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GO NZ: What it’s like to walk or bike the West Coast’s Paparoa Track

GO NZ: What it’s like to walk or bike the West Coast’s Paparoa Track 2020-09-08Leave a comment

electrical bike GO NZ: What it is prefer to stroll or bike the West Coast’s Paparoa Observe

The Paparoa Observe, the primary new New Zealand Nice Stroll in twenty years, opened earlier this 12 months. Huw Kingston took to it by boot and bike.

Simply earlier than we dropped west off the escarpment on the second day of the stroll, I peered underneath the cloud right into a deep valley, the valley that held Pike River Mine.

The explosion at this mine 10 years in the past trapped and killed 29 miners and stays one of many darkest days in trendy New Zealand historical past. The Paparoa Observe is a memorial created by DoC in partnership with the households of the Pike 29; a path from tragedy.

The Paparoa is the primary NZ Nice Stroll to be added in twenty years, the tenth in whole, and the primary to be purpose-built. The path winds by West Coast ranges set again from the city of Greymouth. With entry through gradual, winding mountain roads, West Coasters are famend for his or her self-sufficiency and a cussed spirit hewn from the mountains to their east and distilled from the wild Tasman Sea to their west.

En path to the southern trailhead at Smoko, you cross by Blackball city with its eclectic combine of companies and buildings. Previously The Blackball Hilton, a grand constructing run by the fabulously direct Cynthia, proudly shows a letter from attorneys for the Hilton Resort chain, ordering them to stop utilizing their title. The homeowners simply added “Previously” and carried on regardless.

Crossing a swing bridge en route to Ces Clark Hut on the Paparoa Track. Photo / Huw Kingston
Crossing a swing bridge en path to Ces Clark Hut on the Paparoa Observe. Picture / Huw Kingston

Paparoa Observe by foot

Rain was falling steadily as waterproofs had been donned beneath the marginal shelter of the trailhead signal at Smoko. The primary a part of the 55km-long Paparoa follows the Croesus Observe, an previous miner’s route that has stood the onslaught of time remarkably nicely.

After climbing steadily by beech and podocarp forest, my good friend Wendy and I popped above the treeline and arrived at Ces Clark Hut, 9km in. Good timing as heavy rain and horrendous wind and rain buffeted the hut. We fortunately took shelter for an extended lunch.

The forecast was for worsening climate though in fact I did marvel how a lot worse it may get. We had been booked that night time at Moonlight Tops Hut, 10km additional and, though eager to achieve it, knew essentially the most uncovered a part of the path lay between our present secure haven and the following.

Circumstances had been definitely difficult – I held on to Wendy a few occasions to cease her taking off towards the Southern Alps. Apparently, on day, you possibly can see Aoraki/Mount Prepare dinner. We might have fortunately simply taken the great day as, soaked by, we had been glad to achieve Moonlight Tops earlier than moonlight.

The Paparoa Track's Moonlight Tops Hut, captured in the sunlight. Photo / Huw Kingston
The Paparoa Observe’s Moonlight Tops Hut, captured within the daylight. Picture / Huw Kingston

Goal-built for the Paparoa, the hut sleeps 20. Twenty trampers shifting between moist gear strewn round a welcome fireplace and jostling for a kitchen burner to create sizzling brews and condensation.

At daybreak, a mist hung within the valleys, however all of us cheered when a watery solar warmed the cloud and picked out the principle escarpment in an excellent, tangerine mild. With smiles and boots on, we set off down a path that dropped into essentially the most enchanted of mossy forest earlier than rising on to the escarpment. An ethereal few hours adopted with the observe clinging to the sting of cliffs dropping away to the west.

Far beneath, to the east, we may select the ultimate piece of the Paparoa jigsaw. The 11km Pike29 Memorial Observe, which can lead walkers and riders steeply all the way down to the mine website. Right here a memorial and interpretive centre will unfold the story of the catastrophe. Though a lot of this aspect path is full, it will not open till present investigations are full and the mine sealed off once more.

After a lunch overlooking distant Tasman surf, we plunged off the escarpment, threading a route by the cliffs and throughout to a ridge holding Pororari Hut. The drying video games of the earlier night time had been changed, at Pororari, with exterior eating and a sundown over the ocean. Occasional sandflies did little to spoil the second.

Crossing one of the swing bridges on the Paparoa Track, between Pororari and Punakaiki. Photo / Huw Kingston
Crossing one of many swing bridges on the Paparoa Observe, between Pororari and Punakaiki. Picture / Huw Kingston

Our third day on the Paparoa led us, by fern forest, to the Pororari River. As soon as throughout, through a swing bridge, the path adopted on down the river. Now deep in limestone nation, the ultimate few kilometres of this grand stroll headed beneath large cliffs that step down into verdant vegetation alongside the Pororari.

The northern trailhead at Punakaiki got here too quickly, so we extended the pleasure with a brief diversion and a extra becoming end on a wild West Coast seaside.

Huw Kingston took on the Paparoa Track on foot and by mountain bike. Photo / Laurence Mote
Huw Kingston took on the Paparoa Observe on foot and by mountain bike. Picture / Laurence Mote

Paparoa Observe by bike

The very best path to trip the Paparoa is undoubtedly south to north. You get the lengthy, steep climb out of the best way early, undulate throughout the high quality after which swoop down, for essentially the most half, the ultimate 20km or extra.

After a few days stress-free, cleansing up and exploring Punakaiki – Pancake Rocks and all – boots had been swapped for bike and I travelled again to Blackball to fulfill my using buddy Laurence. From Blackball it is an 8km pedal up a gravel street to Smoko; an opportunity to work brekkie off and heat up the legs.

With a robust sense of deja vu, we arrived at Ces Clark Hut simply because the rain started. Waterproofs had been off once more, on once more for the trip throughout to Moonlight Tops Hut and we copped a strong buffering within the wind. However there have been some fabulous descents on the meandering path, with views west to the Tasman Sea and north deeper into the mountains.

In the enchanting forest of the West Coast's Paparoa Track. Photo / Huw Kingston
Within the enchanting forest of the West Coast’s Paparoa Observe. Picture / Huw Kingston

Whereas match riders may full the path in a single lengthy day, the Paparoa greater than deserves to be savoured over two. The perfect might be to remain at Moonlight Tops. Nevertheless, it was totally booked after we made reservations so, after a late lunch, Laurence and I pushed on an extra 19km to Pororari Hut.

All that’s good about biking mountain trails adopted. The observe dropped into the mossy forest, down quite a bit, up a bit, to emerge on to the escarpment with astounding views throughout. Trying past the sting we may select Pororari Hut on the ridge beneath. Beneath, after all, meant extra gravitational enjoyable available.

Quickly we had been leaning into tight turns, limitless turns, earlier than the Paparoa sidled throughout to the ridgeline that held the hut. After seven hours and one remaining climb we arrived, nicely spent, nicely happy.

This was pre-Covid and worldwide borders closing, however we had been the one riders that night time, having fun with the corporate of a strolling group from Taranaki and a Korean couple. Laurence whipped up a nice vege curry. Not for him the freeze-dried meals so beloved of Kiwi trampers.

We woke to drizzle and, regardless of solely 16km of typically downhill path to complete, Laurence served up a minimum of three morning’s price of porridge. It caught nicely to my sides regardless of the shaking it could quickly endure.

The run all the way down to the 2 crossings of the Pororari River was a smile and tonic for any mountain biker. Chuckles and whoops from us each, first by tree fern forests then, as soon as throughout the primary swing bridge, on to a observe reduce into the steep-sided valley, hanging excessive above the river. Lastly, we barrelled straight to the second crossing to the place the Paparoa splits for the ultimate kilometres.

As riders, we turned left on to the previous Inland Pack Observe. A gradual climb over a ridge harm, however we had been quickly right into a nice and remaining descent to a end on the Punakaiki River.

The Paparoa Observe is one other glorious addition to the quiver of New Zealand’s “must-do” strolling and MTB trails. So – whether or not by boot, bike, or each – e book your mattress and get out on to it.


The Paparoa Observe is a 55km one-way path for walkers and mountain bikers. There are three Nice Stroll huts alongside the route, and bookings are actually open for the October 1 to June 30 season. greatwalks.co.nz/paparoa
For extra New Zealand journey concepts and inspiration, go to newzealand.com

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