A few weeks ago, I cooked up an idea to get back to one of my favorite places by a new mode of transport. I love the Matukituki valley and the Aspiring hut, but the walk to the hut is actually fairly boring. We spiced it up and pioneered a new (to us) sport: bike-packing.
Our plan: mountain bike to the hut, drop our packs, jet up the Cascade Saddle track to the edge the bushline for a view of the sunset, spend the night in the hut, and bike out the next day.
You’d think we’d get an alpine start for this full-day mission. Ha, that’s funny. Here’s a snapshot of what it actually looks like when you make a last-minute decision to go on a weekend adventure:
8-10am: Roll out of bed, throw gear in backpacks, find mountain bikes for all five participants, jam bikes into van. Finish second cup of coffee and pretend we’re ready to shred.
11:00: Leave town an hour later than our original goal, wondering what we forgot. Drive dirt road too fast and possibly lose essential pieces of undercarriage. Stop for sheep photo op.
12:00: Unload bikes at trailhead. Play with gear. Put car keys in strategic spot in pack so we don’t lose them.
12:30: Shoulder packs and start mountain bike ride.
12:35: Dismount bikes for the first of 17 stepovers.
12:40: Carry bikes across rocky river. Pedal into crazy headwinds that threaten to blow us off our seats. Walk bikes up super steep loose rock sections. Ford 25 knee-deep creeks at maximum speed. (Okay, I’m exaggerating. It was only 20.) Win face-off with a cow in the middle of the track.
1:45: Alex’s chain breaks. Attempt creative towing solution with an extra tube. Attempt shockingly fails.
2:30: Arrive at hut. Drop packs and shove lunch into our mouths. Discover that one of our party has forgotten food altogether.
3:00: Start up Cascade Saddle. Discuss life stories, best first-date questions, what skills we can bring to the Zombie Apocalypse Survival Team, and who actually brought dinner.
4:15: Take quick selfie as Mount Aspiring peeks through the clouds. Sadly turn around before breaking out of the bushline to hightail it back to the hut before dark.
5:00: Grand entrance to sweltering hut full of people and woodsmoke to find our friends who walked in behind us. Realize half of us forgot gas and stoves. Make random dinners combining the woodstove, camp stoves, and any ingredients at hand. Result questionable.
6:00: Discover that one of our party has forgotten a sleeping bag.
7:00: Photograph the full moon rising over the Southern Alps. Play epic card games. Collectively pass out at the party-animal hour of 9pm.
8:00: Discover that one of our party has lost her car keys.
9:00: Repeat bike ride in reverse order.
10:30: Find missing keys hanging on a post in carpark. Thanks, New Zealand hikers, you rock.
11:30: Reconvene in town for real coffee.
And now, my friends, we’ve arrived at the lesson of this adventure: It’s probably wise to plan overnight missions more than two hours in advance, and to actually embark on them before noon. But we all know that preparedness makes for boring stories.
Check out my friend Richie’s blog for more beautiful shots of this adventure.