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“Quest” Episode Two: A Road Trip in New Zealand

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“Quest” Episode Two: A Road Trip in New Zealand

words by Tito Tomasi

The country of the long white cloud, incredible diversity, and a beautiful nature – welcome to New Zealand. A road, a van, and the mountains, here is the call for adventure and good times. One form of freedom, one form of life. Road tripping is a simple way to travel and discover the world around us, and travelling with some toys makes the adventure even better! Six years ago I was travelling in New Zealand, penniless I was hitchhiking around, feeling the vibes and learning about the people. I had to trade my paintings for food and a roof, staying in some self-sufficient communities and witnessing this beautiful world. I was touched by the place and nature. I swore to myself that I would come back and do what I wanted, more exploring and more riding.

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Mt Cook and Tekapo Lake

The trip started four weeks before I picked up Sophie and Anto the film crew. I was already travelling around with my wife, scouting places, riding and learning. And in my mind a plan was building up, I had images of what I would like to shoot, to ride. Some places are so nice but forbidden for biking, it was frustrating but we finally found incredible places. The first stop on the road trip after a quick visit to Christchurch was Aoraki. We camped by the Mont Cook and did some walks, the place is so amazing that I wanted to share it with the crew. After that we drove to Tekapo lake where I found an incredible place to film the sunset with some cool riding and a view on the lake. Unfortunately the strong wind forced us to be patient and wait. Eventually we got to start shooting. The place was amazing for photos and videos, as we are filming and playing with the drone, the clouds rose and we had to finish the session. The storm was back, we ran to the van in the wind. Laughing and screaming, I started the van and in a dust cloud, we sped away. That’s the spirit of road tripping, we drove along the lake watching the sun going away. Tomorrow is another day and another small adventure.

Surfing Dunedin

With the information received from a few surfer friends, we decide to drive to the coast and try to surf for the next few days. I drove in the night, excited and happy, and find a spot on the beach. The crew had a surprise as they wake up to discover the ocean.

To watch the sunrise on the beach is always a good start to the day, but my excitement was hard to control and we jumped in the van again. Eventually we arrived in Dunedin to a famous place for surfing, the waves were good and the size was decent. I prepared my board, got my other uniform and ran to the beach.

Antonin and Sophie enjoyed the show of the waves and started to learn about surfing. Anto was flying the drone and filming. Finally the spot makes two waves, it was pretty fun and I enjoyed my time in the water. Meeting a few guys, the atmosphere is relaxed .

In the time we spent around Dunedin we had the chance to visit a few places and surf a few waves. On a beach we saw a few sea lions, the wildlife is pretty epic in New Zealand.

With huge free lands and beautiful landscapes everywhere we go it was a pleasure to film and travel in such a nice place. One night we met a local surfer, and he invited us to come to his home. We shared a few beers with Tim and he showed us a bit of surf history when he was a surf photographer, travelling the world for waves!

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Wanaka and Hawea Lake

After the salty chapter, it was time to get back on the bike and ride some mountains. Wanaka is a beautiful place and has so much good riding, it was hard to choose. I decided to go on a two-day mission around the Wanaka lake and reach another lake at the end. The trail is built on a ridge promising some incredible views. When I prepare my bag for this kind of trip it’s always exciting, to not know, to be prepared and to go. I just love that moment!

We had a really late start but at least we could enjoy some spectacular sunset lights on the Wanaka lake, the images are beautiful and we set up the camp above the lake. There is no light around and the sky deliver another show!

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Antonin and Sophie were stoked with the lights and landscapes, they slept in the tent while I took the grass as a bed. The second day was a bit disappointing and hard, but that’s true adventure and how a shoot is done. Sometimes we have a good surprise and we come back with awesome images effortless, but sometimes the place is not what you expected and we had to work a bit more for the quality. On this day we had to do a super long hike. But the crew carrying the trekking and shooting gear were brave and we made it. I was feeling sorry for them but that’s also how we film adventure, it’s by living the adventure in the first place that we can document it and share some true emotions.

Lake Kaniere and Nydia Track

A couple of days after the mountain experience, we are crossing the lake district, enjoying the beauty and resting our feet. The life in the van is mellow and we spend our life outside, Sophie is in love with the country, taking a bunch of pictures every day.

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Eventually we reached the west coast and we were pretty happy to find it sunny! So we went to Kaniere lake to enjoy the place and ride around. An awesome ride in the wet forest was incredibly different to anything we’ve seen before. This time the crew understood the diversity of New Zealand and what makes it so special. The forest was unique, making a crazy atmosphere with the lights and shadows through the leaves. The ground was loamy and rooty with small streams crossing the trail every few meters making it even wetter.

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We had such a good time at the spot near the ocean and the views were epic. Around the area we found many local growers and got some good veggies to cook! Finally we crossed the roads more north and the landscape changed again, we could see the forest getting drier and easier to ride. When we passed Golden bay that’s when we found the air hot! That day we drove further north on a huge peninsula and found a very remote and peaceful place, Nydia bay.

My friends enjoyed a lot of the days when we didn’t film, relaxing on the beach and getting to know the country. The small bay was surrounded by some high hills, and near the grass at the bottom of the bay where the cattle were settled, the wooden houses were very pleasant, sat in the shade of the big trees. We filmed on the Nydia track along the ocean and then in the hills, it’s unique and beautiful. Not as wet as the west coast but with different palm trees and luscious vegetation. The views on the ocean from the top are epic, we all enjoyed the trip together.

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Kaikoura

Our last chapter takes place around the town of Kaikoura, situated on the east coast and facing the Pacific ocean Kaikoura is also surrounded by the mountains. Making this position one of the best places in all of New Zealand to me.

For a few days we can enjoy the calm of the town, the local food, the waves and the beauty of the place. Sophie and Anto keep learning about filming surfing and they made the most of our camping spot on the beach. But the rest is over and after a few preparations, we did another two-day trek in the mountains. I only had a bit of information about the quality of the trail when we started the climb, but I now know the place is epic! The first day had a lot of climbing before we found the camping spot, the views were awesome from the ridge we could see the mountains in the clouds and the sun going down on the infinite ocean as it changed its color every minute.

Riding the place was really good and I was so stoked to have a film crew on this kind of mission in the mountains, with steep lines, gravel, ridges, lost trails. So many memories come back in my mind now that I write down this story. From the summit to the ridge line, walking in the gravel we started to go down on rocky paths before reaching the forest and the bush. We finished our trek in the river, crossing it fifteen times at least.

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Once we finally reached the dirt road, I left the crew there in the tent to rest protected from the mosquitoes and pedaled back to the van, a 20-kilometer ride in the storm as fast as I could. But this was also the very last bit of adventure we had and I’m taking this time to remember how beautiful and awesome it was. Cruising the island, showing the place to those two talented people and building our road trip for the beauty and the fun.

Soon it was time to say goodbye to the Frenchies as they flew back home while I stayed on for two weeks of solo riding before heading to the Trans NZ Enduro.

The Quest continues …

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