Early October Roy's clan travels brought them through Reefton.
(home to fab gin, lots of big mining machinery, an incredibly tough + funny community - plus me)
That gave us the chance to catch up for a cuppa after his party of five had completed the trail. They were all glossy with the excited glow that radiates out of people who've just had a great time together... although I wondered if it was also a tiny bit due to a quick sampling stop they'd just made down the road at the award winning local distillery.
I asked how they chose the Wilderness/Kawatiri Trail from all the options available nowadays.
Roy said his brother had researched then organised it all - the prerequisites being a beautiful track where different levels of experience could be accommodated and indeed two of their group rode e-bikes, while the other three were on standard off road cycles.
Because it's a very well formed gravel track the whole way, they all said the trip felt really social - making it an ideal track for families, groups & couples etc. There's plenty of spots to just chill, chat & admire the special untamed charm that the West Coast offers up in spades.
It hosed down one of the days, but they had all the right gear & reported that it didn't dent their enjoyment & was quite cool seeing the rivers rise so quickly - plus kinda neat to have shared the challenge of persevering with their pedaling through a deluge of vertical water.
They said the scenery during the days was fantastic & that everyone enjoyed the treetop walk. (Also an option to do ziplining in same location just south of Hokitika)
Plenty of birdlife to spot along the track - especially weka's popped up everywhere during the day & at night they could hear kiwis calling.
Their general impression matches my experience of being based here; the West Coast has quite a unique and sometimes retro feel - it's a really special corner of NZ.
Everyone the group met along the way was super friendly with the exception (just read the online reviews) of the gentleman running Cowboy Paradise, who seemed concerned they might make his deck dirty by sitting on it.
Perhaps he would have been more welcoming if they'd arrived on horseback.
They found everything was very easy to get to, but at the same time it somehow managed to feel a long way from life in Wellington. Visiting old mine sites along the track gave them interesting insights into how challenging life was for many back then and everyday I see examples that the "number 8 wire" mentality still lives strongly in the coasters of today.
Thirst was quenched in local pubs along the way. (Kumara & Blackball got a mention)
They bought salami (I'm still snacking on my gift thank you) & thought they'd seen everything they'd hoped to... but then a helpful local threw open the Blackball pub doors and invited them to peruse their locally produced erotic art festival...
I asked the group if they would recommend the Wilderness Trail to others & it was an emphatic yes. Roy would absolutely do it again himself too.
He says it was a trip filled with camaraderie & focused around being enjoyable for a group or couple, rather than exhausting like some of the more technically challenging rides. If anyone wants to hear more or has any questions - just give him a call.
Of course you can go see yourself & sign up to do The West Coast Wilderness & Kawatiri Trail as part of the Wishbone Relay on 2-5 February 2024.... adventure with give-back!
South Island registrations close just after the NZOA ASM on 7 November 2023, so please do get planning with your friends, family & colleagues asap.