West Coast Wilderness Trail


by Cindy Berhtram

This story is from a three-week, 800-mile adventure in New Zealand. Our route, based on the famed Kiwi Brevet, contained as many dirt roads and trails as we could find. After cyclocross season ended, we converted our cyclocross racing machines to prepare for a rugged trip to the Southern Hemisphere: Charlie on his Geekhouse Mudville, and Cindy on her Firefly.



We awoke to roaring waves, a thick dew blanketing our tent revealing the summer humidity. All that separated our campsite in Greymouth from beach and the vast Tasman Sea was a row of trees and the dirt of the West Coast Wilderness Trail.



Our itinerary for the day was to cover 60 miles on the trail. We would hug the coast until cutting inland to Kumara, ascending for dramatic mountain views heading into Cowboy Paradise.



After a pleasant morning rolling along the beach, we put the sea at our backs and pointed our wheels inland. The trail began as a dirt path, at times merging with fire roads or dirt roads.



Up and up we went, looping through the abandoned mining areas -- the reason that these tracks exist at all. Signs along the winding single track warned us of mining shafts in the surrounding forest.



Handwritten signs counted down the kilometers until someplace called Cowboy Paradise: 7 to go, then 3, 2, 1. On our arrival, in addition to some run-down shells of buildings, we were relieved to find a possibly-open restaurant staffed by a few barefoot teens. We stopped for a water refill and a ginger beer (a favorite beverage throughout our adventure).



A sublime stretch of trail followed the Kaniere Water Race, built in 1875 to power area mining operations. We wound our way along the path, the temperate rainforest enveloping us in a blanket of unfamiliar bird calls and cicada drones and vibrant green.



We arrived in Hokitika, grabbed a camping spot, and stood in the ocean – the powerful waves made us afraid to go in any deeper than that. After dark, we walked to the hushed Glow Worm Dell and were surrounded by the twinkling of the famous worms.