We’re back up to Ngakawau to ride the Charming Creek walkway. Making the most of the guests staying who are keen mountain bikers from Vermont we wanted to take them on one of our favourite trails. A great trail filled with plenty of charm.
We meet up at the car park with Lauren and Geoff and also Nina and her gorgeous dog Raewyn – friends from Westport. The dogs are certainly ready for a good run.
Following an old tram line from the sawmill and coal mining days from a bygone era we head off winding our way around the Lower Ngakawau Gorge above the creek. After much rain of late the creek is fair gushing and there are waterfalls aplenty adding to the interest of the ride.
While this is a relatively flat trail it can be a bit of a bumpy ride with many of the rails and sleepers still in the ground from the old tram line. This is great as you are constantly challenged, ensuring you’re picking the best line to limit the amount of bounce – trust me, there is only so much one’s behind can take!
There are a couple of little wooden bridges as we wind our way around the gorge complete with drips from overhangs and the odd puddle between the railway sleepers. Generally though this trail is in great condition – a good wet weather riding option.
Besides the waterfalls the other benefit of the rain of late is the green vegetation. It is stunning – to be surround by a mass of green, relatively blue skies up above and raging waters below – this trail just oozes charm.
We reach the suspension bridge that leads across the creek. It is advisable to dismount from your bike and walk across the bridge but we are all pretty well use to riding narrow trails and love the challenge of the bridge ride. Easy does it – no heroics just get safely across to the other side. Once safely across we are well rewarded with fabulous views of the Mangatini Falls.
We love the local DOC trails (department of conservation) and think these guys do a great job not just maintaining the trails but providing some fantastic information regarding the history of where you are and what you’re seeing. Charming Creek walkway is no exception and there are some great information panels along the way, filling us in on any points of interest.
This trail is fill of wonderful features all adding to the interest and the challenge of the ride. Not to be left out are a couple of tunnels you need to ride through. Now they seem easy enough – you can almost see from one end to the other but these things manage to play havoc with our senses. We start out riding, determined to reach the other end without stopping or putting our feet down but try as I might and it turns out try as we all might we just can’t do it. The tunnel feels like it closes in around you and you’re going to be spat off your bike into an abyss. Of course that isn’t going to happen – there is nowhere to go except hug the side rail. Yes there is even a rail to help guide you – we are pathetic. No, no, it is our senses – an optical illusion but one day, one day……..
The trail now leads to the river flats of Charming Creek and we follow the old railway line for a considerable time through old cutover and farm paddocks before arriving at the historic site of Mumm’s mill.
There are some wonderful relics here left behind from the golden years of sawmill and coal mining days. Many of these relics are under cover to help preserve then for future generations to enjoy including an old log hauler.
We carry on to the end of the trail bouncing and bumping our way along before a short sharp climb up a rocky shelf. You use to go through a tunnel but it unfortunately has collapsed in places so shut off now for safety.
Eventually we arrive at the trail end – or the start whichever way you look at it. This is the original Charming Creek mine entrance with collapsed coal bins, heaps of relics left lying and decaying and the shell of the old bathhouse.
There are some strange people milling around the bathhouse and they look to make a quick getaway when seen.
After our fun clowning around we then head back to the Mill site to have our lunch break. The boys watch on eagerly in hope of receiving perhaps a little treat – only fair they get some sustenance for the run back out too they think.
Time to go and it is a fast pedal out. We certainly rode this in the right direction as it was a gentle incline coming in and now we are rewarded with more of a free ride out – apart from the bouncing over the railway sleepers so still duck and dive picking our lines along the way.
Soon we can hear the roar of the water echoing off the canyon walls as we enter the Upper Ngakawau Gorge and head back into the tunnel ready to cross the swing-bridge. Still no luck on controlling our senses and making it through the tunnel without put a foot down. The swing-bridge however is tackled with ease – careful ease of course and then the final blat along the lower Ngakawau Gorge leading back to the start of ride and the car park.
There are plenty of smiles all round – happy dogs and happy humans. Great to be able to showcase some of our lovely West Coast scenery to our visiting fellow mountain bikers and also share some of the history of the region at the same time. A Charming ride with charming scenery shared with charming company.
Jan and Stephen run Breakers Boutique Accommodation on the Great Coast Road north of Greymouth. They enjoy getting out and about and exploring the many wonders of the West Coast. Named by Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2014 as one of the top 10 regions to visit in the world. We know why.