Passes and Breaks - West Coast

One of New Zealand's best outdoor adventure photographers, Camilla Stoddart, checks out the West Coast of the South Island.

Camilla Stoddart has just completed New Zealand's South Island in Kombi campervans alongside mountain biking professionals from Canada. Follow her adventure as she finishes her trip on the West Coast of the South Island.

West Coast - South Island 

It really does astound me how diverse the landscape in New Zealand is. Our last region to explore was the Northern tip of the West Coast

We had only enough time to scratch the surface of this incredible wild and wonderful part of the South Island. We drove from Nelson, through the Buller Gorge and got spat out of the thick native bush at Westport. Driving the coast between Westport and Greymouth is quite the experience. The road hugs the coast passing wild and rugged beaches and huge mountains dripping with lush rainforest dropping steeply into the sea. You feel like you have gone back in time to a Jurassic era.

After doing the tourist thing and visiting the pancake rocks at Punakaiki, which are well worth the look! we went in search of some waves to surf before the afternoon’s activity of heli biking.

After Kelly caught a few waves it was time to pack our bags and bikes ready for the last and biggest biking adventure of our trip. We were to heli bike the Croesus Track. Let me tell you a bit about this track… It is an old mining trail, from Blackball on the Eastern side of the range to Barrytown, a small costal village right on the West Coast. Having spoken to many locals and got a good idea of what the trail was like we decided to bike the ‘gnarly’ side; the West Coast side. It is a walking track, but is open to mountain biking.

We were warned that the track was steep, rocky and rooty, all the way down. Piece of cake for the professional bikers eh? I was a little apprehensive about my biking skills, especially with a heavy camera bag, but I was up for the challenge none the less. We couldn’t go down the easy side now could we? Where would the story be in that? The West side it was.

Feeling a bit like rock stars we got scooped up on the beach by our heli to Croesus Knobb, just above the Cec Clarke hut, where we would be resting our heads that night. Being whisked up to the top of the range in seconds we were quickly riding our bikes downhill to the hut on the East side of the range. This part of the trail was fun wide single track amongst thick high alpine tussock.

We attempted to shoot sunset photos on the ridge over the West Coast but the clouds started to build as the sun went down giving us some unexpected but awesome light! We had an early nights sleep in the hut before getting up at sparrows fart to catch the sunrise on the ridge, which was a 45 min bike uphill in the dark!

What I thought was the top of the ridge was not quite. After a productive sunrise shoot it was a surprise to all to find we had a good climb still to go. We had to climb to the flanks of Mt Ryall (1220m). That meant we had to bike from 1220m to sea level.

Being spat out of that bush at the Coast, exhausted and very sore after such an epic ride was an amazing feeling. It was straight into the ocean for us for a well deserved swim. This was the last time we rode our bikes on this trip. It was time to pack up and get back to Christchurch, say goodbye to our great friends, the red and yellow Kombi’s who had been so superb to travel and sleep in, and we had all grown quite attached to them.

It really was such an awesome trip, made incredible by a number of contributing factors - the crew of Kelly McGarry, Mike Hopkins and Casey Brown. The help and support of those listed below, as well as locals we met along the way. Our amazing transport and accommodation of the Kombi’s and a North Face Rock 22 Tent. The incredible mountain biking that the South Island has to offer. Two weeks of relentless sunshine and great weather.

And, of course, the diverse and mind blowing landscape of the country that is Aotearoa, New Zealand. I love you.

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