before we retired, in silence, to our tents.

Predictably, morning arrived and it was decided to move the bridge jump and deep water soloing to before breakfast, the reason being that as it was hanging over us, it was better to just get it out of the way. One by one, the group reluctantly got changed into wet suits and we nervously walked the short distance to the bridge – a scene that resembled the final moments of the condemned walking to the gallows, if they had capital punishment in Atlantis. Looking over the side of the bridge, the turquoise water below seemed further away than when I last checked, and somehow colder than I remembered too.

No one wanted to be first, due to the unknowns potentially lurking under the pale blue surface. After much nervous joking and not a lot of action, Steve muttered ‘screw this’ and a few seconds later there was a large splash. Thankfully seeing him rise to the surface smiling, this set the standard, and one by one we took it in turns to leap from the bridge. As I plummeted from the skinny, wooden structure, arms flailing frantically, I had plenty of time to reflect on why exactly I had suggested the bridge jump in the first place. It was meant to be a joke, which had somehow gained traction and worked its way onto the itinerary. My thoughts then drifted towards what I was going to have for breakfast after, and having to remember to mow the lawns the following day, until eventually my train of thought was promptly interrupted by impacting the river. A combination of cold, shock and endorphins coursed through my body, as I swam to the surface to free myself from the icy depths. A quick body scan revealed no broken bones or general pain, which I indicated to the onlookers with a broad smile and a ‘Whoop!’-ing noise.

We finished the pre-breakfast shenanigans with a group jump, predominately for photo and video purposes. The second time was just as scary as the first, and as I hit the water my jaw slammed together, cutting the inside of my mouth. As we swam to rivers edge, I noticed that Ed was struggling to swim, appearing to have been winded from the jump. As I selflessly helped him out of the water, in spite of my painful top lip, it became apparent that he may have done slightly more than just wind himself. As he lay on the rocky shore, every now and again attempting and failing to stand, concern mounted as the situation gradually grew more serious. After 20 minutes of a slowly deteriorating condition, an ambulance arrived, shortly followed by the Westpac helicopter. After explaining to several different emergency service workers what had happened, generally followed by a tutting and shaking of their heads, we decided to forgo the deep water soloing activity in light of recent events, replacing it instead with skimming stones. As emergency crews knelt over Ed, preparing him for a heli-evac, we busied ourselves scouring the shore line for suitably skimmable pebbles.  A brief skim-off then ensued, quickly highlighting my inability to bounce stones over water, and bringing out several other people’s competitiveness at what I now considered a trivial task of bouncing stones over water. As morphine coursed through his body, we helped stretcher an upbeat Ed into the chopper, who was (thankfully) reiterating his request not to cancel the rest of the day’s activities, and to continue on without him. With the sound of the rotor blades disappearing into the distance, we shrugged our shoulders and retired for breakfast.

Once we had packed up camp it was onto Mt. Hutt. There are a number of bike trails that litter the mountain side, and are best accessed via shuttling bikes to the top, while taking it in turns to drive down. I originally had grand plans for doing several runs, but due to the earlier inconvenience we revised our intentions to a single run from top to bottom. As we ascended the Mt. Hutt ski field access track, the view over the Canterbury plains, with its patchwork of greens, stretched out to sea. Cycling the short, rocky climb to the start of the Scott’s Saddle Express trail, we then set off on a blast down the mountain, whizzing around corners and rattling down the straights, for a good 20 seconds before Adam got a puncture… which resulted in us hanging around making small talk for 10 minutes… before we were off again! The adjectives continued to fly as we negotiated our way through jumps, drops, rocks, roots and berms. With only several crashes to be had, most of which were mine, we made it to the bottom without heli-assistance, and the third activity was in the bag.

The first stage of the day was now completed. Admittedly, things may not have gone exactly to plan, but the afternoon was fast approaching and it was time to drive to Charteris Bay for the second phase. As I drove through the endless, flat Canterbury landscape, I couldn’t help feel that, from a literary point of view, it would have been more convenient if Ed had injured himself at the end of the day, as it was unlikely we would top a helicopter incident this afternoon. The account of the day was going to be front loaded, with all the drama before breakfast. I tongued my cut mouth, which was still painful and starting to swell somewhat. I’d mentioned it several times while we were biking but no one seemed to care. Maybe it’ll develop into something noteworthy by the end of the day, I mused, to help keep the level of drama up. My train of thought was broken – terrible pun intended – with news of Ed’s condition. He had a compression fracture on his T12 vertebra, requiring surgery to insert several bits of metal plate in and around his spine. The surgeon had mentioned before the surgery that ‘most people we see with this injury aren’t moving their legs ever again’. I returned to tonguing my top lip.

Rock climbing was planned for a crag known as The Altar, located adjacent to Charteris Bay, whose name seemed apt considering the day’s previous events. The spot consists of a large over hang, complete with spectacular views over the estuary and the rugged Port Hills in the distance. The area also doubles as a sun trap, and sunshine poured in as we set about putting some ropes up. As none of us were actually able to do any of the higher grade, over hanging, hard as nails routes, we instead opted for the more palatable and conquerable lines, affectionately known as ‘the easier routes’. Enjoying our time in the sun, we casually took it in turns attempting to scale the limestone rock face. I basked in the warmth of the afternoon glow, enjoying the fact that we were ahead of schedule and were in no rush to make it to the final activity. That was, until I nonchalantly glanced at my watch and saw what time it was. Jumping to my feet and pulling the sombrero from my head, I began barking orders: ‘The sun is setting and we still have pump track racing to complete. Let’s move people! Come on, come on!’. Now we were back in familiar territory.

Our final event would be at Orton Bradley Park, also located in Charteris Bay. Seeing as we had had an action packed day full of drama, activities and long drives, it seemed only fitting to save the most energetic sport to the end. We still had the mountain bikes with us from the earlier session at Mt. Hutt, so our list of activities was to end with a number of racing variations around the pump track. Nestled between the forest and a large grassy area, the gravel pump track completes a small, bumpy loop, with plenty of space to sit on the grass and shout encouragement. It didn’t matter whether it was Time Trial, Pursuit or Le Mans, I was terrible at them all, as fatigue from the day was starting to creep in.

With the sun now firmly below the horizon, we retired to Steve and Jackie’s house at Charteris Bay, for a victory BBQ and time to reflect on the day’s activities. The subject of risk and reward was discussed at length. Was the bridge jump any riskier than driving between the activities? Is risk assessment subjective or objective, based on an individual’s perception? Was Ed just unlucky? I considered mentioning that my mouth still hurt at various points during the conversation, but thought better of it.



The Perfect Work Week

I glance at the clock in the corner of my computer screen; the small white numbers read ‘3:05pm’. I look over to my cell phone on my desk, hoping to see a green, flashing light, indicating that I have received a message, but the phone sits there lifelessly. I return back to the Excel sheet I have open and attempt to concentrate on work. Minutes pass as I resist the urge to check the time or signs of a blinking light. I finally cave, and check the time again… 3:06pm. God damn it!

So far every day this week had been like this; initial excitement, followed by nervous anticipation, quickly followed by disappointment. Friday was shaping up to be no different. The green light suddenly bursts into life. I fumble with the phone to view the message ‘we’re on!’. I smile to myself and quickly start packing up my things. What had started out as an innocent idea several weeks ago, had steadily evolved, over multiple lunchtime conversations, into what had now become known as ‘The Perfect Work Week’.

Christchurch has the convenient geographical properties of a surfable coast line and a long stretch of 400 meter high volcanic hill tops, offering all manner of outdoor activities (it also has endless, uneventful flat plains that need at least an hour’s worth of driving to get anywhere interesting, but the less said about that the better). A plan had formed that involved completing an activity each evening, taking advantage of all the possibilities that Christchurch has to offer. At the time of its inception, there was probably a well-meaning intention for doing it, such as raising awareness for a particular charity, or showcasing all of Christchurch’s potential to a wider audience. But as the week drew closer, it became more about doing it because it was interesting and fun, as opposed to anything noble or useful.

Matt was the driving force behind the logistical side of things, and had put together the following itinerary:

Monday – Paragliding

Tuesday – Rock Climbing

Wednesday – Mountain Biking

Thursday – Surfing

Friday – Tubing

It may be apparent that all the activities are outdoor based, presenting a bit of a challenge when, say, a weather bomb is forecast for the same week. However, as we were about to find out, forecasts and reality exist in two different dimensions.

As paragliding was the most weather dependant, it was decided to make it Plan A for each evening. Plan B was another activity if it wasn’t going to go ahead. The call would be made at 3pm via Facebook, resulting in lots of phone checking and finger crossing from around 2:30pm each day.


First day, first activity. There was excitement over the social media group as 3:00pm neared and the skies were clear. That initial buzz lasted until about 3:01pm, when we got the message that paragliding was cancelled due to strong winds up on the Port Hills. Not to worry, our Plan B for high winds on the Port Hills was… rock climbing on the Port Hills. Admittedly not the best option, but seeing as rock climbing was the only activity we couldn’t do in the rain, and it wasn’t raining, it was selected by default. And besides, how bad can 30km/h winds be?

‘Worse than expected’ was the agreed upon answer as one by one we reached the top of the climb, to be greeted with howling, gale force winds. We were climbing at a location known as Cattlestop. Perched up on the Port Hills, it consists of a number of smaller crags that snake their way down to the Christchurch suburbs below. Being north facing, the spot provided panoramic views of Christchurch and the Canterbury Plains stretching all the way to the Kaikoura’s and Torlesse Range, with the deep blue of the ocean gently caressing the East coast. However, also being north facing, meant that the crag provided zero shelter from the Nor’ West wind that was currently raging through Canterbury.

We had opted to climb at the Footware crag, due to its selection of easier climbing grades, with names such as ‘Flip Flop’, ‘High Heels’ and ‘Jandals’, implying their ease. Evidently the grades hadn’t factored in the potential wind element and with a roaring in my ears, and loose chalk from my chalk bag covering my face, I battled with the rope to secure an anchor to allow others to climb.

I abseiled to the bottom of the crag, and with a rearranged hair style and wild, open eyes, I muttered something about the climb being fine, and took myself to the side to take a moment to gather myself after the shock of climbing in a wind tunnel. I watched several members of the group ascend the ropes that had been set up, resembling the storming of a castle. This seemed an apt metaphor judging by the far away stare they all came back down with, looking like they had come back from battle.

Strangely, after the one climb, most people seemed content with cowering amongst the local vegetation out of the wind, having a beer and enjoying the view, thus bringing the first day of activity to a close. Considering the circumstances, we decided to chalk the evening up as a success (clever climbing based pun intended).


Tuesday afternoon started with hope, but ended in dismay, as we were once again forced into our Plan B, due to continued high winds. As far as Plan B’s go, this wasn’t a complete disaster as it involved mountain biking at the newly built Adventure Park. Opened in December 2016, the park provides Christchurch with 50 kilometres of mountain bike trails, several kilometres of of zip line action and the fastest chair lift in the Southern Hemisphere, at least according to the marketing information on the web site. What it actually offers is a very lazy, convenient way of riding downhill, to the point that the concept of cycling uphill becomes almost folklore. Unfortunately the same high winds that had cancelled the paragliding had also resulted in the chair lift being temporarily closed.

As we discussed possible Plan C’s, none of which involved cycling the uphill track to the top and all of which involved going to the pub instead, word spread that the winds had died down and the chair lift had been reopened. It’s not very often I click my heels together in a Marry Poppins-esque kind of way, but I felt the occasion called for it as we boarded the chair lift to success.

One of the Adventure Parks selling points is its notorious 6km long jump track, known as Airtearoa. The track twists and turns its way down through the pine forest and is liberally peppered with large, imposing jumps and drops to be negotiated. The most suitable description I can think of for it is ‘terrifyingly exciting’. There is a genuine feeling of relief when you make it down to the end in one piece, especially when you consider the amount of recent ACC claims that have been lodged due to the new trail. Sweating and shaking, as the fear is replaced with an endorphin high, there was normally a good 30 seconds recovering at the end of the track before someone casually suggested ‘so… Airteroa again?’ – which is generally how the evening panned out.


It was around this time that reports of the impending weather bomb (the technical term for bastard high 100km/h winds and shit loads of rain) starting to appear.  The forecast was predicting apocalyptic like conditions for the evening, so we didn’t even bother entertaining the notion that paragliding would be going ahead. We did however need a Plan B. Anything aquatic based seemed a little ambitious seeing as we would need something resembling an Ark to safely take to the water. So we opted for the safer option of a walk. Not the most thrilling of activities I’ll admit, but a weather warning is a weather warning.

Slightly apprehensively, we arrived at Taylors Mistake, a small bay nestled towards the end of the Port Hills, equipped with waterproof gear, emergency rations and holy water, to be greeted with glorious sunshine. How a forecast can be so spectacularly wrong I’m not entirely sure, but in any case, it meant that we were to have lovely conditions for a walk along the Godley Head track. The walk starts in Taylors Mistake and follows the rugged coastline around the head of the Port Hills, providing various nuggets of history along the way. Remains of WWII gun placements still exist, a reminder that even in the depths of the southern hemisphere they were preparing for the worst.  The sun and no rain continued to beat down on us, as we circled around the Port Hills to view into Diamond Harbour, surrounded by steep hill sides slipping into the sea. The charm of the area is that it is so close to Christchurch, yet completely disconnected from it, providing a small sense of exploration and isolation. What should have been at best an average evening, and at worst a write-off, became instead an unexpected highlight of the week.  There’s a lot to be said for lowering expectations.


Another day, another paragliding cancellation. Although this time it wasn’t a massive surprise, seeing as the ridiculously named ‘Weather Bomb’ was still lurking, with the hooves of the four horsemen just audible in the wind. More importantly however, was that we were now running out of activity options, with only surfing and tubing left. Videos were emerging of a flooded Waimakariri River, so currently that was out. So what better activity to do when high winds and rain is predicted? Well that would be surfing, but only because we had already climbed earlier in the week.

And what a surf it was too! The waves were a few feet high, clean and breaking nicely, ideal for a group of novices trying their hand at surfing. We monopolised a small area of the surf and cheered each other on as one by one we clambered onto our boards and wobbly surfed for all of about two and a half seconds. If a load of beginners in the water wasn’t annoying enough for the local surfers, then the appearance of one of our mates bobbing about in a giant, inflatable swan probably was. Still, we are all out there to have a good time, and plenty of waves for everyone, I kept repeating to myself, as another long boarder careered through the middle of us.

The weather held for an hour or so, before the clouds darkened and big rain drops began to fall from the sky. Thus signalling that it was time to retreat to the pub to toast to another evening of success, and discuss at length whether it really matters that it’s raining when you’re already surfing?


‘We’re on for paragliding’. I was not expecting this. I’d come accustomed to my 3pm disappointment and felt slightly confused with this new, excited emotion. As I cycled home against a stiff head wind, it did seem surprising that it was going ahead. It appeared that the paragliding people also thought this too, as by the time I got home at 4pm, an update had gone out informing us that paragliding had now been cancelled. Thank god for that I thought, as I was now able to return to my familiar, disappointed state.

One problem remained, how would we make the tubing work? Matt set out scouting a number of options. Tubing the Waimakariri River was out, based on the fact that the car park we were meant to meet at was currently under record levels of water, which therefore didn’t bode overly well for tubing the river.

Plan B was the famously polluted Avon River. Again, not overly ideal I’ll agree, but we had run out of options. And so it was that a number of dog walkers and tourists armed with video cameras got the pleasure of witnessing 14 idiots in wet suits slowly riding inflatables down the Avon.


The river casually meanders through Christchurch at a leisurely rate of knots, passing through the city centre and the Botanical Gardens, which is where we had decided to set sail from. The sun attempted to force its way through the cloudy sky, resulting in the average temperature being maintained at a just about tolerable level for a good time. As inflatable sofas, dinghy’s, tyres, a ball pit complete with slide, a desert island complete with palm tree, and the swan again, gradually got ushered along by a gentle current, the inhabitants of said inflatables laughed and joked their way downstream.

It was only a matter of time before disaster struck, as one by one the inflatables began to fall apart. No doubt a result of the cocktail of pollutants that are present in the Avon and absolutely nothing to do with the misuse and overloading they were subjected to.

The evening was spent wrapped up in down jackets and scarfs as we enjoyed a chilly summer nights BBQ, which neatly provided an overall summary for the week – even in a week of predicted weather bombs,  good times can still be had.