It wasn’t until I started to spend some dedicated time each week on a bike that I realised just how much more you see, and how much easier it is to experience your surrounds. There is a tranquility and sense of intimacy with nature that you simply don’t get driving the same route.
Which is why my curiosity was piqued when I came across Pacific Cycle Tours and their various biking tours around the South Island. Sitting down with owners Brett and Judy Jamieson-Green, it was easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm for our backyard and experiencing it from the saddle of a bike.
Judy is a born and bred Cantabrian, citing the Canterbury Plains and Port Hills as her childhood playground, while Brett grew up in Colorado with a love of skiing, camping, hiking and fishing. Their stories collided at the University of Canterbury where they met, fell in love and subsequently decided to explore the world together.
Several years later they settled in Sydney, where they set their love for the great outdoors to the side for successful corporate careers – Brett in financial services and Judy in book publishing. Roles the couple loved until they realised they wanted to offer their two young daughters the outdoor memories they had both enjoyed growing up.
‘Quality of life is essentially what brought us back to New Zealand,’ shares Judy. With a broad range of skills between them they made the decision to buy a business and return to Judy’s hometown of Christchurch. ‘The opportunity to buy Pacific Cycle Tours happened organically,’ explains Brett. ‘It came about through word of mouth and the fact it was centred around nature and the outdoors was a huge positive. We love tourism, and as it is typically quite seasonal it offered the opportunity for the work-life balance we were seeking.’
For over 20 years the previous owners had hosted a steady stream of European tourists. ‘We wanted to maintain our excellent relationships with the European wholesalers, but also had plans to expand into the Australian, American and domestic markets,’ explains Judy.
With COVID-19 eliminating the international tourism market, Brett and Judy have relished getting to know the domestic market and have seen bikers from all over the country jump on board with their tours. ‘Where we vary from others is that we don’t focus on one trail only – rather guests get a taste of the best of several different trails in the South Island.’
Of particular interest to the local market has been the 10-day South Island e-bike tour. ‘It is a great chance to see our backyard in a completely new way,’ shares Brett. ‘And is a wonderful equaliser, as you don’t have to go into the trail with a lot of bike fitness.’ With the tour starting and finishing in Christchurch, riders are treated to a ‘sampler’ of the best of the best and some hidden gems along the way. ‘You get a taste of all the trails,’ explains Brett with a smile. Riding to a destination each day, you get to experience aspects of the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, Otago Central Rail Trail, the spectacular Roxburgh Gorge Trail and even the West Coast Wilderness Trail, as well as many others in between.
‘The maximum you would ride each day is 50 km,’continues Brett, ‘but it is all on an e-bike so you can blast up hills with ease and take it all at your pace. If you want to work harder you can. We often get people who are a bit nervous on day one about their ability on a bike, but by day two and three are asking if the bike can go further and faster.’
Guided every step of the way, a full itinerary is provided and taken care of by Brett and Judy, allowing you to simply turn up, saddle up and peddle on. ‘It’s a leisure activity,’ enthuses Judy. ‘It’s all included, including some of the meals, but not all of them, as we know how nice it is to maintain independence and experience places you haven’t been before in your own way.’
Despite an ever-changing tourism market at present, Brett and Judy are just delighted to be able to share their love of the New Zealand landscape. ‘Sydney to post-quake Christchurch was a huge change,’ laughs Judy. ‘But we love it, the sense of community we have found is wonderful and having such immediate access to the great outdoors is exactly what we were looking for.’ ‘We love the outdoor lifestyle and now we get to share it,’ concludes Brett. ‘And as we continue to adapt to the new look tourism market, who knows what we will come up with next.’
Words Lucinda Diack