Day 3 begins at Cowboy’s Paradise, at the top of the Arahura Valley. I woke up awfully sore from the long ride yesterday and slightly anxious about the descent with a slight tear in my ACL. During continental breakfast, I did some stretching and enjoyed the sunrise over the hills behind the property. Each time I’ve started the day’s trip, it was either less of a momentous occasion than I expected OR I got so far and had to turn back for something. Today, I clipped my panniers on and bid the owners farewell. I mounted the bike and the owner exclaimed, “You forgot to sign the guest book!”. I gently put my bike down and dismounted to sign the beloved guest book. Instead of signing, I drew pictures of the mountains and the valley, horses and sheep, and signed my name at the bottom with the date.
The owner explained that the rest of the trail would be downhill (except for this one spot) so I’d be fine coasting in to Hokitika at the hour I was to catch the shuttle back to Greymouth. He even shared an urban legend of a man who was able to go to Hokitika without even pedaling once. Doubtful, but fun to hear that my trip would be an easy one. I sped off, down switchbacks and bumps of cow poo, screeching my brakes and disturbing the peace. Mountain biking is fun! Mountain biking with loaded panniers and dirty brakes and tyres is not. The owner greeted me at the bottom while he was busy herding cows from paddock to paddock. A long, flat road was ahead, littered with more cow poo. To either side of me were groups of baby lambs, following closely to their momma sheep. The bird sounds were more pronounced. I soon realized, this was a very isolated part of New Zealand and I got a ting of nerves as I pedaled faster through the fields. I saw the 1 hill approaching and sped up. I only got so far before I had to dismount and push my bike. This was THE ONLY TIME I did that the entire trip. I was disappointed but more concerned that it would slow down my time. At the top of the hill, you descend again into the Kaniere Water Race area (hand dug in 1875!).
The amount of water features on this day was stunning. The Kaniere water was crystal clear. The waterway was nestled in the forest, a nice break from the sun, and had lots of crossings. It was, I presume, where mining was done, so the waterways were raised and located on either side of the trail. It was quite magical to witness and flow alongside the water into Hokitika. I won’t lie though, pedaling is required.
Closer to town, roughly 15km out, you meet the road again. You follow it into Hokitika, through neighborhoods, and back out onto the main highway. The trail ends on the path headed out on the Hokitika River, very uneventful. You have to navigate your way back into town at which point, I broke down in tears. My first bike tour was done. Just like that. I achieved what I set out to do. I finished. I completed something. And I lived to tell about it. I still needed to get to the iSite (where I bought a West Coast Wilderness Trail t-shirt– fresh out of the box and I was the first in the world to own one!) and catch a shuttle (and break my bike down into parts, practically) back to Greymouth. This part of my journey was a haze. I was on cloud 9 about having a goal, planning a trip, and doing what I said I would do. Achievement unlocked.
In Greymouth, I plopped my bike back on the train and slept nearly the whole way back. It was a busy Sunday return trip to Christchurch. Upon arrival, the weather was wet, the cold had set in and I was exhausted. I rode my bike back home from the station and collapsed on the floor. I can’t even remember if I had dinner that night. If you ever get the chance to venture out to the West Coast, I reckon I did it the best way possible.
Here are links to the trail and all the info you need to make your adventure as memorable as mine:
West Coast Wilderness Trail site: http://www.westcoastwildernesstrail.co.nz/
NZ Cycle Trail site about West Coast track: http://nzcycletrail.com/trails/west-coast-wilderness-trail/
West Coast weather info: http://www.metservice.com/rural/westland