Riding Smoke-ho Carpark – Ces Clark Hut – Moonlight Hut on the Paparoa Track

While the opening of the Paparoa Track has been disappointing, life is about making the most of what you have available to you. Our founder, Geoff Gabites did just that and set off to explore the track by riding Smoke-ho – Ces Clark Hut – Moonlight Hut section of the track. Here’s his story of his ride…

Paparoa-Track-Ride

With organised friends, I ended up tagging on what was going to be a Paparoa Track – Ces Clark Hut – Pororari Hut – Punakaiki thriller.  With the change in the full opening date, we were left with a ride to Ces Clark Hut and then a day trip across to Moonlight Hut. We returned to Ces Clark Hut to collect our gear and then rode down the lower Croesus to Smoke-ho carpark. We finished off with a breezy ride down the road to Blackball and a chance to celebrate.

Its been hard to get some ‘fair’ representation of riding the trail.  I knew it was ‘strenuous’ and challenging and likely to be muddy.  Yeh right – for others maybe.  Come on – it can’t be too bad?  The reality is that the lower Croesus is a true grade 4. It’s made difficult by the steady uphill on a rocky surface and rocky water channels from the historical builders.  The kick comes in the last 3kms or so.  Overall I walked about 35-40% of the track pushing my bike.  Discretion won over valour as I sought to protect myself as the weather closed in.

Ces Clark Hut sits on the bush line and we had the hut to ourselves.  Firewood and coal is available for the stove – but note to self – take some fire starters to avoid the frustration.   The night at the hut was a delight, the food excellent and the matching wine.

Paparoa-Track-Ride

Above Ces Clark Hut the track cuts across tussock hillside up and out to the ridge line as it heads to the saddle from where the Croesus plunges down to the coast exiting at Barrytown. We carried on the tops towards Moonlight Hut – the riding here is fun!  The track surface improves and the progress is great.  There are some spectacular sections and the undulations provided by the trail builders create a fast flowing ride.  The trail circles the Roaring Meg stream catchment and then across above the Moonlight catchment, before finally descending to cross the ridge. It’s then a short drop to the delights of Moonlight Hut.  The hut warden Bronwyn was friendly and chatty and we gazed with disappointment towards the Escarpment.

Inevitably we collected our bits and pieces and again headed out into the mist and light rain. Reversing the flowing trail back to the saddle, we then descended back to Ces Clark Hut and todays allocation of walkers and riders.

Paparoa-Track-Ride

Riding the lower Croesus Track back to Smoke-ho carpark was a different beast!  The relentless gradient acted in our favour, providing momentum that allowed us to roll over yesterdays barriers.  It is still grade 4 – but with familiarity comes braveness and confidence allowing us to reach Smoke-ho in good time.  The 5km ride down the road was even fun, made all the better by the clouds opening up soon after we were installed in the warm friendly surrounds of the Blackball’s Inn for a coffee and a beer.

For me, my reality was that the 10.3kms took us about 3.5 – 4 hrs with the side visit to the old hut and historic stamping site.  From my experience, I would allocate 3-4 hrs to get into Ces Clark Hut and then approximately 2 hrs across to Moonlight Hut.

Geoff Gabites – Paparoa Shuttles