Hawkes Bay Rides

2 10 2013

A few moons ago I did a little ride up Hawkes Bay way from Havelock North to Napier, and in the years since they’ve spent a bit of money and improved cycle infrastructure considerably. Hastings has made a considerable effort in improving on-road cycling around the town.

Here’s a map of most of the rides. Click for a full version:


My lovely wife and I had an opportunity to spend a nice long weekend trying out the various cycleways. The waterfront path makes for some pretty magnificent riding.  It now stretches from Clifton to Bay View. Particularly enjoyable is the section from about the National Aquarium through to Westshore, where the path goes around the quays.

Riding to the Port

Riding to the Port

The seafront path also now continues up to Bay View. The path is a wide smooth concrete where two riders can easily ride two abreast and chat the whole way.

Battling the wind along Westshore

Battling the wind along Westshore

Another day we rode from Napier south along the shore to Awatoto and then headed up the stopbanks of the Tutaekuri and Ngaruroro rivers. Like the ride up the Tuki Tuki river many gates are encountered and the path is shared with cattle. The surface is a fine limestone artfully decorated with some fine manure.

Along the Tutaekuri River

Along the Tutaekuri River

Between the stopbanks the river was a bit flooded.

The Flooded Ngaruroro

The Flooded Ngaruroro

And it was a long way to Fernhill overlooking orchards. There was a bit of spraying and rubbish burning going on, so horticulture doesn’t always make for the best of neighbours, and the river reserves seem to attract the trail bike riders and dickheads burning campfires. Minor inconveniences aside it wasn’t that unpleasant.

Long trek along the stopbanks

Long trek along the stopbanks

When we got out to the wineries, they all seemed to be shut. They apparently start opening more regularly from  Labour Day weekend. The tracks around the wineries parallel the roads and are made from the same limestone gravel.

Other cyclists in the Gimblett Gravels

Other cyclists in the Gimblett Gravels wine district

A more interesting ride than riding out to the wineries is riding what is labelled the Water Ride. There’s two interesting sections. One on the south side of the Ahuriri Estuary and one north around the airport. Both can be started from the Westshore part of the coastal ride. One leaves the old embankment on the north side of the main outfall channel of the Ahuriri Estuary, and one on the south side.

The Water Ride disappearing under the Hawkes Bay Expressway

The Water Ride disappearing under the Hawkes Bay Expressway

For the ride out around the airport take the north side going under the railway and the expressway and then meandering around the lagoon on a limestone path. There are a few gates to open, and the animal of choice around here are sheep which makes for a much more pleasant manure. Saying that we did manage to get gently charged by a young bull who didn’t appreciate our presence.

Crossing the swampy land near the airport

Crossing the swampy land near the airport

There’s not much boardwalk,

A bit of boardwalk

A bit of boardwalk

and eventually the track makes it to the Whakamaharatanga walkway (another remnant of the NZ walkways) and then at Bay View ride back south on the coastal path.

The other part of the Water Ride goes around the southern edge of the lagoon. This little ride would appeal to birdwatchers. There’s a hide at one point, and quite a bit of bird life. It circles around to Prebensen Drive which has quite a nice bike path back towards Napier City, but it cuts out short of the city and throws you onto quite a heavily trafficked road, maybe not the best route for kids.

Closing yet another gate

Closing yet another gate

Collectively the cycle tracks of Hawkes Bay has some boring bits, and too many gates, but the waterfront path and the Water Ride are very pleasant. There’s enough variety to have a different ride everyday for almost a week. Over the last few years the Rotarians (who built a lot of them), the various councils and the National Cycleway funding have done a good job in getting the network built. There has been a focus, not only on recreational rides, but useful commuter paths, and every community should aspire to build a similar cycle path density. It’s worth stopping by for a few days.

The Zen of cycling taking on a profound cygnetficance

The Zen of cycling taking on a profound cygnetficance

Christchurch’s Cycle Design Guidelines

30 08 2013

If you’ve not seen the Christchurch City Council’s Cycle Design Guidelines yet they make for some very interesting reading.

It gives hope that we are going to end up with quality, safe cycle infrastructure in New Zealand cities.

Dutch style intersections

Dutch style intersections

One style of separated cyclelane

One style of separated cycle lane

Now central government should come to the party, wind back the wasteful spending on its RoNS monstrosities and fund quality bike infrastructure in every decent sized town and city in the country. If it takes a change of government next year then that’s what it takes. Read the document, and if its what you want in your town too, then spread the word and help chuck out Messrs Key, Brownlee and Joyce. Vote for a party that is going to help make it happen.


Is the Conservation Minister smarter than the average bear?

17 03 2013

Is the recently rehabilitated, formerly disgraced, Conservation Minister, Nick Smith,  smarter than the average bear when it comes to making the right decisions about not messing up Fiordland with crazy Disneyfication get rich quick schemes?

We think the best way to help him come to the right decision is set him in down in front on a kids’ film, the filmed in New Zealand, Yogi Bear. (It got hammered by critics, but my better half and I, close to our 40ths, loved it.)


It comes with a great message, made so simple, even a National Party MP could understand it (we hope).

The story goes like this:

Mayor Brown, who has wasted too much of the city’s money on trivial things (being analogous to National’s spending on the Roads of National Significance boondoggle no doubt) needs to turn his deficit into a surplus and decides to monetise Jellystone Park by selling it to logging companies. Yogi, Boo Boo and all their fellow forest creatures are going to be out of a home, and instead of perpetually stealing pic-a-nic baskets, they have to cooperate with Ranger Smith and love interest/biology researcher Rachel to save the park. There are the predictable scenes of rafting over a waterfall, and waterskiing bears and Mayor Brown is shown as the on-the-take, shallow, nature hater that he really is, when he gets his comeuppance and Jellystone Park is saved.

This year the Minister is going to make a decision on whether either or both of the schemes to violate Fiordland are going to be given concessions. There is understandably a bit of a local backlash about the proposals, ie see Save Fiordland’s website.

Firstly there is the Milford Dart Tunnel which proposes to build a tunnel for buses with an eastern portal near the Routeburn Shelter and a western portal just north of Gunn’s Camp on the Hollyford Road. Tourists can then rush from Queenstown via the road to Glenorchy, over the little bridges over the Rees and Dart rivers, through the tunnel, to the Hollyford and then on the existing Hollyford Road, through the Homer Tunnel, and into Milford Sound, instead of going the long way round through Mossburn and Te Anau.

Secondly there is the plan to build a monorail from the Kiwi Burn through the Snowdon Forest to Te Anau Downs. With this tourists would be able to rush from Queenstown to Milford via a boat across Lake Wakatipu, then an “all terrain vehicle” (oh gosh) on the Mt Nicholas Road to KiwiBurn and then catch a monorail to Te Anau Downs where presumably they can get on pogo sticks to go through the Eglington Valley to the Homer Tunnel and down to the Sound.

Both of these would mean granting significant commercial concessions to build intrusive infrastructure in Te Wahipounamu/Fiordland World Heritage Area that would have big effects on scenery and recreational users to save tourists a few hours on an exhausting day trip bus ride. They would both significantly reduce the mana of the parks.

Here’s a suggestion for any tourists coming to Fiordland and are in Queenstown and want to visit Milford Sound. Don’t do it as a day trip. It is a long way to go, and there are many beautiful things to see on the way. There are world class walking tracks and the scenery is fantastic. Fiordland is worth more than one day of your life.

On paper the Milford Dart Tunnel would appear to not have much impact you might think, but the roads and bridges between Glenorchy and the eastern portal will all need to be upgraded for the large number of buses using the tunnel. (There would also be political pressure to open up the tunnel to trucks and cars once it was built).

The Lower Dart. What this valley needs is lots of diesel pollution.

The Lower Dart. What this valley needs is lots of diesel pollution.

Most of the Routeburn track walkers won’t notice the buses in the tunnels underneath (and the people in the buses would be looking into blackness when above they could be hiking in a lovely beech forest up to the Harris Saddle). A hundred diesel belchers going past the start of the walk to Lake Sylvan are going to mess with the ambience of what would have to be one of the nicest short walks in the world.

The beech forest en route to Lake Sylvan.

The beech forest en route to Lake Sylvan.

A short walk to a peaceful oasis of serenity, Lake Sylvan.

Peaceful Lake Sylvan

Peaceful Lake Sylvan.

At the western end of the tunnel the Hollyford Road will have to be widened and upgraded to take the extra bus traffic. The Hollyford Road near the start of the Lake Marian track is narrow and steep and in pristine forest. They’ll have to cut down a lot of trees to accomplish this. On the Hollyford Road past the turnoff  the traffic will thin, and only be there to provide access to the Hollyford Track. It’s a good thing the tourist buses will rush past giving no-one the opportunity to see such a magnificent river as the Hollyford.

The Hollyford River.

The Hollyford River.

I had a hike once in the Snowdon Forest.  I walked in from the Mavora Lakes and in from the KiwiBurn. I’m pretty much of the opinion that this part of the World Heritage Area should be incorporated into a National Park and better protected.

Walking around the South Mavora I was pretty much of the opinion that the 4WD access should be shutdown, because they had churned up the fragile soils in the beech forest into mudpools. DOC, if you’ve got any staff left, you should look into that.

Potholed and hillocked - 4WDs fucked up the South Mavora Lake.

Potholed and hillocked – 4WDs have fucked up the South Mavora Lake.

The Kiwi Burn area itself is beautiful with flat walking following the Mararoa River through the forest.

Bridge over the Mararoa River, near KiwiBurn.

Bridge over the Mararoa River, near Kiwi Burn.

Would this look better with a monorail?

En route to the Whitestone.

En route to the Whitestone Valley.

If tourists want Disneyland then I suggest going to Anaheim, Lille, Orlando or Hong Kong. If they want to see a beautiful corner of the world (except for the bloody sandflies) then I suggest they do it on foot, or take more than a day to do it by the existing road. These projects are unnecessary. They will despoil a beautiful and unique part of the world. They will commoditise, monetise and Disney-afy a part of the natural world. They will allow a couple of companies to generate wealth for themselves, whilst detracting from the common good that is owned not only by every New Zealander, but by everyone on planet Earth.

Can Nick Smith make the right decision? Is he smarter than the average bear?

Save Jellystone. Save Fiordland.

Save Jellystone. Save Fiordland.

Improvements in Whanganui’s cycleways

26 08 2012

I had a revisit to Whanganui. My last post about the cycle paths along the river was a couple years back. I had a nice sunny walk up and down both banks.

There were two small improvements of note:

1. On the west side of the river there’s a new cyclists’ underpass going in under the Dublin St bridge to cut out the need to cycle through the busy roundabout. It’s almost finished, and you can see work in progress under the far side of the bridge in the photo below. This I think is a great decision of the City Council. Well done.

The Dublin St bridge.

2. On Somme Parade the on-road cycle lane has a painted dashed yellow line, which is an essential, usually much overlooked, part of every on-road cycle lane to keep it being blocked by parked cars. Again well done.

The yellow dashed line is an essential part of an on-road cycle lane

There are also a few new signs showing the route of part of the National Cycleway:

Closer here to the sea than the mountains

There were a number of cyclists out and about in the winter sun, and the odd pedelec, but proving the point that two-stroke assisted bicycles have no place being on any cycleway was this young guy. I’ve smudged his face as I don’t want to dob him in, but if he reads this and recognises himself – your bike sucks, and get off the cycle path:

Petrol engines on bicycles are an annoyance for their noise and fumes.

Shine Falls – a remnant of the NZ walkways

1 10 2011

If I’m reading history right in the 1970s there was a small movement (amongst Taranaki locals?) for the establishment of an East West Walkway across the North Island from Cape Egmont to East Cape. It never eventuated, but it did inspire the New Zealand Walkways Act of 1975. That founded the New Zealand Walkway Commission and 12 district committees who’s aim was “to establish walking tracks over public and private land so that the people of New Zealand shall have safe, unimpeded foot access to countryside for the benefit of physical recreation”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ohakune Old Coach Road

15 09 2011

As well as the Mangapurua Cycle Trail another part of the Mountains to the Sea Cycle Route is the Ohakune Old Coach Road. It starts at the train station at Ohakune and heads west of town on a dirt road to a small carpark. On a sunny day there’ll be lots of walkers, and the track can seem a bit crowded.

There is a short grassy uphill section where some cyclists will get off and walk.

Through some scrub on a well formed track.

The train line originally went through the Hapuawhenua Tunnel, but it’s been rerouted when they built the new viaduct. You can ride your bike through the tunnel, but the far end is gated off.

The section sidling around the hill through the forest is wonderful to ride through if there aren’t too many walkers around.

The trail goes under the train line and then you can ride onto the old Hapuawhenua Viaduct. The somewhat muddy track to Horopito goes up the hill near the start of the viaduct.

After Horopito 40 odd kilometres of quiet rural roads leads on to the start of the Mangapurua Track.

On a busy day you’ll probably question the decision to allow cyclists on the short walk to the viaducts, so enjoy it while you can. On foot or on bike it is a pleasant, shortish ride out from Ohakune to the viaducts and back. Slow down for walkers.

The Mangapurua Cycle Trail

28 08 2011

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.