Day 20, Blackball to Hokitika

127km 984 m elevation

The weather forecast was for heavy rain by Hokitika so we got on the road in good time to beat the worst of it. The sunbeams coming through the clouds at sunrise were lovely over the misty fields but the red sunrise was true to the shepherd’s warning. 

A section of quiet road led us to the highway just north of Greymouth. We had second breakfast at a café recommended by our quirky host at the Blackball Hilton - she’s the sort of person you wonder why got into hospitality in a tourism hotspot, since she didn’t seem to like people, especially tourists. Tummies full, we set off down the West Coast Wilderness Trail towards Kumara. On the way we paused at the photo checkpoint of the Greymouth Bar. It’s a really dangerous bar at the Grey River entrance to the port. Despite there being a lot of ship wrecks there has been surprisingly little loss of life over the years. 

The rain started as a light sprinkle and got steadily worse. Knowing there wasn’t any food stops for a while we decided to be patrons of the Theatre Royal hotel in Kumara. The Miner’s brunch set me up for the day nicely. Nerena had bought a yellow poncho for bad weather and donned it before we set off after lunch. It was a smart idea but looked hilarious, I was laughing so hard I almost couldn’t peddle. From a distance you couldn’t see her legs moving, so she looked like this bright yellow cloud gliding mysteriously along. 

The trail was well made, and although some people (Scott) probably found it a bit tame, after the mental and physical fatigues of yesterday, I was happy to have a low key day. There were predator traps along the trail and it’s amazing the amount of difference this makes for the amount of birdlife we were able to see and hear.

The trail just before Cowboys Paradise was a bit more technical but nothing scary. At Cowboys Paradise we tethered our trusty steeds outside the saloon door and swaggered in. Hot chips and a hot drink were just what we needed to summon the energy for the last push to Hokitika. Leaving Cowboys Paradise, the descent to the Arahura River had a very mild gradient but I got the giggles again because they put in dozens of switchbacks even though it wasn’t steep. It was like being in a mini putt course, you kept doubling back on yourself. I was again laughing so hard I almost fell over on one of the switchbacks. At the end of this part of the cycle trail there was a gate that couldn’t be opened. This was the final nail in the coffin of my sanity, and my laughter became almost maniacal as we had to drag our bikes through a hole in the fence.

After a short stretch of gravel road we were diverted along the Lake Kaniere Water Race track. The trail took us along this water race for several kilometres, which was magical. It felt like something out of middle earth from Lord of the Rings. I kept expecting to see elves paddling along, or fairies popping out of the ferns. 

After the obligatory photo control point of the Hokitika clocktower I was grateful to make my way to Richard and Yvonne’s house where we were able to get warm and dry again. They also fed us a lovely dinner of home-made pizza and colourful salad. It’s amazing how you crave greens after eating so much packaged food. We were also able to do a load of laundry and even dry it – what extravagance!

I met Richard and Yvonne through my friends in Auckland, Cathy and Craig. What made the evening even more special was a video call with them and two of their kids.