He Tangata: A chat with The Gentle Cycling Company's Rose Griffin

By Elisabeth Easther

Each week, Elisabeth Easther gets the story of people in the Kiwi tourism industry. Today, she talks to Rose Griffin, of The Gentle Cycling Company.
Rose Griffin and husband Hugh, touring Samoa.
Rose Griffin and husband Hugh, touring Samoa.

I grew up at Hobbiton, although it wasn't Hobbiton then, it was just Matamata. My parents were dairy farming people - we came from a long line of preachers, teachers and farmers - and Dad was always quite religious about taking us away for two weeks every summer.

We had a caravan, there were four girls, and every summer we went somewhere different, always to the beach. We'd meet other families and camp, side-by-side, joining the awnings together. We liked the Mount the most, we thought it was cool although Mum and Dad liked going places further afield. One year we went to Hahei, before it was a place, and I was so disappointed because there wasn't even a dairy. You wanted somewhere to spend your pocket money so that was not our favourite beach.

When I was in the fourth form, Mum and Dad took our whole family to Europe; an extension of those camping escapades and it was amazing. Dad had never been overseas and he and Mum hatched a plan. When we got there they bought a car, a caravan and a tent, and we spent six months travelling around the UK and Europe with Dad towing this caravan all around the place, navigating with maps.

I thought Switzerland was fabulous, with its snowy mountains and cute buildings and I remember visiting family friends in Holland. I loved going into their houses, they felt so cosmopolitan compared to Matamata. Dad didn't like driving the caravan in cities so we didn't go into many, and stuck to the ring roads.

After leaving school, I went to art school in Christchurch, which was quite an adventure. In those days you took the train from Hamilton to Wellington, then the Lyttelton ferry before arriving in Christchurch. I met my husband at university, his family is from Nelson and, after art school, I went there to go teaching and I thought it was heaven on earth.

We go to St Arnaud as our family has a bach there; it's a classical alpine village and such a lovely contrast to Nelson. Going up in winter, there's likely to be snow on the ground, it's freezing cold and in summertime you can swim in this pristine alpine lake - if you don't mind getting everything frozen.

We used to take the kids camping at Abel Tasman, to Totaranui. It's the most fabulous beach and you're allowed open fires so in the evening, as you walk the length of the DoC campsite, there are these little glowing fires all along the beach.

A couple of years ago we went cycling in Samoa, which was a fabulous holiday, there was only one road and you can't get lost. It's very cool and so relaxing if you try not to go too far each day. We liked to get to our destination by lunch each day so we could have a swim. We went around Savaii in 10 days but you could probably do it in one if you were really hardcore.

I don't teach any more, now I run The Gentle Cycling Company and we do self-guided cycling trips on The Great Taste Trail. Whether it's single- or multi-day, we help people decide where to go, set them up on bikes, arrange accommodation and shuttles, carry luggage. Cycling's such a great way to explore the countryside. On a bike it's so easy to stop and pick up a bag of apples or take a detour without jamming on the brakes and there's so much history in this landscape.

Graded easy to intermediate, The Great Taste Trail is very achievable; you don't have to be a super-athlete. The most popular route is from Nelson across to Kaiteriteri, 65km of off-road trail so no competing with cars. Customers tend to take at least three days as the route is dotted with foodie places, wineries, cafes. Nelson is also the craft brewing capital of New Zealand and we have six breweries that are on or really close to the trail.

And then there's the fruit, fabulous fruit that changes all year round.

Some of the cafes are really quirky; for me, as an artist, Jester House is an iconic Nelson thing, the wild rambling gardens . . . it's a very creative environment. The food is fabulous, the whole experience is a bit eccentric but done with such professionalism.

Then there's Riverside Cafe, on the site of the oldest alternative community in New Zealand. Rita Angus did some work there when she was a young woman. She painted a beautiful watercolour of apple pickers at Riverside, looking across to Mt Arthur through to Kahurangi National Park.

Toss Woollaston painted lots of landscapes that feel like they were based on the upper Moutere area. When you're cycling around here you feel you're in Woollaston country - those clay colours.

Where am I going? I'm getting to the stage, with the business starting to be a proper business, of making the transition from artist to art teacher to businesswoman. It's taken a wee bit to get my head around so there are few more years left in me before I put down my bikes and put up my feet.

Further information: See gentlecycling.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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