Tag Archives: NZ cycle trail

Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Trail

The Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Trail is one of the last of the 22 NZ cycle trails to be opened so when we got the chance to ride it right through in one day (without the kids) we jumped at it.…well, actually we cycled for 87km.

The trail ride was part of our summer holiday (including 12 days of camping) so the logistics, packing and planning for the kids to be looked after by my in-laws wore me out so much I was wondering whether I could do the whole ride in one day. However after we arrived at the Horeke Hotel in the early afternoon and relaxed on the deck, had a delicious meal and a great nights sleep I was ready to go.

Before I talk about the trail the Horeke area is worth a mention. Horeke is at the tip of the Hokianga Harbour and just a 45 minute drive from Paihia. Its New Zealand’s oldest town and boasted the second oldest pub – does that mean New Zealand had a pub before it had a town? Jonny from Paihia mountain bike and shuttles drove us over and we talked about all things mountain biking. He is also very knowledgeable on the area so it was a very interesting drive.



We arrived at Horeke about 4pm. The Horeke Hotel wont be the flashest hotel you ever stay in but it could be the coolest. Its also home to an abundance of local history in the living form of the owners storytelling and old painting collection. There is even an original local Treaty signed just after the Treaty of Waitangi.

The trail officially starts at the Māngungu Mission so we decided to check it out. Its only a 3km ride down a gravel road and a very picturesque wee spot with views over the Hokianga Harbour.

And 3km down another side road is the Wairere Boulders. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit but I hear its well worth the trip to see the stunning rock formations and wander around the boulders.

So after exploring the area near Horeke we returned to the pub to enjoy the views from the expansive deck. The menu for dinner looked simple, steak or fish option, maybe a little too simple I thought but it turns out the hotelier is a whizz in the kitchen and we had the most delicious dinner as the sun set over the Hokianga. The steak and fish were great and the accompanying vegetable dishes and thrice cooked fries were amazing.

The hotel has 3 rooms, two downstairs (one with harbour views) and one upstairs with 2 double and 2 single beds and the best views. Luckily a friend of ours has stayed here before and recommended the upstairs room so we had stunning views and loads of space.

After a good nights sleep we were up early to start the trail. And this is when I wish I had known to chat to the hotelier about the history of the area the night before. Once he gets started with the maori and early settler history and NZ history too its way to amazing and interesting to leave, so our ride start may have been a little delayed but our knowledge of local history was greatly enhanced.

So we set off about 8.30am along the road and across the board walk. I always find it hard when I start off on a long ride to pace myself and this was no different especially as it was just my husband and I riding so no group shenanigans to distract me.

Thankfully after about 5km I overcame my mental block about the distance and got distracted by my surroundings which were very picturesque and varied as we cycled along streams, through native bush and through countryside.

The first half of the ride is mostly gradual climbing but it is well graded and not too tough. There is only one quite steep hill climbing out of the valley up to Okaihau and I ended up pushing my bike. We made Okaihau for a perfectly timed morning tea as the owner was about to shut up shop for a catering job. The towns on this trail are few and far between (as they are on most of the New Zealand cycle trails) so make sure you bring your own supplies or plan ahead to make sure cafes are open when you get there.

From Okaihau you more or less follow the old railway line all the way to Kawakawa then Opua across bridges and through a couple of tunnels. The highest point of the ride is just north of Kaikohe then its pretty much all down hill riding to the coast. We arrived in Opua about 4pm and were pleased that Jonny had suggested to ride from the West to East Coast. Going this way you get almost all the climbing out of the way early on. The trail is very well built and not at all technical. It has good surface conditions and the overall gradient is not tough.

Of course, if riding the whole trail in one day sounds a bit much, you can always check out the accommodation along the way.

Top tips

This trail would suit older children or younger children in trailers or tag-a-longs.

There are a lot of barriers on the trail and I have read that if you have panniers you end up lifting your bike a lot. For us it just meant a lot of getting on and off.

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.