Queenstown, New Zealand
Biking amid alpine lakes, alpine mountains in Queenstown, New Zealand

‘Magical’ is probably one of the most oft-used words to describe New Zealand. This is, after all, the site where the Lord of the Rings movies were filmed, and Peter Jackson could not have chosen a better place to bring JRR Tolkien’s books to silverscreen life. It’s hard to look at New Zealand’s mountains, valleys and forests and pretend that what you’re seeing wasn’t taken from the pages of an epic fantasy masterpiece.

For mountain bikers, New Zealand represents another kind of magic. The town of Rotorua has become famous internationally as one of the best places to go trail biking and freeriding. Rotorua has been the site of MTB mega-event Crankworx, and its reputation has rivaled that of Whistler.

Rotorua, New Zealand
The towering trees of a forest in Rotorua, New Zealand

Queenstown meanwhile really blew my mind away. This small city in New Zealand’s South Island is a town woven from the very fabric of dreams, and riding its trails was the best biking experience I’ve had so far in life. Bar none.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

AUCKLAND
So in late October last year, by some curious twist of fortune, I and my travel-bike-climb-motorcycle buddy found ourselves with her parents on a plane headed south into the realm of the Kiwis. Since our incomes seem to get periodically drained away by exotic IPAs and weissbiers, we really have to thank her parents for letting us go on this trip as we would have been bankrupted by the plane fare alone (or we’d have to go on a diet free of craft beer for a year, which is completely unthinkable). After an eight hour flight, we landed in Auckland, the biggest city in New Zealand.

Auckland is a very picturesque city. It’s kinda like Baguio with its rolling terrain and parks, and Dumaguete with its seaside attractions, but more spacious, less crowded and more orderly. And even though Auckland is more known as a commercial city, even here the Kiwis’ spirit for adventure was already pretty evident. You could try the bungee jump from the Auckland tower.

Auckland has a lot of interesting sites on its own, and I’m sure people who live there know a lot of interesting adventure spots in New Zealand’s biggest city. You can read more about it in the upcoming stories by Travel Up.

However, a friend who was lucky enough to be working and living in New Zealand with his family advised me that if we wanted to really experience what this country had to offer, we needed to go to South Island.

Queenstown was the plan. But before that, we first needed to go to the Hobbiton.

Hobbiton, New Zealand
Hobbit houses beside a hobbit-sized lake in Matamata, New Zealand

If you’re a fan of LOTR, there is no chance in Mordor that you would skip one of the most charming settings in Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

After two days of sightseeing in Auckland, we boarded a bus that was going to take us to a friend further South, who was going to take us to Hobbiton. And from there catch a bus to the mountain biking mecca of Rotorua.

James, my friend from high school, works in a dairy farm in Ngatea. He’s been working there for years now and was able to bring his family with him to New Zealand. Lucky lucky guy, I know. We were also lucky in that he offered to let us stay with his family for one night after the trip from Hobbiton.

New Zealand sheep
Sheep everywhere in this Windows XP countryside

The three-hour bus trip to the town of Hamilton acquainted us with New Zealand’s famous rolling hills and sheep farms. While watching the scenery unfold before me, I felt a real aching to just get off the bus and run through those fields some crazy face-painted Scot screaming “Freeeeedom!!!”

Treebeard
An ent-like tree in Hamilton, New Zealand

Before going on our trip to Hobbiton, James drove us to a quiet seaside park on the way to Coromandel. New Zealand is amazing for having so many of these quiet little spaces where people can just tune off and marvel at the green and blue immensity of the world.

Finally, after having lunch at James’ house, we drove to the town of Matamata. Hobbiton, was waiting.

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