Saint Arnaud to Cold Creek (Rainbow Trail)

Thursday, February 23, 2017
Disc Trucker

Epic ride up the Wairau River into the mountains.

It was longer than I thought it would be on the highway to the start of the Rainbow Trail, but eventually we turned off on a lovely fast downhill into the Wairau Valley. The clouds were putting on a show and the whole thing was amazingly picturesque. The road was still sealed at first but soon turned to a kind of chip seal which continued to where the road to the ski area forked off. From there in it was rough dirt, rock, and gravel, but still very ridable. This is why I brought a bike with 2" tires. This trail would take me well beyond my comfort zone and stretch my limits of endurance, strength, and bike control. I loved every minute of it!

It wasn't long before we came to our first creek ford. The water was low and we rode right through it. Okay, if they're all like that I've got it licked. Not a chance. They kept getting deeper, wider, and rockier. Pretty soon I wasn't even trying to ride through them but just dismounting and walking. Glad it was summer time and my shoes would dry out.

It was a steady climb now with a lot of short steep sections that I could not ride. Jelle managed most of them and I noticed he had a much lower gear than I did. He could spin very fast and get up the really steep stuff. He also had excellent bike control in the loose and rocky stuff. I played it safe. This was not a good place to get hurt.

We were getting further and further into the mountains, which were mostly stark, bare, and rugged. This is not the lush jungly part of New Zealand. I guess that would be the West Coast. There was a lot of green along all of the creeks and rivers which were numerous. There was a lot of water coming off of those mountains, even if there was not much growing on them.

We got to Coldwater Creek and setup camp. We both tried to wash in the creek and it was indeed cold water. Very cold. This was what I came for. Camping in the wilderness far from roads, lights, and people. We took a walk to preview what we'd see tomorrow and took some pictures in the fading light. It was plenty cold over night but I slept warm enough.


Start of the Rainbow Trail
Start of the Rainbow Trail looking down the Wairau River Valley


River ford
We had to ford many creeks, some of which we could ride through, but not this one.


Wairau River
One of the many side creeks


Fording another river.
Fording another river.


The Wairau River
The Wairau River.


Jelle and Paul
A selfie on the river.


Farther upstream
The Wairau River farther upstream.


Camping in the mountains.


Coldwater Creek
This may be Coldwater Creek upstream from the campsite.


Fading light
Fading light on the mountains.