Kotatahi, NZ to Ross, NZ

30.0 mi / 9.8 mph / 335 ft. climbing
Home: Ross Beach Top 10 Holiday Park

The cold clear night led to the soaking-wet-est tent we’ve had in some time. But since we had a shorter day of mostly-trail riding today, we just woke up naturally, and eventually the sun rose over the mountains and the rays baked it mostly-dry before I even took it down (that’s never happened, usually it’s just “pack it up wet and lay it out in the sun at lunchtime”!) So I knew we were late getting out of camp, but I suddenly felt really late when a couple with a big RV trailer rolled in ready to take our spot before we were even fully gone. That’s another thing that has definitely never happened!

There are still Dinosaur Chickens on the South Island, but here they also have Dinosaur Ducks (ok, or, “wekas”). They’re a lot less timid than the Dinosaur Chickens, and in fact I think a few of them rustling around in the bushes right next to our tent kept me awake overnight wondering what was getting into our bikes.
Checking the maps identifies this as 8000+ ft. Mount Evans, 30 miles away, over Lake Kaniere.
A water-skier flying over the wake, but he still has a long way to go to the mountaintop.
Lake Kaniere.

The website for the West Coast Wilderness Trail maps out a four-day ride from north to south. Yesterday we did 2.5 “days” (more because doing it in 4 days is silly, not because we’re cycling badasses), so we have 1.5 “days” left to get to the end today. We had a short debate at the end of Lake Kaniere whether we should stay on the road for efficiency, or branch back off onto the longer, slower, but official trail. Since yesterday’s trail was so incredible, and since we wouldn’t be this far off-track if efficiency was our goal, we quickly ended the debate and got back on the trail. And the trail quickly rewarded our decision by being at least as incredible as it was yesterday.

We were back onto a narrow (essentially one-way) track with jungle-forest closed in all around, except when it followed a water race (sometimes boxed in with wooden framing), in which case the trail was just a narrow ridge between two channels (with the forest still wrapping around everything).

Maybe the most amazing thing about the West Coast Wilderness Trail is that the act of riding it communicates the passion and joy that went into constructing it. On most trails, it feels like some enthusiastic bike advocates helped secure funding, but then the county transportation department (who believes their main responsibility is highways for cars) ends up responsible for design and construction. And you end up with a utilitarian path with many cyclist-unfriendly elements. Here, it feels like those passionate bike advocates were involved all the way down to laying the last bit of gravel.

Essentially it felt like we were on a world-class hiking trail, but designed exclusively for bikes. It took us through lush sun-dappled greenery, sweeping through curves, and undulating up and down, but all in a way that was fun-challenging, not challenging-challenging. I can’t remember ever being on a trail that feels so “off-road”, but is rideable with any type of bike, including our heavily-loaded beasts.

Riding an awesome narrow track with water races dropping down on either side.
There weren’t nearly as many switchbacks today, but there were still a few, which contribute to the “hiking trail” feeling.
A rare #FindRett shot that isn’t in a wide-open landscape.

In one of the narrow water-on-both-sides segments, we nearly ran into a couple on a tandem coming up the other way (proving the range of bicycle types that can navigate the trail!) They were just as excited as we were about the riding experience, and helpfully warned us that several more tandems might be coming behind them (but that others in their group had chosen the road, to their loss we all agreed). So this section of trail was slightly-busier than yesterday’s, presumably because its proximity to Hokitika allows day-riders to come up this way.

Every once in a while we’ll talk to people, often a bit older, and usually with wealth and free-time (much like the group of tandem-riders), who think what we do is slightly-crazy, but enjoy riding trails like this. Now after this, when we have an opportunity to trade inspirations with them, we can say “oh, have you done the West Coast Wilderness Trail? It’s in New Zealand. South Island. It’s a must-do!” Because it is, and we aren’t even deep into such things!

Out of the forest, we hit this smooth section of the Yellow-Flower Road.

The approach to Hokitika took us on some town back roads, with flower-filled yards that felt very much like an expat community in Mexico. Rett found a great sandwich shop (with milkshakes!) for us to get lunch at, and then added on some pastries from a nearby bakery that we ate on the rocks above the beach (the question why no one was actually down on the beach was answered when a wave came in and crashed directly onto the base of the rocks!) A stop at the New World grocery store (our last full-size chain supermarket for maybe a couple of weeks) ended our midday tour of the cute town, and then we were off again on the trail, now paralleling the coast.

Back to the ocean at Hokitika!
Mahinapua Links outside Hokatika is classified as one of the 247 “true links” golf courses in the world, though I doubt that greenside pohutukawa trees were part of the original Scottish links courses.
Cows with a nice view.
Most of the trail between Hokitika and Ross was this dead-straight path through the seaside bush. Still a nice ride, but not quite the magic of the inland sections. Though we did skip an inland winding section for five miles on straight SH6 instead, so maybe we missed more magic?
While Rett stopped to say hi to some horses, I had to pee so I rode on ahead to find a more-secluded spot. And at that spot was this porta-potty! Never had such lucky timing like that! There are shelters like this (not all with toilets) every 10 or 15 miles along the trail, presumably for cyclists to take some shelter from the frequent West Coast rains (this is day two of a three-day stretch of perfect dry weather for us).
Inside the shelter was this note. I can’t figure out if it’s real, if it’s a joke, or if it’s a honeypot trap, where women wait for foolish asshole men to show up and then kick them in the balls. The key is whether or not “Saterday” is an intentional misspelling! (Also, no one lives here, and nearby Hokitika has 3000 people, so sign-solicited meetups seem unlikely to succeed under any answer!)
A million stream-crossings (most very jungly) as the mountains drain into the sea here, with this one being a proper river.

I had booked our campsite at the Top 10 Holiday Park near Ross, and it seemed plenty nice, but Rett had been going on about how bougie it was after looking at their website. And she was right! Not only was the “everything built into shipping-containers” construction all modern and new and high-quality, the bathroom container had a slinky-sophisticated R&B soundtrack playing!

We were the only tent pitched on the undulating green lawn (they discourage large tents because finding a flat spot is a challenge). We’re behind the plants for shade, but that didn’t stop the calming roar of the ocean waves (seen through the gap) from putting us to sleep at night.
The kitchen container at Ross Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.
We grilled up sausages, and mixed them into a veggie fried rice that Rett conceived. All using the campground’s equipment and supplies. US$30 (beers extra!) for a campsite sounds fairly expensive, but when it comes with all this stuff, it feels like a steal.

Thirty minutes before sunset we took the few steps over the beach to watch an (almost) over-the-ocean show that we haven’t witnessed since…maybe Prince Edward Island over a year ago? It got chilly, but was still totally worth it!

Ross beach has a wave-pattern I can’t remember seeing anywhere else: pairs of waves would come in extremely close to each other, with the follower essentially collapsing on top of the leader, creating all kinds of chaos.
Extremely orange looking west.
And looking east, the water is so ice-blue that it could easily be an Antarctic snowfield.
A little chunk of land foils the sun’s plans for a water-entry.
The sun and moon in one photo (moon is in the far upper right, much smaller than it apppeared to the naked eye!)
Us enjoying being together for another turn of the globe.


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