I’m at a loss to describe what’s happening around me, mostly because I don’t believe it myself. A man dressed in sloppy drag is splattering his way down a steep, narrow forest track. It’s dark in the belly of these woods, but I can still make out his bra cups, on the outside of his dress no-less, as they inflate and deflate with each pressure change. The dark mud sprays up from his bottom to his teal dress straps as he spits around hairpin banked turns. Earlier I saw a group of “ladies” towing a kids’ buggy through the mud pits and down sketchy rock faces. The guy in the back had a broken arm in a lime green cast. This truly is a Kiwi downhill.
The end of the year tradition is tantamount to a coveted ski resort Gaper Day, marking the last day of a very dedicated and core local downhill scene. It’s a day to dress up, have a BBQ, and ride with your friends. My only guess is that in New Zealand dressing up means bending some gender norms. My only time to think is on the gondola ride back to the top of the track. Over grazing marino sheep and past the bungy jump we glide in our cable car. I’m gasping air like breathing masks just dropped from the ceiling of our crashing airplane and I can’t stop smiling. Linzay has the same silly look on her face .
Without our new roommates we wouldn’t be able to do this. They are both big into downhill mountain biking–seven bikes in the garage into it–very much the same way Linz and I are into snowboarding. They ran us through the technical stuff, taking us out for a training run the night before. Technical riding is the word they use for it, I would call it insane. Like a massive snowboard park built on a run meant for racing, except there is no green run down. No ski patrol.
By the time I get to my third run, the mud has splattered under the chin guard of my full face helmet. It’s starting to create mini earthen stalactites, reverse termite hills. My bike has more suspension than a 1986 Volvo, it’s probably worth more too, so I worry more about scraping it than myself. Unlike snowboarding, there is no space between features, everything is instant. By the end I’ve reached an equilibrium with the track. The rocks jump from in-front of my front fork like pedestrians trying to cross a Bangkok roadway.
The last run is a “train,” meaning everyone riding dangerously close to one another in a long, dirty procession through the woods. 100 yelling Kiwis barreling down the track and straight to the local pub. Muddy smiles are something I could get used to.