Day 42 | Haast to Makarora

The seventh day of awesome.

Date: 9 March 2024

Just when you think the West Coast has shown you everything, she finds something else to top it off.

We’ve often driven down here over 1 – 3 days, but we’ve just been 100 times more impressed by it at bike pace, without the shell of a car insulating us from the details. The cliffs overhang more, the trees are close, birds fly in front of your face, the cows in the fields answer when we say hello. And people we met 5 days ago reappear and it’s like meeting old friends.

Another day of clear skies, waterfalls cascading down massive cliffs, wonderful river and mountain views and, as a bonus for the ride into the Gates of Haast, a bit of a tailwind.

We sipped the battery power, wary of The Hill ahead, and 40 km in, at that great example of mega scenery, the Confluence of the Landsborough and Haast Rivers, we (one of us – ed.) had used only 15%.

A wee surprise at Pleasant Flat  – I was visited by a Red Admiral butterfly -recently voted New Zealand Bug of the Year. It’s the first I have ever seen, and I won’t need the one blurry photo I managed to get because I’ll never forget the vivid splash of red as it landed and slowly laid its wings flat.

Nearly all the climbing, about 400 m, is done in one brutal 7 km stretch – some of it, at 15% gradient, needing a shot of Turbo.  We consumed about 40% of the battery in this one short section, however, with enough to spare, once over the second rise, the last 18 km into Makarora with a headwind wasn’t a problem.

We had a small room in the ‘stables’ at Makarora’s ‘Wonderland Lodge’ which may have earned the title when it opened but don’t expect too much lodginess now. Jill brought our bikes inside in the middle of the night when she discovered her bag had been ripped by a kea, with some of our breakfast going down the throat of the thieving native beast.

Supplies: Stock up in Haast, or have a meal at the Wonderland restaurant if it’s open, or the country cafe.

Accommodation: Wonderland Lodge

These videos are best viewed on a computer screen. Turning your phone sideways helps.

Total distance: 79.2 km
Max elevation: 572 m
Min elevation: 10 m
Total climbing: 1111 m
Total descent: -800 m
Total time: 06:24:20
Download file: day42.gpx

Battery use: 79% | 495Wh. We worked hard up to the Gates of Haast, 50km and used only 23%, but the 16% grade at the start, and every other paper that was more than 13% had me using turbo. At the top, a climb of 480m, we had 40% and then the wind turned into our face and we kept the power on for the last 18km.


Day 36 | Greymouth to Lake Kaniere

West Coast Wilderness Trail

Date: 28/2/24

An easy 20 km of flat riding through the dunes along the beach and a lovely forested section lead to a remarkably indifferent coffee at Kumara, then we set off on my favorite section of trail in the country.

The scenery changes constantly from reservoirs and canals full of reflections, to beautiful bush with glimpses of snowy peaks in the Alps, all on access roads or small very well-maintained single tracks. We paused at Kawhaka to remember Paul Sinclair, a true blue Coaster, who, four years ears ago, invited us to sit and have a yarn over billy tea in his little lean-to shack. He passed away not long afterwards, and we felt a bit sad that after all his work in creating his “Trapper’s Rest”, it is now just a few scraps of rubble, although his corrugated iron chimney is still standing – I hope forever. We have a photo of that day in the album.

The dozens of switchbacks below the infamous Cowboy Paradise were as much fun as always, and the Arahura Valley in full sun was a treat on our way to stay with Jill’s rellies at Lake Kaniere – a place so beautiful and special we never tell anyone about it.

We’ll wait out some weather, maintain the bikes and relax for a few days here while planning the rest of our tour. From here on we expect to be mowed down by some (in fact probably all) of the Tour Aotearoa brevit that has begun to catch up with us – about 200 young, fit, fast riders all heading for Bluff at about twice our speed.

Supplies: Greymouth has everything you could need.

These videos are best viewed on a computer screen. Turning your phone sideways helps.

Total distance: 70.33 km
Max elevation: 332 m
Min elevation: 2 m
Total climbing: 934 m
Total descent: -793 m
Total time: 06:51:01
Download file: day36.gpx

Battery use: 74% | 465Wh


Day 34 | Maruia to Reefton

And still one more pass

Date: 26 Feb 2024

This time, the Rahu Saddle between Springs Junction and Reefton. Every time I’ve driven this road it has just been a windy, climby, slightly attractive way to get to Reefton, but at bike-speed it’s a lovely ride, with light, courteous traffic, through beech forest with a river beside you – the Rahu on the way up; the Inangahua going down – and a glorious, almost continuous 25 km downhill run and through the gorge to Reefton – another small town I like being in.

It was nice to be tooted at and waved to by what seemed like most of the of the 900 motorhomes that that been at the national rally in Reefton over the weekend – thankfully coming towards us. These much-anticpated events are well publicized, making them easy to avoid.

Don’t miss the Great Sequoia opposite the Nurses’ Home where we are staying.

And from Maruia, take the lovely, empty gravelled West Bank Road along the valley to Springs Junction – although the traffic on SH65 on a Monday was a helluva lot less scary than the Sunday mob, who were, no doubt, all speeding to church.

Supplies: GAS station at Springs Junction has a basic cafe. Reefton has everything you need.

Accommodation: Nurses’ Home

These videos are best viewed on a computer screen. Turning your phone sideways helps.

Total distance: 66.39 km
Max elevation: 700 m
Min elevation: 193 m
Total climbing: 659 m
Total descent: -817 m
Total time: 05:04:38
Download file: day34.gpx

Battery use: 72% | 450Wh I wasn’t really trying to save power today, just felt like an easy day. Isn’t that why we spend a fortune on these battery powered toys?


Day 33 | Murchison to Maruia

Another day, another pass

Date: 25 Feb 2024

Comments by Jill today
Well the weather gods are still on our side. Some rain last night, with an impressive thunderstorm that shook our wee cabin, but this morning it was fine again. Bought our Tutaki pies for lunch then had a lovely ride up the Matakitaki Valley, past what is thought to be the first electric power station in NZ, and across the river at an impressive gorge to the site of the original Matakitaki township, 30 km south of Murchison. What a godforsaken spot that would have been in winter. From there, the road became Steve’s favourite for a bit  – smooth gravel with a grass strip in the middle. We ate the pies, transferring their weight from the bikes to us, then set off up and over the saddle. It’s an easy 4WD gravel road, 7km up and 3 down, and comes out on to SH 65 about 35 km north of Springs Junction. The six fords were all shallow, despite a bit of rain last night.

Lovely beech forest all the way – similar to the Braeburn saddle we did yesterday, but a bit longer.
Relative luxury tonight – we have a proper motel room at the Maruia motel and fishing lodge. Guests can use the school swimming pool right next door, so I did, and being Sunday, had it all to myself.

Supplies: Buy in Murchison. The Maruia Motel can supply excellent home-cooked meals with 24 hours notice.

Accommodation: Maruia Motels

These videos are best viewed on a computer screen. Turning your phone sideways helps.

Total distance: 61.6 km
Max elevation: 582 m
Min elevation: 168 m
Total climbing: 970 m
Total descent: -801 m
Total time: 05:20:24
Download file: day33.gpx

Battery use: 77% | 480Wh. Only used about 25% for the first 35km, and that only because I was feeling lazy. The pass took a lot and then I left it on eMTB for the 17km of SH65, mostly narrow and small to non-existent shoulders because I’m nervous in traffic. Can’t get used to it.


Day 31 | Wairau Valley to St Arnaud

The Blenheim whine tour

Date: 23 Feb 2024
Grade: 2

Well, it was a 67 km gentle but relentless climb with a headwind, past a lot of world-famous-in-NZ wine labels, and we did enjoy it really, but we might have grizzled a little because it was hard work and just a bit tedious, with the long straight roads and endless rows of grapes. We did find a lovely spot on the river for lunch – Kowhai Point DOC reserve. The final climb wasn’t too much of a hassle but we were lucky to have found Tamara’s place on AirBnB, 30 km up the valley from Renwick, because in the end I used 92% of my battery and I was working hard all the way.

We’re staying at the Alpine Lodge (backpackers section) in the attractive village of St. Arnaud. It’s on the shore of the lovely Lake Rotoiti, and it doesn’t have a main street full of cafes, or motels, or bars, but it does have great pizzas. It’s a good place.

Supplies: St. Arnaud Service Station. Excellent pizzas (and more) at the Alpine Lodge

Accommodation: The Alpine Lodge Backpackers

These videos are best viewed on a computer screen. Turning your phone sideways helps.