Alleluia!! – the sun is back after a wet weekend. Our water tanks were getting low so we were in some desperate need of rain but really….. don’t think we needed quite that much and we would certainly have preferred it if the temperature hadn’t dropped also. There was even talk of snow on the mountain tops down at the glaciers – in January!
Anyway enough of that – sunshine and blue skies are back and the temperature today wasn’t too bad – actually quite pleasant for biking.
We had a couple of hours spare between guest checkout and guest checkins so headed down to Lake Mahinapua scenic reserve – south of Hokitika. Our ride today is the Mahinapua walkway and we were starting our ride at the Eastern end of the walkway on the Ross-Rimu road, east of Hokitika.
The walkway is predominately an old logging tramway that serviced the Mananui Sawmill in the late 1800s and early 1900s and the state of preservation of the walkway helps to indicate the care taken in the original preparation of the tram-line’s foundation. It is probably one of the easier tracks for DOC to maintain. The first section is nicely hardpacked single before turning to grass or hardpacked dirt/clay. Thankfully this walkway is dual purpose – ie we are allowed to mountain bike it!
The track starts out reasonably flat and straight, through some beautiful podocarp forest. There are small rimu trees on the track edge, but looking into the bush you can see the majestic old rimu trees rising up through the forest canopy. There is the occasional relic from the logging days, on the edge of the track that DOC have preserved with information boards giving you some of the history of the area.
The tram-line climbs gradually around the side of a small hill, and soon we reach the turn-off to Picnic Point. We decide to leave this detour for our return trip on the way back out.
The majesty of the scenic reserve and podocarp forest are soon behind us and we enter the Mahinapua forest. The trail now passes through a section of land that has had many uses – commercial logging, land grazing, an experimental forestry station and then logging again in the 1970s. Riding the old grazing section of land is quite bumpy and on a slight incline – giving the legs a good workout. The smells though are divine – part of the experimental forest was gum trees and after the recent rain the smell is quite strong and sweet.
Just as we re-enter the Mahinapua forest, there is a detour to our right, leaving the tram-line and joining some forestry roads. It is rocky single track to start with before coming out of the trees onto the logging road and straight up a nice hill climb. It is getting a little overgrown in here but thankfully DOC still use the road for access to the tram-line for maintenance so having them driving on it helps to keep some of the growth in check.
There is potential to get a bit lost on this section with a few Y intersections. Basic rule of thumb for this ride is stay left so each time we come to a junction we just veer off to the left, eventually popping back onto the tram-line again and further up the forest trail.
The Walkway continues on and slowly descends around the side of a small hill dropping to lower lying land and crossing two creeks. Elevated board walks are used to cross this swampy area, which apparently floods regularly – can’t say I’ve ever seen that myself, we generally do this ride as a dry weather ride.
The board walks are quite long and meander nicely across the swamp. The dogs take particular care on this section – not so keen on the feeling under foot. After crossing the swamp the tram-line turns in a broad sweep to its destination; the site of the Mananui Sawmill that was started in 1885. There are numerous relics left here on the sides of the track and DOC have also put up another couple of information boards to help fill us in on the history.
After leaving the mill the walkway crosses Mahināpua Creek and its swampy margins via a foot bridge and through a privately owned deer farm, before emerging on SH6 just north of Mananui bush. The footbridge is as far as we go – no dogs allowed on the farm – fair enough, we’re just happy to be able to take them on the walkway.
Stephen gets a few photos from the footbridge (yes, I am the usual “model” for his photos – you’d think it was only ever me going bike riding but I assure you, Stephen is always here with me….. We then head back to the sawmill site for our lunch stop.
We made our usual detour to stock up on lunch supplies before heading out on our adventure – to Do Duck Inn Bakery – ham knot and apple turnover – our compulsory mountain bike ride fuel. YUM!!!
We relax amongst the sawmilling relics and read the information boards explaining the history of the sawmill, the type of trees etc. DOC do a great job helping to make these walks interesting and informative.
The dogs enjoy the break and wait in hope of a tit-bit from our lunch. Sometimes they win sometimes they don’t – ok, who am I kidding, they always win! There always seems to be a little bit of bun left from my knot…… and don’t they know it!
We’ve got a stunning day and although it was a bit chilly when we started it has certainly warmed up nicely now and nice to relax in the sun to eat our lunch.
Time to go again, and this track is an in and an out, so we head back off the way we came. The track is ever so slightly an incline in each direction – a very gradual meander as we make our way back towards the boardwalk and back around the hillside.
Eventually we are back in the Mahinapua Scenic Reserve and onto hard packed gravel to meet the junction of Picnic Point. This time we leave the main trail and take the little detour up into the forest. This is true blue forestry single track – loads of tree roots and sharp little inclines – gotta keep your balance and use some real mountain biking skills. It is a fun little semi technical section. Of course what goes up generally must come down and being named picnic point you’d assume you’re going to end up somewhere with views and to relax……
First though there is a small section of un-ridable downhill, very steep, rocky and tree roots all intermingled, so we leave our bikes at the top and negotiate our way down by foot. It is only a short section and soon we are at the lakes edge.
From Picnic Point you can see right across Lake Mahinapua to the main camping and picnic spot off the main road. The lake is a bit chopped up today but the dogs are happy to have a reprieve from the heat and jump into the water. Ziggy typically finds a stick to play with and we have to play catch for a short while before heading back up to get our bikes and bike back out to the main track.
From here it is only a short fast ride back to the car park, ready to load up and head home in time for our afternoon checkins. aaahhhh, another great day exploring some history of the West Coast – always a bonus when you can explore with your mountain bike.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation 14kms north of Greymouth on the Punakaiki coastline, West Coast. They are often out exploring the wonders of the West Coast so check out their activities page for further adventures and things to see and do. Breakers is proudly rated #1 on Tripadvisor for B&Bs in the Greymouth area.