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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Great walk = Great ride

(for English texts scroll down)
Hace ya casi siete años por “equivocación” y en puro estilo “guerrillero” (info detallada solo por via interna) caminamos con la Marce el Kepler Track, una de las nueve New Zealand Great Walks. La pateada fue memorable y desde entonces siempre he tenido curiosidad de saborear alguna otra de las renombradas “Great Walks”.
Hace unos meses, antes de salir de Ecuador, encontré que por un periodo de tres años y a manera de prueba, DOC (NZ Departament of Conservation) abriría la posibilidad de recorrer el Heaphy Track en bicicleta de montaña.
El  Heaphy es la mas larga de las Great Walks con casi 80 km de chaquiñan que van desde Golden Bay hasta Karamea (ver mapa). Los Maori abrieron la ruta hace ya varios siglos para traer “pounamu” y "paua" desde la mítica West Coast; les siguieron los exploradores y mineros del siglo XIX en busca de oro y, hoy por hoy aventureros de todo el mundo buscan hacer una reserva “on-line” para poder caminar la ruta en verano. En invierno, como muchas otras de estas travesías, el Heaphy descansa de los caminantes y hasta Septiembre 2013 abre sus puertas a unos cuantos “bike-packers” que van a pedalear la ruta.
De principio sonaba como una oportunidad que no había como dejar pasar y después de un poco de dudas, análisis de “fore-cast”  y planeación estratégica de logísticas, hace un par de días finalmente estuvimos en el Kahurangi National Park a la cabecera del Heaphy Track. Los caballitos de metal ensillados y aperados. Nuestro plan: pedalear el Heaphy de ida y vuelta en cuatro días.

Seven years ago, by “accident” and in pure “guerrilla style” (detailed info by e mail only) we ended up hiking the entire length of the Kepler Track, one of the nine New Zealand Great Walks. The hike was memorable and ever since I wondered when will I have the chance to do a Great Walk again.
Before leaving Ecuador a few months ago I found out that DOC (NZ Department of Conservation) had opened the Heaphy Track to mountain bikes for a trial period of three years.
The Heaphy is the longest of all Great Walks with 80km of uninterrupted trail starting at Golden Bay and finishing at isolated Karamea (see map). The track was opened hundreds of years ago by local Maori as a route to seek for “pounamu” and "paua" in the mythical west coast. Gold miners followed their footprints in the early 1900s, and nowadays hikers from all over the world book “online” their fast-selling hut pass to do the track in the summer months. In winter, as most of these traverses, the Heaphy sees little traffic and for now, while the trial period lasts, it welcomes a few adventurous bikepackers.
The ride looked appealing to us right from the beginning and after clearing some doubts with the local forecast and sorting out ride and hut logistics, we finally found ourselves at the Kahurangi National Park by the Heaphy Track trail head. Bikes packed and ready.
Our plan: to ride the Heaphy there and back in four days.

-- 17 km of gentle uphill welcome you into the Heaphy Track as you climb 1000 meters towards Perry saddle.

-- Character full beech, podocarp and rata forest.

-- and moss

-- Coming out into the alpine.

-- The terrain on the first day varies from easy smooth gravel to very technical loose rock.
The riding is always rewarding

-- Red Tussock grass takes over as you reach 1000 meters. Welcome to "paramos"

-- and of course many river crossings.

-- Up in the high mountains. Probably my favorite section of the ride.

-- Warming up by the fire on the small  and cozy Goulands Down hut.
-- The second day we started on some of the finest terrain of the ride.  Nice fast flowing singletrack...

-- The smoothness eventually gave up to loose rock, mud and moss.
A technical descent towards the West Coast.

-- On the downhill frenzy both riders did some "close ups" off the side ditches. No injuries.

-- Marcela's menu always features some gourmet surprises. NZ smoked salmon + cream cheese bagels for lunch.

-- giant Rata trees as we reach the lowlands of the west coast

-- All alone in the brand new Heaphy Hut (just opened a week ago). The huts are luxurious for our traveling standards.

-- West Coast sunset. Surrounded by tropical nikau palms and limestone cliffs.

-- After climbing back the long-wet-technical terrain from yesterday we are back on the flowy stuff

-- Arriving for our third night at Saxon Hut, we found company on a left over bottle of scotch! Doesn't get much better...

-- Saxon Hut transformations as the sun rises.

-- "Producto de Ecuador" wood box in the middle of the track... a globalized world!

-- We had to pour hot water on chains and cranks
to wake up the bikes from the cold night.

-- lovin' the red tussock...

-- Rime ice at Saxon Hut.

-- Morning river crossings.

-- Looking out to Golden Bay as we finish the ride. A Great Ride!


  1. Really liked these photos...especially producto de Escocia, and the ski/surface hoar/rime...(which one is it?) Makes me want to visit NZ, seems like an amazing place to bike. It seems crispy cold there, some of my favorite weather. Its amazing to see how familiar and at the same time unique different terrain is. We hope you both are enjoying your adventure, Vic

  2. Gracias Vica,
    I was happy to find some "producto de escocia", it made my afternoon... also amazed by the high quality riding here. Lots to see, lots more to ride.