How I survived a day of mountain biking with Alana

Today was our third day in Rotorua. Alana persuaded me to give mountain biking a try because it’s such a popular activity here. There was a place not far from the trail that we hiked the other day that rented bikes, so after sleeping in and eating a lazy breakfast/watching Iron Fist (which I can’t really recommend at this point) with the cat, we took off for the bike place around noon.

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I would have been content spending the day with my new cat friend and a good book…

We could rent the bikes for either 2 or 4 hours. It was only $10 more for 4 hours so we foolishly decided to go for the bargain. There was a little voice in my head telling me two hours would be just fine but I decided to forgo my gut feeling and man up. Boy, would I regret this later. We started off on the kids loop, which I would have been fine riding circles on for the remaining three and a half hours.

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I suppose this wasn’t so bad.

But Alana could not be contented with something so innocuous. She needed a serious risk of injury to feel satisfied. We progressed to a slightly larger but still beginner track. I already didn’t like it. It was like careening down hill on top of a wiry metal death trap that was desperately searching out a root or a rock so it could buck you off into the bush. That still wasn’t enough of a challenge for Alana though. She needed to stare death in the face at every bend, so we took a road up to a more challenging trail next.

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This is Alana’s “I’m making Richard suffer” smile.

This is where I could show my strong suit. The physical effort and endurance required for pedaling uphill on the road was more rewarding than all that downhill nonsense. On the way up we decided to take a detour and do another beginner trail. But there was a steep section of hiking trail we had to pass through first. It turned out, to Alana’s dismay and my delight, that this one was pretty much entirely uphill. It was like a stairmaster for bikes. I thoroughly enjoyed it. You feel so much more in control when going uphill. And getting to the top feels like you’ve accomplished something, rather than just survived something. We finished this second beginner trail before heading up another excruciatingly steep hill to the last trail. An intermediate trail.

It was a trial to get there and while I was enjoying the struggle on the way up, I couldn’t forget that every foot higher we went now we’d have to go back down on a narrow, rooty, rocky, curvy bike path. We got to the top eventually and, after pausing for some commemorative photos, started down. It was a pretty terrible experience. Every root, rock, and rut the bike hit sent a shock up all the way to my brain, which was trying desperately to process the multitude of threats coming at it from down the trail. The trail was steep and full of switchbacks. At every turn I saw my life flash before my eyes. We both had to get off and walk down a couple sections because it was just too steep (me more often than Alana).

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White knuckled, gripping the brakes the whole way down… This is one of the easy sections for the record.

After what felt like forever we made it back to the road. Then we had to backtrack through the first trail which now felt really tame by comparison and might have been more enjoyable, except by this point we were completely gassed, the adrenaline rush from the intermediate hill had drained us of all our vigor and left us empty emotionless husks of our former selves, and out rear ends had been battered and bruised by the less than forgiving bike seats. In a nutshell, Alana is the daredevil of this team. She thrives on extreme sports and things where the sense of danger is greatest. She always tells me to try things first before I say I don’t like them (for example when I say I don’t like skydiving), but today I can say I tried mountain biking. And it just isn’t for me. I am now quite sore and have a headache.

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Weeee! Alana giggles in the face of danger.

After we finished biking the fun part of the day finally started. We went out for dinner at an Indian place (it was the first restaurant we came to back in town and we were too tired to walk anywhere else). The food was great and afterwards we walked to a park nearby that had some thermal foot pools. It was pretty nice for the minute or so before the giant Chinese tour group showed up and started talking loudly and taking pictures. We were able to outlast them and enjoy a little quiet after they left though. Tomorrow we are going to some real thermal springs which will likely be much more fun than today was.

P.S. You might not think it from having read this post, but I’m glad we went mountain biking. You should try it some time.

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