I was ready to ride the Paparoa Track several years before opening. You see, I was lucky enough to help determine the trail route when it was still untracked wilderness. Exploring route choices and seeing the potential of the stunning landscape for a walking and biking trail made me incredibly excited to be there on opening day.
Opening day arrives and I climb the historic Croesus Track above Blackball. This former goldmine pack track takes me right past historic huts and gold stamper battery. Climbing further I reach the Moonlight Tops, here there is several kilometres of ridgeline riding, far below over my left shoulder is the Tasman Sea over my right is the Grey Valley. The trail meanders and explores the sub-alpine tops snaking on both sides of the range.
Still above the bushline I reach the Moonlight Tops Hut. The hut has the most wonderful view to the Pike escarpment – a 5km long tear in the earth’s crust, with a 300 vertical metre cliff that exposes the coal seams and other layered strata formations. This hut is the tops! It is fully insulated, has incredible views and is complete with USB charging ports. The glow of the sunset over the Tasman Sea makes the hut a real favourite of mine.
The next day I reach the escarpment and peer down into the Pike catchment where the memorial track will one day open down toward the shaft of the 29 lost miners. The track remarkably follows along the razor edge before dropping abruptly off the tops into the cloud forest – here I cross a suspension bridge that dangles under the tallest of waterfalls.
Further along I reach the Pororari River with rainforest limbs that arc over its scenic waters. I take a dip – my favourite pool so far on any cycle trail. Following the river and karst formations I reach the outskirts of Punakaiki – being the first visitor to complete the Paparoa Track on opening day.
One day I will return to ride the trail in the other direction and visit the memorial track when it is linked up. The Paparoa Track is my new favourite backcountry trail – most deserving of the Great Walk title and an even better ride.