From one of our New Zealand correspondents.
The theme for a weekend Ride & Catch-up with friends newly ensconced to the West coast of the South Island.
Alarm set at 4 am Saturday morning, bikes and gear packed Friday night.
A quick meal of oats/porridge a fruity blend number for breakfast.
Another quick look at the forecast, still giving a rather damp outlook that had been unchanged for most of the week.
A few bottles of wine gathered together from an assortment of boxes in the garage and we are set.
The music spotifying some kiwi dub sounds with Blackseeds as we (Donna/Wifey ) & I head towards lake Rotoiti 100km up the road for the first pit stop.
Getting away early we avoid the masses of traffic now using this road since the main East coast highway has been out of action with the big 7.8 earthquake.
Nearing the lake we see flashes of lightning tracing across ink black skies, giving outline of the high mountains in this Alpine wonderland.
The rain starts in light at first then wipers are ramped up to cope with a heavier shower as we pass through lake Rotoiti Township.
Murchison Township is the next village that will have coffee, we push on to arrive a little after 7am just as the doors are opening. Satisfied with the caffeine fix and a stretch we set sail for Westport.
With daylight the ride through the Buller Gorge is stunning with misty mountains and torrents of water flowing down this mighty Gorge.
Arriving in Westport a little after 9am with blue skies and warm temperature,
a breakfast sorts the hunger pains. Car fuelled and off up the coast we head.
First stop is the small mining Township of Granity to catch Pauline and the West coast cats.
With a note left to catch up later we head to Ngakawau Township just several km’s further. Turning off past the Charming Creek Tavern and further up a gravel road we find the small car park that is the start of the Charming Creek ride.
Wheels put on bikes, loaded and geared up we head off, but not from the Ngakawau end.
I decide to ride the coast high road up to Mokihinui Township as to give a little ease for Donna in the climbing department.
The weather going against all the predictions and giving bright sunshine with just a little cloud it’s t-shirt weather as we amble up the coastline admiring views in all directions.
Heading past Mokihinui we head for Seddonville Tavern further up the valley.
This is also the End (or start) of the Old Ghost Road trail.
Passing the tavern and scattered cottages we get into the valley proper and a lovely gravel road rises steadily giving grand views and the sound of streams feeding into the main Mokihinui River.
With a few stops for Donna we make the high point after an couple of hours of riding.
A nice gravel road descent to the carpark which is the beginning of the Charming Creek Trail from this end.
The trail is an assortment of relics which were related to Coal mining. The heyday for full mining operations was 1929 after other mines nearby were less viable.
There is good imformation at various stops through the trail giving accounts of day to day life and the trials & tribulations of a hard yacker!
The trail follows the railway that carried the coal out. Sleepers giving the regular beat as our bikes pass over. With some sections requiring a little more concentration to negotiation, the new Continental Race King tyres recently fitted coping well with the slippery edges.
Dappled sunshine trough the coast forest gives a feeling of travelling through an ancient novel of adventure.
The air is invigorating, with the river a constant companion roaring over huge boulders. Native birds darting about in song and feasting on native flowers and insects.
Passing through tunnels we break out into views of a magnificent waterfall with cooling spume all around, sounds like thunder. We try to find words to describe, but settle on just being there.
Moving on we pass over another of the numerous swing bridges to get beautiful views of the sheer steepness of the environment and marvel at the tenacity of the work that went into pushing the railway line through this landscape.
Another 40 minutes and we head into the lower valley and the widening track that gives a most pleasant coast through grassupthemiddle on the old track.
Arriving at the car after a very special day with the sun still shining we pack bikes back on car, clean ourselves up and head up the road to Mokihinui Tavern for a meal and book in for a nights accommodation.
With night setting in and the fire giving off a steady flame, we hear the rain start in as our meals arrive. A cheers with a couple of apple ciders and a celebration of a fabulous day in a unique part of the world.
Words and pictures – Paul Nicholls