Day Three – Lees Valley to Bealy – 150km? ish
We had a restless sleep as in my haste to put up the tent I didn't pick an exactly flat spot. Under the trees we were bone dry and there wasn't even the hint of dew. We got up about 6 and were on the road at 6.50am. Breakfast for me was a small packet of Pringles.
The roll down Lees Valley was nice and cruisy and we had the added pleasure of helping a farmer move his stock. The noise of my Hope Hub sure made the cows move!
We nearly missed the turn off to Wharfedale but the arrival of Jimmy and Tor saved us. We followed the track into Wharfedale and I managed to get the four of us lost for about 5 minutes (don't follow the person with the GPS). Once we were back on track the hike to the hut wasn't too bad. Clearly there had been quite a bit of rain overnight as the ground was wet and there was still moisture in the air.
At the hut we stopped for bread and pate, we didn't stop for long as it was drizzly, the people at the hut were loud, and the sand flies were massive. Neither of us particularly enjoyed the trek out of Wharfedale and were pleased to see the car park at the end. As we got closer to the end we saw more and more people. There was one man dragging his young son up the track. The father was saying what a great track it is, the son was just about crying – this is how to put your kids off mountain biking in one easy lesson. We won't be hurrying back to Wharfedale in the near future.
On the access road we took the chance to wash ourselves and our bikes in the ford. Having clean legs and a clean face makes all the difference. Soon enough we heading towards the Waimak Bridge and Sheffield. In the distance we saw a roadie and low and behold it was Michelle. She turned and rode to Sheffield with us. It was great to have some other company and someone to tell our tales too. Richard was waiting at Sheffield and made the smart suggestion we stay at Bealy – thanks Richard. After 2 pies, and a spare in our packs, and posting our camping gear home we were off towards Porters Pass.
As it was Waitangi Day the road heading back to Christchurch was super busy. Porters Pass was better than I remembered, it was just a grind and once we crested the summit we were rewarded with some great downhills only punctuated by the occasional climb that was never too long. By this time the weather was hot and super sunny. We both remarked how great the scenery was and it is somewhere we would like to spend a bit more time in the future.
As we passed landmarks I reminisced about the 2010 brevet and Coast to Coast. The last 21km to Bealy just dragged. We reeled in Jimmy again just before Bealy and he was looking bad!
Hot and sun burnt we arrived at the Bealy Hotel just before 7pm. It didn't take us long to get a couple of pints each and head to our room where we enjoyed incredible views down the Waimakariri Valley. We were able to wash our clothes and get a good meal as well as buy enough food to get us through to Ikamatua 110km up the road. Owen and Michael were also at Bealy and Thomas and Julie arrived later on.
Day Four – Bealy to Reefton – 200km approx
After some sandwiches for breakfast we were on the road at 6.50am and into a pleasant morning. We could see the day was going to outstanding however the first few hours were mighty cold.
We covered the 12kms to Arthurs Pass with ease and passed Jimmy who looked more worse for wear and he was the last brevet rider we came across for over 24 hours. Once we reached the top of the hill it was time for the descent down the Otira Viaduct. At the top I let a fully laden chemical truck past thinking I would rather not have him right behind me – what a mistake! He held us up down the viaduct proper, however it was a great thrill smashing past him and it was a good 15 minutes until he caught us again.
We were cold and seemed to be chasing the sun, eventually we caught it and stopped for a snack at the Deception footbridge (more Coast to Coast reminiscing went on).
Next was Jacksons and then the lovely ride around the back of Lake Brunner. The road surface was great and the scenery neat with a mix of sun and shade. The road to Stillwater dragged and as we approached the Blackball turn off I needed some food and so we decided it was time for lunch. Tim was keen to head to Blackball for a beer but there was no way I was riding up that hill.
I took the opportunity to book a motel in Reefton. The motelier said he would be up late, surely we'd arrive before 11pm? I wasn't so sure as my memory of the next part of the trip was horrific.
We arrived in Ikamatua just after 2pm, and of course the kitchen closed at 2pm! So we had a pie and 2 pints for lunch. We also stocked up at the general store as we knew we would need some food for dinner. Soup and 2 minute noodles were again on the menu.
The sign said 17km to Waiuta but in reality it was only 14km, so straightaway this was a win. We paused at Waiuta for a quick drink and were soon in the Waiuta Track proper. The track was in great condition and clearly DOC has spent a lot of time and money upgrading it. I kept pointing out to Tim where there used to be a stream crossing of epic death, and then another and another, I just couldn't believe the difference in the track.Before long we rounded a corner and there was a generator – odd. As we progressed to the saddle we came across a couple of miners hard at work. They even had huts that must have been airlifted in. It was very out of place and weird to come across this in the middle of nowhere. We reached Big River much quicker than anticipated, this was much aided by the awesome boardwalk across the swamp and all the corduroy steps.
On the way up Waiuta Tim had noticed that my right shoe was falling part. The sole was coming away from the bottom of the shoe, and by the time we reached Big River the shoe was very close to being totally useless.
We had a quick look around at Big River and then were on our way down towards Reefton. I remembered it as being down, but there was quite a bit of up and it was much rougher than expected. Once we reached the access road it was time to use our lights for the first time.
At one stage we rounded a corner and on the hill top in the distance was a brightly lit gold mine, it certainly looked alien and out of place. We arrived in Reefton just before 10pm. I had booked the Bellbird Motel. Malcolm the proprietor was fantastic. He provided some glue and a hairdryer so I could fix my shoe, then being concerned for our welfare delivered some pasta mix and some bread and cheese. Thanks Malcolm :)
Day Five – Reefton to St Arnaud – 200km approx
As we arrived late the previous night and as we needed to get supplies we decided a sleep in until 7am. Neither of us slept well as we had heaters going to dry our clothes and so we were out the door at 7.10 and heading to the Mobil for supplies. My shoes seemed to be holding up OK and so after a sausage roll we were on our way.
The ride up the Rahu Saddle was gentle and we enjoyed the scenery and also the lack of traffic. The sun was again out and I was pleased to be sitting happily on Tim's wheel. A couple of hours later we arrived at Springs Junction. My first stop was the service station as my left shoe had now started to disintegrate and taping my foot into my shoe was the only option. I also taped the right shoe as a precaution.
After a coffee and some chips it was off towards Murchison. This part is really a blur, it was hot, and I was feeling low, my feet were uncomfortable and my butt was starting to feel like I had been riding for a number of days. The climb over the Maruia Saddle was short and really enjoyable and before long we were steaming down towards the Matariki Valley, through beech forest and across white sandy streams. The upper Matariki Valley was stunning, with the rivers inviting and the landscape spectacular. We were offered a cup of tea by some people in a camper van but decided to keep moving. The 29km into Murchison seemed to drag on and on and on. We were exposed to the beating sun and the valley seemed endless and seemed to go up quite a bit too.
We stopped at the River Cafe in Murchison for a late lunch. Food, coffee and a beer later we were ready to. I booked some accommodation in St Arnaud before we left. We got the motelier to leave a key for us and charge our credit card as we would be in and out before their office opened. Again we shopped for packet pasta for dinner.
We headed up the Mangles Valley through yet more thick gravel. It was still pretty hot and every time we paused the sand flies attacked. Just as we reached the road to Rotoroa we saw a guy camped in the full sun on the side of the road covered in a mosquito net. We said hello, we think he was a brevet rider, and he was the last one we saw.
Once at Rotoroa it was on to the Porika track. I took the time to refill my bottles at the campsite and was pleased I did. Even though it was late in the day the temperature was still hot. Porika was steep and took about an hour to climb. By the top my shoes had both come apart again and more tape was required. I was really pleased that I kept Tim in site the whole way up and he was pleased that as he started walking back down to help me I was right there.
At the bottom of the hill Tim nearly took the gate out, and it looked like several other people had had the same problem too. By the time we reached the main road, SH63 I think we got our lights ready and rode the longest piece of straight road I have ever seen. As we had nothing better to do we measured it, and counted out the kilometres as 3.8km. The road felt dead and I'm pretty sure it was a false flat. Eventually we reached St Arnaud around 9pm. We noticed 4 other bikes outside the Alpine Hotel as we passed by to our motel.
The usual washing of clothes and eating followed and then the restless nights sleep whilst trying to dry clothes in front of the heater again.