FABULOUS PHOTOS FROM PHILIP WEBBY
RIDE REPORT BY JUSTIN KENWARD
The previous couple of mtb trips out west at this time of year have involved copious amounts of riding through rain, snow, ice and blizzards. So as two utes stuffed with bikes, bikers, and dehydrated food bowled into Reefton on a blue sky Friday thoughts of bucking the trend were rampant.
Following a relaxed lunch all 6 of us set off for a ramble around the Blacks Point/Murray Creek tracks - a leisurely rail trail climb through lush beech forest and long mildly technical descent with some great mining history to inspect along the way.
Saturday morning dawned somewhat overcast with the silvery clouds threatening to spring a leak and dampen our enthusiasm.
As we approached Blackwater - our ride start point, a little patch of blue sky appeared! We all gazed in awe at this phenomenon, could we be witnessing something special.. a west coast adventure without rain?! Bikes were promptly unloaded with many assorted saddlebags being strapped and tied to our iron horses.
The warm sun inspired as we zoomed up the gravel road to Waiuta. This place was a booming miners town a century ago after a major gold discovery about 1905 and a good amount of time was spent sifting around examining historical artifacts.
A little more gravel road lead us on to the start of the singletrack to Big River hut. This well benched, reasonably technical, beech leaf littered trail is an excellent example of west coast mountain biking and a heap of fun to ride! It was like a trip back in time as we meandered along in no real hurry, stopping occasionally to play "spot the mine shaft" and "whats that bit of iron off" and imagining how people pushed into this initially untracked wilderness in search of the little yellow rocks.
Venturing on we flowed down into the Big River watershed, a long rolling section of boardwalk led us over a Pakihi swamp before the trail dropped down and dumped us on the doorstep of the well situated Big River Hut around 2.30pm.
A lazy afternoon ensued with much jovial discussion about dehydrated meals, hut etiquette, gold mining and the mysterious absence of our legendary ride organiser Kevin Wilson.
Awakening Sunday morning a light drizzle was descending along with a strong sense of deja vu. Questions were surfacing.. Were we again about to endure a west coast waterpark? Did Kevin like organising rides with nautical themes? Why does Eugen shovel coal so loudly at 2am?
Leaving the hut mid-morning the slightly damp half dozen detoured up to check out the Big River mine site and were quickly in awe at the scale of the operation which ran from 1882-1942.
And so began the 25km ride back to civilization. We forded Big River which presently was only an average size stream thanks to the previous 4 days drought and trundled down valley.
The 4wd track was rough, wet and rocky but the blue sky and sun had reappeared quickly drying us out, reinstating the positive vibes and banter. We steamed into Reefton midday the wet weather gear remaining unused, this will surely go down in history!
Cheers to the riders for making it a hysterically historical adventure! Stephen "White spirits" Bradley, David "Postie" Atwool, Keith "Old digger" Westoby, Eugen "Stoker" Stark, Phillip "Dried apple pie" Webby and Craig "Pioneer" Richards who joined in for a day ride on Saturday. Also special thanks to Craig and Katherine for shuttling vehicles for us, very much appreciated! And to the locals of Reefton for their excellent hospitality.
Looking forward to the next one!
Justin "Boiled broccoli" Kenward