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Hurunui Bikerafting Brevet - A Beginners Trip

15 December 2021

Words, Photos & Video: Deane Parker

Deane Parker takes an enthusiastic new-to-bikerafting crew on a loop of Sumner Forrest Park. His video tells the story and provides plenty of inspiration for aspiring bikerafters.

A bike and packraft have allowed me to pull off some cool short routes. None of which actually needed the boat for access - more to join some dots or paddle a river during a bike tour, or even just to change up the sore legs to shoulder workouts.

Serenity on the Hurunui

I am by far not the first to try bikerafting, I have however made it a niche in my passion for video storytelling. A couple of years ago I made a film about Shailer Hart and his quirky collection of ultra bikepacking organised rides, and ever since Shailer has prodded me into collaborating on a brevet style bikerafting event.

Lights, camera, action

Tools for storytelling

Over the winter of 2021 Shailer and I talked extensively about a route in the Lake Sumner Forest Park. We set dates for November. Coming out of NZ’s second lockdown, and with our biggest city prevented from travelling, we ended up with a local crew of mostly first time packrafters - along with my adventure companion Muel, and Helen from a previous film about her journey into packrafting. 

The crew - Zoe, Stan, Dylan, Helen, Muel & Sam (lounging).

Fully loaded on the bikes

The route morphed as the consistency of the group came together. I wanted to create a journey that gave a feel for the independence and enjoyment that the extra effort of carrying packrafting gear on a bike offers, without too much pain and suffering.

As usual the anxiety of "can I carry it all on my bike?" sets in, a paddle, buoyancy aid etc all have to find a place to be safe from damage and not be cumbersome nor impeding to the ride. The first few kilometres are unfamiliar and as Zoe says "you have to find the balance", well said from the smallest member of the team riding an XS full suspension bike. Zoe did so well with her determination and grit that got her through the toughest section of singletrack fully loaded.

Zoe dug deep on the more challenging single track

Snack stops with views and sunshine

Sam Davidson is not often seen sitting this still!

Group confidence was gained by the time we reached the Department of Conservation hut. Stan, another first timer said "I never knew how to combine biking and paddling so I gave it a shot". After snacks and claiming bunks for the night we stripped off the bikes and rode on to the infamous Hurunui hot springs. I always enjoy natural hot springs and this spot was a new one for me. The water was hot and the sandflies vicious so we didn’t dally long before setting off back to the hut for the evening.

We had an awesome spot to gear up the next morning which was great as we spent heaps of time familiarising the first timers with the boat and technique for strapping the bike down.

The perfect get-in spot

Transitioning from bike to raft

Check, double check

Helen is well versed in the process now and her creaky knees make hiking painful so for her, "it's the best combo… bike in raft out". Lots of briefing and paddle drills later we set off down the Upper Hurunui. The river conditions were ideal for getting to grips with manoeuvring a laden packraft.

Resting the legs

This trip proved the versatility packrafts to explore lesser known and paddled water ways. Whilst I’m sure at sometime in history the Upper Hurunui has been paddled a few times, it seriously would have only been a few and what an amazing setting in which to pass on the mantle to starting-out bikerafting enthusiasts.

We finished off paddling downwind across Lake Sumner and up a natural canal into Loch Katrine. Smiles, beers and potato chips were shared back at the trailhead. A group of inspired adventurers musing over the next bikerafting route.