4 Reasons to Start your Paparoa Track Experience at Blackball

On a recent staff trip we spent the night in Blackball on the West Coast. We experienced first hand the rich history and rugged personality of this small West Coast town ideally situated at the start of the Paparoa Track. Here are 4 reasons why you need to spend the night in Blackball before riding the Paparoa Track.

1. Its about the West Coast personality

The Paparoa Track is somewhat raw and tough, weaving its way through the landscape.  Its about the forces of nature and how to live with them,  rather than against them.  The landscape is rugged and real, spectacular but reluctant to show itself, and reveals itself to those who make the effort to experience it first hand.  The towns of the West Coast mirror the landscape and together create a rugged personality that is unpretentious, forthright and honest.

2. Its about the community

Blackball is a small tight community of some 300 individuals, all with a story to tell and often with a colourful past.  Nestled away from the busy passing traffic, this community has struggled over the years with a boom and bust industry of tough mining set amidst a challenging climate.  This is a small tight community looking after itself with a healthy disregard for authority and officialdom and proud of its working class heritage that is unrivalled on the coast.

3. Its about the people & their history

Those who live in Blackball often have a story to tell, and overnighting prior to your departure provides the chance to share this.  The towns working class roots are detailed in the Blackball Museum of Working Class history, with stories of the 1908 strike and the Great Strike of 1913 to be found.  Sharing a drink with the locals at the Working Mans club, or the famous Formerly the Blackball Hilton or the restored Blackball Inn, all provide a chance to absorb the flavour of this community.  From the booming coal and rail years to the despair of the tragic Pike River Mine disaster, the local history and the personalities of the coast provide a flavour to the track experience that just can’t be gained elsewhere.

4. Its about common sense

Blackball is at approximately 100m in altitude and the road end Smoko-ho car park is approximately 350m.  From here the track rises to 1000m and Ces Clark Hut, nestled just on bush line.  From the hut, another 200m of ascent reaches the top of the Paparoas and the views that exist from there, some 12kms from the start of the track.  From here the remaining 44 kms are largely down hill, barring some trail undulations.  Walking from South ( Blackball ) to North ( Punakaiki ) provides for walking towards the views of the coastline far below, while gradually descending over the remaining distance of the track.