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Kudos to Kyeburn

While on a riding adventure in Central Otago, my partner Damon and I decided to explore Mt Kyeburn located inland from Ranfurly in Central Otago. A week prior, I had ridden through the Nevis Valley starting at Bannockburn and stopping at Garston for lunch before commencing the return trip. Although I had some experience riding around various river beds and forest tracks, this was only my second official trail ride.

We parked the Datsun at the Danseys Pass Coach Inn, donned our riding gear, packed the supplies and rode to the base of the track to Mt Kyeburn. We had heard the Kyeburn Diggings were definitely worth a look and planned to check out Buster Hut for afternoon tea.

I was on the super reliable 1987 Suzuki 250DR and Damon was riding his new Christmas present a 2018 Yamaha WR250R.

I was new to riding the DR as my beloved AG was having surgery following a minor collision involving myself and a rather large tree, so it was decided the AG was to stay in the workshop for this trip. I was becoming more comfortable on the DR the more I rode but did miss the familiarity of the gears, the effortless kick start and the convenience of having two stands!

The Coach Inn built in 1862 are the only remains and reminder of the gold mining community. Danseys Pass road takes you over the Kakanui mountain range through to the Waitaki District. It is a gravel road and is fairly narrow and winding making passing oncoming vehicles a difficult task.  

Before starting the climb of Mt Kyeburn, we explored the Danseys Pass Road. This helped as a bit of a warm up for me, however, I was already feeling uneasy about the gravel road and the significant height of Mt Kyeburn each time I looked up. I was being as careful as possible with oncoming traffic and dodging the odd rabbit that would dart in front of me but was really not enjoying the steepness of the road. I tried to use my gears to control my speed when going downhill but kept using the brake to slow down which would then lead me into a violent fish tail and send me into a panic!

We rode back down the hill to the start of the track. I turned off the engine, threw my helmet on the ground and announced that I was not going to go any further. Damon turned to me and smiled, calmly offering to escort me back to the car. I was annoyed at myself that my emotions had gotten the better of me. I was overthinking everything and convinced myself that this was far too hard for me. I got off the DR and went to inspect the track further, trying not to look up at this beast of a mountain.

After seeing the first section of the track and my first river crossing ahead, I knew this was going to be a challenge for me. During my ‘warm up’, I had already had a tantrum in front of Damon after being reminded by him “not to stop on a hill darling as it makes it very difficult to start compared to stopping on the flat”! During this moment, I had forgotten about the GoPro strapped to Damon's chest.

After about ten minutes of umming and aaahhing about deciding what to do, I took a deep breath and wiped the tears from my eyes. Trying to sound as calm and brave as possible, I put on my helmet and gloves, kick-started the DR and said to my Damon, “I can do this, I’ll follow you”.

I kicked the DR into first gear and off I went. I made it down the steep track and through the first river crossing, keeping the handle bars as steady as possible despite my trembling fingers! The rocks were huge!

Over the first hill, round the bend, round the next bend, up the next hill and there I was met with the first steep part of the track. Riding as cautiously as possible I made it up the first hairpin and a bit further up the next bend and then came to an abrupt stop. I had not been so generous on the revs and stalled again uphill. I looked behind me and realised I was in the middle of the hair pin and of course was stopped uphill.

The tears started again. I looked around and could see I was already quite high up in the mountains and knew there was still a long way to go and also knew that I was not keen to reverse and head back the same way I had come. Damon swiftly came to my rescue and after another ‘gentle’ reminder to not stop uphill on the mountain, I was away again and told myself not to stop. I gave him a thumbs up and continued to ride as he yelled, don’t forget to look up, you will miss the view.

All around me, I was surrounded by a panoramic view of the beautiful mountain range. Tall tussocks and rolling hills that touched the sky. In the distance I could see various 4wd and walking tracks that hugged the mountains. The hot sun was shining down with blue sky all around. I looked down at the track and could see the cracks in the earth that had been baked from the hot sun. The view was rather spectacular. I kept riding with my hand kept firmly on the throttle with plenty of revs desperately hoping not to stall.

I had attained some considerable riding time on the DR from my adventure through the Nevis which helped me to get used to the gears and also managing to kick start the bike almost every time. Not an easy thing to do when you are wearing heavy gear especially on a hot day. So compared to the Nevis, this track was something else. It was steep, narrow, and uneven with giant, sharp rocks to dodge and was winding. I was concentrating so hard on the track ahead that I had forgotten to look up and take in the view.

We came across a party of 4wd vehicles coming down the mountain who stopped to give way. I looked behind me for guidance from Damon if I should stop and after a firm but polite “keep going” onwards and upwards we went. From memory it was about 6km to the top, however, it felt like a much greater distance!

After some time, I could see that I had stopped climbing and found an area of flat which could only mean… I had reached the top! Success! Finding a more suitable place to stop than the last two times, I turned the bike off, took off my helmet and looked at how far I had come.  We made it to the top of Mount Kyeburn, 1700m altitude from Danseys Pass. I was speechless, what an accomplishment.

Photo 1 of Kudos to Kyeburn
At the top of Mt Kyeburn with a smile!

The view from the top was spectacular. I was so high up in the mountains that I felt I could reach up and touch the sky. All around me I was almost eye to eye with the tops of the mountains. I felt proud of myself to see how far I had come but a little worried at how high we were above the ground.  

After a couple of selfies, drink stop and another quick look at the map we carried on.  Next stop was Buster Hut for afternoon tea and then on to the Kyeburn diggings.  I could see where the road led to get us to Buster Hut for afternoon tea. Thank goodness there was another way down than the path we had just come!

Photo 2 of Kudos to Kyeburn
A perfect selfie spot!

The descent to Buster Hut was steep and twisty with again giant, sharp rocks to stay clear of. Some the size of bowling balls. I made more of an effort to be more aware of my surroundings and take in the view. The mountains were absolutely breath-taking.

It took about thirty minutes to reach the hut. We came across a small walking party who were headed to the Diggings also. I noticed a skiing sign on the walking track so it was likely that this area would be covered in large quantities of snow during winter.

Photo 3 of Kudos to Kyeburn
Buster Hut

After a well earnt afternoon tea break of a trusty banana and mandarin, we made our way on to the Kyeburn Diggings, a mining settlement from the Otago Gold Rush. The diggings were impressive and in my opinion well worth having a look-see. All around us was a sea of white, almost like the consistency of rock salt which were the carved diggings. It was very similar to a white sand beach minus the water…of course!

I was quite happy to gently ride around at a slower pace to see the diggings where Damon preferred to work on perfecting his best wheelie. A few more selfies and we carried on down the track back to the car.

Photo 4 of Kudos to Kyeburn
Damon at Kyeburn Diggings

The next leg, I found much more manageable. While it was still narrow and winding, the track was smoother. I wasn’t so keen to go too fast so kept at a steady pace reminding myself to look up and take in the view.

Photo 5 of Kudos to Kyeburn
Stopping on the flat to take in the view!

Making it back safely to the flat, we rode along the Little Kyeburn Road linking back to Danseys Pass Road which took us back to the car. The total distance we rode was probably about 35km all up and approximately two to three hours riding taking in all the stops along the way. All and all an amazing ride with breath-taking views and no injuries.

With the bikes loaded on the trailer and a quick change of clothes, fixing my helmet hair in the Datsun wing mirror, we headed inside to the Danseys Pass Coach Inn for a well-earned drink. Sipping on my Central Otago pinot, I remembered the three most important lessons learnt from today’s ride: don’t stop on a hill, remember to look up while riding to make sure you don’t miss the spectacular views and remember the GoPro is always rolling that can capture all of your tantrums!

Written by Felicity Adamson

30th April 2019

Photos by Damon Woods

Photo 6 of Kudos to Kyeburn
A well deserved drink!
Fliss92
Author of this article: Fliss92
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