I hadn't riden with Pete since Ep2 on the St James cycle trail. Pete and I move in different circles but we have always had the bond of brothers.
So when Pete brought a mountain bike a year back it was all the motivation we both needed to plan some missions in the hills. It seldom happens though so I was stoked when the stars aligned...Pete has been egging me on to get him up the Old Ghost Road, however winter had beat us and the Lyell range already had a dump of snow layering the alpine section, so not having riden around Reefton for a few years a rendezvous was made and preparations undertaken.
One part of the packing which was a little unusual, I decided to take a load of firewood with me given the frost that was predicted overnight, this would also ensure we could have a good chin wag around a campfire. After a later than planned meet we flew out for a quick out n back of the Murray Creek trails. This lead to an after dark pull up at the DoC campsite at Slab Hut Creek. This is a magnificent campsite that has its history as a public gold panning spot. Someone has had the passion in the place to build this most impressive brick fire/BBQ/pizza oven and we were treated by the thermal qualities of radiating bricks while we cooked sirloin steak and sank a few ginger beers.
Instead of dealing with frozen tents we both slept in our cars and the fact that Pete, 183cm slept in his Toyota Corolla hatchback is a testament to his engineering skills. As expected we awoke to a pearly white frost and the last of the kerosene producing Old Man Pine firewood was soon baking our faces while we cooked bacon and made coffee. I was so pumped on our blast at the Murray Creek trails that I thought we could get a quick loop in and then move further afield to the Croesus later. Little did we know that due to excessive gas bagging and historical exploration what was supposed to be a 2 hour loop would turn into a 3+hour daddle.
this is how I roll on social rides, I spend more time riding solo than riding with others so when I do get the opportunity to ride with an interesting old bugger, like Pete, I see no need in hurrying, enjoying each other's company, the environment and the history is just as satisfying as railing hero dirt and dropping into steep switchbacks.
Needless to say though, the quality of riding was also essential to a good boys trip and the old mining trails of The Murray Creek area are freakn' amazing. The downhill from Ajax Mine site is right up there with the best. The multitude of loop options in this one area combined with the epic day trips and Sub24O's (that's cool bikepacking lingo for sub 24 hour overnighters) such as Kirwans, Big River, Croesus and the Old Ghost Road, really should make Reefton a lot higher on South Island mountain bikers radar.
in fact Reefton really surprised me with its vibrancy and life, which really seems to have come about as the mining industry has been in decline, due to the towns need to focus on tourism as another income stream. I totally urge riders to think about Reefton as a destination and I'm already planning to head back for an overnight ride.
It was great to catch up with an ol mate, camp at a neat campsite, ride some new terrain and generally act like guys. I drove away from this rustic town being reminded of how important it is to have the support of good mates, how important it is to value family support. We all get a bit of the black dog at some point during the roller coaster of life, my medicine is the forest, the moss, the bedrock,that bermy corner, that techy pitch, the sound of grown adults giggling with the rush of adrenaline and endorphins coarsing through their veins, surely these are the antidepressants we all need to keep that work/life balance going.
Pete reminded me of these important aspects to a positive outlook, he's a diamond in the rough, a true example of why not to judge a book by its cover. I rate riding with him and Reefton was a great location to host it...