Push Bike Adventures in the Wakamarina
Sunday of Easter saw us taking a shuttle run with HeliBike Nelson over to North Bank Road in Marlborough again to ride the Wakamarina. Due to the nature of the ride, you need some good friends to drop you off at one end of the track and then pick you up from the other end.
HeliBike Nelson do a great service. With a specially kitted out trailer they drove us over the two hours from Nelson and dropped us off at the start point. We were joined on the ride by a couple of their regular customers who have done this ride a number of times, a Scottish doctor from Blenheim and a crew of three Scottish riders who are documenting the ride for a magazine write up and photo spread of their riding in the South Island. Check out Mark’s previous work here.
The ride starts with a bit of a climb and a push in a few places. Rach broke a spoke early on and with a bit of bush mechanics we stopped the noise and kept her wheel spinning.
Mark the photographer had a fair bit of camera equipment he was lugging up the hill and combined with stopping for photos they were relatively slow going. We rode on ahead knowing that they would be following us up and probably didn’t want us ruining their photo shoot anyway.
The ride keeps climbing upwards and upwards, but is fairly ridable right up to 1070m at Foster’s Clearing. This is an idyllic wee setting with the sun streaming in through the opening in the trees and not a breath of wind. I could have lay here for a lot longer, as we paused for a little bite to eat and everyone else put their full face helmets on and their armour in preparation for the downhill to come. Gee I felt like an amateur. Either that or a tough buggar.
This was a sweet wee downhill that dropped us down quickly on relatively good and with not too challenging technical riding. While it was a fun wee downhill, as it wasn’t the main downhill it meant that there was more uphill to come.
This uphill I had been warned about and there was a bit of a push section involved. I wasn’t prepared for the bike carry that eventuated. Character building – is a thought that springs to mind about this section. But like Friday up Fishtail, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other you get to the top before you know it. Once up onto the ridge line proper the last wee section was an easy ride into a wee clearing with a stone cairn.
Another break for a bite to eat here and then it was time to get pumped up for the big downhill. This was a technical descent that challenged me on a number of levels. Nothing too extreme, but a good technical challenge for me personally. Although it was a good long downhill, it was over far too soon and we found ourselves dropping into the Devils Creek Hut. This is an amazingly old hut, which displays how the old gold miners lived back in the day. A new hut has been built next to it in the clearing.
From here it should have been a relatively easy ride back out to the road end. However, life is full of challenges. The track contours around the side of a ridge, gently descending down. Over each spur line there is a small stream crossing. It was at one of these stream crossing I screwed up my gear shift and snapped my chain.
I knew I didn’t have a joining link with me, but both Rach and I had a chain tool which could have easily fixed my chain in about ten minutes. I figured the guys and girl riding just ahead of us would pause at some point and there was a good chance one of them had a joining link I could borrow off them, so I pushed on using gravity to assist my momentum.
Alas we never found them around the next corner like I had hoped. Having been telling them not to wait for Rach or I, that we would just wait for each other was being adhered to. So eventually I decided that I would stop and repair my chain only to find that I had smashed up one of the jockey wheels in my derailleur and it now has only five and a half teeth!!
So I put my chain in my pocket and carried on coasting the downhills and pushing the uphills. Some of the uphills were only minor and after a few of these small inclines, I remembered that I could probably ‘pump’ my way up them. After that point I only got the chance to pump up a couple of small ones before we descended down to Doom Creek bridge. Up the other side was a good push with my bike in the state it was in.
It didn’t take long for us to get out onto the four wheel drive track and as it was generally downhill was able to generate a bit of momentum but then came a few wee uphills, just to ruin my fun now that I couldn’t pedal.
Eventually we popped out at the carpark at Butchers Flat to find Petra from HeliBike Nelson still waiting for us. At the start she joked that if we all paid her before riding, she might not bother picking us up as she had our money. She also told us it usually takes people about two and a half hours if they are fast but typically about three and a half hours. We had been gone five hours and the Scottish boys were somewhere behind us and we hadn’t seen them since the first twenty minutes of the ride, despite the numerous stops and mechanical that I had.
With no cellphone coverage at Butchers Flat, Petra drove a group of us out to Canvastown (which was an hour long round trip for her) having left one of the guys there for when our Scottish friends turned up (which ended up being not long after we left). With cell coverage at Canvastown, Petra was able to confirm that the Scottish guys had made contact with her boss and that if they weren’t at Butchers Flat when she returned they would activate their Emergency Action Plan. It also gave the other riders the chance to head home (as the doctor from Blenheim had his car in Canvastown) or to contact the baby sitter and let them know they would be home late. Rach and I took the opportunity to grab a quick meal at ‘the Trout’ and was picked up by Petra on the way out.
Petra waited patiently for us all despite us being a few hours over the expected time. She was going to take us for another wee ride down a nice downhill track nearby but with us all being over time, it wasn’t an option like it was early in the morning. She was calm and had good plans in place. Qualities needed for someone operating a shuttle service like this. It turns out the Scottish boys also had some mechanical issues of their own with enough punctures between them to run out of spares, as well as a broken gear cable to boot.
All in all, it was a challenging day out with plenty of uphill to add to the accumulated fatigue in the legs, but plenty of fun downhill to make it all worth it as well. I won’t be rushing back, but I am keen to go back and ride it again at some point.
Previous day’s adventures can be found: