“ Off Road Adventures / Off-road motorcycling or driving through the beautiful New Zealand countryside „
If you ever visit New Zealand, no trip can be complete without visiting Queenstown which is located towards the bottom of the south island and is surrounded by dominating mountains and the clear blue Lake Wakatipu. The spectacular view that overlooks Queenstown at the top of the Skyline Gondola is simply breathtaking. It is therefore no surprise with this stunning backdrop that Queenstown is a world renowned lake and alpine resort where you can pursue a plethora of high action and adventure pursuits. During the New Zealand winter (June - September) it is an extremely popular winter sports resort and there are a number of different ski slopes for beginners and experts alike to try out a spot of skiing and snowboarding. The lake is perfect to try out jet boating, sailing, fishing... the possibilities seem never ending. If that wasn't enough you could really push your senses to the limit by trying out a bungy jump or sky dive. Another activity, perhaps less publicised than the others mentioned is quad biking, which is the topic of this review. With all of these seemingly never-ending things to do in Queenstown, you have all the elements of an unforgettable holiday. So where is the catch I hear you ask? Asides from being the either side of the world, to do anything in Queenstown costs a lot of money! As my fiancé, brother and I only had two nights to spend in Queenstown we had to ration our high octane pursuits. We also had to choose an activity that made it feel like we have experienced an adventure in Queenstown whilst making sure that we were not testing our phobias to the limit (fear of falling from heights being the common trend). With this in mind, quad biking with Off Road Adventures won the day.
OFF ROAD ADVENTURES:
The Off Road Adventures company was established in 1990 and is New Zealand's original dirt bike company and is the first in the Southern Hemisphere to operate Quad Bike Tours. There are a variety of quad bike and motorbike adventure tours available which cater for beginners to the more experienced riders:
Family tour (Duration 3 hours, 1.25 hours ride time): This tour is designed around younger family members and is an introductory tour for those who wish to try out quad biking or motor biking. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
Beginner farm tour (Duration 3 hours, 1.25 hours ride time): This tour starts easy, with an emphasis on teaching control and technique. This tour is suitable for younger teenagers or those who are looking for a more sedate tour.
Adventure tour - 4 wheels (Duration 3 hours, 1.5 hours ride time): On this tour you can operate quad bikes up to 250 cc. You get to ride around a 15,000 acre high country sheep station where the trails are selected according to the riders experience and confidence. The ratio of guides to riders is 1:6.
Adventure tour - 2 wheels (Duration 3 hours, 1.5 hours ride time): The motor bike adventure tour has been designed for those looking for a bit more excitement, and you get to operate motor bikes up to 250 cc. The adventure tour starts on the trails through historic gold trails on the banks of the Kawarau river then takes you into the mountains above the Kawarau gorge.
Trials Bike Tour (Duration 3 hours, 1.5 hours ride time): Try out the latest adventure we you can ride in places that you may not even wish to walk, or just try this as a new experience and test your skill level.
Full/Multi-day tour (Duration 1-17 days): You get to ride on 2 or 4 wheels and explore the 15,000 acre sheep station and climb 6000 feet plus into the mountains with rivers and unbelievable views.
THE BOOKING PROCESS:
It was more by accident than anything else that we decided to go quad biking with this company. We were perusing the multitude of action and adventure leaflets in the foyer of our hotel (Novotel Queenstown) to see which companies offered quad biking. This leaflet was the first we stumbled across, and thankfully came highly recommended by the hotel concierge. The next decision was which of the many tour options should we pick?
Again, with advice from the concierge, we decided upon the 4 wheel adventure tour. The only slight stumbling block was the price - $220, approximately £100, considering that our Travelex exchange rate was $2.20 per £1.00. £100 for a 1.5 hour quad bike ride seemed very expensive. However, after realising that to do anything fun in Queenstown costs a lot we decided to increase the burden on our credit cards and go for it! The booking was very straightforward, the concierge telephoned the company, and we were booked for the 1 PM departure time. All we had to do was show up at the Off Road Adventures shop and "check in".
CHECK IN AND TRANSPORT:
The Off Road Adventures shop is based on Shotover Street which was a very quick 5 minute walk away from our hotel. Upon arrival, we signed our life away and filled in a form each, which essentially gave our personal details and stated that we are not suffering from any adverse health conditions and that we would not "muck around" on the bikes (i.e. - you must be responsible for your own actions). Our courtesy coach arrived promptly at 1PM where we were taken to the quad biking site which was approximately 20 km from Queenstown. The ride was smooth and we had the privilege of a very scenic guided tour through the valleys and past some local vineyards. This was also helped by a glorious sunny day without a cloud in the sky.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - START YOUR ENGINES!
Upon arrival we were each presented with our face helmet, gloves, goggles and wet weather boots. All of the gear was fairly modern looking, and thankfully clean enough. There was also a decent range of helmet sizes so that my head didn't feel like it was clamped in a vice. I initially thought that the wet weather boots were a bit of overkill on a warm sunny day, but thankfully went along with it - once I experienced the marsh like conditions on the main trail I was very thankful.
After being kitted up, we were each presented with our quad bikes. The quad bikes can be either automatic or manual gears depending on your experience. With a bit of confidence and bravado, I decided to go for manual gears. I have been quad biking a couple of times and was familiar with having to kick the lever by your left foot up or down to change the gears up or down. My brother who has never been quad biking, and my fiancé who has been once before, chose the automatic option.
The instructors started our engines and we were raring to go like a bat out of hell... well almost. As we were a party of three, we were initially selected in a group of 6 where we were supervised by one dedicated instructor. For the first 15 or so minutes we were following simple flat trails around the farm, following circles or figures of 8, that sort of shape. The purpose of this was to get used to the controls and speed of the quad bikes. It was at this point that my fiancé got shifted to another group, leaving just my brother and me with some other fellow quad bikers. I assumed that this was because of different quad biking abilities and confidence - this was true, but as it turned out I was in the slower group with my brother and my fiancé was put in a quicker group.
After this for the next 10 minutes, we followed some slightly more elaborate trails with mild inclines and dips, and the odd sharp bend. However, as I had been quad biking before and was pretty confident with the bike, I was feeling a bit frustrated at the course so far and felt I was in too slow a group. I wanted to get up to high speeds, jump over the dips and do my best Steve McQueen impression! Thankfully one of the other guides saw my impatience and my brother and I got swapped into one of the fast groups and we replaced by... my fiancé! This certainly worked out better for me and my fiancé who was not that confident with the quad biking. However, my brother also moved into the quicker group which was a big ask as he had not been before. Despite this, he coped really well although he understandably found it difficult to keep up at times. Although he probably should have been in one of the slower groups, I guess it is not easy for the instructors to work out who belongs where when they have no real idea of your abilities and confidence at the start.
And was the new group that quick? Oh yes. My brother and I had joined a group of fearless Brazilian ladies who knew where the accelerator lever was! I was loving the experience though, I had a chance to take the quad up to 4th gear on the flat dry pieces of land, and get caked with mud as I rode though deep and muddy waters. At times I thought the quad would become "beached" but it chugged on through the ditches to the safety of dry land. Sadly, (but somewhat amusingly) my brother did manage to "beach" the quad in the water! Embarrassingly for him this happened right alongside where all of the other groups converged at the same meeting point for a rest and some photos of the scenery. Despite the embarrassment, he posed rather sheepishly for a photo taken by the instructor that had come to bail him out.
To be honest, I could ramble on and on about the ride, as I loved it that much. However, I will focus on some of the personal highlights:
- The instructors were helpful, friendly and down to earth. They were not too bossy or intrusive, but also helped you out when needed.
- The trails were an excellent mix of dry land, mud, hills, dips and sharp bends. I liked speeding though the muddy waters and getting soaked in the process.
- I managed to get slightly airborne by speeding up over a dip - and it felt fantastic, but probably does not constitute "safe" riding!
- Towards the end of the trail we were taken up a very high peak which overlooked the sheep station, the quad biking facility and some of the basic trails we had started on. This was a great way to take some excellent photos, take in the scenery and to see how far (and high) we had come.
- I thankfully did not crash into another quad, "beach" the quad bike in muddy water, or fall off. A couple of the bends were slightly hairy where I went on a couple of wheels on more than one occasion. The biggest heart in mouth moment was towards the end of the trail where I was chugging though muddy water at high speed, and unbeknown, to me was a large rock submerged. I rode over the rock which caused the front wheels to lift. As my weight was towards the back of the quad, I inadvertently did a 2 second "wheelie" until I managed to shift my weight back to the front. Phew!
Once we had returned back to base, after an approximate 1.5 hour ride time, we liberated ourselves from the wet and muddy (definitely in my case) clothing and dried off in the sun. It was only after we took off our quad biking clothing that we realised how muddy we were. It looked like my face had been pressed down into the mud, which made for an excellent photo with my equally muddy brother. The courtesy coach patiently waited for our return and promptly took us back to central Queenstown.
Despite the expense, the quad biking experience was fantastic and unforgettable. We had the opportunity to see some of the hills and rural parts of Queenstown, whilst riding through some varied and interesting quad bike trails. The photo opportunities were plentiful, and memorable.
In terms of the Off Road Adventures company, I thought they did an excellent job. The booking process was simple and uncomplicated and the guides were friendly and down to earth. Whilst we were not all initially put into the correct groups, in terms of ability and confidence, the guides listened to the riders so that they were generally put into a more appropriate group.
In summary, if you are not one for falling from heights at a great speed, and are looking for a bit of excitement whilst in Queenstown, then quad biking with Off Road Adventures could be the activity for you. Don't forget your credit card though!
OFF ROAD ADVENTURES
Contact direct at:
Off Road Adventures, Queenstown Limited
61a Shotover Street, Queenstown
Phone: +64 (0)3 442 7858
Free phone (NZ): 0800 OFF ROAD
0800 633 7623
Fax: +64 (0)3 442 7858
You provide: Camera, sensible clothing, sun-tan cream, drink, long pants recommended.
Off Road Adventures provide: Free courtesy coach for direct bookings only. Full face helmet, gloves, goggles and wet weather boots. Rain jackets and over trousers supplied when raining.
Departure times: Daily 9 PM and 1 PM .
Other times by arrangement.
© CJG, 2010
Off Road Adventures / Off-road motorcycling or driving through the beautiful New Zealand countryside