Discovering Pelorus: French Pass ... again.

We woke up to the melodic sound of the sea lapping on the beach. I boiled the kettle and prepared coffee; Philippa got our pasta and muesli ready....

Yes, this was breakfast bikepacking style: use up what you have, so you don’t ride with the extra weight. Nick’s advice for bedtime gear is, “Take earplugs. We had one night with rowdy campsite neighbours who reduced our sleeping hours when we needed them most.”


Although this was an easier day on paper, our legs suffered from the two previous days of riding. Traversing the ridgeline back the way we came, we found ourselves once again in awe of the ever-changing land- and seascape. On such a thin mass of land, clouds and wind swiftly came and went. At one point, the gusts were so severe that Philippa had to walk her bike. We rode back to the only shop in this remote region, at Okiwi Bay, where we were reunited with the lovely store owners. Feeling like locals, we all stood inside the shop chatting and sipping drinks straight from their fridge. Directly after finishing lunch, we were already thinking about dinner. With sausages bought and strapped to our bikepacking bags to thaw, we pedalled over the hill and into Elaine Bay; altogether, we covered 57k with 1,600 metres of climbing. In order to reach the next night’s campsite, we needed to traverse French Pass again, which meant more amazing views, but also more arduous climbing. Whilst we were faffing around getting our rigs and bags in order, Nick (who’s always organized) decided to ride up the first hill ahead of us. He says, “It seems obvious, but your crew is a huge factor in your enjoyment of your adventure. I was the slowest climber on my trip, but not once did I feel any pressure from the fitter riders. I did try to redeem myself by letting it rip on a few of the descents, but really, there were no egos that needed to be stroked and we were all out of our comfort zones at some stage.”


Elaine Bay is in the Tawhitinui Reach (a branch of the main section of Pelorus Sound), and plays host to a small fishing and aquaculture port. Many smaller fishing vessels and large mussel boats regularly dock here; the main catch is green-lipped mussels, for which Pelorus Sound and its main port Havelock are famous. Many of the surrounding bays contain mussel farms, which are a large employer for the region.


That night we enjoyed a gourmet meal consisting of sausages, white bread and tomato sauce. Dessert was peppermint tea and a gingernut or two. We watched the sun go down, saw the stars come out and then hit the hay. The routine of camping: sleep when it’s dark, wake when it’s light. Ah, the simple life.


In order to take in Pelorus Sound, we needed to see it by water. We were all toast from the previous days of riding, so a boat trip up to Bulwer (north Pelorus Sound) with a short adventure ride would be our recovery medicine. Deano—from Pelorus Sound Water Taxis—was our skipper, van transfer driver, tour guide and all round good Kiwi bloke. We were astounded by all the salmon and mussel farms (Marlborough has 750), and Deano grabbed a few fresh mussels for us to try. They tasted divine, fresh outta the sea.


As we docked, the rickety boards of the jetty, its makeshift bar, and sheep greeting us from the foreshore painted a perfect picture of Bulwer (seriously, Google it). When I asked the local farmer, “where’s the road?” he told me, “I shouldn’t be talking to you if you’re from Auckland.” He then mumbled and pointed his finger uphill. We asked the boat to pick us up on the other side, then rode up and over the divide. It was the perfect recovery adventure spin; riding from point A to point B with a boat at the end! Deano dropped the hammer back up the Sound, and we ducked into a secluded bay for some “mean bombs” before docking in Hastings.


After a van airport transfer back to Nelson we were parked up at Eddyline for pints and pizza in no time. Packing like pros, whilst toasting the epic adventure was a real highlight. [replacement sentence] Whilst toasting the epic adventure, we all agreed being outfitted with a range of sturdy and versatile Macpac gear was essential to our success. With the suffering over and memories ingrained, our thoughts went from, “did we really just do that?” to “what shall we do next?”


Nick sums it up by saying,; “Just get away. Bicycles are wonderful devices at any time, and the freedom they impart when venturing truly off-grid is a special feeling. From the ever-changing landscapes we travelled through, to the demanding climbs, to the fun-filled descents, to the peaceful campsites—there is no time to dwell on what awaits at home. No bosses, bills, chores, errands or family commitments. It’s a chance to really unplug and get away for a while, returning to regular life with a fresh attitude. Four days away seemed like a two-week holiday with everything we packed into it.”

Gear List

Macpac Minaret Tent - 1x
Macpac Sololight Tent - 2x

Sleeping Gear:
Macpac Standard Lite Mat 2.5 - 4x
Macpac Epic 400 Bag - 2x
Macpac Epic 600 Bag - 1x

Cooking Equipment:
Stainless Steel Cutlery - 4x
Macpac JetBoil Flash - 1x
Macpac Firesteel - 2x
Macpac Mirco Stove - 3x
Macpac Silicone Container 500ml - 4x
Macpac 7 Piece Camping Cook Set - 1x

Clothing (per person):
2x Sets of Cycling Clothing
2x Base Layers - Merino
1x Rain Jackets - Suitable for South Island storms and active use
2x sets of suitable lightweight camping thermals - i.e. long johns, long sleeve top etc

Drink Bottles
American Press
Headlamps 4x
Macpac Stainless Mugs - 4x
Macpac Gas Canister Stand - 3x
Dry bags - (2x small) (2x medium) (2x large)
Blackburn Bikepacking Bags - Outpost Seat Pack ann Handlebar Roll - x4

Words & Images: Liam Friary & Nick Lambert

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