Mountain biking the Heaphy

I set off for a three day mountain biking trip of the Heaphy Track. I had planned to start on the Golden Bay side and cycle through to the Karamea end and then return again by bike. The weather didn’t play nice and I cut the trip to two days but it was still enjoyable.

On Thursday night I drove to Brown Hut at the start of the track and stayed the night there. I shared the hut with a family who had the fire roaring.

On Friday I set off earlyish and followed the saddle up to Perry Saddle and then on to Perry Saddle Hut. There was a mix between sun and cloud but it was generally quite ok. The track is wide and well formed like all great walk tracks are. It’s quite a solid climb up to the first hut and I had morning tea there before continuing.

Leaving Brown Hut (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)On the first ascent (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)Track (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)More track (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)

1) I set off from Brown Hut in the morning. All smiles. Pretty much.

2) The track is mostly smooth and wide like all great walks are.

3) The track climbs steadily to Perry Saddle.

4) More track.

I followed the track as it wound it’s way down from the saddle and onto the flat tussock lands. The descent was quick as the track had turned to a smooth sandy highway. The Gouland Downs hut is an older thing that’s been painted in red and green and looks great. It was packed full of hikers eating lunch so I continued on to Saxon Hut, just 5 km away. The weather had deteriorated somewhat. It had turned grey and windy. I ate my lunch in the hut and got back on my bike.

I thought I’d head on towards the next hut and if the weather were still good drop my stuff and go for a ride further along the track. Unfortunately as I rode across a bridge I did a silly thing. I was faffing around with my GoPro on my handlebars trying to record the bridge crossing. I clipped the wall at the side of the track over compensated and rode/fell off the side of the track to the left. It was a bit of a drop and it could have been unpleasant but I wasn’t at all hurt. After lifting my bike back onto the track I discovered the front brakes were jammed on and then shortly after I discovered I’d put a whole in the sidewall of my back tyre. The goo inside the wheels was struggling to patch the hole.

Descending from Perry Saddle Hut (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)The Gouland Downs Hut (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)View across the tablelands (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)

Still sunny (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)

Blue sky (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)Disaster (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)

1) From Perry Saddle I descended towards the Gouland Downs, a flat scrubby tableland.

2) The Gouland Downs Hut is a pretty old style hut that sleeps 8 people. I took a peak into the crowded hut and then continued on my way.

3) There are a bunch of streams and rivers running across the downs.

4) It was still sunny as I made my way towards Saxon Hut.

5) View out across the plains.

6) Oh, oh, disaster strikes. A moment of inattention cost me an hour of bike repairs.

It took about an hour for me to unlock the brakes and put a tube in the back tyre. By this stage the weather was looking not so good and I decided just to try and get to James Mackay Hut. My brakes were jamming again as I rode the last few km in the first spots of rain. The hut was big and spacious and had a fire going in the corner. I met a bunch of nice people and we spent the evening chatting away.

Due to the weather and bike status and forecast for Sunday I bailed on Saturday morning and rode back the way I came in the cold and rain. There had apparently been snow at Perry Saddle in the night but it had all melted by the time I got there. After stopping at Saxon Hut to warm up my socks on the fire and grab a bite to eat I decided to carry on  at Perry Saddle rather than stop. I bumped down the track passing people heading out on bikes for the weekend. It was dry but grey at the car and I bundled my muddy wet gear into the car and drove back to Nelson.

Riding out in the rain (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)Misty trees (MTB Heaphy Oct 2020)

1) It was a cold and wet ride out but it was unpleasant as I was climbing enough to keep warm.

2) There was some mist during the descent to Brown Hut but it cleared as I got lower. The mud remained though. There were people walking and riding up the track. I wonder what they will think of the worsening weather.

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