The West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail-Greymouth to Hokitika
I love the West Coast of the South Island. The fact you can be immersed in some of the densest bush New Zealand has to offer, all within a few hours drive from Christchurch really appeals to me.
Now imagine someone cuts a path through that dense bush and you've got yourself the West Coast Wilderness Cycle Trail, part of the New Zealand cycle trail network that runs from Greymouth to Ross and around 132km in total. We had a few days spare during the holidays, so given the weather was forecast for near perfect conditions, headed to Greymouth to go from Greymouth to Hokitika.
I personally hadn't biked more than 5 kms total in the last three months, so was a little wary about how I would fare on this ride. We called into the local sports shop in Greymouth and bought a few spare bike tubes and the owner let us use the bike pump to inflate the tyres. There were four of us on the trip, and we each had a back pack with the bare essentials. We'd booked ahead at the Cowboy Paradise, which served up dinner and breakfast so we only really had to worry about snacks along the way.
The initial trail leading out of Greymouth, was on a gravel path alongside the river toward the sea at Blaketown. You meander past some of the old wharf relics like cranes and structures. It's a nice gentle cruise to start you off and make sure everything is running smoothly.
Once you hit Blaketown you ride parallel to the coast until you cross the Taramakau River bridge and head slightly inland for Kumara. This inland section is mostly through thick bush and past muddy bogs, at this point it's still mainly flat. The weather was perfect, sunny yet still a slight breeze to keep the temperature down. Soon enough you find yourself at the back of Kumara, a small town with a population of 309. Here you can fill up your water bottles and stop by the local dairy if needed.
Leaving Kumara, the track starts to get slightly narrower and winds around pine trees as you head toward Dillmans Dam, a beautiful water reservoir which is possible to swim in. The water is really clear and pretty inviting.
By this stage we were starting to wonder if we would make it on time to the Cowboys Paradise Lodge in time for the dinner at 7pm so we pushed on wary of an hour or so of climbing still to come. It's an interesting part of the trip, as you find yourself passing these canals which have the clearest water imaginable. As I had used all my water up, I filled up in the river and can confirm that I didn't have any issues after drinking this water. We arrived at Cowboys Paradise at 6.30pm and met Mike the owner, a real character that had been building this place up for 15 years. The rooms were awesome, and the showers were amazing. If you are doing the trip I definitely recommend staying here.
At around 8.30pm the sun hid behind the mountains and the sandflies came out, so it was time to retreat.The next day is one of the best sections. If you're heading toward Hokitika, you'll cruise down the farm path next to cows and then onto a gravel road, eventually ending up at Lake Kaniere. As you hit the lake, you'll see a 15 minute DOC track which you can take your bike on and takes a few minutes. There are toilets at Lake Kaniere and a couple of picnic tables, so this is a good spot for a lunch break before starting along the last path toward Hokitika. It's also a pretty good spot for a swim, if you go past the picnic tables just around the the left you'll find a small beach.
The last section (for us anyway) was to Hokitika, and again the majority of this section was passing through a nice bush track. It goes from track then onto the asphalt road which you'll ride along for the last 15kms or so before arriving into Hokitika, where spent a few hours going to the local museum and the beach, before getting a pre arranged shuttle back to the Greymouth Top 10 at 2.30pm. All in all, it was an awesome trip that's not too arduous, spend some time in the bush and meet some characters along the way. If you have a few days and keen for an adventure give it a go!