The West Coast Wilderness Trail is one of the newest in New Zealand’s growing cycle trail network. Arriving in Greymouth, where the trail starts, we didn’t know much about what was involved other than that it was going to take three days to complete. We went into the local iSite and asked about the track. We were told by the staff there that the track was totally fine for touring bikes to ride on and that it was flat compact gravel all the way. They even said it was okay for families with young children to cycle. We thanked the staff and left feeling assured that the next three days would be easy cycling for us. The information they gave us turned out to be totally misleading!
This first day to Kumara was as they said (apart from cycling 13kms on the highway) but the rest of the way to Hokitika was way more technical with loose gravel, steep gradients (some being very steep) and other terrain that you would only want to tackle with a mountain bike. This came as a surprise for us but it wasn’t all bad, we like challenges. Although, if we had kids with us or were cycling with others that didn’t have a good level of trail riding ability, we would have been very disappointed with the Greymouth iSite.
Anyway, apart for the bad info we got, the trail was good fun. At the end of the first day we arrived in a small town called Kumara. We inquired with some of the locals about camping in the area and we were told it would be okay for us to camp at the sports ground in town. This was great for us because there was only one place that offered accommodation in town and their rates started at $100 a night. That night was a cold one though. When we woke up in the morning the tent was covered in a thick layer of frost. Luckily we stayed nice and toasty inside the tent.
On the second day, after a breakfast of porridge and coffee, we went from Kumara to Cowboy’s Paradise. It was a very challenging ride for us with our heavy bikes and lots of loose gravel on the ground. It was an uphill cycle for the most part which ment that we made slow progress but we still manages to enjoy the day. Just before we reached our stop for the night at Cowboy’s Paradise, there were two rivers we had to cross. They were too deep to cycle through so the only way to cross was to take our shoes and socks off and walk the bikes over. It being mid winter, the water was icy cold.
We asked again about camping at Cowboy’s Paradise but the owner informed us that it was going to get down to about -10°C that night. I’m sure we would have been okay to camp but we decided to take a room anyway. The guys at Cowboy’s Paradise were great but the place is a work in progess and a lot of it is unfinished. Once its done though I’m sure it will be magnificent.
Day three started with eggs on toast at Cowboy’s Paradise. It was another exciting day on the trail. This time it mostly went down hill with lots of awesome views and good riding along the way. The water race, which is a man made canal that goes through the bush was especially nice. Towards the end of it though we came across four more streams that needed to be crossed and one massive gap in the path that was about a meter wide. We got wet feet again when crossing the streams and we had a bit of difficulty getting the bikes over the gap.
The reason the trail was damaged and the streams had over flowed onto the path was because of the weather. There was a storm that caused a lot of damage on the West Coast during March. A big clean up had already been done on the trail. Luckily all the trees that had fallen and blocked the path had already been removed before we started cycling.
The trail ended on the highway and we finished the last few kilometers on the road until we reached Hokitika. All in all we really enjoyed the whole experience. It was a welcome change to cycling on the highway and it got us off the beaten track. This kind of riding has got me really excited for future bike tours that will involve much tougher terrain. I’m already planning what kind of bike I want to have for such trips.