It’s a beautiful winter’s afternoon on the West Coast and Stephen and I thought we’d load up the bikes and the dogs and head out to Kumara to check on progress of the West Coast Cycleway. We’re looking at the section from Dillmanston to the Arahua River.
We’ve done this before – a couple of times last year. Given that it has been over a year now, we’re hoping there has been some improvement on the track.
This section of the ride actually starts in the village of Kumara but as we have the dogs with us and not that much time, we’ve decided to start at Dillmanston in the back of Kumara - also known as the Kumara Reservoir.
There is a new track that has been built that winds its way up through the bush to put us on the floodwall of the reservoir. This is quite a fun little section – nowhere near wide enough to be classed as 4WD but not quite narrow enough to be called true single-track either. Nice surface and fun all the same. Once at the reservoir, we follow the floodwall/water race to meet with the Westpower pole line track.
We follow the pole line for a good couple of kilometres, before joining up with the reservoir again. This section hasn’t had any work done on it yet – not sure if there is some debate as to whether this will be part of the cycleway and hence why nothing has happened with it. I don’t mind it – little bit of a challenge in it as it is undulating, filled with water holes to negotiate and little rocks precariously positioned to ensure you keep your wits about you and pick some good lines.
The reservoir is like two lakes joined with little dams. This section of the pole line comes out between the two lakes and we have to cross the water to continue along the proposed cycle trail. This could be tricky if filled with lots of water but thankfully today it isn’t too bad. Definitely wet feet – which is a bummer since it is a winter’s day after all and while the sun may be out it is still cold! We’ve still got a lot of riding to do and it is going to mean riding with cold, wet feet. We are guessing eventually there will be a bridge for crossing here to ensure year-round access – this is also the debatable section that they may re-route the track for so we’ll see.
The next section is predominately a 4WD track. The last time we rode this it was quite rocky so we’re picking there is going to be some serious work done on it eventually to get it up to the standard of a grade 1 cycletrail. We don’t mind at the moment – we’re mountain bikers after all! It’s only a short ride before we come to the “swamp” section. Unfortunately no progress has been made on this section yet so it is a bike carry for about 200-300 metres. We have to tread carefully and pick our way so we don’t end up with mud up to our knees. The dogs love it though! Bouncing along through the peat. Nico our dalmatian goes from being black and white to black and more variations of black! He’ll go in the water later for a cleanup……
The “swamp” section eventually meets back up with the Westpower pole line and this is what is being used as the cycleway. It is already existing and is pretty, meandering its way through the native forest. Again, last time we were out here, the track was quite rocky in places but West Power have loaded it up with soil and gravel and we’re guessing it will soon pack down nicely to give a good ridable surface for families and all riding abilities. At the moment is it quite soft and gives our legs a good workout.
Not really sure how long this section is – it seems like it is quite long due to the soft ground and the amount of energy it is taking to make any progress, although that just might be the flu I’m carrying with me making it seem that way. It is a very gradual incline – deceptive looking at it as you think it is going to be a flat ride but then if we think about it, we are following the water race and it ends up in the lake and generally water flows downhill so really makes sense that we would be climbing, even if only gently. After a short downhill section we eventually meet up with the old Christchurch road. Stage 2 of the proposed West Coast cycleway is Kumara to Milltown – about another 5kms or so still to go but we are running out of daylight. We have done it before – following the K water race to meet with the Arahua River. All 4WD gravel track and a nice ride along the water race. As it is though, today’s ride is turning into a good couple of hours of riding by the time we’ll make it back to the car and with me full of the flu and conscious we don’t have that much daylight left, we decide to make our way back.
Now, I noted above that it was a gradual incline coming out right, so you’d think it would be a gradual decline in reverse – mmmmm, how does that happen, or not happen as the case may be. It’s not quite the grind it was going in but still feels like the legs are having to work to make each pedal stroke – again, think that may be just my flu talking. That’s my excuse anyway!
It doesn’t really take that long and we are soon back to meet up with the reservoir.
We’ve got such a great day with awesome cloud formations and reflections in the reservoir. Back across the causeway and we’re back onto the final pole line track to the car. The sun is fast disappearing so we up the tempo a bit as we’ve been making a few stops for photos so have got a bit cold. Our ride ends with the last section of single track in the bush – a nice fun, meandering slightly downhill piece so we finish with a smile.
Back in the car changed into our warm clothes and heading for home we have time to reflect on our thoughts of the cycle trail. Still much work to be done but it is a good ride and showcases some great West Coast scenery – a great way to get out and see the country.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Punakaiki coastline just north of Greymouth. They are avid mountain bikers and enjoy getting out and exploring the West Coast. Jan and Stephen are happy to help with any touring suggestions should you be thinking of visiting the area – see the activities page of their website or drop them an email.