No OE can top this superb trail

Trails Trust chief executive Kaye Parker (left), Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Vanessa van Uden (centre) and Prime Minister John Key at the opening of the Queenstown Trail last month. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.
Trails Trust chief executive Kaye Parker (left), Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Vanessa van Uden (centre) and Prime Minister John Key at the opening of the Queenstown Trail last month. Photo by Olivia Caldwell.

A conversation with two friends recently ended with both of them laughing at my expense, because, at 23, I still have not left the country.

Their laughter got me thinking.

Admittedly, I have since gone and booked flights to Melbourne for the Australian Open tennis tournament in January, and what's more, a six-week French expedition, also next year.

But is the joke really on me?

Believe it or not, my first ride on the new Queenstown Trail on Monday helped confirm it most certainly is not.

What a place we live in.

People spend thousands on airfares and accommodation to do what I can do any given day of sunshine, or rain for that matter.

Monday brought the perfect weather conditions to try part of that $5 million trail everyone has been talking about.

I have got to say I was more than impressed.

Launched only two weeks ago by Prime Minister John Key, this trail had some big expectations to live up to.

It opened my eyes to what we have in our own back yard in this part of the country.

Cycling 30km or more from Arrowtown to Lake Hayes Estate and then up Shotover Rd and Speargrass Flat Rd, you get a good taste of what we are about here.

Pure bliss.

At no point was I thinking about how sore my legs were or how tired my lungs were.

I was thinking only of how lucky we are.

Don't get me wrong; I have been on a few bike rides.

Just last weekend I was in Twizel for the Dusky Trail, which at the time I labelled the best I had seen.

And just like that, the Queenstown Trail topped it.

At one moment you have Arrowtown's mountains behind your back and an open Gibbston valley before you.

The next you are plunging downhill towards the Kawarau River.

Before you can even take a breath to say whoa, you are between Coronet Peak and the Remarkables, thinking, what did I do to land a job here?

The hills are steep enough to get your blood pumping, but easy enough to stay on your bike seat and enjoy your day.

Depending who you are with, you can speed through the trail in no time, or set up a family picnic on the way.

It is what I call "anybody's trail".

On my travels I passed a pram-pusher, a bearded tourist with two side baskets, a "Harry Hardout" who nearly cleaned me out around a sharp corner, and my favourite, the beautifully tanned man with long hair who I am sure must have been French - I ask again, why travel?

The trail was well signposted, well constructed and well mannered, that is, I developed no injuries and my chain stayed on.

Overall, this trail is, to me, worth every penny put into it, but that Frenchman and the many more visitors who are bound to use the trail are the ones who need to be impressed, for it to pay for itself over time.

Last summer was the year of the event - the paying events such as your Motutapu, but this summer I am saving for a truly special trip involving an aircraft, a beret and a baguette.

So while I can't afford to be surrounded in "lycra lads", I can still enjoy the many good bike rides this part of the world has on offer ... for free.