Mountain biking in a Winter Wonderland

Today with clear sunny skies, on a West Coast winter’s day, Stephen and I loaded up our bikes, the dogs, packed a sandwich and some cake and headed up the Grey valley towards Waiuta – historic gold town between Ikamatua and Reefton on the West Coast of NZ.  There was not a cloud in the sky and the snow-capped mountains glistened in the glorious sunshine.  One thing we weren’t prepared for was snow at the top of the Blackwater-Waiuta road.  Glistening snow-capped mountain tops were now glistening icecaps on the road.  Stephen got out of the van and walked onto the snow to test how slippery it might be and to see if we could make the final 2kms to the top in the van….. alas it was not to be.  incredibly slippery and we didn’t know what was ahead for that final 2kms or for our bike road so we decided “not today” and backed back to a safe turnaround and headed back down the mountain.

Historic Blackwater School House

At Blackswater at the bottom of the mountain, there is the historic school house and while it is a place I have always recommended to guests, friends and family to stop and look at, it was something I had never done myself.  It is a fantastic little building and inside there are still the school desks and some of the learning material up on the walls.  A little gem of West Coast history.

Since our plan to mountain bike from Waiuta to Big River had been thwarted before even starting, we instead decided to go to Reefton and bike the Murry Creek track at Blacks Point.  First stop though – the Broadway Tearooms for a pie.  These guys make the best pies in NZ, definitely on the West Coast!  Then we drove a bit further to Blacks Point and the start of the Murray Creek tracks.  Unfortunately for the dogs 1080 had recently been laid so that meant no riding for them – although they are great trail dogs and generally stick by our sides it just wasn’t worth the risk.  So yet another slight delay to our bike ride, we drive back to the swingbridge just before Reefton.  No 1080 thankfully.  We walk the boys across the bridge and there is a new track heading left and away from town following the Inanguhua River.  The “boys” were well pleased and got a good run in.  We followed the track for a good 20 minutes or so before heading back the way we came as the track dead-ended at a cave and rock face and we couldn’t see a way around it.

Back to the van and we then headed back to the start of the Murray Creek walks area, parked in the shade of the trees, wound the windows down for the boys and gave them a big bowl of water and changed into our riding gear.  Finally we were off for our ride – only some 3 hours later than planned for today’s adventure.

Murray Creek walks - Blacks Point to Waitahu

Now this ride is awesome – 4.6kms of straight uphill climbing on narrow tram road to start with and then pretty much single track.  It is all in the trees and follows the route the miners used to take.  There are relics in the bushes and the Murray Creek stream is down the gully – always!  Eventually we are riding in the snow line and the scenery is stunning with the sun filtering down through the beech forest.  It is a fairly gradual climb with one small steep section that was a bit grunty.  Biking in the snow was fun and eventually we got to the junction for Waitahu.  We thought we’d go for a look as we knew DOC had done quite a bit of work on the track of late.  It is in primo condition and if we didn’t have the boys back in the van, we would have done the loop down to the river, along the 4WD track and back along the road to Reefton.  As it was we did have the boys waiting so back up we headed to the top and then the fun downhill back to the vehicle.

Stephen and I decided this would just about have to be the best mountain bike track on the West Coast.  A good honest climb, great scenery and then an awesome downhill.  Can’t wait till our next visit to Reefton, to do it all again.

To find out more about mountain biking on the West Coast check out Breakers Activity page on their website.

About coastingnz

Jan and Stephen live on the Punakaiki coastline, north of Greymouth on the West Coast, NZ and run Breakers Boutique Accommodation. They both enjoy the outdoors and are passionate about things to see and do on the West Coast and would like to share their experiences with you.
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