We begin Part 2 of the West Coast Wilderness Trail on Day 2, and in the same location as Day 1, Greymouth. The epic drama leading up to today can be found here.
I woke up on Day 2 feeling less defeated and deflated. I walked to town to pick up my bike from Scott at Coll Sports World (the hero from yesterday’s epic adventure). It was fitted with a brand-new rear MTB tyre and I was confident of double booking it to my destination: Cowboy’s Paradise. After the shop, I mounted my steed and headed to the exact same starting point from yesterday. The sun was shining, my sunscreen was on thick, and I was revived. I was reminded that “All the best journeys have a bumpy start”.
I rode back over the gravel tracks I started on, cursing slightly the puncture that slowed me down on Day 1. I looked up and saw the amazing coastline and ignored my drifting mind. Right alongside the airport strip, I looked up and saw a couple riding my way on their folding bikes. I recognised the man in the front. Go figure. All the way out on the wilderness trail on the West Coast was a bike buddy from Christchurch. David Hawke and his wife were traveling along the coast, in reverse order that I was going. They were headed to the train station to go back home. We stopped for a chat and offered advice on the tracks ahead. I was eager to get on with my journey so we separated ways. No time for coffee!
Kumara was 30km from where I stood. I still hadn’t made it to the spot where my journey ended yesterday. I was anxious to see the 12km marker and zoom past it. Along the way, I crept out of the jungle-like trail onto the tracks alongside the farmland. It was littered with cows, horses, and lots of birds. The track is far enough inland, away from the road, you can truly enjoy the nature tunes. I stopped to take a photo. I stopped a lot. How can you not when the ride looks like this?
I was finally on new track and headed toward Kumara. I crossed river after river. The trail juts inland and through private property and rarely puts you on the road with cars. I crossed the Taramakau River on a one-way bridge with train tracks. Let me repeat that. I rode on a one-way bridge with train tracks. This was so scary because I was holding up the traffic on what felt like the longest bridge ever while I was busy dodging getting stuck in the train tracks. It wasn’t like I had room to move aside. I was hoping the cars on the other side could see me and wouldn’t start their crossing. I really should have read what cyclists should do on one-way bridges like that. It was a surprise!
I think one of the coolest things about this track is how often the scenery changes. One minute you’re riding alongside the ocean, the next you’re in the forest, then next you’re riding along a lake charging into the mountains. Soon enough, I was back in the woods. It was a nice break from the sun. I can’t imagine how hot it would get in the Summer. I was also overloaded because I brought lots of rain and cold weather layers. They all came off and were stuffed into my small panniers. There were a few draw bridges before getting to Kumara. By then, I was ready for the day’s first coffee and a BIG lunch.
Kumara has a population of roughly 300 people. It’s a former gold mining town. I ate at the newly restored Theatre Royal. I mentally compared it to the newly restored Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch (listen/watch my talk there about the Brief History of Cycling in Christchurch here). It was so quaint and quiet. I rode up and down the main street in nearly two minutes. I ate my pie and salad and stretched in the sun. I knew the next leg involved some uphills (on gravel, my archenemy) and was a bit longer than the first leg (37km). There are markers along the trail for you to count along, like a game. I’d find myself yelling the number each time I passed one (25 KILOMETERS GO ME! or F*CKING 67! as was the case later that day).
Sometimes when you veer off the trail (as I did when I stopped for lunch), you have to back track a bit to find the orange signs that lead you back to the trail. I rode through a few side streets and quiet neighborhoods in Kumara before the ride along the Kapitea Reservoir. The clouds covered the sun a little and the trail followed the length of the long reservoir. It was spectacularly framed by the Southern Alps, covered in snow. Kapitea met the Kumara Reservoir before changing scenes back into the forest again. Here is where the uphill began. I met a few other riders, enjoying their downhill, as I trudged up and up and up, slowly. I’m proud to say I never once got off my bike to push it. If anything, I stopped to take pictures. 🙂 I was headed to the highest peak of the trip (which by Christchurch standards is small potatoes.). My mantra upwards was, “I eat climbs like this for breakfast!” and gently thanked my training on the Port Hills of Canterbury. This is also where I cried from a slight tear in my achilles. I slipped changing a gear and my achilles hasn’t been the same since.
After the peak, there was small, fun descent through various switchbacks in the Arahura Valley. You finally descend upon the most random town in New Zealand, Cowboy’s Paradise. The story goes, the owner loves the Wild West. He has recreated a small town, including a saloon, gun shooting range, and accommodation to reenact the movies. There was a swinging door and beer waiting for me. I stepped back in time and fully immersed myself in the time travel. Who doesn’t want to enjoy the end of a 67km ride with cowboy hats and a huge feast?! Oh, and there was rugby on the tv. Kiwis can’t live too far away from their beloved rugby. I brought out the wine bottle I lugged up the tracks that day and shared it with an amazing dinner with two other guests from Christchurch (headed the opposite direction) and settled in for the night.
Day 3 adventures to be continued…