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Wild West - from Karamea to Ross

16 June 2020

Words: Dave Mitchell
Photos: Dave Mitchell & Ditte van der Meulen

Well, we hung around Karamea for a few days. Checked out Fenian Track and its adjacent caves plus the nice section of trail that flows to the Oparara Arches. Back over the Karamea Bluffs we parked up at the Mokihinui seaside camp (great new facilities and beautiful place to stay) and headed onto the Charming Creek Trail. A large moving slip has closed a short section in the gorge so we peddled in from each end for old times' sake. The Old Ghost Road had just opened its doors and with such dry track conditions the ride into the big bad swing bridge over the south branch of the Mokihinui River and back was a real blast, but we were shagged by the end. Just a little further up the coast with a morning window of fine weather predicted, we found ourselves peddling up the Britannia Mining Track. It's a bit steep in places but DOC have done a great job of resurrecting the original bench and restoring the old stamper and mine infrastructure. It's worth it for the downhill in a tunnel of lovely bush.

Was bummed that the new Paparoa Track had a slip at the Punakaiki end so no riding there. Rain set in as we relocated to Lake Mahinapua with a clearing sky on arrival. There is a long and relatively new singletrack section of trail from the lake back towards Hokitika. In the other direction an old bush tram line heads south and onto Rimu Road. We rode both and circled back around to our camp spot - its entrance opposite the unusually quiet and most-famous Mahinapua Hotel.

Ross was next up as Mt Greenland Track beckoned. Once in a past life Russ and Alison Taylor and I motorcycled (dirt bikes) our way to the very summit way. I think it was eighty two or three. The track 'was' that good. While we were enjoying lunch and the magnificent views from the top three coasters arrived, said hi and continued down the other side to the old mine site. Well we didn't rate our chances or skills of getting back up that particular descent so decided to leg it down. Yes you guessed it, the three coasters could not get their bikes back up so left them parked up, resigned to the 10km walk back out. One did remark that his uncle had a helicopter and he would ask him to pick the bikes up during the week. We never did find out what happened. Since then we've mountain biked to the summit on a few occasions but that was many moons ago.

From the sprawling metropolis of Ross and its huge swimming hole we commenced the climb. It was initially good with just a few steep pitches in places. This eventually turned to custard. Alas the upper section more resembles a mountain stream-bed that the major mining trail it once was. Most of the water control has gone down the gurgley-ergler. No mine equals no money for maintenance and subsequent rain events have attracted huge crowds. We pushed and carried most of the way up - finally abandoning the bikes when riding down looked like it would be imprudent. In contrast the ridge top section to the Mt Greenland trig is in great nick and the lunch views still stunning. The downhill was a blast like riding a rock strewn escalator. Ross arrived at about café time but none were on offer.

It was time to head for Okarito and check out the town, coast pack track, the glaciers and whatever came our way before fleeing back to Christchurch.

Charming Creek, what the train driver saw.

Tracks are for trains little bush robin.

Charming Creek, where's the sodding light switch.

Charming waterfall full of historic toxic mine runoff.

Charming Creek swing bridge while the train plunges off the rails.

Danger danger Will Robinson active slip upends cyclist.

A Charming Creek of two halves till DOC mends the slip.

Pictionary turbocharged.

"Thats the chain I want on my bike Dave" - "Well that will double its weight"

“Ditte look at that amazing motor and those really cool valve springs” - “sorry I missed that bit.”

The Ghost's Specimen Point Hut, unloved for too many weeks.

Be C19 free, be kind.

Dutch fungi, rot never sleeps, the Ghost.

Mokihinui Hut relaxing beside an old lake bed.

Yummy, lunch full stop.

Ghost forever stunning scenery.

Suicide Slips too narrow for those 850 bars.

A pelton wheel, the things you find in the bush.

The beautiful Mokihinui River.

Those old miners sure knew how to build a track.

Yes we made the climb to the most excellent Britannia Mine.

Buy New Zealand made and keep your gold mine working.

Drunk cyanide tanks, just love those corrugations.

Lake Mahinapua looking moody and Clint Eastward.

The French would know.

That coal wagon has rocks in its head.

Mahinapua Lagoon, entry to the West Coast Wilderness Trail.

When native logging was king. An excellent section of the West Coast Wilderness Trail from Lake Mahinapua back to Hoki.

Ross, Ditte in trouble again.

Looking north along the coast from half way up Mt Greenland.

Mt Greenland trig on a clear day.

Lunch at the Mt Greenland Trig.

Trail Forks marks the Mt Greenland Track in blue. No longer is the top third a track but a storm fed riverbed of chunky boulders and huge steep ruts.

Mt Greenland in the rough.

Mt Greenland fernery. No place for full size 4WDs, only quads, trail bikes and MTBs need apply.

A better class of Mt Greenland suburbia.

Back down in Ross-town but not a coffee or cake to be had.

We found plenty of sunshine in Ross.

Handy persons dream do-er up-er?

Shadow and light at Lake Ianthe.

Black in 15 minutes, back in 15 hours.

Three Mile Pack Track & Lagoon, Okarito.

There was no “For Sale” sign on the Wild West Coast when Abel sailed by.

Still plenty of tread on this one Dave, Okarito.

Historic wharf and infrastructure Okarito Lagoon, but the white herons not.

DOC camp spot Lake Mapourika.

Still plenty of tread on this one Dave, Okarito.

Lake Mapourika panorama, why we love the coast.