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Babymoon on the Heaphy

07 May 2024

Words & Photos: Cati Pearson

When our adventure friends Martina and Nick told us they were pregnant we were excited for the new chapter in their lives, but when they invited us on their babymoon riding the iconic 78.4 km Heaphy Track, we were ecstatic – one of the best multi-day mtb rides in Aotearoa with some good mates. I have done the Heaphy many times but this would be a first for the others. We decided to treat ourselves and book a plane ride at the finish to take care of transport logistics.

The Prelude

We flew into Takaka Airport with minutes to spare before our shuttle left for the trailhead and bed for the night at Brown Hut. We unboxed our bikes and threw them onto the trailer without pumping tyres or putting on pedals, bags were haphazardly thrown into the shuttle. Our arrival at Brown Hut was met with despair as we realised a chunk of my tyre, plus rim had been removed by rubbing against the trailer during our travels (my fault for not pumping up my tyre). We prayed to the adventure gods that my tyre would still seat once pumped. It appeared to hold so we filled in the sunny afternoon playing with sticks at the river and doing bike tricks on the hut lawn.

Day 1

We kicked off bright and early with lots of enthusiasm before being brought back to reality 1 km later when I broke my chain (too many power gains at the gym with my rehab I guess). While the boys mechanic'ed, Martina and I had a quick snack 'n' gram before the bike was once again good to go. The climb up to Perry Saddle is slow and beautiful. We managed to catch all the walkers (who had left before us) and made it to the saddle for lunch.

The fast descent down from Perry Saddle into the Gouland Downs is a firm favourite. I tried to hang on behind the two boys attempting to get a video of them at 'picnic table corner', but they were gone. We finally caught up at Gouland Downs Hut where I'd prepped the crew for takahē spotting, but sadly today they were in hiding. Instead of bird watching we took to exploring the famous caving system below the hut. The boys shimmied through tunnels whilst Martina and I stayed safely in the meadows beside the caves.

We climbed down to 'Waterfall Cave' for a couple more photos before continuing towards James Mackay Hut, our destination for the night. Just past the caves are a couple of creeks, easily navigated using the bridges provided. The boys attempted riding through with no luck, resulting in a splash comp. Us ladies used the bridges and kept our feet dry. Eventually we made it to the hut to nab beds and enjoy a quick and extremely cold river shower, before devouring cheese, crackers and whiskey (for those allowed to drink) and hitting the hay in prep for another days adventure.

Day 2

The ride James Mackay Hut starts with a rush. 12 km of fast flowy descent with fingers on the brakes as we kept an eye out for the hikers who left the hut before us. Sadly, hip injuries don’t like sustained descents and I was in tears by the bottom. While we waited for the pain killers to kick in we explored the new Lewis Shelter that has replaced the old Lewis Hut.

Storms in February 2022 caused severe damage including the loss of three bridges on the track, most significantly the Heaphy River bridge. It's been replaced by two bridges, one across the Heaphy River downstream from the previous bridge, the other over the Lewis River with a small section of new track between. We rode the soft new pinch out of the river up to the brand spanking new Heaphy River bridge, still long at 148m. It feels massive and my fear of heights (and the slight breeze) stopped me from actually riding across. I was shown up by everyone, even seven months pregnant Martina. We marveled at this great piece of engineering (the joys of riding with three engineers) before rolling along to the Heaphy Hut, stopping multiple times for more marvelling at the trees and cliffs which make this section of the track so spectacular.

The ride from Scotts Beach to the Nikau Walk junction seemed less steep since last time, which appealed on a two-day trip through the Heaphy. We arrived at Kōhaihai over the moon and keen for a swim – which turns out isn’t something you can safely do there. A bit disappointed we trudged on along the road towards Karamea. To be honest, this 20 km section broke us girls, there were a few snack stops with tears. We pulled into The Last Resort in Karamea for the night where we treated ourselves to hot chips and wedges. Too many Speights washed down a solid steak dinner.

Day 3

We peeled into town to grab brekkie at Vinnie's Cafe before our flight. The bums didn’t want to be on saddles but the sniff of coffee launched us 300m to the local brew. The best ever blue cheese and walnut omelettes were devoured, and a pie procured for lunch.

We waited patiently at the airport for our plane to come in, while watching the thunderous rain clouds slowly making their way towards us… hoping that we'd get home. Our plane arrived and our pilot informed us of the immediate urgency to get the wheels off the ground again. If the rain hits, we sit. I had read a NZ Mountain Biker Magazine article years ago by Anka and Sven Martin with a picture of their bikes hanging from the wings. I was so excited to be finally lined up to have the same experience, but alas our bikes were dismantled and stacked on top of each other in the rear of the plane with our bags for padding.

I was boxed in the back seat with no room for escape, and after a few shameless plane selfies we were off! The clouds had come in so much we were unable to fly back over the track but instead made our way up the coastline and across the Whanganui Inlet before turning back to Collingwood. Our 20 minute flight turned into a 40 minute scenic trip with an awesome commentary on the history of the track and Kahurangi National Park by the lovely pilot.

Back at the airport we waved goodbye to our mates who were continuing their babymoon by sea kayaking the Abel Tasman. We boosted back to Nelson for a late night bike pack up and a sad return to work.

The Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park can be biked and hiked in both directions. At 78.4 km it's a 2-3 day pedal, open to bikes between 1 May and 30 November. We suggest taking your time to enjoy it over 3 days. Always check in with the Department of Conservation for track status updates and what you need to know before you go. Check out the Ground Effect Blog for loads of good intel. on overnight trips. You need to be prepared for any weather, and know how to fix a broken chain.

1 Response


19 May 2024

The Heaphy is always a great adventure and the scenery is stunning if you’re lucky enough to have good weather. Thanks for sharing.

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