NZ's latest great ride, err walk, the Paparoa Track opened in December. 56 km of West Coast singletrack traversing the Paparoa Ranges between Blackball and Punakaiki. Back in June when bookings opened we snaffled sufficient bunks for that first weekend in December to stage the Ground Effect xmas bash.
The cunning plan was partially derailed when just prior to the opening a major slip closed a mid section of the track, thwarting the full traverse until further notice. However the Blackball-Moonlight-Blackball variation is still a worthy trip. All systems go.
Compounding the 'commitment complexities', as the designated weekend approached it became obvious that the dominant westerly airflow was planning to smash us. More careful examination revealed patches of respite on both days so we pushed on regardless.
The track and weather delivered. We had a blast, enjoyed relentless banter, great riding, biblical feasting, and got (very) wet - starting and finishing with Mordor-like thunder, lightening and downpours. (Almost) fine weather squeezed in between allowed us to rekindle our spirits.
The Paparoa Track joins the Old Ghost Road and Heaphy to form a holy trinity of multi-day backcountry rides on the upper West Coast. All are bucket list worthy. There are multiple ways to slice and dice the Paparoa trails - the obvious Blackball-Punakaiki traverse; a descent into Barrytown or the Moonlight for the more intrepid; and a loop or side trip taking in the Pike29 track and visitors centre - a solemn reminder of the 29 who lost their lives in the Pike River mine disaster, and the reason we are blessed with these sensational backcountry trails. Rebecca Macfie’s excellent book Tragedy at Pike River Mine: How and Why 29 Men Died provides a sobering background to the disaster. Also check out our blog backgrounding the design of the tracks; Jamie Nicoll talking about the promotional video he and Robin Pieper made with DOC earlier in the year; and Dave Mitchell's history of the original Croesus Track from Blackball to the Ces Clark Hut.
Partially satisfied with a taste of the Paparoas, we're chomping at the bit to return for the full traverse with the Pike29 side trip when the trail work is complete.
Wet 'n' dry pre-departure from Blackball.
Jane, Pat and mermaid toast rack at Blackball's Inn.
The lesser-spotted Smoke-ho kiwi.
Cherie & Jo Dot find respite from the rain climbing above the Ces Clark Hut.
The train pulls out, next stop Moonlight Tops Hut.
... but with a few pinch climbs along the way.
Scott G. close to the edge.
Selfie above the Moonlight Valley.
The Moonlight Tops Hut with its majestic panoramic views.
Wine atop the bar and cheese selection warming.
Cherie, Jo and Jo Dot rug up for return match to Blackball.
Claggy on the tops.
Downhill grins back at the Smoke-ho carpark.