Exploring The Heaphy Track By Bike
Fresh off the Department of Conservation extending the season for mountain biking the Heaphy Track plans were being laid for a long weekend trip, biking one of NZ's most popular walking tracks in the Kahurangi National Park, north west of the South Island. The trip is 82km and optional to start in either direction. Packing was saved for the day before and consisted of some essentials such as sandfly repellent, sun screen, tyre repair kit, EPIRB, sleeping bag with as many snacks packed in as possible.
We chose to do the North-South route and on reflection was the best as you do a hard grind for the first 3-4 hours then the rest of the track is a bit of a breeze with a stunning downhill section from the James Mackay Hut to the Heaphy Hut. There are multiple options for getting to the start of the track. Our group was 10 guys from Christchurch, so we drove vehicles and met the car re-locators in Motueka who came with us to the start of the track (near Browns Hut). We took about 15 minutes to get all our bikes and gear sorted and left for the first stage to the Perry Saddle Hut at around 3pm. On reflection we should've left a little earlier as some of the group had issues with their bikes along the way so ended up arriving in the dark (trip was end of November). As mentioned earlier, the first leg was a grind to get to Perry Saddle Hut, but the good thing is you're excited about starting the track so in my opinion it's the best time to get the hard work out of the way.
The next day is when the real fun starts. It's a mellow start across a tussocky plateau where you'll spot some pretty sweet views like the one below. We had a bit of cloud in the morning so it wasn't until lunchtime where we could start to experience views like this.
One of the best moments of the trip was having lunch at the James Mackay Hut, and being able to see the Heaphy River Mouth about 35kms away which is where we were staying that night. Why was that so cool? Well, it's 90% downhill, so it's a stunning single track cruise down to your next destination. You'll also be cruising alongside the Heaphy river (below).
The Heaphy Hut would have to be one of the most stunning DOC huts I have stayed at. It's not only situated at a river mouth meaning you get the best of fresh water (swimming, trout) and the ocean (Kahawai, wild waves) though there is currently a marine reserve at the sea side of the river so there's no fishing up until the high tide mark. Make sure you take some sandly repellent though. They're savage here.
The view of the hut from the river (below). The river is perfect for swimming in after the bike ride. There are trout in there. I had my rod with a Toby but didn't have any luck though they were following it.
The ride out the next day was amazing. Its a flat ride along the coast. We struck it on a day where the surf was clean and the sun was out. We even had a pod of dolphins following alongside our group however by this point in the trip my iPhone had run out of battery and died so couldn't capture it. If you get the chance I definitely recommend either biking or walking the Heaphy Track.