As part of the Mountains to the Sea Cycle Trail the Mangapurua Cycle Trail links the Whanganui River at the Bridge to Nowhere to the Ruatiti, Orautahu, Raetihi part of the World. There’s a big slip down near the river end blocking the trail, but I didn’t get that far anyway. I had a short, couple hour ride from the eastern end. This is a short trip report, and is the first of two from short sections I did of the new Mountains to the Sea Cycle Trail.
The Nga Haerenga sign is starting to appear on road signs as the National Cycleway is getting built out. So this is near the start of the eastern end of the track. The trail from Horopito and ultimately from Ohakune, goes over the very quiet public roads, and even the time driving through Orautahu and Rautiti is quite long. It’d be quite an effort to ride a bike over the hilly and windy road sections to get here. There is camping at the Ruatiti Domain if you have taken a day to ride from Ohakune.
From the carpark at the start of the track it is all uphill. The track is open to walkers, cyclists and, by permit, quad bikes. I was lucky enough not to see or hear any of them, but they have caused a bit of mud and churn on the track. In fact I didn’t see another soul for the whole time I was on the track. Either side of the track is private land.
At one point if the weather is clear the views to Ruapehu and Tongariro are magnificent. Here is the view to Ruapehu.
I only had to get off and walk through the gungiest mud twice on the ascent. The surface is a mix of gravel and stones and quad bike churned sticky mud, which isn’t that deep. After rain I think it is probably a bit harder. After reaching the end of the private land the Taheke Conservation Area is reached and the long uphill grind is over.
The surface on the DOC lands is a bit better and it flattens out through the Conservation Area. The riding through here was bloody lovely and I could ride at speed amongst the kereru.
There was also a few patches of mud. Sloppy enough to lose traction in and go sideways, but nothing too bad.
On the other side of the Conservation Area there’s a sign to say Whanganui National Park and the track starts to descend. I had a bit of a look-see and turned around. The flat parts were once again glorious, and the long climb I had done on the way in turned into a quick downhill where I didn’t have to pedal much to get back to my car.
This was my first experience of a so-called National Cycleway, apart from the day before on the Ohakune Old Coach Road (but that will be another post). I only rode for a little over 2 hours and I had a whole lot of healthy fun, but the Rimutaka Rail Trail it ain’t. The Mangapurua Track was as rough as guts. It’s definitely fat tyres only, and it would be quite a feat to ride the trail with full panniers. It’s never going to appeal to masses of people like the Otago Central Rail Trail does. And I still think the idea of the National Cycleway should be that you could ride from Cape Reinga to Bluff with a set of panniers (if not a bike trailer) and have a great adventure without being run over by a truck, but if this is indicative of much of the trails then it is more like a collection of fun mountain biking routes.
You couldn’t take kids on this trail. Many weekend cyclists would find the uphill section at the start long and muddy and almost unrideable. My 250W electric motor and a granny gear made it rideable, just. Mountain bikers would enjoy it (but it’s probably too wussy for them if they like gnarly single-track). There’s only camping options along the way. It’s great that it exists and can be ridden by bikes, but what is the Tourism Ministry’s game plan here? Only hardy souls are going to be able to ride it, and hardy souls could make their own fun without the flash marketing.