Rain has been forecast again for the West Coast, after a front has hit the whole country pretty much all week BUT this morning we awake to glorious sunny skies. Breakfast is over, the guests are off for their day’s adventures so we decide we’ll go exploring too and today we’re heading to the Taipo Valley located off SH73, the road from Greymouth to Arthur’s Pass – known as the Great Alpine Highway.
Stephen loads the bikes and the dogs and as usual they are keen to get going – they love an adventure as much as we do. I haven’t been up the Taipo Valley before but Stephen has had one ride up there but it was quite a few years ago so we don’t really know what to expect. After about 1/2 hour drive we arrive at the car park. This in itself is new for Stephen and it is nicely hidden off the road so the vehicle feels safe and it is a good place to let Ziggy and Nico (the boys) out of the vehicle while we get changed and ready to ride.
Off we head and it is straight into a hill climb – a long one I am told….. mmmm seems Stephen does remember something of this ride afterall. The initial climb isn’t too bad. It is a 4WD track and it gradually meanders up the side of the hill with the Taipo river running down in the valley. This section is a stunning piece of scenery, winding our way up in the native forest with rimu trees, matai trees, keikei and all types of ferns, there are streams running down creating little waterfalls and a gully to our right covered in native bush – just beautiful. We come to a steep climbing section but thankfully it isn’t too long. Stephen pushes ahead but I have to take a layer off first before attempting to grind my way up. There is fresh snow on the mountain tops so I dressed accordingly, but of course, once you start climbing you soon warm up and now it seems I am overdressed. The crest of the hill soon greets me and Stephen and the boys are waiting. Back together again for a short flat section and then we are straight into our reward for the climb – back down. This is much steeper than the climb up and not as long – of course that means for the return journey, we’re going to have a bit of a grind! Nevermind, we’ll worry about that later, let’s just enjoy the downhill.
Almost at the bottom of the valley floor and back on level ground with the Taipo River, ready to start the true valley section of the ride and we just have one gate to go through first. There is a sign on the gate warning there may be stock grazing so we ensure the gate is securely fastened behind us and keep the dogs close. Finally at the bottom and we have our first little creek crossing.
The track then meanders along the valley floor with the Southern Alps looming all around us covered in a light dusting of new snow. We bike for about 1 hour before we come to a hill climb and this one is a steepie. Stephen powers on up – as usual, but I lag behind on this one – no wait – that is as usual also! This part of the track is new, avoiding quite a muddy section before zigzagging across the river. We have to zigzag through three river crossings and unfortunately this time it does mean wet feet. Brrrr the water sure is cold but we push on. The crossings are fun though and we have to pick our way across the river shingle to eventually meet back up with the old track on the other side of the river. There is a DOC sign advising Dillons Homestead 2 minutes and Dillons hut 10 minutes. Sure enough we round the corner and are greeted by Dillons Homestead. It is quite the homestead, two stories, wide verandahs, big picture windows….. ok, slight exaggeration, we are in the back country after all.
It is your typical back country “relic” house now used by hunters, trampers and maybe even mountain bikers for overnight stays. We’re just doing an in and out though, so for us, it is a stopover just for photos, a sit down and a quick bite to eat. We look at carrying on to Dillons Hut for a look – only 5 minutes away but the track is incredibly muddy and wet from here on in so we decide it isn’t worth getting bogged and muddy feet and bikes just for a further 10 minutes riding.
Time to turn around and make our way back to the car. It really is fun picking our way across the river shingle – hard to make out where the 4WD vehicles come across. The creek crossings soon remind us we are biking in Spring and there is fresh snow on the mountains – the water is so cold!
Well, we thought we were going to get away with it, but the clouds have been looming and finally the drizzle starts. We have to don our rain jackets and just in time as it soon turns from drizzle to rain. Not for long though thankfully but still happy to have brought our rain jackets with us. The ride back seems much faster than the ride in. Seems it was a very slight incline coming through the valley which really if you think about it does make sense, as we are now following the flow of the river and it is heading down and out to sea. This means a quicker pace for the dogs too and they enjoy running along side us – no time for side excursions for them.
Before we know it we are back at the first little creek crossing and time to start the climb back up and out through the native forest. Ah yes, I think, I remember now, not as long as the climb coming in so that means this will be steeper and sure enough it is. It isn’t too bad though and Nico is always good and waits to keep me company. Stephen steams ahead with Ziggy in tow. Stephen doesn’t get too far in front though and when he turns around to come back and give me moral support, I only have a few more metres before I also reach the tops and then we are all on for the downhill to the car.
I cruise down, enjoying the scenery and the wonderful West Coast native forest. Nico hangs out with me as much as he can – scooting ahead now and again and waiting on corners. Ziggy and Stephen are long gone but waiting for me at the bottom. All back safe and sound after yet another fab afternoon riding in the stunning West Coast back country. Time for home – but not before stopping at the Honey Junction Cafe in Kumara Junction for a well-earned coffee and muffin!
Jan and Stephen run Breakers, Boutique accommodation on the Punakaiki Coastline, north of Greymouth. Check out their activities page for other great adventures to do on the West Coast. Honey Junction Cafe is open 7 days at Kumara Junction for breakfast, lunch and snacks.