Stephen and I had a well deserved afternoon off and with no guests due for check-in we left the cleaning to finish later, loaded up the bikes and two very excited dogs and headed north to Denniston – a plateau filled with history and old coal mining and drilling tracks. A mountain bikers heaven.
There were overcast skies but the forecast was for a nice day. December though the temperatures do seem to drop and being that we were high up in the mountains we had packed an extra thermal layer just in case. Whew – thankfully for that as getting our bikes ready and changing there was a cool nip in the air and for a short while actually looked like threatening to rain.
The gravel access road had been resealed and from where we would normally park to the actual first biking trail is a reasonable distance on the shingle road that we didn’t want the dogs doing so we drove…… had nothing to do with our current lack of fitness…….
Once on our bikes the first section of the track is climbing – of course. Major drawback of driving to the start – our legs aren’t warmed up for the climbing. Again – that is my excuse and I’m sticking to it. In fairness – to me anyway – Stephen was complaining also. Despite lots of stops – to take photographs it was still good fun, picking your lines and trying to get up and over as much as possible.
Finally the top is reached (do you like the tongue out ha-ha) and we are ready for the reward – the trail meandering down and around back to the car. The surface is very rocky but kind of sticky – don’t know how to describe it best really. A surface that looks like you will slide on it – coming up and down but is more pumice like so it grabs your tyres and you just keep rolling – it is great. There are a few drop-offs but nothing that can’t be ridden if you pick the right lines – or you’re a riding goddess like me LOL.
Stephen of course makes it all look easy, twisting this way and that – I follow him as best I can sometimes thinking “why has he gone down that way” to soon realise exactly why! The boys (aka Nico and Ziggy) are having a blast – they love running free and enjoy their time out and about when we’re biking. We think it is mountain bike heaven up here but the dogs look like they think it is doggy heaven.
Back at the bottom and the boys and I jump back into the car to drive back to Sullivan’s track while Stephen bikes around. Waratah and Sullivan’s tracks are both old drilling roads that the miners used when searching for coal way back when – thanks guys! The terrain and scenery on Denniston plateau is outstanding. You can see off for miles – back into the mountains, out to sea with views to Westport and to the north towards Karamea – true back country riding only a short drive from civilisation.
Stephen soon arrives and we’re off again for the next adventure along Sullivan’s track. Thankfully this track isn’t as climby as the Waratah to start with – a little undulating at best. It meanders along the tops before starting the fun descent to the creek bed. So beautiful up here and the views out to the Tasman Sea are amazing – you really feel like you’re on top of the world.
Much of the downhill is quite loose rock – some of it jaggered rock with little drop offs so you really have to keep your wits about you and pick the right line – stay off the brakes, gently does it else you’ll be a pile of rubble yourself on the ground but with cuts and grazes and possibly quite a bit of pain. The grin starts – almost done it, come on girl…. yes – wahoo, wahoo, wahoo. Back to reality as then the climb starts…… Single track for the first section so deep breaths and good lines almost gets me to the top but the last section is just too steep – or is it because it is overgrown a bit – yes that’s it…….
We take a break to catch our breath, a bite eat and just soak up the views before starting the final climb. You can see for miles up here – right out over the Tasman Sea – sure is peaceful.
The last climb isn’t too bad – a gradual climb around the hillside back to the car. Don’t look up though – doesn’t seem like you have far and you can easily be fooled into a false sense of “this isn’t so bad” only to look up and think “hhhhhmmmmmmm”. The worse thing is it has these little “dibits” (no idea how to spell that!) or drain trenches you have to go in and out of – just enough to take the power out of your legs. They are spaced about every 100 metres for about 1/2 a kilometre – doesn’t sound much but when your legs have had enough already throw those into the mix and yep – definitely done!
Yay the top is reached, the car is in sight. Just the right length really – good mix of climbing and fun descents, just enough technical to keep us happy and the scenery, well certainly can’t fault the scenery.
We load up the car and start to make our way back home. First stop though the Punakaiki Tavern for a well deserved “pig out” – well not really, just dinner at the pub. Really cool atmosphere at the Punakaiki Tavern and good hearty pub food. Boys don’t mind being left in the car for a sleep as I brought their food with me so they are fed and happy. Time to head for home – I’m about ready to hit the hay. Hope you’ve enjoyed our afternoon at Denniston.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders that help make up the West Coast of the Southern Alps – voted one of the top ten regions in the world (yep regions in the WORLD not just NZ) to visit by Lonely Planet. What are you waiting for…..