By Reg Churton
Five of us (Kathy, Reg, Allen, Sue and Janette) met at Kathy’s house at Mapua and found that Kathy’s husband Ian was an excellent cook. After consulting Metservice and seeing the rain forecast and the gale force northerlies being predicted a few days after our start we decided to ride the opposite direction than that planned. The problem was we would be riding the Old Ghost Road from Seddonville, not the recommended and usual way, but in our view better riding from the end of the Heaphy to Seddonville (about 80 kms) with a tail wind than riding the opposite way into a head wind.
We set off from Kathy’s riding on the Great Taste Trail to Motueka and then over the Takaka hill to Takaka, about 80 kms. We were forced to cheat on the Takaka hill. Major roadworks forced us to get a ride for about a kilometre. But it was still a big climb with great views.
The next day it was just a 60 km ride to the start of the Heaphy. An enjoyable night in the Brown Hut.
And this was followed the next day by just a 22 km ride to the Goulan Downs hut. However, this 22 kms took us about five hours and it was very wet.
The next day 34 kms to the Heaphy hut with 500m of climbing but a five-hour pedalling day.
From the Heaphy hut it was a 32 km flattish ride to the end of the Heaphy, a stop at Karamea for food and lunch and then a further 20 kms to the hotel at Little Wanganui. The Heaphy was done.
After washing clothes and bodies the next day we rode to Seddonville (36km with 1,000 metres of climbing) and the Old Ghost Road started. 20 Kms on the old Ghost Road and we arrived at the Specimen Point hut.
The next day the weather was great and an uphill ride with some walking of 27 kms got us to the Stern Valley Hut. 27 kms in one day seems an easy day, and relatively it was albeit we did not get till the hut till early afternoon. The day and the views were fantastic.
The next day was the day that proved why it was recommended to ride the Old Ghost Road from Lyell to Seddonville. Just 13 kms but we rode probably about 1 km and walked 12 kms. Walked up the steps carrying the bikes. Walked up the track pushing the bikes. Took us all day. A day we will all remember.
And then finishing the Old Ghost Road, 30 Kms mainly downhill to Lyell. The views were, what views, foggy so we saw little, and the rain kept us cool. Sue’s rear hub broke about 16 km before Lyell. 16 kms would have been a very long walk but it was all downhill. I doubt Sue walked any more than 500 metres. A photo shot at Lyell and the lady who took the photo drove Sue the 34 Kms to Murchison and we rode the very pleasant highway, and we were all on a high having competed the Heaphy and the OGR.
The next day a ride via back roads and Lake Rotoroa and the Braeburn Track and some big hills to Taparewa (96 kms) and for Sue a hitchhike to Nelson as bike could not be easily fixed.
The final day back to Mapua via Spooners Tunnel and the café at Wakefield, an easy 70 kms to finish the trip.
After the Ride
The next day some stayed at Motueka and it was a day when using the bikes was not allowed and anyway with what were huge winds we would not have wanted to ride anyway so we visited the museum, looked at the fallen trees on the golf course and did a three hour walk. The following day three of us plus Kathy’s husband Ian together with Kathy’s friend rode north from Motueka to the Split Apple Rock and our tour had ended. Not to be outdone two of us rode the Coppermine trail in Nelson, a climb to the 878-metre saddle followed by a thrilling (thrilling for some, scary for me) 10 km grade four single track downhill and our tour was over.
Overall, according to Janette’s Strava, a 580 km ride taking 58 hours, an average speed of 10 kms an hour.
The Heaphy and Old Ghost Road includes some serious downhill grade 4 and 5 single tracks. Some loved these, I saw nothing other than the track. Stones and tree roots gave me the wobblies. Janette was the only one who did not have a fall on our tour. Fortunately, apart from small scratches, no one was hurt. Personally, I have said in the past I am happy riding grade 2 and 3 mountain bike tracks and would not ride grade 4 single tracks and on hindsight I should have listened to this. I believe I would have enjoyed walking these two tracks and looking more at the trees and views, albeit I would have to carry a pack, something I find hard. To those looking at riding these tracks I suggest you seriously consider this comment.