Passing the beautiful scenery of Mt Horrible, Lake Misery and Starvation Point, Simon Morton mentally prepares himself for the rigours of the West Coast by riding down ‘the best road in the world’ (in 2002)! In the tiny town of Otira he arrives at the scene of New Zealand’s first ever cycle heist, and tells the story of two desperadoes who cycled 160km on gravel roads, to rob a train station.
The town’s current owners, Christine and Bill Hennah, regale him with tales of boom and bust, and Simon discovers what it would take to buy the town back from them…(yes, the whole town)… before making good his escape to the shores of the Pacific, where he uses some bike parts to help local digger Ray Oliver sort rocks from stones as part of a new export boom. ‘I am not very learned’, confesses Ray. ‘I didn’t learn to read and write until I was 24…’
Moving ever northward, Simon pedals into the fabled Buller Gorge, where he meets Bernard McKenzie in the deserted gold town of Lyell. More tales of boom and bust and boom again, but these are laced with tales of ghosts and good whisky, as Simon soaks up the secrets of the Old Ghost Road, and sets out to ride what will soon be ‘the best mountain bike track in the world’.
Through the heart of the rugged moutains he meets track-builders Stacky, Phil and Weasel, before finishing at the Rough and Tumble Lodge.
The final section of this trip takes him to sunny Nelson, where he powers a stage-show using a bike and old washing machine and learns from Glenn Harvey that he’d need 50 kids to power his house. ‘You don’t have 50 kids do you, Simon? How much travelling have you done?’ Well, enough to know that Golden Bay is his favourite part of the country, and that he is going there next over the famed Takaka Hill to meet Victoria Davis, the organiser of the World Naked Bike Ride… so ‘save the planet, cars are evil’.