Seven Americans, Six Rides, Three Destinations and One Rodfather

A delayed blog of our central North Island mountainbike tour. I'll be bringing you each day as soon as I can.

A few months ago I got a call from my old Kiwi buddy Aaron Lucy who now resides in Colorado. After many years of playing the fool in Los Angeles living the Hollywood lifestyle he had recently moved to Colorado and swapped his motorcycle leathers and Dodge Challenger for the quiet life in the mountains with a certificate in Mtb riding instruction and a new business venture... Ninja MTB Performance.

Apart from teaching people how to ride good (Aaron was a DH racer back in NZ during the '90's) the Ninja team also organise ride/tuition camps in exotic locations and New Zealand was next on the list. He wanted me to come up with a six day riding holiday in the North Island showcasing the best trails we could offer. Then he asked if I could ride point and make sure no one got lost or confused. Sounded like a plan and better than another normal rodfather week so I jumped on board and here we are. Oh... and Aarons last words were.." I'm sending you a riding jersey to wear...I hope you are ok with pink?"...Goddammit!

The plan. Drive to Auckland to meet Richard LaChina (Aarons business partner) and collect 6 paying American clients and show them the goods...therodfather style.


I was hoping that Aaron was going to come over too, but events conspired to keep him in Colorado, so it was with trepidation that I planned my week and made the eight hour drive to Auckland, all the way lamenting my decision to get involved in an adventure that would quite probably end in...

1. Me embarrassing myself in front of a group of professionals

2. Me offending said group with my peculiar behaviour which I think is funny but others tell me is rather boorish

3. Opening myself up to expensive litigation from lawyer-ed up Americans (can that happen here?)

4. Me showing off and hurting myself badly 50 metres into our first ride.

5. Me having a horrible time stuck with seven loud Americans with no where to hide.

6. I could just go on and on and bore you with a million more excuses that were running through my mind so I'll just get on with the story shall I?

So I loaded up the van and headed for warmer weather and the promise of at least some great riding no matter what else could go wrong and probably would.

Mt. Ruapehu and the Desert rd never disappoint

I decided to go the back way from Turangi so I could finally get a look at Castle Rock, one of NZ's first MTB parks that is now sitting unused due to far too many bike related injuries

A typical Kiwiana fishing bach, Waihi, Turangi

The majestic rock formations of Castle Rock.

Castle Rock is a mind blowing area with these strange (for NZ) rocks in a very compact area. There is a stunning lodge where you can stay, with a spa, a pool, tennis courts and beautiful countryside scenery. These days the activities are rock climbing and a huge flying Fox and many team building events and school groups get to hang out and enjoy the serenity of this majestic area.

Later that arvo, I arrived at Richards base camp in Auckland and we settled in to hatch up a plan. The rides and accomodation were sorted. Now we just had to execute it...with style. I just knew I was going to F*** it up. I hadn't even been to half of the places yet. Luckily Richard is a chilled out guy and that rubbed off on me and I relaxed with the knowledge that I used to do this for a living in France and as long as  I could bluff my way through it and have a quick Google maps learning session then what could go wrong? Lots!


We collected our six guests from their respective hotels and airports and headed off to destination #1. Orere Point Holiday camp to settle in for two nights with a full days riding at 440 MTB Park. I hadn't yet been to the park and was pretty excited. The weather was looking perfect and what could be better than a holiday park in the grip of summer? The camp was idyllic with a couple of large deep swimming holes over the fence and we lapped up the holiday vibes and put the bikes together while a few of us went for a road ride to dispel jet-lag and look at a few typical Kiwi bach's and caravan homes.

The Ninja train, Kawakawa Bay on route to 440 MTB Park.

The Ninja teams first real Kiwi experience...A corner dairy, fish 'n' chips and seagulls at the beach.

Bike assembly and briefing about the week to come. Orere Point Top 10 Holiday park. The Ninja Team clockwise from Jeff in the red cap. Jeff, Richard, Kristina, Mark, Patty, Jim and Mike.

Swimming hole #2. This one was more hidden and I had it to myself.

The Orere Point Holiday Camp is full of privately owned caravans with attached kitchen/lounge units and fenced off yards. so cute.

Any concerns I had about loud, fussy, complaining Americans were dispelled as everyone got stuck in and helped me prepare my first meal (yes I had to cook too, and OK..a few of them were loud) a good old Kiwi BBQ with lamb chops, sausages, steak , corn on the cob, and a roasted seed and vege salad. Did I mention that two of them were vegetarians?... And one of those a vegan. Goddammit! But seriously I had hit the jackpot and these guys were some of the nicest people you would ever meet.

Some of the gang. From left clockwise...Mike, Richard (Ninja boss), Jeff, Jim and Kristina.

So after a few beers, a wine or two, and a massive birthday cake to celebrate a few recent birthdays we hit the sack in preparation for some whoopin' and a hollerin' at 440 the following day.

So much sugar...we had a small piece each then gave away the rest to an extended family camping out next door.

Coming up... DAY TWO at 440 MTB Park.