I’m familiar with the requirements and rigours of solo cycle touring. Packing everything I need; clothes, food, camping gear, stove and assorted spares into a couple of panniers before cycling off into an unknown future with only a vague destination in mind. A cycling holiday is something entirely different.
I’ve participated in several supported cycling holidays most notably the annual Great Victorian Bike Ride (GVBR) where up to 5000 cyclists of all ages undertake a fully supported mass participation ride of around 650kms. Cycling through rural and regional Victoria following a predetermined route. Such events are akin to a medieval army on the march.
In February 2019, Therese and I cycled the famous Alps to Ocean (A2O) trail in New Zealand from the snowy peaks of Aoraki (Mt Cook) the 310kms to the restored Victorian era Steampunk city of Oamaru on the East Coast. Rather than bring our own touring bicycles from Australia, we hired mountain bikes which are more suitable for the gravel and dirt tracks and we camped along the trail in our own tent.
The A2O is a challenging mixed terrain ride through some of the most impossibly beautiful country you could ever imagine. Even before we completed the trail, we were planning our next New Zealand cycling adventure, the West Coast Wilderness Trail.
The West Coast Wilderness Trail promised a diversity of landscapes. From rugged windswept views of the Tasman Sea, scattered with driftwood through to dense native forests, lakes and mountain ranges. We weren’t disappointed.
Starting in the old gold mining town of Ross we took a convoluted route through a varied landscape of wetlands. Thick forested timber country, arriving at a tree top walkway that spiraled so high up above the canopy we suffered from vertigo. The highlight was seeing the rare native white heron (Kotuku) the fearless flightless Weka, the beautiful New Zealand Wood Pigeon (Kereu) and hearing the sweet calls of the Tui ringing out from the treetops.
The trail up though Milltown to Kumara was full of switchbacks that cut through fairytale type glades of lichen covered beech forest and tree ferns. We stopped often to enjoy the magical scenery. Our evening’s accommodation was at the aptly named Cowboy Paradise, a rustic wild west shooting lodge on the edge of of the dramatic Mt Tuhua Range.
Rolling down Kawhaka pass into Kumara we gingerly crossed swing bridges over chasms and gorges, with some technical single track cycling alongside water races, over running weirs where the constant shifting earthquake prone environment has impacted on the trail, which in parts, was almost impassable.
Coming out of the mountainous range country at Taramaku Bridge we enjoy a gentle cycle to Paroa hugging the Coast into Greymouth and the end of the trail.
We met many cycle tourists along the trail. Some were fully loaded on touring bicycles and were struggling as the trail is best ridden on a MTB travelling light.
Take extra water, snacks and a friend, the West Coast Wilderness trail is a cycling adventure best shared.