Early departure from camp at Marahau, Saturday 19th, and we convoyed up KaWhaka Hill, with a small issue with Alistair's car, that Pete took over the driving off to test and was actually fine. At Canaan turn off we pulled up and found Norm, Keith (and i think that other guy who's name i didn't catch). Then 4 vehicles, driven by Nelson, Pete, Andrew and myself, hooned down the other side into Takaka to meet the shuttle. Introductions made and bikes loaded, a few locals filling up the seats, and up we headed, and in the Canaan Rd to the saddle and onwards down the hill, over the cattlestop and parked up where the grasslands begin. The four of us were chasing so we left our hosts and headed onwards, staying on the road right through to Harwoods, i think about 30-45 mins behind the gang. Met Alistair and Nico here at the carpark - they were just going to do the short loop, and they told us the others were doing half the long loop, back via the 2nd half of the short. So, off we climbed.
Ground up to the Rameka turn off and onwards, not really remembering this from '09 when we did it on the soaking Golden Bay trip. Climb got really grindy, for a bit, but all pinches were cleaned before the descent (which had held onto Steve's front wheel earlier), which at times was interesting to say the least. Just prior to a wee creek crossing I heard a clicky clicky from my drive train and didnt think too much of it, but as i put the power on out of the creek >SNAP<... bah. Chain tool jobby couldnt fix it so Pete donated a quicklink which got me going again, albeit, from here on out not giving my chain quite so much torque. About 5 minutes later Nelson flatted so we stopped for that too. Then the chase was on, as we hit the saddle we could see some of our group ahead. Reeled them in, on some fun trails, one or two sections across this face were the best bits there was, neat wee gnarl swooping through forest, into a few wee creek crossings, so well made. One or two of the climbs out of some of the creeks along here i missed, but cleaned all the creeks themselves. Just before the detour to the log drop jump I reeled in Keith, and immediately before the 'rock-gap' we caught the others lounging, waiting.
From here, tight trail up to the rock gap which most of our handlebars failed to negotiate, and then a sweet chute down to a sheep/cattle-stop then it was out across open lands, weaving in and out of the boneyards of past forest, and across a long slope the raised trail where they've lain logs together and filled the gaps with trail material. a couple of places the trail material has eroded out, making you ride on the log itself. Along here Steve had an off. Nelson and me caught Marie not long after this and we all hung a right, down to a gate, then down to the first crossing of Gold Creek. Along a whiles and another crossing and then the nice climb on chipped marble/quartz gravel, now stained brown where forest tannin water runs over it, up through a goblin forest, a fun descent then out into the open again for more swoopy descending across and into another forest section with a small climb then blast out and back to the car park. Found Alistair and Nico here again, and the others all rolled in in dribs and drabs and we all settled for some snackage with the robins.
Clambered off up to Rameka turn off again, another quick regroup, camera transferred from Warren's to Nelson's bike, and I led off with Nelson tight on my tail. Pushing hard, this trail section is actually quite hard work. There's not a lot of downwardsness to it, it sticking with the 800m contour for the first couple of kms, then only losing the next 100m over the next couple, so you're really pumping it to keep any interesting speed on. Conditions were awesome, very little moisture about. Some of the creek crossings have tricky exits, making for dabbage and occasional dismounting. Wended our way through the forest, pushing, ever pushing. Finally, you turn that right hander down to the left hander hairpin and the real descending begins, crossing the 700 contour you're propelled into a techy rocky fun time. I actually just about dropped Nelson through here, then you're through the Dozer zone, peeling left into the really tight twisty section, across to the otherside of the Dozer trail and back out for the final clay rutsville corner before heading out in the open gorse country and blazing through some erosion features and finally down to an intersection of trails. We waited here for a while, and then a bit longer, then the others turned up (apparently having regrouped just up the trail a smidge...)
Next section is a blast hurtling down into a gully then climbing that rocky ledge, of which i dabbed the smallest bit i've ever dabbed through here, then rocky rocky and back into a wee bit of bush descent down to top of Pack Track. Another regroup and speed set in. This is possibly the best of all trails, near the top of my list. The speed, the flow, the ease of which it comes at you. Some insane piles of rocks getting thrown at your frame by your tires, the Tomo - we paused and dropped a rock down it... - then a couple of big bermy wall ridey things and then across the road and whoooah, my rear tire is feeling all washy, gotta take it easy, slowing up those on my tail through the jumpy swoopy bermy end before the road. Another regroup and tube replaced.
Into Great Expectations and the grin-factor is just dripping. Flying down here, careful on the off camber outside edge corners but railing the right handers. Into the forest across and around and oh my that IS a long way down (still to descend!) and back into the forest and back and forth and in and out of the edge of the forest and then out into the regenerating bush and absolutely flying. Super careful not to lose front wheels off bridges and scrubbing off speed for some of the corners. Somewhere up here Pete got onto my tail and i was having trouble shaking him, and finally, down to the creek crossing and sploosh through, dropped my back wheel into a hole and stopped... clamber clamber out and Nelson comes barrelling through cleaning it. Then Pete, small dab, but mostly cleaning it. I think everyone else walked it.
2 Klicks next. The fun continued. I led Nelson through the Do section, Pete and Alistair took the Die. I think i like the Do, you stay higher and there's cool features near the end, whereas the Die (i rode a couple years back) you drop straight in then you're grovelling along he bottom. Then into the river bed section, pinging across the tops of the rocks and out up to the road. Regroup. Blast. into 1 Klick. Again, lots of fun. cool jumps, not game for the first even tho it had a ramp on the back side of it - next time. Awesome tight blast down through here, more riverbeddy type stuff, and then eventually a couple of interludes on the road and back into singletrack and finally out and down gravel, seal, mainroad, back to Takaka.
Drove to Nelson.
Total drive train replacement for me in this afternoon. Chain, cluster, front (36t) ring. One of the chainring bolts was made of cheese, so i had to use a ziptie to hold the retainer in place.