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Enduro Bikepacking

19 July 2022

Words: Emma Bateup
Photos: Emma Bateup and Dominic Blissett

When entries opened for the Middle Hill Mudbuster Enduro, I excitedly signed up. Having raced it the year before, I knew how good the trails are and what a great event they put on at Middle Hill. Then I started thinking about getting there. The obvious mode of transport was by bike. Very excited at the idea of a mini mission, I booked the ferry for 1 x myself and 1 x bicycle.

The week of the race arrived and thanks to Queen’s Birthday and a work-free Friday, I had four days to cross the ditch, ride to Kaikoura, race, party and return to Wellington. Frothing!

In true Emma fashion, I left packing until the night before/morning of my midday ferry. It took a while deciding what to take (and more importantly what to leave behind) and where to store it. I had some new bags that fit my enduro bike perfectly, so I was eager to put them to the test. Then I realised that I was running late for check-in so I hurriedly stuffed the remaining items in my backpack to sort out later. I took off down the hill, completed check-in with minutes to spare, trussed up my bike securely in the hold and scurried off to find a comfy spot for the crossing.

Although I had just eaten lunch at home, I was already hungry so ordered a large bowl of nachos as we departed. The swell quickly built as the boat left the shelter of the harbour. I started feeling queasy, so put the nachos aside and focused on keeping my stomach contents down. I heard the lady next to me tell her daughter that putting one ear plug in might help lessen the sickness. It seemed logical, so I tried and it helped a bit. I lay back and drifted into a semi-conscious state.

Once we reached the calmer waters of the Marlborough Sounds, I tucked into my (now cold) nachos. We arrived in Picton to light drizzle so I put on my waterproof pants and jacket for the ride to Blenheim. It developed into steady, cold rain but I was warm, dry and happy. On arrival in Blenheim I headed to Maccas for a nutritious dinner of fries and a coke.

The next port of call was the supermarket to buy riding snacks for the next few days. The go-tos were jerky, salami, biscuits, lollies and muesli bars. Back on the road, I made my way to Seddon - my preselected stop for the night. As I rolled down the main street I started hunting for trees to sleep under, but couldn't find anything that looked particularly inviting. So I had a nosey in the nice public toilets and reckoned that would be a good spot for the night.

The temperature was forecast to drop to zero degrees so I was happy to have a roof and walls. The concrete floor didn't look super comfy so I lay down my tent fly and emergency bag, then snuggled into my sleeping bag. After a short time I realised that I'd underestimated how cold the floor was and attempted to rearrange the 'mattress' to get as warm as possible. The combination of the cold, the hard floor and the loud traffic on State Highway 1 made for less than 5 star accomodation. It was a long night drifting in and out of sleep. But I was dry.

Saturday morning started slowly, sitting in my sleeping bag eating cold dehy porridge. I had on all of my available layers, full finger gloves and hood up (under my helmet) as I started riding. I soon warmed up and gradually removed the layers as I worked my way towards and down the coast. The rain had stopped during the night and cleared to a crisp sunny morning. I arrived at Middle Hill and changed my bike from 'bikepack mode' to 'enduro mode' - bags off, bottle cage on, suspension unlocked and a LOT of air released from the tyres.

Photo: Dominic Blissett

Then I wandered over to say g'day, register, put my number plate on and fill my pockets with snacks. I headed up the hill to practise the five stages. Some I had ridden previously, others were new to me. Despite the name 'Mudbuster Enduro', the trails were hero dirt and I had a blast riding around the course and catching up with the South Island riders.

Photo: Dominic Blissett

I returned to the event village to find Lou and George setting up a spot for the night. They had brought a small marquee along and generously asked if I wanted to pitch my tent fly under it. A great way to stop my gear from getting wet with the dew.

After some entertainment from George and Matt trying to get their shower to pump hot water, I nabbed some of their hot water to make a warm dehy dinner. Winning! Once fed, we went along to watch the Tea & Biscuits mtb movie, while having tea and biscuits. I headed back to my tent to settle in for the night. It ended up being another chilly one without quite enough sleep.

I rose to another crisp morning. Everything had turned icy white and I was thankful for the multiple layers of tent above me. Everyone ripped into making breakfast. I was fortunate to scrounge some more hot water for my porridge, a much appreciated start my day and a big improvement on yesterday's cold version.

We had plenty of time before racing so bike and gear prep was mixed with more catch ups and banter. After the briefing we spent a while debating layering choices. I ended up opting for the 'be bold, start cold' approach in my short sleeve Jellybean top. This turned out to be perfect as I quickly warmed while climbing and was at an optimal temperature.

Photo: Dominic Blissett

At the top of the first stage we munched on some delicious home baking that was shared around while waiting to drop in. Yum. The first few stages flew by and then on the climb to stage four we were greeted by THE BEST feed station ever. There were so many amazing treats and I wanted to try everything! I had trouble tearing myself away to continue the ride up the hill. A takeaway bag was jokingly suggested for my ride home - I wouldn't have turned it down.

Another fun couple of stages and we were done. I was relieved to have made it through without any major mechanicals or crashes, which would have made for a less enjoyable trip home.

Photo: Dominic Blissett

I began the transition back into bikepack mode, involving far more faff than necessary. With some food in hand, I wandered back over to watch the whip off and prize giving. I debated sticking around for the afterparty but needed to make some progress north and get a decent sleep. A couple hours up the road I started looking out for a spot to park up for the night. My ideal is under pine trees, the needles make for a soft, insulated mattress and the trees offer good coverage from dew or light rain. After a few rejects I found a cluster of pines, tucked out of the wind and a reasonable distance away from the road. I crawled into my sleeping bag and got a full night of fairly uninterrupted sleep.


I woke up far more energised and ready to crack into the morning. I pinned it to Seddon for a late breakfast... and a scoop of hot chips that I transferred into my top tube bag as a riding snack.

Originally I'd planned a lunch stop in Blenheim, but a building headwind slowed my progress and I was a little anxious about missing the ferry. All was good in the end though and I arrived in plenty of time. I had a craving for Fanta but there was none in the vending machine at the terminal. I was happy with Coke as a second choice but had to give up on that after unsuccessfully struggling with the machine for longer than I should have. While waiting outside with my bike, and slightly dissatisfied, I was rummaging around in my backpack only to find a ginger slice that I'd bought in Seddon. I had completely forgotten about it. That made up for the lack of Fanta.

I boarded the ferry and was relieved that a far smoother trip lay ahead so I could enjoy getting some food in. Aware that I'd been wearing the same clothes for the last few days and probably didn't smell too amazing, I found a secluded spot away from the other travellers. Back in Welly, it was a shortish ride up the hill to my house and my warm, comfortable, quiet bed. A lovely finish to a most excellent 4 day weekend.