“The best Trial ever held in New Zealand” that’s how Warwick Merriman described it. High praise indeed from someone who, to be fair, has ridden one or two events in his career and there wouldn’t be many who would disagree either. No the Kaikoura Six Day trial was the stuff legends are made of. “The Rock Garden”, “The Fridge”, “Numpties Hill”, “Ranjeet and the Pay-by-the-hour-Motel” and many other stories will find their place into New Zealand trials folklore. And what grown man will not wince and wipe back a tear at the mention of….. “A Dowelly”.

It all started, not on Wednesday morning or even Tuesday night as you might think, no it all started 12 months before at the previous Kaikoura 3 day when a small group decided to run this event as part of the Pioneer Clubs Centenary celebrations. We had confirmed that we would have access to Snip Prentices property in Claverley which adjoins the Trewins property at Oaro. This not only gave us access to a “Huge” chunk of the Kaikoura coast (from Claverley in the south to Oaro in the north and from State Highway 1 all the way out to the coast) but it also solved the car parking problem which had always been a hurdle to prevent us running an event here. This meant that the Six Day Trial we had talked about for years was now going to be reality. A couple of weeks later we were back up at Kaikoura and spent a day checking out the property. We went in from Trewins and spent about 3-4 hours exploring the gulleys and hillsides of Snips place before riding out to Snips house on the coast. We had already decided we had seen enough to run six days of trials easily, but Snip had other ideas. After listening to where we had been he dragged out a big aerial photo of his property and pointed out that we had actually only seen about a quarter of it! Even then I don’t think the enormity of the task we had taken on really sunk in.

 And enormous it was. Paul Jackson and Rob McKay would spend over 30 days each during the next 12 months, exploring the many tracks and valleys, clearing bush and cutting Manuka, making the many kilometres of trails and sections that we got to enjoy over the six days. Their effort can never be overstated, just look at some of the numbers. 116 sections cleared and pegged. 60-70 kms of trails, some of it cleared by hand through the tough Manuka. Over 600 Large orange arrows to direct the way all cut and painted by hand then carried in backpacks to be nailed on trees and fences. Paul and Rob with the occasional help from a handful of others put in a huge effort to produce what would be an epic week. If you believe in karma then you only need to look at the weather over the week to see their efforts were rewarded. Snow on Tuesday night, then fine until about an hour after the event finished on Monday afternoon!

The event proper started on Tuesday night with most of the 42 entrants gathering for a meal and the riders briefing at “The Whaler” in Kaikoura. Unfortunately a couple were delayed by road closures caused by snow in Dunedin and some others were delayed by problems with the cook straight ferries. Not a good omen but one that was handled with calm reason by Paul the organiser. “We’ll just wait for them and brief them separately”. And so we did and somewhere near midnight the last arrived and were briefed ready for the 8am start.

As mentioned before the weather to this point had been looking pretty bad but Wednesday morning dawned clear and fine and we were greeted at Claverley with a brilliant sunrise. Day 1 was the first of the “Big Loops”, around 20kms with 30 sections. Unsure of how we would go time wise the decision had already been made to ride 1 complete loop followed by a shorter loop comprising the first 10 sections. Riders were sent off in groups of four at 5 minute intervals and Paul was then left to sit and wait, wondering how it would all go. Had we got the sections right? Would everyone get around the loop ok? Would there be enough daylight to finish the day? Would anyone get lost? About 4 hours later he had the answers. To his relief riders were coming in after the first lap with smiles from ear to ear. Everyone was in agreement, the sections were all good, the track was brilliant and they all loved it. After a quick lunch supplied by the fabulous Anita Trewin, we were off again to finish the last small loop of 10 sections. Day 1 was over for most by about 2pm and some of our organisers’ questions were answered. It was obvious 2 laps could easily be ridden. The trails were ok for everyone and no-one got lost. Even the tea and coffee at the Caravan at Okarahia, where the refuelling stop was, was a big hit. And to top it off Anita was there with the BBQ going so everyone had something warm to eat while they stood around sharing stories and telling the obligatory lies. That night at the Whaler there was yet another briefing as two more riders affected by the Ferries finally arrived after having to miss the first day.

Day 2 was to be the “big” day. The Red loop was over 22kms and had 27 sections. It was also the most challenging loop to commute around with a large section run through the Manukas with some ups and downs that would test some of the clubman riders to the max. In fact two of the ladies took the option offered to them of just one lap (taking fives for the second lap) deciding to save themselves for the following days. This day was my personal favourite. I loved the riding through the Manukas and the views from out on the coast are spectacular. Day two ending with the now expected smiles and ravings. Everyone was enjoying the huge loops and large numbers of sections. The sections were proving to be a good mix with some easier sections with the Clubmen in mind and some more difficult and technical ones with the higher grades in mind. Being winter there were a few greasy, slippery ones but surprisingly there were a few dry and dusty ones as well. The only damper on the day was the misfortune suffered by our Trials Commissioner. He left his Ossa idling while he walked a section. Unfortunately it fell over and got jammed on full throttle and Jim wasn’t able to get back to it in time. In true trials fashion and spirit though, Jim was offered not just 1 but 3 other bikes to ride, so he was able to complete the day and the rest of the days as well.

Day 3 was always intended to be a short day with the organisers having to pack up everything and move to Birches Rd for the Start of the Three day trial. Two laps of about 20kms with 23 sections. Once again the weather was brilliant and the day went off well. It was hard to believe at the end of the day that we were already half way through our six day adventure. What’s that saying about time flying when you’re having fun?

At the end of the day the big move was on. Everything had to be packed up from Snips yard where we had been based and shifted to Birches Rd in Oaro about 20 mins drive. The Caravan also had to be packed up from Okarahia and “dragged” out of there (and I do mean dragged!!!). The bug must have been spreading though as there was a team of about a dozen wondering about in the dark at Birches Rd with torches setting up for Day 4. The toilet was in place, the caravan set up complete with awning and the trailer was there ready for the morning.

Day 4 for the six day was also Day 1 for the annual three day trial. Another 20 something riders joined us for the next three days. To be honest this was actually a bit of an anti-climax after the big loops of the first three days. There were “only” 12 sections to be ridden three times. Once again the sections were met with approval from all the riders. Unfortunately today would be the day we would lose our only rider Paul Dowell who would break a bone in his hand (amongst other things) on one of the first sections of the day. Paul did manage to finish the day (another legendary effort) but was unable to carry on for the next 2 days. At the end of Day 4 we had to pack up and shift camp to Barry Schroeder’s place at Mount Fyfe for the final two days. This was starting to get easier and this shift was done with almost military precision. So much so, that this shift was completed before sundown.

Day 5/Day 2 was another day with 12 sections but we were to do 4 laps this day. The sections were all up on the top part of the property with only 3-4 down in the creek. There were the usual slippery rocks and hills although I think they were a lot dryer and less slippery than in previous years. The talk of the day for the intermediates would be section 5 or “The Rock Garden” as it became known. It was a nasty little bugger with a left hand turn across some rocks that was seemingly impossible. A lot of points were lost there but I believe there was a clean or two as well.

The final day was on us before we knew it. 12 sections, 3 laps, all in the creek. The idea was to finish early so we could get the prize giving started at 3pm. To our surprise everyone was finished around lunchtime which meant we had time for a “ride off” in the Intermediate grade. A hastily pegged section was put in next to the caravan for Frank Dumpte and Glenn Smith to ride off on. Now the section looked a bit easy to me and I thought Mr Rat (Paul Jackson) had lost the plot until I realised he intended them to ride Dick Phillips Lifan powered rigid rear end contraption. Glenn eventually emerged the winner with a clean on the section even after John Lawton had added an extra log after they had walked it. A fun end to a fun week.

The week wrapped up at the Whaler with prize giving and a few drinks. Everyone who completed the six day was awarded with a “Finishers” award, there were also trophies for the top three in each grade and a trophy for the winners of each grade in the three day.

There are many people who should be thanked for their help and efforts and I’m sure I will forget someone but here goes….

The wonderful Anita. Who not only organised lunches and a BBQ for all the competitors every day. She also put us up and fed us when we were up in Kaikoura section setting. She was also instrumental in organising The Whaler as our base and a host of other Kaikoura based things that we weren’t able to do.

Alister Trewin for his help with section setting, property access, toilets etc.etc.etc..

The lovely people who came out for the 3 day and cooked us all lunch.

Alan Honeybone for the use of his caravan for 6 days. Hopefully the bottom wasn’t too badly scraped and the awning is now fixed

All the Pioneer Club members who helped with section setting and clean up and for helping “move camp” each day.

The property owners Snip Prentice, Alister Trewin and Barry Schroeder.

And of course there is Rat and Rob (Paul Jackson and Rob McKay) who put in just so much work. Without their efforts this event just wouldn’t have happened. The amount of hard work wasn’t lost on anyone either. The Club showed their appreciation with a gift of a set of tyres each and a “whip round” amongst the riders provided enough cash for a new pair of boots each of them as well.

Will it happen again? I would have said no but at the end of the week there was talk of an Easter trial with six days of long loops at a time when there is better weather and longer days. There were also rumours of access to another neighbouring property.

Watch this space.

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