Tradespeople, I think we all know the Kiwi construction industry is tougher now than ever. All of us feel just how demanding and exhausting the daily grind can be. The never-ending battle with concrete, steel, timber, piping, and cable. The impending deadlines and life’s external stresses attempting to infiltrate our being. A taxing combination that easily leaves us feeling tired and burnt out. We’ve all been there at some point (or still are).

Breaking that cycle and transporting yourself to a positive mindset is the tricky bit. Luckily, I know just the transportation vehicle to do it. A plan that’ll have you grinning like a kid in a candy store quicker than you can say, “Where’s neutral?”

Whether you have an hour after a day’s graft, an early knock-off on Friday, or a whole weekend to burn, fasten your helmets, kick the leg over and twist the throttle to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul – turn the burnout into burnouts. Adventure riding, anywhere, does just that.

Enter the Royal Enfield Himalayan – a simple, confidence-inspiring, no-frills motorcycle that’s built for adventure and exploration. Think of it as the Land Rover of the motorcycle world. It’ll get you anywhere you want to go, as long as you’re not racing anyone. The 411cc engine does what you would expect from a single-cylinder thumper. It rattles, it clunks, and it vibrates itself half to death, but it’ll get you there with a big grin on your dusty face. It’s pure motorcycle riding. If something goes wrong, you can fix pretty much anything on it with the basic tool kit under the seat, while your mates on $20k bikes have to pull out Stephen Hawkins’s notepad just to diagnose an issue.

Now, I must admit, I’m no motorcycle expert. In fact, adventure riding has only been a thing of mine for a few years or so, and for Hanna, my better half, even less. The hard-fought battles of tough enduro and the social excitement of the trail riding scene were what got us hooked, but it was the simple, no faff, just get-on-and-go ease of adventure riding that made us spend more time on the adventure bike than at the trail rides and races.

Being used to a light weight KTM, I’ve slid, binned, or dropped the Himalayan more times off road than I’d care to admit. So far, Hanna has a far better track record for staying rubber side down. But that’s the beauty of adventure riding – it’s not about perfection; it’s about letting go and having a blast. Keeping it straight in the baby-powder roads of the Mackenzie country, kicking out the back end in the winding gravel bends of the Central Otago paper roads, or the triumph of making it through river crossings – to get to that hut we keep being told about – without drowning. Winding through picturesque valleys of the Wakatipu Basin and laughing off the occasional bumps in the road that we call character-building are all part of the fun.

With all this on the behind and more ahead, that looming work-related framing inspection and Monday’s window delivery have been relegated to the furthest reaches of my mind. I am at peace.

For some adventure riding, the local stomping ground for us is Central Otago. With Queenstown as a home base, there’s plenty to play around with. Whether it’s a quick after-work blast into Skippers Canyon to blow off the cedar dust or a day run up to Glenorchy and around the valleys with a telescopic fishing rod. The inevitable camper van trundling along the Glenorchy in front just as the best corners come into view. At least we’re not in a rush.

For those of us not afraid of a night or two in a tent or a beaten-up hut, there are multi-day adventure rides that start with some world-class roads like the Crown Range to Wānaka or the Kingston Highway to the bottom of the Nevis Road. The latter is one of the classic rides in the area, which I have no doubt that many readers have enjoyed in a 4WD or even on a bike themselves. It’s a popular road for good reason.

Up and over, past the old Ski Hut and through classic Otago High Country. Once through the sweeping gravel road and 26 or so river crossings that litter the Ben Nevis Station, you’re into Bannockburn. Another great starting point for many adventure rides, should the flowing winds of the Kawarau Gorge be your warm-up for the day, rather than the Nevis.

With the majority of the rivers now in the mirror, and inside my boots, it’s time for a stress-free, yet interesting jaunt up and over the dusty Cairnmuir Range. When Hanna is riding along, this is where she’ll lead the charge. Familiar terrain with no surprises but worth every second. This takes us right into Clyde for a well-earned coffee and a bacon and egg breaky.

A quick blast through to Alexandra and we’re at the gateway to a lot of great adventure riding, whichever direction you choose. We chose SW to Roxburgh.

There’s a decent crew of fellas who regularly ride from Alexandra or Roxburgh and they’re all keen as mustard and likely waiting at the bottom of the Old Man Range with a mix of big bush pigs like the DRZ400 or high-tech weapons like the KTM 890 Adventure. I’m always greeted with the same looks when I rock up, already covered in dust and a smile from the ride over from the big smoke. They look the bike up and down.

“Are you going to be ok up here on that?”

“You worry about yourself there, mate. This mighty Himalayan will get more places than people think if you know how to ride it.”

And with that, we fire them up and climb the rough yet deceivingly slick Symes Road into the winding passes of the Old Man Range where the compulsory photo with Obelisk and the lion king pose on Hyde Rock are never missed.

Once into Waikawau Bush, the ground gets a little softer. The clearance of the Royal Enfield and the stock tyres ensure it’s a little spicier for me than for the others on their fancy, expensive steeds. The premonitions of the crew almost come true as I slide out on a greasy descent and bounce the tank guard off a rut. Once through the mire, we are greeted by the Waikaia Bush Hut and a KTM 1290 with a flat rear tyre. All hands on deck for swap out and a quick smoko break before continuing down to the bush line. The Wakaia Bush Hut and campsite is a great place to stop for the night if you don’t mind a bit of company from the local hunters, 4WDs, or families camping by the river.

I prefer less company, so after saying farewell to the Roxburgh crew, I find a quiet spot in some forest by a little lake to pitch the tent for the night. Time to gather my thoughts, enjoy the peace and devour some camp grub. Waking to the sound of birds and the gentle ripple of the lake, a slow morning precedes the next leg. Heading across the ditch into the reservoir country of Lake Onslow Road and the tranquil waters of Pooleburn Reservoir. This area is one of my favourites to ride for sure. Vast, empty, and full of gravel roads to explore in any direction. The only others you’re likely to see are other adventure riders after the same solitary thrill of open space and off-road trails.

Finally, heading back over the rugged steep-sided Thompson Gorge Road, before the Sunday evening run back home along some welcoming sealed roads. Two full days out and hundreds of kilometres travelled, the majority off-road. Monday should be a doddle. Tired hands, tired eyes, and the vibrations still tingling through my feet.

The endless places to see and the limitless trails to follow are all around us. I don’t think it matters where you are or who are with. Wherever you are, I’m sure there are endless possibilities to explore your neck of the woods and have just as much fun. The camaraderie of riding with strangers, the banter of riding with mates, the quality time (and brownie points) of riding with Mrs, or the solitude and peace of riding solo. Who cares which you prefer?! We’re still riding. The thump of the engine, the wind in your face and the back wheel spinning are still there, and we’re still feeling that buzz.

The important part is that we are experiencing that moment in time. Time that no one can take away from us. Time that isn’t at work or dealing with the struggles that keep getting thrown our way. Time when all we are doing is living.

I don’t know about you but for me, being outside on some form of adventure is not just something to do. It’s a necessity. I’m a firm believer in being more knackered at Monday morning’s toolbox talk than I was on Friday at knock-off time. It’s what keeps the burnouts on the bike and not on my shoulders. Choose your poison: maybe it’s a hunt, a fish, a ride, a boat, a dive, or a drive. If you’re like me, it’s probably all of those and some. It doesn’t matter, as long as it helps.

I tried not to make this too much about our mental health but, to be honest, that is what it’s about. I believe that is the reason that most of us do the things we love. Because we need to. Because they make us happy, and remind us what it’s like to just live in the moment and enjoy our free time.

So, in the words of an obscure English punk band, “…find whatever makes you happy and do it twice, that’s my advice.”