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


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.

It didn’t take long.

7 03 2012

From the Wairarapa News the Rimutaka Incline Stupid Railroad plan is to be resubmitted.

Te Araroa Trail opening

3 12 2011

I’d announced The Te Araroa Trail opening was happening today, earlier this week, and I made an effort to make it along.

(I know Te Araroa, means “The Long Pathway” so “The Te Araroa Trail” literally means “The The Long Pathway Trail”, but if you have ever uttered the words “Mekong River” then you’ll just have to forgive me)

This morning in Island Bay it was a day that had everything; sunshine and a brass band:

The Govenor General opened the Te Araroa Trail for all of New Zealand and for foreign visitors too. There were also speeches from Geoff Chapple, who’s original idea was the inspiration for the track, and Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown. There were parallel ceremonies on 90 Mile Beach in Northland and Bluff in Southland.

A plaque was unveiled and trees were planted:

And like a few others, my buddy and I set off to walk the first 14km heading north out of Island Bay. The weather was warm and that made the views quite stunning:

The South Coast looking over to the Pencarrow side

Looking over Newtown to Mt Victoria

It was really a beautiful day for a walk or a game of cricket:

The City from above Brooklyn

The top of the cable car

We talked about keeping on going over Tinakori Hill, Ngaio Gorge, over Mt Kaukau and into Johnsonville and then we shortened it to just Crofton Downs station, then we said hey it is hot, and we walked down to the Wellington Station instead, through the rose gardens which were smelling quite nice:

On the train ride no one sat next to either of us, probably because we weren’t smelling like roses.

One thing Geoff Chapple said during the ceremony, was that one of the first things they did back at the start, circa 1994, was to put together a route the whole way from Cape Reinga to Bluff which could be walked from the start, and ever since they’ve been improving the route sending it off-road wherever they could, which is a process still continuing. In an upcoming blog will be how that strategy could be employed by Nga Haerenga, the National Cycleway.

Congratulations were read out from the organisations behind the Trans Canada Trail, The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail and the Bibbulman Track. That puts into perspective what little old New Zealand has achieved with Te Araroa.

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.