Dun in a day? Well, this is a welcome change from the multi-day mountain-bike rides I had undertaken to collect data for the Great Rides App. Not only is it a day trip; the Dun Mountain Trail is a glorious loop! Few of the 22 NZ Great Rides are single-day cycling trips and most of the trails are either lineal or network layouts. So, after arriving in Nelson, I was really looking forward to the simplicity of riding the only Great Ride that is both a loop and day trip.
Simplicity though, does not mean easy-peasy. While it is simple to pedal out of central Nelson, the 17-kilometre hillclimb rising 900 vertical metres above Tasman Bay is a challenge that will keep me busy for the next few hours. My climb is made easier with heritage seemingly pulling me up the benched track, much like wagons were drawn up by horses that once worked this line. I say ‘line’ because the trail formation is on NZ’s first railway line, built in 1862. Horse-drawn empty wagons were pulled up the mountain to the mineral belt above, which is where I am heading. In some places my tyres bobble over a railway sleeper or two – the last remnants of the 20,000 timbers that once supported the now-disappeared iron tracks.
The former railway line unlocked mineral resources on the mountain top. As I swing around a corner I find myself running parallel with a modern, flash-looking fence line that locks out predators. This is the tall boundary fence of the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary, a community-based initiative that creates a pest-free wildlife reserve near the heart of Nelson.
At times the trail runs right beside the 14-kilometre predator-proof fence that protects all sort of native wildlife. I enjoy peering into the sanctuary as I climb through the forest high above the city. The forest here is dense, lush and massive, giving the trail a real sense of remoteness despite being on the fringe of the town belt. The trail explores the dark recesses of the hillside where I ford small creeks before continuing up, up, up into the clouds.