Fresh air, wilderness and adventure are the things that I love the most. I try to include all these factors in my travels, and ever since I spoke to Greg at Fat Tyre Adventures in Queenstown I’ve dreamed of going heli mountain biking in New Zealand.
Heli mountain biking
Combine a scenic helicopter joyride to a remote location and mountain bike back through elusive landscape and you have the thrilling new sport that is heli mountain biking, or heli MTB. What better way to spend a day in gorgeous Queenstown?
On the day of my long-awaited heli mountain biking adventure I arrived at the Queenstown airport at 9am, where I finally got to meet Greg! As an avid mountain biker, I had wanted to bring my own bike, but Greg assured me that Fat Tyres supplied top-of-the-range equipment. When I saw the gear he had lined up for us, I was glad I’d decided to leave my ride at home, as the bikes were perfectly suited to the terrain we were going to be riding.
After a quick chat, the mountain bikes were strapped to the outside of the helicopter and it was go time.
The 20-min helicopter flight was spectacular experience. We had constantly changing, postcard views of Queenstown and a sweeping panorama over the mountain range. We even got a bird’s-eye view of the popular ski field Cardrona, complete with a fresh splash of snow! Coming from 35 degree summertime in Queensland, this chilly ambience was a novelty that added to my excitement.
The joyride ended as we alighted on the only flat part of Advanced Peak Mountain, where there was just enough room for the helicopter to land and drop us off. I was glad I had rugged up, even though it was the middle of summer - when they say mountain top, they are serious.
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There was a small, snow-covered ridge we rode along before we began our decent.
“Just check that your bikes work and your brakes haven't frozen!” Greg advised. “Take it easy - we don't know what lies beneath the snow."
With those quick words, we were off, my stomach fluttering with excitement.
The first part of the track was covered in snow. Greg urged us to stop when our hands needed a rest from the brakes and a chance to warm up. It seemed like a never-ending downhill track, a mountain bikers dream! It was all happening so fast, but I tried to soak up the scenery as we raced down the side of the mountain.
We crossed many picturesque streams of snow melt on our way to the bottom, navigating narrow paths through the wilderness, keeping well to the right, as the left presented a magnificent drop off.
It really is hard to put this experience in words. I felt like I was flying through a dreamland as we continued down the mountain, with the track eventually widening into a rough 4WD track that undulated its way with down with a few single track side alternatives.
We stopped often to admire the view and listen to Greg’s stories of history, local wisdom and regional information, which gave us the chance to take plenty of photos! From riding tips to anecdotes, he was a wealth of knowledge. The groups are kept quite small - a maximum of four people plus the guide, so everyone benefits from Greg’s expertise and personal attention.
The wrap up
We eventually rode into Arrowtown, a beautiful town that was the perfect end to our ride. We pulled into a local cafe to enjoy lunch and a well-earned beer! We couldn't stop talking about what an amazing experience we had just had, and listening to more of Greg’s stories and tips. After lunch there was a minibus and trailer waiting to take us back.
This is an experience that I will never forget, and I can’t wait to do it again!