We’ve been in the South Island a year now and it was time for us to explore the West Coast – an area often overlooked by the tourists. We drove from Nelson through to Murchison, then over to Westport and down the coast to Greymouth for an overnight stay. Then came the highlight of our trip – a cycle ride on the famous West Coast Wildnerness trail. The entire ride runs from Greymouth to Ross (a total of 117 kms), with large sections of the trail running parallel along the coast and the main road. But the middle section runs inland to the hills. That’s the section we targeted.
Looking at the map I figured the best location to begin was about 10 km south of Greymouth by the old railway bridge. But first we needed somewhere to park the car, preferably off the main road. We drove up and down looking for somewhere safe. It wasn’t looking good. “Let’s just be cheeky and knock on someone’s door and ask to use their driveway,” I suggested. So we did – and found the perfect place, with a delightful lady who was very happy to help. “No problem,” she said, “go ahead.” We parked and off-loaded the bikes. Now it was time to gear up and hit the trail.
I knew the trail had high reviews, but the trail exceeded my expectations. Every 10-15 minutes the landscape various from bush to rainforest to creeks and rivers, then wetlands, along logging tramways, some back country roads and along old railway lines. The only sounds we could hear were the birds in the trees and the crunching of the tyres on the trail. If I didn’t pinch myself, I’d think I was in paradise. We experienced the wonder of God’s creation at it’s best.
We had a good laugh when we arrived at Kumara, a small settlement on the way inland to the hills. Obviously, things were picking up with the influx of numerous two-wheeled travellers! The Hotel was freshly painted and upmarket, with new accomodation being built behind it. We even found a new subdivision – it’s called 4th street (after 1st, 2nd and 3rd which had been there who knows how long…)
The West Coast is notorious for it’s wet weather. The best time to visit is March-April. So we were right in the zone-and we caught the best. Blue sky, no wind and temperature just right for a good work out. Kumara to Cowboys Paradise is a climb. We were gearing down considerably as the day wore on. Both Francelle and I invested in some decent cycling shorts and after a couple of hours in the saddle were very thankful for this!
I’m glad we weren’t in a rush. We had time to stop and take in the sights and the sounds of the landscape surrounding us. The water views were beautiful and we slowed down and often stopped in the middle of the trail, just to get a good look.
Two and a half hours in and it was time for a break. I didn’t feel hungry, until I started eating something and then realized I was hungrier than I thought! We scoffed down some of Francelle’s home made fratata (a yummy vegetable and egged-based dish), followed by museli bars and fruze balls (great trail food) and some pears fresh off a friend’s tree in Nelson. Then it was time to hit the road again.
The last 10k’s were probably the hardest – and steepest of our trip. But we knew at the end there was Cowboys Paradise (a remote rustic accomodation in the middle of nowhere), a shower (hopefully) and a decent meal. So that was worth the peddle-pushing. We finally came out of the bush into a clearing and found a sign: “6 km to Cowboys Paradise”.
Francelle needed to stop and I consoled her with the thought the end was near. As it turned out it was mostly downhill – and boy, did we enjoy that downhill ride! We crossed a number of fords, weaved down a bush trail and arrived at a clearing with the kind of rough accomodation you would expect in the middle of nowhere.