We started with a nice amble along the Turbine Short Walk that starts just above the old Receiving Station ruins.
Before long we emerged from the cool little trail through the trees to see the clouds scudding across the sky, and the windmill blades idly turning above everything.
Clouds pregnant with imminent rain clung to the South Island with a looming threat of deluge, as the wind began to slowly swing from north to south...
...the north didn't look much better, but we mountainbikers are not concerned with such sensitive pabulum.
As we suspected, the Opau Loop was much more fun in a downwards stylee. The first bit twisted, looped and dropped again through the trees, doubling back below the Turbine Loop and down.
Back out into the open, with some fast stuff punctuated by hairpins and small drops. Loose and rocky at times, some of the trail is quite narrow too.
Alex stomping hard, as I recover my cool after I was whacked painfully in the face by a cicada as I blasted this fast downhill section...
A sudden pinch climb wasn't exactly what we expected or wanted!
As soon as it had appeared though it was behind us, and once again we were shralving hardcore.
Back into the trees - just where Al is passing I'd just ridden through a cloud of butterflies that must have been clinging to the bank until I disturbed them!
Al negotiates one of the tidy little bridges towards the bottom of the trail...
...then navigates a wee stream crossing after a twisty and tight little semi-vert...
...before hitting the flat terrain of the wetlands at the bottom of the valley.
We then powered along the double-track that leads to the beach.
The Bay was sheltered from any wind, but it was a bit chilly and also we knew it was getting close to gate closing time so we just had a quick look around...
...before turning tail and heading back towards our date with the brutal climb back out.
The once sealed road starts out innocuously enough as a false flat...
...but soon the gradient tips up viciously, hitting (I believe) as much as 23% at times.
It wasn't long before we both started to suffer, but Alex, made of sterner stuff, drew rapidly away as I grovelled badly.
My legs suddenly told me in no uncertain terms they weren't up for any climbing today, or was it my head? I usually don't like to resort to walking, but at this moment it seemed the best idea ever.
Holy Jebus, there is no way the photos do justice to the hellish steepness of this climb.
Eventually even the Grimpeur had to stop for a breather. His tactics were to ride the whole climb, so the stop was really just an extended dab.
In light of Al's efforts, I girded my loins and attempted once more to ride a spell...
...but that only lasted about 20 metres before I tossed it in again. Al was in the middle of another dab as my walking pace began to slowly close on his riding speed on one of the most extreme pitches.
Looking back down from the same point gives you an idea of what we're dealing with...
As soon as Alex set off again the gap opened back out, and he crested this hideous ascent with great style.
Alex circled slowly as I tramped the last few ghastly steps.
We seemed to both be blowing pretty bloody hard when I finally caught up with him, and the tough riding seemed to have taken as hefty a toll on him as the arguably easier walking did on me. Great effort, bro.
He clearly recovered quicker than I though, as he sprinted off like a scalded cat.
Al waited at the gate for me though, and we took one last lingering look at the clouds creeping over the Cook Strait while the sun shone scattered shafts of silver on the sea.
We retraced our tyre tracks through the pleasant pine-forested Turbine Short Walk...
...to arrive once more back at the start.
To sum up, the downhill was fantastic fun and I would heartily recommend it to anyone. However, the climb out is very tough. On balance though, even walking most of it, it would only have taken about twenty minutes, as opposed to the 40 or so minutes of riding it took going back up the trail we had just ridden down, so the shorter suffering was preferable to us both. If you are decently fit I'd imagine your results would vary, but as I'm not particularly I give my perspective from that angle, and the descent is well worth the pain of the ascent anyway...
Thanks to Alex for the instigation, and I hope you enjoyed the read.