There is a big gap in the safe cycling route north between Otaki and Levin. The only route, State Highway 1 with the tens of thousands of vehicles a day and the verge-less bridges over the railway line and stream add up to the 5th most dangerous section of road in New Zealand (as measured by fatalities. It was actually Paraparaumu to Levin, but let’s not quibble). I have written a little bit about this section before in both of my posts A ride between Otaki and Waikawa Beach and in the Heart of the Horowhenua.
Note also that this cycle route as proposed will also be usable as a safe lowland walking route by the Te Araroa national walkway, instead of the high Tararua route.
Here is where I’m talking about:
So the route out of Otaki is described in the Waikawa Beach entry.(Although it is probably worth noting that the roads over the Waiohanga Road bridge up the Otaki Gorge almost meet the end of Rahui Road).
And I make the comment that a new cycle path could come off the road near the junction of South Manakau Road and Corbetts Road and follow between the power poles northwards. It looks like this:
These old pairs of power poles are a constant of the route heading north. Enough to suggest to me the marketing name for this cycleway between Otaki and Levin – The Power Pole Route.
I went for an explore in the Manakau Crown Forest, which is open to pedestrians, but not vehicles. Back at the Waikawa Stream Recreation Area (the entrance to the pine forest) I left some 4WD morons doing mud churning burnouts ad nauseum in a wanton act of motor-droning vandalism. Their stupid revving engine was a constant for the first part of my walk. I climbed the hill and worked out that it probably isn’t a good idea to route the cycleway through the forest. I had good views eventually down on the valley with the power poles running through it.
This is looking south towards where the first photo above is looking north from. The way doesn’t go close to any houses, but it is through some farmers paddocks. Any cycleway improvements through here should be able to be used by farm vehicles, and any fencing needed by the new track should be of benefit to the farmers too. The land around the cycleway should still be grazed like it currently is.
The route passes mainly through the flat valley, but there is a small rise to negotiate before it hits the Waikawa Stream:
Once it hits the stream it’ll need a small bridge, and then up to North Manakau Road the roadway leading to the Waikawa Stream Reserve could be used. This is currently a bit of a rough and ready picnic and camping ground.
Across the road the cycleway route would continue near the power poles northwards to Kuku East Road. Here is from North Manakau Road looking north:
and here is from the southern end of Kuku East Road looking south:
The cycleway would then follow Kuku East Road north and follow the gravel road alongside the power poles:
but then it’d have to cross fields, and the Makorakio Stream before hitting Tangimoana Road or the Muhonoa East Road. Here’s a view looking south from the end of Tangimoana Road. The power poles come through the low valley in the right of shot:
The cycleway would then continue up Florida Road:
which runs along the southside of the Kimberley Reserve, which is however a wall of trees. There are no visitor facilities to the reserve on the south side of the Ohau River.
And here is the river from the south side off the side of Florida Road. It would require a bridge just downstream from here to take travellers into the Kimberley Reserve and its campground.
Here’s the river from the north side (completely unnecessary for the commentary, but a good shot):
And then from the top of Kimberley Road a link would have to be found through to Gladstone Road. This is the top of Kimberley Road. It’s only a couple hundred metres through paddocks to Gladstone Road. (An alternative would not to link the Kimberley Reserve into the cycleway, but to have the bridge over the Ohau directly between Florida and Gladstone Roads and open up the Gladstone Reserve to cyclist and walker based camping)
Here is the river from the Gladstone Reserve:
From Gladstone Road the hikers can head up to the start of the Mangahao Makahika Walkway, and the cyclists can head down to Queen Street East and into Levin.
It’d be great if a project like this got up someday soon. The route would be useful for the National Cycleway and the National Walkway. It’d cross a bit of private land, but make use of quiet rural roads that are almost untrafficked. The alternative of getting run over by a truck on the state highway means that I (and lots of others) wouldn’t ever cycle to Levin. It’s quite a direct route, about 27km long I’d guess from town to town, and hardly hilly. It goes via a couple camping grounds, and interesting unhurried bits of the landscape. It would attract a few locals, and it wouldn’t be unfeasible to commute between the two towns. But it really is the essence of what I think the National Cycleway should be. Safe, unhurried and interesting.