...and we are ready to go bikepacking.
That was my expectation when I agreed to an overnight mountain bike mission. It turns out that much more planning and preparation is needed. Fortunately I had been talked into the trip by someone with tons of motivation for getting it organised, which helped greatly. The conversation, which happened quite soon after we first met, went something like this:
Me: “I would like to do some bikepacking some time but I don’t have a car to get anywhere first”
Lisa: “Oh it’s possible to do that leaving from Christchurch. I want to go bikepacking too. Are you free in two weeks time?”
Me: “Err, yes.”
So that’s how I agreed to ride into the middle of the sparsely inhabited Banks Peninsula with an almost complete stranger. Isn’t this how horror stories start?
Two weeks later we had become friends and set off on a beginner's bikepacking adventure. Our plans and route had been changed a number of times to accommodate trail closures after the fires and we even started a day earlier than planned to avoid bad weather.
Day 1 - "Bashing through the tussock"
The first day started as most rides in Christchurch do - the classic Rapaki Track climb. We took it slower than usual due to the heavy bags on our backs and also because we had almost 1400 metres of climbing planned for the day. We said goodbye to Christchurch and shot down to Lyttleton to jump on the ferry to Diamond Harbour. We then started to climb again, heading for the summit of Mount Herbert, which sits almost 900 m above sea level.
Over half of the climb was on a road, followed by a tussock strewn four wheel drive track to the summit. Just after the turnoff from the road was a YHA hut where I planned on refilling water. Here I learned a valuable lesson about trip planning: either take enough water for the day or be 100% certain of water sources. The hut was less than I was expecting. The letters YHA had put images in my head of the cosy youth hostels that I have stayed at in the UK with pristine facilities.
However, we were not in Kansas any more. The YHA hut turned out to be no more than a small shed inhabited by a decapitated teddy bear. There was a water tank with water in it, but nasty looking water that would need treating first and we had no way of getting it out of the deep tank.
Left with no choice, we had to ration what we had left for several more hours.
We ended up pushing our bikes up most of the track, bashing through the tussocks to the summit. At the top we were rewarded with spectacular views of Christchurch and the Alps far in the distance. With some snacks on board it was singletrack time! It was great to pick up some speed but the rest of the day turned into one of those rides where every turn shows you another breathtaking landscape that you have to stop and look at.
We arrived with aching legs and no water at the Rod Donald Hut after a couple more hours of photo stops. Luckily the rain water tanks were full so we sat down in the late afternoon sunshine with some snacks, a few litres of water and yet another incredible view.
Dinner was much better than what I had thought possible on a camp stove. Cous cous with raisins, quinoa, lentils and peas. All dry, vegan (for Lisa) ingredients that don’t weigh too much and have tons of carbs and protein. Dessert was nuts, banana chips and dark chocolate. The only thing missing was some beers. There was a sadly empty bottle of vodka on a shelf next to a bottle of methylated spirits that Lisa insisted was only intended for cooking with. I settled for one of her herbal teas instead.
We reviewed the route for the next day and checked the increasingly bad weather forecast before getting an early night and falling asleep to to the sound of a hooligan possum tap dancing on the roof.
Breakfast of champions: Porridge with cashews and banana, followed by an avocado. The weather wasn’t looking so good. It had been raining when we woke up and although it had stopped by the time we were eating, the clouds were just above us and the surrounding peaks were out of sight. Not good.
There was an easy back up plan - just shoot down the gravel road to Little River and head back on the Rail Trail, cutting out the 13km Fenceline Trail. I really wanted to do the trail though. The other issue was Lisa’s knee giving her some trouble after a recent injury. We decided to go up the road to where it rejoins the trail and assess the visibility and knee situation up there.
We climbed the gravel road to the trail and the visibility was poor. The last thing anyone wants is to go the wrong way and get lost in these hills, especially with heavy rain forecast. So we ended up staying on the safe side and cut the day short. I say short, we still ended up racking up over 70 km.
The Rail Trail follows an historic rail line (hence the name) so is nice and flat. It cuts through wetlands on the edge of the peninsula and has great views, wildlife and a grumpy bull to keep you entertained (I tend to get bored quickly if just pedalling, which is why I like the constant life threatening danger of mountain biking and bull negotiations over road cycling). It also offers blackberries and apples growing next to the trail. It turns out that if there is foraging to be done, a vegan will forage.
The trail ends at Motukarara Station, which has been rebuilt as a tiny museum. A few snacks later we started the final leg back to Christchurch with a few drops of rain keeping us cool. In the last hour the drops turned into the proper downpour that we had been promised. After dropping Lisa off, I crawled back the extra few km alone soaking wet and exhausted yet with that fulfilling feeling of having just done something awesome.
It was a great introduction to bikepacking. I can’t thank Lisa enough for doing most of the organisation. I certainly wouldn’t have done it without her! Click here for another awesome Relive video.
Flat tyres: 0
Cups of tea: 6
Bike: Kreidler Dice Big 4 (until the shiny Norco arrives this week)
Favourite sandwich filling: “That’s too hard”
I ride bikes because: “It makes me feel alive”
When not riding I am: “Running, swimming, rock climbing, asleep, eating or working (some of them at the same time)”