As the plane came in to land at Hokitika Airport, perched on a terrace above the town, I remembered the last time I landed there, 37 years before. I was finishing my library school studies by compiling a bibliography of Westland National Park. Courtesy of the Department of Lands and Survey, I got to check out the archives held at Hokitika and Franz Josef, which included such items as Charlie (Mr Explorer) Douglas's original field notebooks, documenting his explorations of the West Coast.
It's not clear if Charlie ever rode, or even saw, a bicycle, and he certainly wouldn't have contemplated taking one on his journeys through the rugged West Coast terrain of the late 1800s. But thanks to the West Coast Wilderness Trail (WCWT), cyclists of the early 2000s can explore the West Coast on a well graded Nga Haerenga route. As a precursor to the annual CANDO cycle advocacy meeting, I'd decided to ride the trail from Hokitika to Greymouth. To simplify using public transport, I took my Tern folding bike, hoping the trail would be good enough for the small wheels. In the event, even the offroad sections were no problem for the 20" wheels.
The flight got in with a few hours of daylight to spare, so after unfolding and loading the Tern, I swept down the hill and picked up the highway heading inland to Lake Kaniere. Once out of the urban limits, I encountered more Kereru and Kea than cars, making for a pleasant evening ride to Lake Kaniere Homestay, where host Grant welcomed me with a cold beer and BBQ'd chops.
|Cycletourists head down the Arahura valley|
|On the trail climbing out of the Arahura|
|Weka meets Tern, Cowboy Paradise|
|Kumara Chasm bridge|
|Taramakau road/rail bridge|
Eventually the trail reached the Greymouth breakwater, with memorials to the vessels that have failed to safely negotiate the challenging entrance. A final stretch through the harbour landed me at the "official" start/finish of the trail, within sight of the railway station, and with plenty of time for the Tern to undergo an origami transformation from touring bike to luggage for the trip across the alps, very different from the gruelling stage coach ride of Charlie Douglas's time.
|Journey's end: Greymouth breakwater|