Chris wasn't having any of a 6 am start so I headed off on my own at dawn to the route start in downtown Fairlie.
Somehow I missed meeting up with McCardigan & Nic as planned so I gassed it out of town, splashed down into the Opihi River with great enthusiasm & made it through several gnarly crossings on my way downstream before realising I had fudged the nav & missed the rather obvious exit
The perils of getting going early before there is much of a beaten path!
After that my navigating went much better & I passed several groups of riders milling around looking lost as I cruised east into the rising sun. The track was through farmland along the top of a ridge for a long stretch & the views were great. After Waimate I had just assumed the route went through Myers Pass but in fact it was much more interesting than that with a neat section through forest & remote farm tracks.
At Kurow I gassed up & called in at the cafe just east of the servo to have the best flat white I have ever consumed & a choc muffin that was also pretty impressive. Then it was out the back streets of Kurow & into the infamous Awakino saddle challenge section.
I know for those in places like Colorado & the Himalaya 1000+ metres of steep, rough, rocky climb is just a quick trip to the shops for milk but here in NZ it's quite a novelty to just keep powering on up & up so far into the mountains. The first tricky bit up a scrambly climb takes me by surprise so after making a hash of that I swing into attack mode a little more & keep the pace on whenever it looks like an ounce of momentum might be needed.
The top of the pass is at about 1450m. I'd love to know what possessed some mad bastard to drive their bully over here but I'm not complaining. it's a great ride & a great view.
Going down the other side things get rougher, steeper & rockier. While bouncing down one nasty section, not entirely in control, the bike ricochets from one boulder to the next with some big crunches. I had meant to make myself a bash plate for this sort of stuff but had run out of time before the ride. Luckily the big hits haven't been on anything fragile so I carry on.
The slightly recursively named Hut Creek Hut.
From here the track looked a bit more worn so I thought, maybe things get a bit less gnarly from now.
It's demanding, but fun riding through here. A couple of fairly decent river crossings were knocked off. I didn't encounter too many other riders through here but a was good to see some guys at both the crossings & both times they pointed out the best line. I dropped the bike in one bouldery crossing but luckily she didn't suck in any water & I was able to get upright & carry on. Then there was a lot more up & down before I got to the Ida Railway Hut:
This is the old Ida Valley railway station. About 30km & 1000 vertical metres away from the old railway line it once served. How did it get here? Refer thread title. Under the direction of some farmers who lease this part of the reserve for grazing, it was sledged up the hill (that I am about to descend) by two mad buggers on bulldozers to extend the existing mustering hut. Locally known as 'Inder's Castle' after Laurie Inder who led the project. I know this 'cos it features in a very cool book I got given for Christmas, 'Shelter from the Storm' - a history of NZ's backcountry huts. After a short break & a snack I continue on across the tops. I think that if they towed a bloody railway station up the rest of the track then maybe things get a bit more cruisy from here? Not really.
There are still plenty of ruts, rocks, mud & bouldery hills to come.
Hey! An old road sign, the track probably gets a bit more laid back from here? Nope.
This is around the highest point of the ride at around 1650m on the Hawkdun range. Then the track plummets down a spur into the Ida Valley.
As if rocks, mud, ruts & rivers weren't enough to worry about, near the end of the track I discover I should have been on the lookout for unexploded ordnance as well!
The 70km from Kurow took about 4 hrs & was great fun & a good workout. Apparently there were a couple of bikes left to be recovered another day & more than a few drowned in the crossings in there. After that it was nice to take in some easier tracks down through the valley.
By the time I got to the Poolburn pub I was well ready for a beer.
From here it was across to the Thompson Gorge Road, a neat cut through the hills to the west. There are lots of gates though, I was lucky to join in with a group through here so we took turns at opening & shutting. The big upside of doing the ride solo is the lack of dust, but you get good at off, open gate, on, through, off, close gate, on.... ride, repeat.
A highway section south then the route heads up the Carricktown track to the Nevis road.
After that it's back down the start of the Nevis & along the Hawksburn Rd to Clyde, then a short bit of highway to Alexandra. I get in about 5pm. It's been an exhilarating & slightly exhausting days riding. I get cleaned up & installed in the pub & swap stories with the riders already there & the others that continue to roll in into the night. We down beers until way too late given the planned early start the next day.
Day 2 of the Dusty to come.