Woke up to a fine, but not clear, day. Has an early start, an on-line meeting about some possible work which didn't eventuate due to timing.
Today I wanted to reprise a ride I last did in 2019 and visit Denniston again. It is about 15km from Westport on the Denniston Plateau, 600 metres above sea level, in the Papahaua Ranges.
After yesterday's wonderful experience it was back to J's Café for hill cycle fuel! Today my café breakfast staple: French Toast and coffee.
Chose an outside table to save locking the bike. It was great to meet a few locals, many popping in for a coffee on their way to whatever...
Take me(self) to the river
My route out of town passed by the river, sunlit against dramatic grey skies. They were looming out to sea and in the hills but, for now at least, not over Westport itself.
Formerly the bicycle house...
I passed this house in 2019, it looks like the literal mountain of bicycles seen in the front yard back then had only recently been cleared.
Brief beach visit, more to scope out incoming weather than anything as rode here in 2019. Chatted with a local cyclist (doing the beach trail loop) who thought I was mad when told where I was headed: "UP that hill?"
Towards Denniston, would soon be riding that little strip of road visible on the hill.
Love this former petrol station. I reckon the WOF (Warrant of Fitness) sign is a repurposed 1970s Mobil petrol station logo...
I've ridden this hill before on my mountain bike but on the gravel bike today because it was out. The road is sealed all the way up to the top of the incline historic visitor area, gravel beyond there.
The incline is visible in the hills above the town. Although just 8km away, for those up on the plateau Denniston was like living in another world.
The boosters called it the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’. The poor sods forced to slog away in the mines up ‘The Hill’ sang a different tune:
Damn the track
Damn the way both there and back
Damn the wind and damn the weather
God damn Denniston altogether.’
From Denniston Incline - nzhistory.govt.nz
The next 8.1 km, +600m
I took lots of photos when rode here in 2019, this time focused more on the changes since then.
The hammering the road has taken from recent storms was evident.
This hairpin was always memorable, as much for the view as the curve, but from now on will know it as 'Fuɔk Putin corner'.
This signals the steepest bit, but the 12% doesn't last long.
Rain on the way and relics of the mining past (below). Unbelievably there is still not complete protection to prevent mining on Conservation Land. Even as I write, late 2022, Denniston was a location for ongoing protests regarding this:
"In 2017 Prime Minister Ardern promised ... that the government would end new mining on conservation land. That promise remains unfulfilled."
"Since 2017, almost 80 mining access arrangements on conservation land have been granted."
"the Green Party's proposed Crown Minerals Amendment Bill is a chance for Ardern to fulfil that promise.
The bill put forth by former conservation minister and Green MP Eugenie Sage would amend the Crown Minerals Act to prohibit the minister of energy from granting permits for minerals activities on conservation lands and water.
It would also prohibit access arrangements over conservation land and water being sought from or granted by the ministers of energy and conservation."
From Protesters rally around country against mining on conservation land | RNZ | 23 October 2022
The weather coming in...
Ducked into the display building while a shower, OK, rain, passed over. So much history in this little mining village which had no road access for a lot of its existence. There was a pack horse track but people often rode the coal incline, as scary dangerous as it looks.
The rain cleared for long enough to revisit the top of the incline. It's a short walk/ride down from the carpark area on a well-formed gravelled track.
Bike for scale...
Between 1879 and 1967, 13 million tonnes of coal was sent down the incline to Union Steam Ship Company colliers at nearby Westport.
It was a technical triumph. The incline plunged precipitously, 548 m in a distance of just 1670 m, with some grades as steep as 1 in 1.25 (80%). Two water-operated brakes, Upper Brake and Middle Brake, slowed the progress of the counter-balancing wagons (i.e., descending full wagons pulled up empty ones) down the two inclines to the railhead at Conns Creek.
From Denniston Incline - nzhistory.govt.nz
Ready for launch!
The quick way down...
I can't imagine coal laden wagons hurtling down here, never mind being by the cable pulleys poring castor oil lubricant on as they flew past...
This lookout gives unobstructed access to the view.
How it was...
How it is...
Was going to go a bit further up the plateau but the gravel was very rough and then intermittent rain set in, so I scuttled home.
Back in Westport, the rain had stopped but I was drenched. Passed this new rail overbridge, being constructed to connect the riverside trail to the town, on the way back to the motel.
It's my last ride here as back to Hanmer Springs again tomorrow; this time for some riding. Left the bike in the utility room to dry off overnight, hope the rain is gone by tomorrow when I need to pack the car.
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