The deal with bike packing is it's minimalist. You just can't bring the amount of kit that fits into bike panniers. Streamlining your gear allows for the bike to tackle tougher terrain, but once you add full camping gear, food and a change of clothes you are pushing it with capacity.
Because I have a small bike frame I am limited to smaller volume bags so that there is enough clearance for the bike tyres. I have to be very careful when loading both the handlebar roll and the saddle bag that everything is tight and rigid, and clears the tyres.
I've put cages on the front forks, but I found on the Mavora trip that the bike could benefit from a bit more weight on the back wheel for better handling. Overloading the front forks can lead to them breaking, which means there are limits to how much you can carry up front.
I decided to purchase the Aero Spider rack. This attaches directly to the rear seat stay and gives me the option to attach some more dry bags in a number of different configurations. It's also transferable to any bike, which makes the upfront price more palatable.
Since I was only planning an overnighter I packed the chair and tent into a dry bag on the rear rack, sleeping bag and mattress in the front handlebar roll, food, water and a few sundries in the frame bag, tools in a small bag on the top tube, clothes and cooker in the saddlebag. For the first time I still had some redundancy. I didn't need the front cages, and I could have put a second bag on the other side of the rack. This means I now have enough packing space for a longer trip.
I drove out to St Bathans and then up the Hawkdun Run road to Homestead DOC campsite. I parked the car there and headed off on the walking track to join up with the main 4WD track heading up the Manuherika. It was a perfectly good track to ride, though I walked across the creek crossings, and up the small hill, and across the tussock to the main track....
|Homestead DOC campsite shelter|
|Packed and ready to go|
Once on the main track I made good time. It was a very gentle gradient heading upriver, and the track, although rocky in places, was in much better condition than the Mavora Lakes track. At the fork I headed left, up the west branch to Boundary Creek Hut. I got there early afternoon and decided not to push on to Top Hut as there was a vicious headwind that I didn't fancy continuing riding into.
|you can appreciate the much narrower profile with bike packing vs panniers|
|West branch of the Manuherika River|
|yet another scenic crossing, good lunch stop|
|Boundary Creek Hut, shelter from the wind|
A chap with his dog popped in, awaiting a helicopter pickup. He and a team were part of a pest eradication team looking for wallabies. The Oteake Conservation Park hasn't had a wallaby incursion until now, so they are hoping to reduce their numbers. So far he hadn't seen any.
I spent the afternoon reading, had dinner and an early night. Just on dark a chap from Dunedin drove up in his 4WD. We had a short chat and then he claimed a bunk and went to sleep too.
The next morning I found my rear tyre to be flat. This seems like a recurring nightmare. I couldn't find the source of the leak this time either, so pumped up the tyre, packed up and headed back down the west Manuherika. It was an easy ride as it was all downhill!
I stopped at one of the river crossings to see if I could find the leak. I couldn't. The tyre hadn't deflated much either, so I just kept trucking...
I had accidentally lost my wallet the day before, but I found it again at my lunch stop (the only time I had opened that bag en route) so when I came to the forks I headed up the east branch of the Manuherika, because there were a couple of huts to bag up this valley as well.
The East Manuherika is a wider valley than the West, and the road was much smoother to ride. More sandy than rocky.
|Heading up the East Branch of Manuherika River|
I left the bike behind some bushes just off the track and walked up to visit a private hut hidden behind a small hill then returned to the bike.
A large tagalong 4WD group were also heading down valley on a six day trip from Blenheim. They did the gates so I didn't have to!
|I guess it gets windy around here...|
I decided to take the 4WD track back to the campsite but my poor fitness didn't allow me to make it all the way up the hill without having to stop and push. Better than it was, but still a work in progress....
Another successful bike packing trip. And another puncture. Damn! Tubeless tyres aren't supposed to be this unreliable. Will try to sort this out when I get back from Oz.
Meanwhile, I have one more tramp to go. That's next.