Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Heaphy, Friday 15th to Monday 18th May

What a TRIP.  Couldn't have gotten better weather, given the time of year - and we missed the shit weather by a day.  So mint.

Thursday night, left work at 3.  Nelson showed at my place and we loaded my gear into his car, departing 4ish, and I took the Fiat north a bit (going back from just past the Palms for my water bladder - putting me nearly 20mins behind Nelson), parking in Geisha Rd just this side of the Ashley River, so's Nelson wouldn't have to come all the way back into town to drop me off. Drove north and got into Karamea just after 9pm, stayed at Rongo's Backpackers on recommendation of Wazza (who's truck was parked there while he was northwards on the track (in the rain)).

Pissed down overnight, but dawned fine with slightly higher cloud.  3 other bikers from chch eating breakfast with us, were flying to Brown's Hut and would meet us at Mackay.  We headed north and then Nelson started faffing - taking about an hour to get his Thule freeloader rack set up and both ready we set off about 10.

Kohaihai to Mackay
Trail a very well built chip, the odd wet spot, and native bush all around.  Across the first of many big wide easy swingbridges then through jungle and onto the climb.  Met a few riders early on, then after the saddle over to Scott's Beach we met someone who knew Wazza and then eventually Wazza himself, on his first dry day, riding out from Heaphy Hut.
Got rolling and along the coast.  Heaphy hut in an hour and half or so, washed sand off bikes, re-lubed chains, chatted to DOC worker guy, then 12ish off up the Heaphy River a few ups and downs but mostly flat.  One 'narrow' oldskool cable bridge to cross. Then flat bits and one up and steep down then flat and Gunnar River crossing on big swing bridge, then massive massive rata tree just off the track,

(bike set ups visible here, my Ground Effect El Taco bag (with sleeping bag) on the handlebars, and Twin Needle fluoro orange bumbag on the seatpost, Nelson's sleeping bag on front, a few clothes on back)
After the tree, more flat and massive Heaphy swing bridge and a minute later the Lewis Hut.  Stopped here and put a kettle on for the first of many dehy meals.  Motorbikes turned up with DOC guys on them, one of whom came in and chatted to us.  They'd just had the wettest week of work working in muck up on the track.  Got rolling again at 2 and hit the climb.  Steady as she goes.  Long and slow, lower back getting more and more sore from the weighty backpack, but managing somehow.  About half way up, one mudhole nearly sent me over the bars when my front wheel disappeared into what I thought was just a shallow dip, and it was so gloopy we actually got the squirty bottle out and cleaned it all off.  Another 45 or hour and we finally made the James Mackay hut 4ish.  A couple of trampers in residence already, and then umpteen more bikers and hikers turned up.  Later I think I counted 14 bikes parked out front (all going the opposite direction to us).
Tales told and night slept.  Kiwi heard during a trip to the toilet in the night.

Mackay to Perry
Saturday dawned sunny and clear, quite cool.  Amazing views all around, stunning landscape.  Hit the trail 9ish and were welcomed with minimal climb then nice descending through wicked landscape of subalpine and stunted forest and open bits...  Climb for a bit then quite a descent, running into Hut Warden Steve, then more descent and boardwalks and boardwalks then maybe a gentle climb to Saxon hut for a snack, meeting more bikers coming the other way here.  Got rolling again, bit of climbing then quite a long descent down into the Gouland Downs, talked to an american girl riding on her own after watching her get her feet wet crossing the Big River, so for us it was on the cable bridge to keep our feet dry, and master our cable bridge techniques - Nelson's sit seat in pack waist-strap, hold top tube with one hand, cable on side with other - me (here in action), wheelie, bouncing over the bracey things...
 Spotted a falcon here, chasing smaller birds, one of which disappeared as he passed through them...  Onwards short climb into the scrobbleforest, short limestone karsty bit all in mossy forest, very cool, then openlands and the Gouland Hut.  Moar snacks.  Down to the Cave Brook and then climbing up big lonnnng ziiggs and zaggs on open red tussocky low scrubby rocklands, past the boot pole, and on up then back into bush, rocky trail climbing, couple rode past, and then my knee incident.  Following Nelson, possibly a downhill?, and his little tool bag fell off so I holla'd and stopped to pick it up.  Caught him up and as we got moving again, a strap on my pack caught my seat and unbalanced me, making me tumble to the left, nothing but my knee stopping my fall with a very large rock.  Smack.  Ouch.  Thought what a terrible place to be broken, but rode on and it was sore but manageable.  Another 20 mins or so, and 12.30 we were at the Perry Saddle Hut.
Bunch of bikers through, we ate lunch, claimed our bunks, left gear, got set up with minimal and hit the trail for Brown's Hut.

Perry towards Browns and back
Kinda rough hard track, quad-bikeable, indeed evidence of days prior quads visible.  Slight climb from hut then highest point of the track at 915m and the down began.  Back and forth in and out of valleys, patches of windthrow allowing views to the valley below, and a few kms down the Aorere Shelter.  Met a three, then a Paul on his Pugsley, then the four women, all three groups of which we would get to know over the rest of the trip sharing spaces with them for the next couple days.  All were surprised at our choice of riding down and back up.  Rode and rode and rode and slowly the valley below got closer to us.  Finally at a bench  not long after the Shakespeare Flat turn off, we thought "just another 10 mins or so", and continued on down to pretty much the last big corner, maybe a km from Browns Hut.  Nice view over the Aorere Valley, with still a bit of altitude we didn't want to have to claw back.  I took off on my way back up, as I was by this stage tired and running on not enough food.  At one of the big scoured out creeks, Nelson had spotted a Chamois up above, which scarpered into the bush above.  A km or so later there it was on the track, and from here on up, past the Aorere Shelter, we encountered it regularly, - round a corner, he'd see us, pronk away around the next bend, and then we'd round that and he'd pronk away.  Graceful and fast and effortlessly.  According to my mapping done at work, this is the northern most Chamois seen in NZ.  He disappeared at the highest point and we rounded the corner and had a fun rocky descent to the hut.  56kms done and dusted for the day.

Perry to Heaphy
Sunday, relaxing start to the day and got going 9ish i think.  Another beautiful sunny day, tho cool.  Clambery rocky climb to start then rock garden start to a long lot of descending, through forest, then eventually out into the open with views galore across the Downs.  Caught up to Pugsley Paul out here. (note a change in my set up, with sleeping bag in backpack, and minimal stuff in the El Taco, which now sits on top of stem)
Met a few riders on their way back through.  Stopped to look for whio on Cave Brook, no dice, and then we were at Gouland Hut, with a couple of the previous night's trampers stopped there too.  Snackage then on into the scrobble forest and out onto the flat, Shiner Creek, no whio, across the ford, and then Big River, over the bridge, and climbing for a bit before descending with a few creek crossings.  I'd lost sight of Nelson along here, and then one of the ladies came into view.  Just about on her when I blazed through a creek crossing and lost my chain.  When I put it back on I could hear the air leaving my tire, and as I'd not long passed the Hut 1km sign, figured I'd walk.  Took a while and finally made the hut, Saxon, patched, and ate, and chatted.  Paul riding through while we were there.  Then we were off again, passing Paul on a bridge, and at one stop further on I could hear a quiet hisssssss from my rear tire.  Wasn't going down fast so just kept riding and stopped about 5 times to put air in it before Mackay.  On the way up the flanks of Mt Teddy ran into the group of three and Hut Warden Steve and someone else.  Finished this climb off and then swoopy fun descending began, for ages down down, one or two ups but mostly down and all the while scudding fog rushing by, my beard picking up moisture galore.  Closer to Mackay hut and it got colder. Finally, in full on cloud rushing through, lunch at Mackay, change of tube, and warming up.  While here most of the others all rolled in at various times behind us.  Also, while here Paul must have snuck past without stopping.

Ready to go, descending time...  What a trip.  Best part of the whole ride.  Flow, and berms, and a little tech, and speed and caution and bliss.  Paul's Surly Nate tires had left a nice phat tread in muddy sections ahead of us.  Descended for aages.  Total descent took maybe 40 minutes, maybe longer?  All the way thinking, when is it going to end?  But the views through the trees of the river miles below ever telling us, much longer.  Eventually, Lewis Hut came into view, and we pulled up here to find Paul.  Chatted, snacked and then got going again following him a over the big Heaphy River bridge.  Then it was Speeder Bikes zooming through the forest.  Nelson and me kept a really good pace from here on to the Heaphy Hut.  Blazing.  Any ups slowed me right down but the flats and downs I kept a high cadence and we just blasted along.  No time flat and we were at the hut.  Both had a wash in the river, and cleaned off bikes, and set up shop and chilled out.  One by one the various riders and walkers dribbed and drabbed in, up to a few hours behind us, and a pleasant evening was had.

Heaphy to Kohaihai
Final day, early start on account of wanting to beat the high tide at Crayfish Point.  Left about 8, and got into the groove again, blazing along.  Weather starting to change, tho still a bit of sunshine around, we got our only rain along here too.  Caught Paul maybe 20minutes in (as he was taking this shot!), and rode on.  Got across the beach no problem, tide still low enough, and still sign of yesterday's footprints and tire tracks in the sand.  Snacked half way up the climb from this beach and was here we donned jackets for the rain.  Scotts Beach finally, and the last climb (where we met Wazza on Friday), to the top, and descending again, around throught bush and across the big bridge,tide high, 9.45 we eventually rolled into Kohaihai.
Brilliant 3.5 days had.  Changed, dried, packed, chatted with Paul, who had realised he'd left his phone behind at the Heaphy so was changing his plans and going back through.

Hit the road, saw the american girl from Big River in Karamea and did some much needed bike maintenance for her, real food, then driving to Westport, more real food, and Christchurch bound.  Home just after 6pm Monday night, just in time for dinner.  Yum.

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