- New Zealand
- The Queen Charlotte TrackMountain biking the Queen Charlotte Track in the Marlborough Sounds
- History on the Heaphy
- Suppressing the Competitive UrgeMountain biking in Malborough
- Northern ExposureMountian biking the Coromandel
- Hurunui Hot SpringsWinter mountain biking to Hurunui Hut in the Lake Sumner Forest Park.
- Craigieburn Conservation ParkMountain Biking Craigieburn
- The Brevet ClubGuy and Laurence recount the suffering and intrigue of the inaugural Kiwi Brevet... a 1100km mountain bike race around the top half of the South Island over six days. Informal with self-enforced rules, no entry fee, unsupported, and... well, hard.
- Wharfedale TrackThis is arguably the best and longest stretch of single track in Canterbury
- Double FencelineThis classic trip snakes along the summit ridge of Banks Peninsula.
- One Night StandsOvernight mountain biking trips in the South Island
- Fool's GoldMountain biking in Central Otago
- All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold TrailsMountain biking on the South Island's West Coast
- Otago GoldMountain biking - Bannockburn, Central Otago
- Loop de LoopGreat mountain biking can be found in most corners of this flat earth and New Zealand boasts its fair share of classics.
- Magnetic WestMulti-day mountain biking, Kaikoura to the Tasman sea
- Romping Round the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough
- Rambling Around the Marlborough SoundsMountain biking Marlborough, Arapawa and D'Urville Islands
- Off the Beaten Track An off road traverse of the South Island on mountain bikes
- At Peace with PureoraMountain biking around the Pureora Forest in the Central North Island
- Taranaki for NeophytesMountain biking in Taranaki
- South Pacific
- West meets EastAfter riding all morning through the tail of a typhoon, we didn't want to slosh into a Japanese restaurant in that state. I tried drying out by standing under the vent outside the kitchen. I got no drier, but now I smelled of noodles...
- Tien Shan TraverseWhat do you do in the middle of the mountains when two large, thuggish Chinese men get out of a car and stride purposefully towards you? You smile and say thank you for the stale bread and peaches they are offering you!
- One Gear, One Continent, One Hero.Hero Cycles is the world's largest manufacturer of bikes, spitting out a whopping six million a year. You're unlikely to find one at your local bike shop but as any seasoned traveller can attest, they are the 'people's car' of India.
- Laid-back LaosMountain bike touring in Laos
- The Road to MandalayCycle touring in Myanmar
- Vietnam on Thirty Dollars a DayCycle touring in Vietnam
- A Short Ride in the Hindu Kush Cycle touring in Pakistan
- On a Wheel and a Prayer FlagCycle touring in Tibet
- Shanti Shanti - Across the Himalaya by BikeCycling across the Himalayas
- Biking the Hidden HimalayaCycle touring in North West India
- Pedalling Patagonia"Wow! Amazing! You're cycling to the bottom of South America. Is it all downhill?" Alan and I looked at each other in amusement and suggested that we expected a few uphill sections.
- Cycling Cuba with Fidel and Ché
- Dirt Roading in Colombia'The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay', promises Colombia's latest tourist advertising slogan, printed over glossy photos of idyllic Caribbean coastlines, perfectly preserved colonial towns, rolling, lush coffee plantations and a Latin couple dancing hot cumbia.
- Famous Potato Recipes from Idaho
- My Private Idaho
- Donde Estan Los Pollos
- Alaska - the Last Frontier The Alaskan Iditasport Human Powered Ultramarathon
- In Search of Maple Syrup and a Decent National Anthem Mountain biking in Canada
- All You Can EatMountain Biking in Northern California
- Caffeine and Singletrack in the USA Mountain biking in South West Colorado
- Bici Dolomiti Cycle touring around Italy and the Dolomites
- A Slice of Swiss CheeseMountain biking in Switzerland
- London Calling The London Cycle Show
- Stairway to Heaven - biking Spain's Camino de SantiagoCycle touring in Spain
- Albania for BeginnersIn the summer of 2009, our route from Greece to Germany crossed the small country of Albania...
- Fat Tyre Touring in ItalyCycle touring through Italy.
- Corsica- touring the scented isleCycling in the Mediterranean
- A Scottish Coast to CoastCycle touring in Scotland
- Crouching Tiger - Cycling Ireland's South West Coast Cycling Ireland's South West Coast
- The Italian Job Mountain biking around Lake Garda
- Double DutchA cycle tour of the Netherlands.
- A Rather Big Swedish RaceMountain bike racing in Sweden
- French ConnectionCircumnavigating Mont Blanc on the "Sentier Pedestre" hiking trail.
- A Month in Provence Cycle touring in the South of France
- A French PilgrimageTouring with the Tour de France
- End to End, the Long WayCycle touring in Great Britain
- Steve's SabbaticalCycle touring in France
All that Glistens... the Croesus and Moonlight Gold Trails
Dave Mitchell, UnderGround Issue 45 December 2005
Updated 29 June 2011The historic coal town of Blackball is tucked away on a terrace above the West Coast's Grey River. Once famous as the birthplace of the Labour Party and our nation's trade union movement, it's now a shadow of its former glory. Blackball's last coal mine closed in 1971, driving most families off in search of jobs elsewhere. It was gold though, not coal that gave birth to Blackball in the late 1800's.
As you'd expect, the town's first significant structure was its hotel. The once grand Blackball Hilton is still the star attraction. It has survived two world wars and a series of mine closures. Now it provides cheap 'n' cheerful backpacker-style accommodation.
After the easy alluvial gold was won from the rivers and streams, quartz mines were established. These required water races, stamping batteries, and steam boilers to power them. Remnants of fluming, overhead bucket-ways and all manner of mining paraphernalia can still be spotted today. Benched tracks were built so that supplies and heavy machinery could be hauled in. The miner's legacy to mountain bikers is the Croesus and Moonlight trails.
The Paparoa Range runs from Greymouth to Westport, dividing the Grey Valley from the Tasman Sea. Geography conspires to often shroud the tops in cloud even when the rest of the Coast is basking in sunshine. The Croesus climbs over the Paparoas from Blackball and drops to the Barrytown Pub - just a few hundred meters from the sea. To the east lies the Moonlight. A poled route along the tops connects the two.
You can count on a Croesus-Moonlight traverse to provide plenty of ego-subduing slippery rock, over-grown track and thick mist around the tops to make navigation tricky. But our last Blackball trip had none of these hazards. After an extended period of Coast 'drought', we were spoilt with bone-dry tracks, clear skies and DOC had recently cleared the windfall at the top of the Moonlight.
Ditte, Mike and I rode up the forestry road out of Blackball to the start of the Croesus. Loose gravel and the constant uphill quickly warmed up the ol' ticker. From the road-end the track climbs sharply over a coal seam and through a gnarly rock garden that I've only managed to rarely ride in the past. Extra-dry under tread, there were hoots of delight as our troupe slam-dunked the entire section.
The track drops into Blackball Creek where George Cundy discovered gold in 1864. Known as Garden Gully until its wealth of gold became apparent, it was duly renamed the Croesus. The track is a wonderful mosaic of rust coloured stones with a mossy green boarder. Very House 'n' Garden. A couple of meters wide, it follows the contours above the river, crossing a gaggle of swing bridges before arriving at the start of the main climb.
It's not overly steep but even in dry conditions it's a big ask to clear the numerous rock gardens. We grind it out, watched by spooky old beech trees draped in old man's beard. Young streams gurgle across the trail providing cold, clean drinking water.
Pockets of cold air cooled our sweaty bodies.
Breaking out of the bush, we were surrounded by dracophyllums. Straight from Dr Zeus, their long curly orange leaves carpeted the ground while toi toi, hebes and olearias overhung the track. Several years ago a fire ripped through the area leaving a forest of dead trees with bleached trunks and contorted bare branches. All quite surreal. Shortly afterwards we arrived at the palatial Ces Clark Hut - a wonderful twenty-four bunker with running water and gasp-worthy views. The vista extends beyond the Grey Valley to Moana and traces the breaking surf south to the snow capped Alps in the distance. We matched the view with a feast of avocado and banana sandwiches on fruit loaf.
The benched track continues through the tussock country above the hut. It's washed out in places and challenging on full stomachs. On towards Mt Ryan, the now poled route splits with the choice of descending to Barrytown-by-the-Sea or continuing northwest along the Paparoa tops for five unrideable kilometres to the top of the Moonlight. Carrying your bike for a few hours is clearly a daft pastime, yet spectacular views can compensate for the discomfort. Behind us the Southern Alps stretched all the way to Mt Cook. Ahead, the Paparoas rose from the Tasman. At the top of the Moonlight we refuelled in anticipation of freshly cleared track.
We were not disappointed - dropping through a user-friendly section of beech trees before hitting the steep stuff. Flax and knotty-old ratas line the switchback descent to the start of the benched track proper. Mostly we carried, although some bits were ridden with limited success. The bitter-sweet reality of this masochism is that the singletrack is so much better when you finally reach it. The benched track is fabulous - descending to the Moonlight Creek and the remains of its eponymous stamping battery.
Further down the valley, the Moonlight drops steeply through a tight gorge. Side streams had previously washed out short sections of the track. We crossed at a swing bridge, and descended the rocky terraces to the extensively worked lower section. Huge piles of neatly stacked river stones line the track as tribute to the hard labour expended in search of gold. Further down, three-meter high versions really impress us. Inca ruins perhaps, or the folly of visiting aliens. Travelling past an old cemetery, across water races and alongside hut sites we hit Uppertown. The track ducks and dives like a roller coaster through mature beech forest before the final climb to Andersons Flat. Food is inhaled as energy levels hit a low ebb. A shingle road takes us back to the Atarau Road. Then twelve kilometres of tarmac lands us back to our coal miner's cottage in Blackball. The sun drops behind the Paparoas and somewhere beyond sinks into the Tasman. Food and a hot shower suddenly become the priority.
The Nitty Gritty> Topo Map: K31 Ahaura.
> There are so many options around the Croesus. Instead of connecting with the Moonlight you can veer west off the tops and follow the 'proper' route down to Barrytown. It involves a few hours of push/carry and the initial part of the descent is only marginally rideable on a dry day with a big breakfast of courage... until you hit the benched track half way down, which is very, very tasty. It's 42 km on the road back to Blackball. A pleasant enough ride but a car shuttle always feels better at the time.
> Croesus-Moonlight traverse: total distance 52 kms; around 10 hours.
> Croesus-Barrytown traverse: total distance 28 kms; around 7 hours.
> It's difficult to over-state just how nasty the weather can be in the Paparoas. Cloud and fog suck in around the tops at will, making route finding impossible.
> Snow is possible at anytime of the year. Take plenty of food, clothing, navigational aids and the wisdom to know when to turn back.
> The Croesus is closed to bikes over Christmas and Easter.
> Food and lodging? The Blackball Hilton of course. Rooms are cheap, hot water plentiful and you can sip on a Monteiths while a bar meal is rustled up for you. There's a kitchen too if you prefer to do your own thing.
> Blackball's other icon is the Blackball Salami Company. No sandwich is complete without a slice or two.
> Follow the Mountain Bikers' Code. Respect Others; Respect the Track; and Respect the Rules.