Tag Archives: NZ cycle trail

Adventuring in the South Waikato

The Waikato River Trails are such a hidden gem and we had such a great time riding ( and walking some of them ) and exploring the Waikato River by kayak at dusk and seeing the most glow worms I have ever seen.

KAYAK GLOW WORM TOUR

Kayak Glow Worm Tours from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

The Glow-worm kayaking tour was fun for young and old. The team at Lake District Adventures had everything you need to keep you warm and dry. After a full briefing including paddling instruction we set off.

The Waikato River was calm and the kayaks were very stable ( even with excitable children in them) so it was a relatively easy paddle upstream and then up a side stream through a gorge. We then got to stretch our legs and learn some fun facts about native flora and fauna as we waited for the sun to set.

Once it was completely dark we drifted back down through the gorge to view the glow-worms. At first I thought I was seeing stars in the sky but it was actually the most spectacular glow-worm display I have ever seen. The moon light filtering through the trees added to the magical experience as we drifted through the gorge as the glow-worms tinkled above us.

EXPLORING ARAPUNI

Waikato River Trail – Arapuni to Little Waipa from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

While it wasn’t quite the day we planned due to persistent rain, we still had a great time walking from Arapuni Power Station and swing bridge to the Arapuni Dam. An easy 4km return walk ( mostly in the bush so we didn’t get too wet ).

Then we cycled from Arapuni to Little Waipa. A relatively easy 12km return ride beside the river on a gravel path and through the Huihuitaha Wetland on a boardwalk. While there were a few steep hills and the trail does have some steep banks towards the river, this section is a great trail for beginners and children. All in all a great day exploring Arapuni in the rain.

Sally from Lake District Adventures can help you out with all the details on cycling in the area and has bikes, baby bike seats, tag-a-longs and bike trailers for hire along with shuttles and you can even hire a support vehicle for the day.

WAIKATO RIVER TRAILS – ATIAMURI TO MANGAKINO

Waikato River Trails – Atiamuri to Mangakino from Charmaine Vaughan on Vimeo.

We hadn’t heard much about the Waikato River Trails so we weren’t sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised and impressed by the trails ever-changing scenery & terrain; stunning river views, vibrant native bush, iconic farmland, boardwalks through wetland, rugged cliffs, impressive dams and more lakes than I knew existed on the Waikato River, not to mention a great lunch at the pub in Whakamaru.

We rode the two southern sections, approx. 36km from Atiamuri to Mangakino. Even though there had recently been heavy rain and its been a wet winter, the trail was in great condition. The trail was a relatively easy grade and we rode with our two kids and my Uncle who is only new to mountain biking.

The one thing that sets this trail apart from other cycle trails we have done is the easy accessibility from the road. This means you can do the stages that suit your ability and stop and start in many places. The team at Lake District Adventures can work with you to tailor a ride to suit you and even provide a support vehicle should members of your group decide not to ride one section or want to get to the pub faster.

P.S. and if like me you are wondering about the name ‘Lake District’ based around the Waikato River – the river has lots of lakes created by the dams, hence the name Lake Districts.

 

Motu Cycle Trails

We are lucky enough to have a great friend who enjoys cycling more than we do, if that’s possible. So hot on the heels of the success of the Timber Trail ride he sent out  an email about the Motu Trail…. ‘150km cycle trail through mountainous back country’ – first thoughts…I am busy that weekend…or at least that’s what I should have said!

I am not much for looking at the topographical maps or the finer detail ( don’t worry if any finer detail is needed in the blogs I get my husband to add it coz that’s his thing ) So anyhow the Timber Trail ride we had done previously was 90km by the time we added in the side trails to get to our accommodation, so 150km didn’t sound like too much more. It’s starting to sound like I am not very good at maths either. I think what it boils down to is I like a challenge and this sure sounded like a challenge. Cue some long mountain bike rides and even rides around the city cycle paths to get some time on the saddle.

The trail starts off from Opotiki along the Dunes trail which is an easy 10km along a gravel path beside the beach…so 10km down and stunning views to boot. The rest of the day is riding the Motu Rd to reach Matawai about 70km away, mostly on gravel 4WD road and almost all uphill. We climbed to a high point of 750m and it can get cold at this elevation, even snow, so be prepared. Yes the country side is gorgeous but I realised on this trail that I don’t really enjoy riding so much gravel road.

It was with much joy that we reached the top of the mountain range and headed down the final valley into Matawai, although the joy was a little diminished when I realised we had to get back up to the top of the range the next day to the start of the Pakihi Track. We all collapsed on the footpath outside the Matawai pub and sent the fittest among us ( well, they were the only ones able to move ) into the pub for drinks and chips.

In fact the highlight of day one of this ride was staying in the Matawai Pub which is packed to the gunnels with local history and had a fabulous hostess. She looked after us very well and we all had local grown beef steaks for dinner. I won’t go on about this too much as we recently found out that the pub is no longer open for guests.

My other highlight was the fact that the people who shuttled our gear from Opotiki to Matawai could also shuttle us to the top of the range the next morning ( for a small fee ) on day two. I have seen the Pakihi Track marketed as the best downhill in NZ… yes its definitely a downhill, a long downhill with rather steep drop offs on one side and a steep bank on the other so you are essentially riding on a ledge with lots of fallen rocks on it which does kind of interrupt the flow.

This is rugged country and the rock surface is very hard, lets call it a challenge for someone who doesn’t really like heights, but I did it and I was super proud of myself. Along the way we passed a Search and Rescue team who were walking the track to get familiar with it and practise rescues (hopefully that never happens).

Finally there was just the 10km ride along the flats back into Opotiki with a head wind ( seriously not fun ) to round out our 150km adventure ( well 150km minus the shuttle to the top of the range on day two, so lets say 130km )

Am I pleased I did it – yes! Would I do it again – no!

The road can also be ridden as a 90km loop in one day. Check out NZ Cycle trails for more details.

Twin Coast Trail, Opua to Kawakawa

We had ridden the Opua to ‘the bridge’ section of the Twin Coast Trails once before but we had heard the bridge was open for the summer so we were excited to be able ride over the bridge and make it to Kawakawa for a coffee.

It was predicted to be a 29 degree day so we set out early, OK early-ish we are on holiday after all. Opua harbour was looking stunning as we drove to the start of the ride. The carpark for the bike ride already had a few cars in which was good to see.

The tide was in and we were pretty much instantly treated to lovely views of the Kawakawa River. The ride is on gravel that has been put down over old train tracks and is relatively flat and an easy ride. When we are riding other trails with the children we stop to give them a rest every so often but the only reason we were stopping was to enjoy the stunning views.

Usually from the Opua end you can only get to the bridge before Kawakawa ( just short of a coffee stop ) but over the Summer period ( of 2017 ) the council has got the bridge to a safe standard for people and their bikes. Thanks Far North District Council!

Not only does this ride have a bridge, its got a tunnel as well. Just short enough that you can easily see all the way through.

Usually I don’t enjoy riding over bridges ( think Timber Trail suspension bridges and the Old Coach Rd viaduct ) but I really enjoyed riding over this one. Maybe it was the thrill of knowing that its only open for a short period of time.

From there it was a short ride to Kawakawa for a coffee and a refuel for the kids and as an added bonus we go to see the steam train going through town and coming back again. If you haven’t checked out the Hundertwasser Toilets they are well worth a visit as well.

The return ride was just as enjoyable and an easy 11km return ( we rode 22km in total ) without so many stops for photos.

Top tips

This is a great ride to do with kids or are enjoying holiday mode a little too much.

As we were leaving there were people about to do the rides with e-bikes.

Check if the bridge is open. We found out the bridge was open on the Bay of Island VIntage Railway website and at that stage it was open until the 8th of February 2017.

Kerosene Creek at Rainbow Mountain Reserve

I love the feeling of discovering something new, well new to us anyhow. We have spent a far bit of time in Rotoura ( mostly mountain biking ) so decided to head to Taupo for a long weekend of mountain biking. Where the discovery happened, was as we drove from Taupo to Rotorua ( yes we just can’t stay away ) We had read about Rainbow Scenic Reserve and thought we would do a walk round the Reserve.

Imagine how delighted we were to find that the walking tracks were shared paths. A quick 3 km through the bush and we could be at Kerosene Creek, which I had seen photos of and was keen to explore. So we did a quick change in the carpark and jumped on our bikes – excited to be discovering a new ride. The ride was listed as a grade 2 but we thought it was more of a grade 3 as it had quite a few uphills, switchbacks and the volcanic scoria made it quite skiddy.

The native bush was gorgeous although the trail mustn’t have been used much in places as the tracks were a little overgrown, sometimes with blackberries so it was a little scratchy. Add to that some rain and we were in for a true adventure.

So the 3km seemed further than we thought – that could have been on account of the rain but Kerosene Creek was well worth it.

I should mention at this point that you can drive down a gravel road to Kerosene Creek. I should also explain that although the name doesn’t sound that inviting Kerosene Creek is actually a thermal stream with a waterfall into a dammed pond that people come from near and far to soak in.

The path to the pond meanders down the stream a little and while this may look inviting keep walking as the dammed area is a few minutes walk further down the stream.

It’s a slight clamber down the bank to get into the pond but well worth it. This is a very popular spot and at times there were about 30 people in the pond, however at one point we were lucky enough to have the area to ourselves which was truly magical.

Sitting in thermal water while the stream cascades over the waterfall has to be one of the best experiences of my life. Whether you drive directly to the carpark or walk or ride through the Rainbow Mountain Reserve it’s well worth a visit.

Bridge to Nowhere Mountain Bike Ride

It was exactly one year after we rode the Timber Trail the first time that we set off to ride the Bridge to Nowhere ride with a much smaller group, maybe they knew something about the ride I didn’t.

The ride is close to Raetahi which is about 15 minutes away from Ohakune. We love the small town vibe so decided to stay in Raetahi in a holiday house. As the Bridge ride was ‘only’ 35km long, staying in Raetahi also meant we could ride from the house to the start of the trail, ‘only’ adding another 20km to the ride…are alarm bells starting to ring for anyone else because they weren’t for me !

My husband bought the weather station away with us so I can confidently say it was 4 degrees when we set off from Raetihi on the mid-April Saturday morning. It wasn’t long before it started drizzling…..cold and wet, great start. We were well prepared for the cold, wearing polyprops and carrying extra wet weather gear, including my husbands old swandri which was  actually needed quite early on.

Luckily the 20km to the start of the trail was downhill….mostly. Even so, it was about 1 and ½ hours and one flat tyre before we hit the start of the ride. At least it had stopped raining, now it was just cold, in fact I rode the whole ride in more layers than I have ever ridden in before including an alpaca scarf that I bought back from South American and have never worn in NZ before as it makes me too hot.

I loved the general history of the ride and after seeing the terrain close up it was easy to imagine how hard it would have been for the returned servicemen trying to make a go of it on the land. It is also easy to see why the area was abandoned and the bridge ended up going nowhere. Funnily enough the bridge was finally completed after most of the farmers had already walked away from the  land. Personally, I would have been interested in the personal stories of the families and would have liked some information boards along the way like on the Timber Trail or Old Coach Rd. There were sign posts with original family names showing where their plots/farms were.

Unfortunately it had rained a lot the week before we rode so there were a lot of mud and puddles, although my husband reckons it would always be wet here. Unfortunately these weren’t just any puddles, they were Taranaki mud puddles, big sucking puddles of grey mud that you felt like you were working twice as hard to peddle through.

Its incredibly rugged land – don’t be fooled like us and think that’s it is ‘only’ a 35km ride. The average riding pace is way slower than usual. The mud combined with the numerous narrow suspension bridges near the end that meant we had to get off our bikes and wheel them on the back wheel to get across, made it really slow going. We also had to stop and clear mud out of our bike deraliers and gears too, poor bike. This meant we were racing to get to the jet boat pick up on time. And we had been worrying about getting cold waiting for the pick up.

I have to admit near the end of the ride the only thing keeping me going was seeing the Bridge and when we got to there it was a quick read of the information boards and some photos before we were on our bikes again as our jet boat was waiting for us.

The 20 minutes jet boat ride out was awesome, if a little chilly and we were pleased that we had packed the hip flask. On essentials list.

 

Top tips

We rode in Autumn and it was cold, wet and muddy ( and this isn’t any ordinary mud, its Taranaki Mud and that mud sticks like glue) so not sure about doing this ride in winter.

Allow more time than you think you would need on an average trail or you could be rushing for the jet boat like we were. Alternatively, get dropped off by the jet boat and ride back. I would not recommend riding back to Ratehi from the end of the track as it would be a solid 15 km up hill.