When injuries inevitably crop up from time to time it usually means that adventuring goes on the back burner. With the long weekend looming and both of us feeling a bit down about not being able to climb anything, we had an epiphany that we could still ride our bikes. Bike packing has been a somewhat foreign concept to me so far but after following Mark Watson biking the length of the North and South American continents for the past few months (you can check it out here) I decided it could just be a go. After all, what could be easier than cruising along on a mountain bike and watching the kms fly by instead of trudging along a track with a huge pack?
We headed out to one of our favourite spots, the Hakatere, and parked the car at Buicks Bridge (FYI this is not the best place to park if you're biking this track but more on that later!) where we had started our Mystery Lake trip from. The plan was to head into Boundary Creek Hut and then keep following the track up the South Branch as far as it took to find a good camp spot. After throwing my pack on and jumping on my bike it didn't take long to realise that adding 10kg of gear to your back significantly impacts my speed and ability to control where I'm going! The track to begin with is a gradual uphill and not very flat so I was feeling my legs well in truly by the time we reached the stream 45 minutes later.
The dog took the opportunity to cool off for a bit before we turned off the Te Araroa and headed up the 4WD track to Boundary Creek Hut. The riding became significantly easier although remained slightly uphill most of the way to the hut. There is a bit of a hill that makes for a rocky and fast descent but anyone of average mountain biking skill (of which I am not) shouldn't be too bothered by the terrain. When we pulled up to the hut a large group of early 20-somethings were unpacking their gear and chilling bottles of scrumpy in the conveniently placed river. Another couple of groups were setting up tents nearby, bringing the total community to slightly more than we were keen to spend the night with. Thus we took our introverted anti-social selves off down the track another kilometre and out onto the river bed.
Izzy had run the whole way in chasing our bikes and we assumed she would be keen to cool off and curl up for a rest. Apparently she wasn't convinced that we had traveled a sufficient distance and instead proceeded to head across the river where the track continued and sat waiting for us to join her for most of the rest of the night. In an effort to try and reduce the weight of our packs for easier riding we had brought a tarp and ground sheet instead of a tent. The tarp can be pitched with a couple of walking poles or sticks making for a lightweight but spacious shelter for the night. What we were vaguely aware of before setting out and acutely aware of at 7am is that tarps don't keep sand flies out.
There was a meteor shower that night and lying out on the river bed with a good fire made for perfect viewing with our oversupply of salami, cheese and the requisite pick n mix from New World. The dog eventually came back but refused to sleep in the tarp with us, I guess to teach us a lesson. Despite the blood suckers turning up early in the morning I really rate tarp life. There was a lot more room than we normally have in our two person tent despite having thrown all of our gear in around our sleeping mats and getting in and out was easy with the pole set up. If I can find some low sand fly zones in future I'd happily take this over the full tent and fly set up.
The trip back out was downhill the whole way (after pushing our bikes back up the hill right after the hut) and we had to slow down a few times to let Izzy have a rest from running. She may have come from a farm but she spends most of her week sunbathing on the couch in our living room rather than sprinting full pace through the countryside. When we reached the single track we had initially ridden in on we instead followed the 4WD track all the way out to the road. This was considerably easier riding even with the head wind back down the min road to the car park.
There are so many great parts of the Hakatere to explore either on foot or by bike you could spend weeks out there but Boundary Creek is a nice introduction for the uninitiated. The sun can be brutal with the lack of shade so sunscreen up and take a good bit of water if you're walking.
Rachael and Jeremy