Hurunui Bikerafting Brevet* - A Beginners Trip
Photos, film & story by Deane Parker
Bikerafting New Zealand
A bike and a packraft have allowed me to pull off some cool short routes, inspired by some longer routes. I didn’t actually need boats on any of these trips, but I used them for access – to join some dots, paddle a river during a bike tour or even just to change up the sore legs to shoulder workouts.
I am not the first to try bikerafting. However, I have made bikerafting New Zealand a niche in my passion for video storytelling. A couple of years ago I made a film about Shailer Hart and his quirky collection of ultra bikepacking organised rides, and ever since Shailer has prodded me into collaborating on a brevet style bikerafting event.
Out of Lockdown, Onto the Water!
Over the winter of 2021, Shailer and I talked extensively of a route in the Lake Sumner Forest Park. We set dates for November. Coming out of New Zealand’s second lockdown and our biggest city locked out from traveling, we ended up with a local crew of mostly first-time packrafters, my adventure companion, Muel, and Helen from a previous film of her journey into packrafting. Link here ‘Helen’s Journey’- Bikerafting 101.
The trip route morphed as the consistency of the group came together. I wanted to create a journey that gave a feel for the independence and enjoyment that the extra effort of carrying packrafting gear on a bike offers, without too much pain and suffering.
But Can I Carry That?
As usual the anxiety of, “Can I carry it all on my bike?” sets in. Plus, a paddle, buoyancy aid etc all have to find a place to be safe from damage and not be cumbersome and impeding to the ride. The first few kilometres are unfamiliar and as Zoe says, “You have to find the balance.” Well said from the smallest member of the team riding an XS full suspension bike. Zoe did so well with her determination and grit that got her through the toughest section of single track fully loaded.
Group confidence was gained by the time we reached the Department of Conservation hut. Stan, another first timer, had never combined biking and paddling, but decided to give it a shot. After snacks and claiming bunks for the night we stripped off the bikes and rode on to the infamous Hurunui hot springs. I always enjoy natural hot springs and this spot was a new one for me. The water was hot and the sand flies vicious, so we didn’t dally long before setting off back to the hut for the evening.
We had an awesome spot to gear up the next morning which was great as we spent heaps of time familiarizing the first timers with the boat and the technique for strapping the bike down. Helen is well versed in the process now, and her creaky knees make hiking painful so for her.
“It’s the best combo…bike in raft out,” she explains.
The Versatility of Packrafts
Lots of briefing and paddle drills later we set off down the upper Hurunui. The river conditions were ideal for getting to grips with maneuvering a laden packraft.
This trip proved the versatility of using packrafts to explore lesser known and paddled water ways. Whilst I’m sure at sometime in history the upper Hurunui has been paddled a few times, it seriously would have only been a few. And what an amazing setting to pass on the mantle to starting-out bikerafting enthusiasts than an incredibly spectacular landscape.
We finished off paddling downwind across Lake Sumner and up a natural canal into another Lake, Loch Katrine. Smiles, beers and potato chips were shared back at the trailhead. And a group of inspired adventurers soon mused over their next routes, bikerafting New Zealand.
**Brevet: when riders attempt courses of 200 km or more, passing through predetermined “controls” (checkpoints) every few tens of kilometers. Riders aim to complete the course within specified time limits, and receive equal recognition regardless of their finishing order.