The St James Trail is an 100km mountain bike loop that New Zealand opened in 2010 in order to allow cyclists, hikers, and horseback riders a chance to experience the beauty of the old St James Station (farm). “With no roads, no shops, and no cell phone coverage, this trail is all about the basic desire to get away from it all,” the route description said, and that’s exactly what we were able to do.
Though we could have completed this route faster, we decided to bring an extra day of food with us in order to spend some time fishing and hanging out away from any towns or people. Since the first day was extremely windy (and, of course, coming straight at us as headwinds) we decided to cycle the first fifteen kilometers and then hide out in one of the many basic backcountry huts New Zealand has spread all around the country.
The next day proved to be more difficult as we spent the morning pushing our bikes – sometimes double teaming one bike at a time – up steep rocky single track. We also walked down most of the downhills as we didn’t trust ourselves next to the drop off, or because it was simply too rocky and steep. Needless to say a simple twenty kilometers took us a ridiculous amount of time and we were so grateful to actually ride once the terrain became easier.
We finished up the “mountain bike” section of the loop, which by the way we were doing the “wrong” (hard) way, by pushing our bikes up a very steep pass that gained over 500m of elevation in only four or five kilometers. It was tough, but thankfully short.
After a night along the Clarence river – where we caught multiple fish (and I caught a fifteen inch trout for dinner) – in a “historic” hut at the side of the road we headed back into town along the rainbow route, a dirt road very similar to the Molesworth road we were on last week.
Though it was physically hard, all the pushing was well worth the reward of being away from cars. Before arriving to New Zealand we had excepted more of our routes to look like this – totally away from civilization with few or no cars a day passing us – and though as a whole we have found New Zealand busier than we had anticipated, these last few routes have been truly wonderful.