Paparoa track on bikes

Our first real mountain biking in NZ.


Iwy & Honza

1/9/20244 min read

We don't have many photos for the article because you can't take many photos from the bike, but at the end there is a video from the camera on the helmet and I think it pretty much sums up what this trip was like. :)

From Honza's diary: (because he managed to write it earlier)

We've already walked a lot in Zealand and gone surfing, kayaking, skiing, riding horses and riding a tractor, but we haven't really gone out on a bike yet. There was only one problem. We didn't have a bike. And money... But such details cannot scatter us. I got the first bike from one guy while working on an orchard, where someone had left it lying around two years ago, saying that it could no longer be ridden. Since then, he only rides it to the orchard and to the store. Which I thought was a pity, so I convinced the local to take it for a few weeks. We subsequently found two torn bicycle panniers in a thrift store/trash in Wanaka. Iwy managed to arrange a second significantly better bike from Lisa, with whom we lived over the winter.

We planned a few multi-day trips on the East Coast, with the Great Walk Paparoa coming up first. A popular 55-kilometer-long walking trail, which is also allowed on a bicycle. Well, if you can ride it on a bike, it must be better on a bike, right? On the official website, it is recommended for cyclists for two days, and the difficulty is said to be grade 4. I don't know what grade 4 means (I assume it's more than grade 1, 2 and 3) and we can do 50 kilometers in one day, right? So early in the morning we reached the hill at the beginning of the trail, where I unloaded the bikes and Iwy and drove the car back down to the village, where he will hopefully go in the afternoon from the finish line. But then I still had to pedal it back up the hill on my bike.

So we started pedaling only after nine o'clock. Nearby hikers were betting how long it would take for my bike to disintegrate beneath me. The trail climbed slowly around the stream at the beginning and although the terrain was more difficult than we expected, I was able to pedal well. As time went by, however, I began to pedal harder and harder, which I of course attributed to the steeper climb, and Iwy started to overtake me on her 29’’s.

We finally climbed the ridge and could start enjoying shorter descents. It was about time we chased it all down today. Except that I somehow didn't even enjoy the descents. I finally gave up and checked the bike, only to find that I had a half flat in the rear, which must have been why I struggled so much on the way up. (Sure, you'll say I could have noticed this a long time ago, but I was convinced I was just slow).

After blowing up the tire, I finally enjoyed riding downhill. But unfortunately only for about twenty minutes, after which my bike was flat again. It doesn't matter, I have the puncture kit with me, we'll fix the tube. But before I even take the tyre off, I hear air escaping right at the valve, which seems to be torn. I haven't gotten a spare tube to glue yet, so it looks like a fun day of re-inflating.

Moreover, the ridge did not follow the countour lines at all, but undulated up and down. All of a sudden, the 55 kilometers didn't seem short at all. But the views of the surroundings and the beautiful weather made it all better. Around two in the afternoon we reached the hut, from which we estimated the rest of the ridge would be another two hours of biking. But the board indicated 5 hours for cyclists.

Moreover, we took little food. What is normally enough for us on hikes, we ate in the morning and in the afternoon on muesli bars and the rest of the peanut butter which wasn’t that nice as we expected. The ridge was very beautiful, but the next few hours consisted of short descents, then pedaling or pushing up the slowly deflating bike and re-inflating it before each descent. Around five in the afternoon, we finally started to descend the forest trail through narrow turns down into the valley.

I stopped having fun blowing up the bike all the time, and I also found out that I didn't need the rear wheel purely on the descents, and the rest of the ride into the valley I was practically sliding on the rim. We reached the coast before eight in the evening, a little before sunset, so I immediately started hitchhiking.

There was practically no one. In the end, I got packed by an elderly couple into the car in a nearby parking lot, which turned out to be an Englishman and a woman from my hometown Prague. They took me all the way to Greymouth, where they went to the supermarket. Unfortunately, I still needed another 20 kilometers to the village to get to the car, which they didn't really care about.

Darkness fell and I tried to track in my direction without much hope of success. It dawned on me rather quickly that today no one was going to stop me. So I set off to a nearby supermarket, where I talked to a couple I already knew to take another trip with me. In the end, everything turned out well and I arrived back at Iwy, who was guarding the bikes at the camp, at about 11 at night.

We were embarrassingly tired. Iwy almost fell asleep on the couch in front of the kitchen, and her exhausted body did not let her sleep even during the night when, after a modest dinner, she spent half the night with her head out of the car, because her stomach did not like its contents more than anything.

In the morning, when we were packing, she just lay in the shade on the mat and looked like she was going to vomit at any moment. And what are the lessons learned from the story? If someone claims that the trail is for two days, consider if it really is not for two days. And if they say grade 4 (whatever that means), take a proper bike with you, ideally not from a junkyard. Well, we already have another trip planned. Better for those two days then. So they write on the website for three, but it can't last that long!

PS: The next day after the trip, I bought a soul to replace it and found out that it wasn't a broken valve, but a hole next to it, which I could easily patch on the ridge..