The Kahurangi Ride Part 1

Most people imagine honey moons are all about lying on beaches and drinking wine in the sunset. We decided that sounded nice, but perhaps a tad boring and unenergetic. We wanted an adventure! So, we put together our favourite things - biking, beaches (particularly wild west coast ones), good food, bush bashing, unexplored territory, mountains... presto! The Kahurangi Moon Ride!

Here is our planned trip
As soon as this plan came to fruition we realised one snag - the Heaphy Track was only open to bikers for one more day this season. Brown Hut became our necessary starting point, and we would have to ride through the track in one day.

Day One
At 8 am the dew at the Brown Hut Road end was just starting to evaporate and the sandflies just starting to gather forces. Another vehicle pulled up with three excited bikers about to ride the track as well - they were catching a helicopter back to their car that night. Using a selection of Revelate gear bags on our bikes and because we had just enough food for a day and a half before we reached Karamea our packs weren't too heavy.

Starting out on the Heaphy Track
We started weaving up through the forest towards Perry Saddle. The sun was out, but the air still crisp. I love the feeling at the very start of an adventure - thoughts about the coming days and what they might bring were in my mind. After an hours climbing we reached a lookout, and then sidled across to the Perry Saddle Hut. From there the track meandered through native bush and patches of high alpine tussock.

The day was heating up, but the temperature high up on the Gouland Downs was cooler. We reached Gouland Downs Hut and I pointed out the amazing cave systems which Mat, Lara and I had explored on a trip into the Heaphy in May this year. We passed a few walkers coming the other way, but no other bikers. The swing bridges which caused hassle in May were avoided as the rivers were easily fordable. After that the track winds up again through beech forest, before emerging at James Mckay Hut.

Bridge crossing just before Gouland Downs Hut
Open tops on Gouland Downs
"This is your last day, isn't it?" A man staying at the hut smugly asked us. The feeling between trampers and bikers on the track seems to be mixed. Other walkers asked us enthusiastically about the ride and track conditions. We ate lunch on the hut veranda - with the famous view down to Heaphy Beach, a tiny bright speck far down the valley.

The descent down from Mckay Hut was muddy, but glorious, swooping through beech forest that gradually transformed tropical jungle dense with ferns and nikau palms. By the time we reached Heaphy Hut it was late afternoon. There was no one around and we lounged on the grass, eating afternoon tea and swatting at the sand flies.
Whale tusk at Heaphy Hut

Enjoying the Heaphy Coastline

A sandy spot required a push
The last stretch out from Heaphy Hut is the best bit of all. The track winds alongside the crashing sea, in and out of the Jurassic-feeling forest. The sun was just setting when we crossed the final bridge at Kohaihai and hunted around for a premium tent spot. Day one was complete - a great start to our adventure.

Day Two
The bugs were biting in the morning, so we scampered through breakfast and then took off on the main road heading for Karamea. The sun was out and so were the friendly people of Karamea, enjoying the warmth. We stocked up at the supermarket and sat on the bench outside sipping coffee and eating ginger kisses.

Then Chris decided it was time for some hard work, so he put attached the tow rope to my bike and started towing, fast! We made a speed ascent of the Karamea bluffs. The descent was long and lovely and warm, so it wasn't long before we were back on the coast at sea level. I glanced back over my shoulder at the height we had come down from and imagined that this must be a mild version of the feeling a para-glider would get once they landed after leaping from a mountain.

We turned off the main road at Seddonville and pulled up outside the sleepy pub. The publican was a friendly man, but he warned of "man-swallowing-sized-boulders" on the ghost road we planned to ride. Unfazed, we drank ginger beer and created sandwiches in the sun.

On up the road we entered the gates to the "Old Ghost Ride" which follows up alongside the spectacular Mokihinui River. After a climb the riding just got better and better, swooping down through some intriguing trees. There were some very exciting sections which we dismounted for - the track winds around some steep bluffs and there is a 200 m vertical drop down into the river. Then follows a series of swing bridges which get you across an incredibly steep bluff, which was a real challenge to negotiate in the early days of the river access.
Amazing bush heading up the Mokihinui River
Biking across one of the numerous swing bridges which span the big slips on the Old Ghost track
Eventually we crossed a small side creek and then we could spot Specimen Point Hut ahead. This is one of the new Huts installed by the Lyell Backcountry Trust. It is a well situated hut, with great views over the river and an ingenious bug proofed deck. We enjoyed some snackerills (Chris word for small food rations) and then continued to the Lyell Hut which sits where the Mokihinui branches into two parts. The far side of the river was farmed a long time ago and I could imagine I had stepped back in time to very early New Zealand.

Great riding up the river
We had an entertaining chat with a group at Lyell Hut. The older men in the group had biked in from Seddonville and were very interested in our bike setups which looked appealing compared to their fully rigid bikes. Chris chatted with them outside, while I got trapped inside the hut with two women on a mission. Their mission: to dissuade us from taking our bikes through the Ghost Ride.
The view from Specimen Point Hut
Having just tramped right through they said it would be entirely 'impossible' to get through carrying a bike. I heartily agreed with them, but the more I tried to agree the more they seemed to doubt my sincerity. Finally I felt I might have had them convinced when Chris entered back into the hut with the older men. "These guys are crazy,"one of the men announced as he walked in. Uh oh! Aware that these blokes and Chris were about to refuel the women's fire I decided it was time for Chris and I to leave right away.

So we were on our way again, riding through some lovely flowing track through beautiful native bush. After a brief panic when Chris missed the track end and proceeded to ride a further 20 minutes up the track while I was left 'coo weeing' forlornly at the junction we made it to the quaint old Goat Hut.
Arriving at Goat Creek Hut
Based on the hut book the foreigners seemed to love this hut for its old character and brightly painted exterior, but to us it seemed like a fairly run of the mill tramping hut compared to the fancy new ghost ride huts. Inside it was dark, but there were too many sand-flies outside, so we stayed in to cook and eat. We needed the awesome fly proof veranda of Specimen Point!

As the dark gathered we eyed up the map. Would we make it through to Ghost Lake? It didn't look to bad on the map... but the ladies words stuck in my head. "It'll be fine" said Chris, so I snuggled down into my sleeping bag and feel asleep.

To be continued....


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