DAY TWO. 440 MTB PARK.
My daily ritual began at 6:30 am. Set up breakfast and make the coffee. Lots of coffee. The coffee system was easy...make it cowboy style. Espresso grind beans in the percolator and add boiling water. Easy, and tasty. You can have your poncy air press/stovetop/plunger/Nespresso back home but on the road nothing beats a Turkish.
We settled in pretty easily to a regular diet of meusli, bagels, fruit, toast, jam, cream cheese and Richard whipping up scrambled eggs while we sat about, talked it up, lubed a few chains and loaded the vans.
I thought I had done a pretty good job of introducing therodfather and after a cracker BBQ from last night and the best coffee ever (it's a package thing...bikes, no work, bike parks...how can any coffee not taste the best?) so everyones expectations were high. That lasted about 12 minutes into the drive to 440 when we realised I had missed the Park entrance and driven us back to Kawakawa bay. Well, just the guys in my van that is. The others who had never been here before found it easy. Way to go rodfather! TWAT !
So we got to 440 bang on 15 minutes late and the team were already loading up and we were the only riders there so far. Weather was looking perfect. Overcast, 21 degrees and no wind. We ended up getting drizzle on and off throughout the day but it didn't factor into the proceedings and everyone had THE BEST DAY EVER.
Straight away there was a bit of freaking out though and I got my first pang of "oh shit what have I got myself into?" Turns out our Green trails are a little more Black in reality compared to those in the USA. Especially in Los Angeles where the team are from. Especially the width of trail available to ride. Like their highways, the Americans like to build 'em big and the skinny, tightly bermed, popping kickers threw everyone off and we had to re-group while I reassessed the ride plan for the day. We split up into two groups and I took the more experienced riders for a few runs while Richard stuck to the Green trails and coached his group to open it up a bit.
I need to set the tone here. I had to remind myself that these guys were here because they were part of a skills camp and wanted to improve their riding. Most of them were fairly new to mountain biking and three of them were quite a few years older than me. Imagine getting your mum and dad into mountain biking then sending them off to France (the equivalent of Americans coming here) to ride all day every day on new steep trails.
I was starting to have some serious doubts about the rest of the trip. The handbuilt section of Rainbow Mountain in Rotorua was looking like a handful already and I had to bite my impatient tongue as I coaxed the guys to try and relax and get their flow on.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about. After a few runs to get the blood pumping, everyone came into their own. No thanks to me though. I could see Ninja Boss Richard looking sideways at me as I yelled "If you don't crash you're not going fast enough" and "snooze you lose" and "the faster you go, the better your balance". I'm pretty sure everyone got sick of me riding behind them with "bend your elbows, stick your arse out, stand up, point that laser, look ahead, don't look down, pedal goddammit, don't pedal goddammit" etc. etc.
I can see why Ninja MTB Camps are so successful. Richard is a very skilled and patient person and was always there to offer calm encouragement and remind his team of what they had acheived elsewhere and how to use that skill for any particular section of trail.
After regrouping for a quick lunch at the 440 Hub we mixed the two groups up a bit more and hit the tougher trails, having a look at some of the bigger jump lines. We were having so much fun that the camera got forgotten and we smashed out a few race type runs down the hill. Surprisingly enough everyone wanted to keep going and we finally had to call time at 4pm as we didn't want everyone broken for the big drive and even bigger ride/hike up Rainbow Mountain the next day. 9am to 4pm with 20 minutes for lunch. Richard and I were impressed with that effort and my unease about Rainbow Mountain was dissipating and we headed back to Orere Point for a beer, a swim and Goddammit, I have to cook again. (I'm not much of a cook and this was definitely stressing me out).
Back at camp, Richard handed me a recipe for some weird vegetarian chick pea pasta dish and with a mish-mash of camp cooking utensils and a couple of cab savs, I put out another pearler of a meal with a chopped up salami thrown in last minute (after the vege serving) to give it some taste (so everyone said but I'm sure they were too polite to say otherwise. Polite Americans? I know...go figure !)
440 MTB Park is just over one hours drive from Auckland CBD and is nestled up against a reasonably steep pine forested hillside with a shuttle bus service to take you to the top. It is very well run and a great place to spend a day. Every rider ability is catered for, the green and blue flow trails are fantastic and there are beautifully sculpted jump lines with some huge gaps and very steep Black runs to challenge the best riders. Just across the road is a swimming hole in the river and the Orere Point Holiday camp is only a few minutes down the road.
Tune in tomorrow for Rainbow mountain, fires, scalded cats and toys thrown from the pram.