Another magical winter’s day on the West Coast – perfect for our guests Jules from Auckland and her son Max and his girlfriend Lauren from Melbourne. They are doing a road trip, complete with bikes and skies so lots of adventures along the way – great way to see the country.
During their stay with us they wanted to experience some of the West Coast Wilderness Trail. With it not 100% complete and limited time we wanted to ensure they saw the most scenic part without having to do any road riding.
Our Plan – ride it too! Take two cars – leave our car at Kumara – Jules, Max and Lauren start their ride while we drive to the other end in the Upper Arahura Valley and leave their car there. We would pass somewhere on the track and be able to swap keys. This plan ensured Jules and family rode as much as the track as possible without having to do any doubling back. Jules was also interested in the gold mining history of the region thanks to reading Eleanor Catton’s Luminaries – so this way they would drive through Kaniere and into Hokitika – lots of gold mining history to soak up.
Dressed for winter riding – it is the first frost for us at home and there is plenty of snow on the mountain tops so we know this ride will be cold. It is an early start and passing by Lake Kaniere we have a compulsory stop for photographs. Picture perfect and Stephen couldn’t resist.
Following Milltown Road to the Upper Arahura Valley car park we’re ready to head off. It sure is beautiful up this valley. The trail slowly winds it way up the hill-side heading towards Cowboy Paradise. The views are magnificent – surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the beautiful blue of the river and gorgeous lush farmland. This is farmland we’re biking through – and yes there are farm animals – big beautiful healthy looking cows. Unfortunately can’t quite see them in the photos but they were mighty specimens and totally oblivious to us biking past them.
On through a small section of forest – the Mawhera Reserve and this is like biking through Jurassic Park. I love to let me imagination run wild, all the moss coating the trees and ferns hanging down – fantastic. Then we’re onto the wonderful MacPherson Creek swingbridge – am impressive bridge over a deep ravine or gorge – beautiful what ever it is. Yes that is frost you can see on the boards of the bridge!
We’ve then got quite a bit of 4WD road to follow. Not a used road or well used road anyway and lovely being surrounded by all the snow-capped mountains. Eventually we end up back on single track in the Kawhaka forest and following the Kawhaka river. This is where we meet back up with Jules, Max and Lauren. They are enjoying their experience and blown away with the trail – loving the amazing scenery and wilderness – perfect, just what we want to hear.
On a bit further and we choose this for our lunch spot. Again organised today with a packed lunch – but we have a reward waiting for us back at the Theatre Royal Hotel in Kumara come the end of our ride…….. (you know you can count on me!)
Onwards – can’t stop for too long as it is jolly chilly. The trail now winds its way following the Kawhaka water race for about 5kms. Since leaving Cowboy Paradise we’ve had high cloud but now some patches of blue are coming back and pockets of sunshine to help warm us up a bit. The water race gives some great, moody reflections.
Another 4WD bush section, before we cross a winding boardwalk across the Loopline Road wetland and then we’re riding around the Kapitea reservoir lakes. Gorgeous around here and with the cloud breaking up we are again afforded some amazing and dramatic winter reflections.
Not much further to go now – thank goodness as the legs are starting to get rather lethargic, it has been a long day in the saddle – well seems like it anyway and been incredibly cold. Trust us to pick the coldest day so far this winter to go for a long bike ride!
All good though we soon enter the little historic gold mining town of Kumara – making a bee-line for the Theatre Royal Hotel, the end of our ride – hot chocolate and muffin most definitely in order. A near perfect day out in the saddle and great to experience more of the West Coast Wilderness Trail and better still to share it with our guests.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. Keen mountain bikers and hikers and with Stephen a photographer, they enjoy getting out and about and exploring the West Coast. The West Coast named one of the top ten regions to visit in the world by Lonely Planet – make sure you add it to your list of places to visit and check out the West Coast Wilderness Trail.