A Verification Situation

In New Zealand, every view is worth the detour.

A Verification Situation A Free Radicals Photo Essay from the South Island of New Zealand

The van we’ve purchased runs great—except when it comes to starting, idling or climbing hills.

It has also developed a fairly serious mouse problem and a permanent odor of farts and feet, though that’s hardly through any fault of its own. When we bought the van, we joked that if we couldn’t resell it at the end of our trip we’d just burn it and send it off a cliff. Three weeks later, it seems like that might actually be the most sanitary way to dispose of it.

Laundry and wifi are rare but treasured commodities on the road.
Repairs are constant when you live in your van.
Shotgun rules are taken very seriously when the consequence of losing is sitting crammed between four bikes and the entirety of four guys’ belongings in the back of the van. On the drive from Christchurch to Craigieburn, Brian lost.
With an alternative approach to keeping it between the mayo and the mustard, Simon goes nearly 12 o'clock.
It’s a rare moment when someone is ahead of Will on a climb. Cheeseman Ski Field Road, near Castle Hill, NZ.
Simon enjoys a mid-ride “bambo”—a terminology for a sandwich that he claims is common in Australia, though we haven’t spoken to anyone who can confirm.
Will and Mark take in the view just below Cheeseman Ski Field, near Castle Hill, NZ.
Life maintenance. Organization is key, but much easier said than done.
Mountain streams are uncomfortably cold but provide a place to bathe, wash chamois and work on suntans, or burns, as the case may be. That’s a lot of stoned birds in one place.
There always seems to be a direct correlation between the amount of traction on the trails and the amount of clothes hung out to dry at camp.
Mark keeps it wide open and in the back seat through some classic South Island singletrack.

It is, however reluctantly, doing the job we need it to do: transport the four of us to the finest tracks on New Zealand’s South Island. We arrived in Christchurch in early February, traded a couple Italian hippies a pile of cash for the van, slapped a bike rack on the back, taped “Free Candy” across the passenger side windows and moved into our new home. With roughly a month to kill before reporting to Craigieburn to race the Trans NZ Enduro, our only priority was to ride as many of the Island’s famed tracks as possible.

There are no venomous or dangerous animals in New Zealand, but the bees around Craigieburn try to make up for it. Soon after taking this photo, Will realized that those crates are full of them.
Mark at the top of Kirwan’s track, Reefton.
On the drive from Craigieburn to Reefton, we found ourselves lost and nearly out of gas in the farm country west of Arthur’s Pass. We pulled into the first small town we saw hoping to find a gas station. We didn’t find one of those but we did find this ramp in the middle of town.
Will with a styled out table in the New Zealand bush.
The most important part of a helicopter shuttle is finding wifi soon after so that you can post an Instagram story about the helicopter shuttle.
The second most important part of a helicopter shuttle is editing photos from the helicopter shuttle so that you can update your Tinder profile.
To those who say "Film is dead," we don't buy it.
Lake Pearson, just north of Castle Hill, NZ.
Will devours a block of cheese as quickly as he can get it in his mouth after a death march.
Brian keeps it in control on one of many dry and dusty corners.
This is what running out of coffee looks like. Caffeine is a key component to keeping the stoke levels high.
Despite the fact of #vanlife—or maybe because of—personal hygiene is crucial.
Evening views never disappoint in New Zealand.
Dropping in for some sunrise laps above Castle Hill, NZ.

Gas prices in New Zealand are equivalent to roughly $8 USD per gallon, so we resisted the urge to immediately drive up and down the Island hitting the hotspots we’ve read about for years. Instead, we focused our efforts on exploring the central South Island. From laps at the Christchurch Adventure Park, to a helicopter shuttle in Reefton, to exploring some of the secret tracks in Craigieburn, it doesn’t feel like that decision has been a compromise at all.

These are a few random moments from the first leg of our trip.