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New Year's Nydia Loop

08 April 2024

Words & Photos: Cati Pearson

The prelude

You can’t beat Wellington on a good day. We arrived early avo for the Picton ferry the following morning, so decided to treat ourselves to a relaxed start to our holiday. Card games and gin in the sun at the campground under a massive pohutukawa. Perfect summer vibes for starting our summer bike packing loop… or so we thought.

Day 1

We awoke at 4am to drive to the ferry terminal, ditched the car and loaded our bikes with five days worth of food and camping supplies. We boarded the boat and quickly nabbed a comfy spot, chowing down on waffles and coffees before it was nap time.

Arrived in Picton to another stunning day. Changed into the 'chamois' and loaded up on sunblock before heading off along State Highway 1 in the direction of the Waikakaho Track (Cullen’s Creek). Not nearly as bad as we thought it would be with lots of cars and trucks giving us space. We happily pulled off after 20 km and headed into the hills following a quiet gravel road up Waikakako Valley before entering farmland. A river just at the bottom of the climb was supposed to be our lunch and refill spot, sadly we arrived to a bone dry creek bed. Decisions were made - tossing up having water for the hike, or using the remainder of what we had to make our dehy lunches.

We pushed on with only snacks in our bellies. The climb up to the top of Waikakaho was steeper than expected and the push took its toll in the heat with no water. We swapped bikes, removed clothing, downed emergency pick-me-up caffeine gels. Spotting a couple goats on the hill didn’t make it more enjoyable. We finally arrived at the old village site two hours after leaving the trailhead. Tysin found a piddle of a stream to refill water while I continued to the top. The thing about carrying an injury on a trip like this is that your head is always stronger than your body, and I had thought a 4 km uphill hike would be ok – I was wrong.

The summit was covered in trees. I loaded up on pain killers for my sore hip and downed some dehy pasta, while Tysin explored the views from a walking track just past our stop. Once our bellies were full and my drugs had kicked in we traversed along the tops before starting the 100 switch backs of flow down to the valley floor. We celebrated conquering the Waikakaho with a coke at Linkwater before continuing along the road to Havelock. We stocked up on chips and regretted this not being our final destination for the night. Instead, we trudged on along Kaiuma Bay Road to Pelorus. After a river dip and dehy meals for dinner it was a late night following what would be our biggest day.

89 km, 1400 m, 1 cry, 1 goat

Day 2

We awoke to POURING rain. Literally everything was wet. Our tent was obviously not as waterproof as we thought. I lay in bed googling accomodation in the area but there was nothing free so the decision was made to continue to our planned destination, and a dry hut for the night. It was a slow sad start as we rode through Rai Valley towards the Nydia Track. At the base of the Opouri hill climb Tysin toyed with being hit by a car (by standing in the middle of the road praying) so he didn’t have to continue. But we did, and the hill wasn't too bad. It was so wet that waterfalls flowed off the road side which made for beautiful distractions.

The Opouri Bridle Track was terrifying, more waterfalls made rideable sections walkable, but nonetheless it was still a highlight of the day. We hoped for dry shelter in Duncan Bay to stop and eat, but there was nothing, so once again we trudged on hoping for a break in the weather or shelter for lunch. I haven’t done Nydia since racing it during the NZ Enduro back in 2017 - I had obviously forgotten the tough traverse over big roots at the start. Flow was eventually found but I then decided to fall off the edge of the track about 1 km from the summit. Cold and drenched to the bone, the fun was gone.

Multiple times I asked Tysin if this was going to be the reason we broke up, but he politely smiled and said he was weirdly enjoying it. The descent down into Nydia Bay was manic in the wet on fully loaded bikes. The DOC website doesn’t recommend doing this track in bad weather - after our experience I would agree. We finally slunk into Nydia Lodge at dinner time, exhausted, freezing and starving from once again missing lunch. We found our hut and ate dinner in silence. Grateful for hot showers, the day was done.

57 km, 1141 m, 1 severe weather warning, 2 starving riders

Day 3

A reprive in the weather meant we woke up to a fine day. We had a slow start with a walk along the ‘fitness trail’. At lunch we joined the families also staying at the huts down at the jetty for manus, before a leisurely lunch in the grass out the front of the lodge including cheese, crackers and whiskey. All our shit dried out, crabs were found, card games were won, yarns were told and I followed the blind possum around the property, amazed.

0 km, 0 m, 10 manus, 16 crabs

Day 4

Of course it’s raining again. We had been told the weather was going to worsen over the day so we kicked off early up the farmland track towards Kaiuma Saddle. The clay climb was nowhere as bad as expected and we actually enjoyed being back on the bikes. Tysin (the man who hates climbing) pulled away from me as we got into the grind.

We relaxed to the sound of birdlife, and waterfalls in the distance… and then I was startled by a "fuckkkk". I sprinted up the track to see Tysin’s bike at least 5 m below me, being pummelled by a waterfall, and Tysin part way down the bushes chasing it. I climbed down the opposite side to him to see if I could assist. Once he had safely dragged his soaking bike (which was carrying our tent…as well as all his gear) from the falls I climbed back up to get a video, of course, #instahussylife. Miraculously the bike was fine, and his dry bags had done their job. We breathed a sigh of relief and continued on the descent towards Kaiuma Bay.

By the time we exited the Nydia Track it was a stunning day and we enjoyed lunch in the sun before rolling into Havelock for New Year’s Eve. The Havelock pub puts on a rager if you are ever interested – mudshakes, pool tables and a live band entertained us until 10pm when our tired bodies decided to call it early.

34 km, 835 m, too many beersies, 1 ice cream sundae

Day 5

Most people spend New Year’s Day sleeping off a hangover but we awoke early once again to pack our stuff and head back to Picton in time for our ferry. The Link Pathway along Queen Charlotte Drive is super beautiful and fun if you are ever in the area. We puddled along beautiful crystal-clear bays, had some super-fast grade 3 flow and enjoyed our first day of 2024 on bikes.

An easy way to end an eventful trip, we celebrated our first multiday bikepacking mission together with brisket burgers and coffee, before catching the ferry for a doze - super pleased with ourselves for the accomplishing what we had set out too.

38 km, 620 m, a bloody great time

6 Responses

Joy Burt
Joy Burt

12 April 2024

This is a trip you will carry in your memory and become ever more fantastic in your old age. Keep cycling and having adventures being thankful you have bikes (not available when I was capable) to carry you into our wonderful wild country.


11 April 2024

fantastic adventure, great story


10 April 2024

Loved your adventure.Being an expat living in Aus ,always good to hear stories about NZ .Thankyou


10 April 2024

I felt your pain and elation. Pedal on, Ian


10 April 2024

Awesome article, sometimes you don’t know your having fun until it’s all over 😁

Phil Shaw
Phil Shaw

10 April 2024

Great reading thanks, awesome to see adventures are had on unlikely trails

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