The Heaphy Track is a must-do ride for any adventure-loving mountain biker seeking out beautiful scenery, natural terrain and a couple of days seemingly worlds away from it all. The experienced and fit rider will handle the challenge quite easily, but what if you want to take a non-riding friend or significant other and not have them hate the experience, or you... Tracey Walker from Zatori wants to encourage more non-riders to experience the Heaphy, so she set out with friends and baskets on their bars to see how to best enjoy a weekend in the wilderness, in style.
Never one to turn down a challenge, I naively said "yes" when asked if I was keen to try biking the Heaphy Track. I am a fit and busy girl who runs most days, but due to being crazy busy and totally underestimating how hard the ride would be, I put in zero practice rides. Big Mistake! Having said that, l lived to tell the tale and still feel hugely grateful for surviving it.
I am a novice mountain biker, and the Heaphy is tough but not technical, so if you are bike fit it should be a breeze. In my not-so-clever wisdom l decided to put a basket on the front of the bike to take some weight off my back… that was a terrible idea and made it unnecesarily hard. Putting a carrier rack on though was a brilliant idea and it was great having my sleeping bag tied on in a plastic bag with a bungee cord.
The Heaphy is an amazingly beautiful and stunningly spectacular track with Avatar & Dr Seuss-type scenery that slows you down and demands your attention and appreciation. We biked it in two days, but many fitter and experienced riders will do the 86km in one day… something I can’t even imagine! We met lots of happy, muddy bikers on the way, all loving the experience.
It took us 2 x 8hr days and we were shattered but euphoric at the end of each day. We celebrated by cooking up whitebait and scallops and washed down with not nearly enough good wine (such a quandary of weight to weigh up… I highly recommend carrying though, it's worth the effort!)
DOC have done extremely well with cosy new huts complete with dry firewood, gas cookers and comfy beds, and even flush toilets. It’s really easy to get there and back now with Mit from Adventure Flights Golden Bay and his wicked wee plane that has a groovy bike carrying attachment under the wings. Then he kindly flies back over the track to show us what legends we really are for biking all that way.
Weather plays a big part and if you have the luxury of waiting until the weather is great it makes a huge difference. Day one for us was a hideous grunt uphill in sleety cold rain which did not add anything positive to the experience. It did however supply a great deal of mud to navigate the next day… which was fun at times and provided a lovely soft cushion to land in.
The easiest trip is to drive to Collingwood and spend a gorgeous night at Zatori by the fire, eating and drinking and resting in B&B or shared rooms from $60pp. Then a bright and early drive to the start of the track, leaving your car at the airstrip then ride into James McKay Hut for the first night. The next day, ride (mostly downhill) out to Karamea carpark where you can be picked up by the lovely Karamea Express and delivered to the airport. Fly back to your car then a short drive back to Zatori to celebrate in style!