Riding the West Coast Wilderness Trail

West coast wilderness trail
Kaiapoi High students tackling the West Coast Wilderness Trail.
136km of spectacular riding amongst dense rainforest, glacial rivers and historic, gold rush towns…the West Coast Wilderness Trail is not to be missed.

The first three sections from Greymouth to Hokitika are now officially open for riding (hooray!) with the final stage from Hokitika to Ross due to be completed next year.

In September, Natural High helped a group of Year 13 Kaiapoi High School students test out the trail prior to opening. Here’s Rebecca Bailey’s account of their trip…

Sun, sea, adventure and friends…

These are the four things that best describe my first cycle tour on the wonderful West Coast Wilderness Track. Our class left all bright eyed and ready on the 23 September all excited for the tour. Before we all embarked on our amazing journey, preparation was in order. We began by grabbing some of the older bikes and learning to change a tyre, chain, brake cables etc. So you can imagine that we were total “pros” by the time we hit the tracks. Next we had to decide where we were going. Out of the many choices our teacher had, we all decided on the West Coast Wilderness Trail from Greymouth to Hokitika past Kumara and Lake Kaniere. With our trusty Natural High bikes and panniers, we were finally ready.

Leaving school at a crisp 9am on Monday morning we travelled the wonderful scenic road to the Greymouth Information Centre. Here we stopped for lunch, and loaded up our bikes ready to leave. After waving goodbye to the locals, we set off on our journey to the racecourse near Kumara.

Our first stage was flat – only taking us about two hours which provided enough time to get used to the weight on our bikes. Although some of the class managed to clip panniers on some narrow gaps between poles on the trail, the roaring ocean scenery kept our hopes high as we carried on to our destination.

Arriving at the Kumara racecourse, we headed in to the dining room and started to find our places to sleep. But alas we were not sleeping here, the bathroom foyer was the only place with carpet so the class migrated to the toilets, separating into the ‘jockeys’ and ‘lady jockeys’. For us 12 females all trying to squeeze into the smaller of the rooms was not easy, and the only male student in our class got the biggest room to himself. “Whose idea was this?” Nice and warm in this wee room, sleep was the next issue; nonetheless we eventually drifted off ready for the next exciting day of cycling.

Waking to a beautiful cloudless day in Kumara, we downed some porridge and packed for the toughest day of our ride. The ride from Kumara to Lake Kaniere, approximately 8 hours (for our class who were newish to cycling) and a “wonderful” undulating track in the heat of a sunny West Coast day. “At least it isn’t raining” Looking to our left and right we passed weirs, reservoirs and amazing backcountry bush and wildlife. The class carried on up the hills chanting “1 and 1” this was how we survived. Although some of us, especially those with a trailer, couldn’t make it up some of the hills. This led to the formation of a walking group known as the ‘Honga Tribe’.

With a lunch time stop at the top of the final hill, we were all refreshed knowing Lake Kaniere was getting ever closer. Following lunch was the highlight of the day, DOWNHILL!!! Picking up speed, (too much speed) we all whizzed past waterfalls and creeks, with the smell of brake rubber filling our nostrils. An abrupt halt at a closed gate stopped us in our tracks. Working as a true tribe, one by one we lifted everyone’s bikes over the locked gate and carried on our journey.

Finally after some more up hills and downhill’s, walking and the sounding of squeaky horns and bells, we arrived at our next location, A HOUSE! In Lake Kaniere. After a long day and some unpacking, some of us headed off to the lake for a debrief and even a swim. Brrr. We had a slightly more enjoyable dinner that night, knowing that we had a spongy mattresses and a good night sleep ahead. This encouraged plenty of class interaction and even an impromptu dance party. We headed to bed while treated to the pink setting sky over the lake and began to look forward to the last day.

Waking to another glorious day on the West Coast, we left our Lake Kaniere rental home with Hokitika now in our sights. Our last days ride wasn’t very long and this showed in the speed we generated up some of the hills. Some uphills and downhill’s, through the forest, along the road – this really capped the trip off for me and I wish to do it again someday, especially when the track to Ross is finished. After stopping for compulsory ice-cream at the local BP, we headed back to Kaiapoi exhausted but satisfied with our first cycle tour.

For some who may have been infected with this disease I recommend next time, you try not to rush because the sights I saw by taking it nice and slow were truly remarkable. If you plan on taking this track allow plenty of time for breaks and some photography as bikes can go places no car can. Also be prepared for rain. Unless you were lucky like our class… Finally have fun and do enjoy yourselves.

Rebecca Bailey, L3 Kaiapoi High, Outdoor Education Class 2013.

Fancy riding the trail? We can provide top-of-the-range bike hire, panniers and accommodation recommendations. Get in touch to set your West Coast adventure in motion…