Wowzie, wowzie, wowzie – talk about back country gorgeousness – is that a word? Who cares this was truly stunning.
St James cycleway is a back country mountain bike trek in the back of Lewis Pass and Hanmer Springs. We were cycling a very very small part of it.
To describe it as beautiful just doesn’t do it justice – this area of NZ is absolutely stunning. Am I gushing – heck yes. Am I bias – most probably but seriously take a look for yourself…….
Rolling tussock land in every direction. Towering mountains. Scree slopes. You don’t need much imagination to see why Peter Jackson choose NZ back country for the back drop for his Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies.
We were in Hanmer Springs for the weekend – some great single track riding to be had but had been advised to take a drive and try something a little bit different. We never seem to have much time and this suggestion fitted right in with our time constraints.
Heading out of Hanmer Springs and up Jacks Pass and into the St James high country station. We were aiming for the historic Fowlers Hut – sitting right by the road side and only around 20kms of gravel roads from Hanmer village. The contrast in scenery is amazing. Biking at Hanmer itself you’re in plantation forest – out here it is high country with alpine lakes, mountain peaks, crystal clear rivers (a fisherman’s paradise!), alpine meadows and expansive grassy river flats. The drive itself was spectacular but we were going to be getting right in amongst it.
Our ride wasn’t going to be huge – didn’t want it to be having the dogs with us also but it was a climb. A steady climb for around 6kms, the narrow trail slowly winding its way up around the mountain to reach Fowlers Pass at 1296 metres.
There were a couple of steeper pinches – more noticeable for me as I haven’t had much riding this summer season but generally it was just a gentle gradient with plenty of photo opportunities and good excuses for stops to catch my breath.
The boys were in seventh heaven – perfect pace for them, running along side us or between us as usually Stephen was in front – considerably!
Finally the top of the pass is reached and the views – wow, wow, wow. This truly has to be God’s country! We take a peek over the back where the trail leads. When asking how will we know when to turn around the reply was “if you start doing steep switchbacks you’ve gone too far and are on your way down the other side”. Ah yep these are definite steep switchbacks we can see – so steep you can’t even see where the trail goes – it just disappears down below somewhere. We’ll save that for another day.
Now though…… back down the way we came. Our reward for the climb up – to go back down. Wahoo. Stephen typically barrels ahead. I don’t like to go too fast as I don’t want the boys running too fast – too hard on their bodies. They are super sensible though and know the rules – stay in behind Mum. There are some compulsory photo stop breaks on the way down and drinking stops for the boys too. This scenery though – could soak that up all day.
Magic. Paradise. God’s country. Heaven.
Grins from ear to ear. St James Cycleway thanks for the leg stretch – we’ll be back to explore you some more real soon.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. Together with their faithful companions Nico and Ziggy, they enjoy getting out and about and exploring and sharing their adventures. See their other postings for ideas on things to see and do when visiting New Zealand.