Don Herron, Visitor Centre Ranger shares his experience of biking past Wellington gems on his way to work.Continue Reading...
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The Wairau Lagoons Walkway is not normally open for biking but, on 18 January 2015, you can join us for a free guided mountain bike tour.Continue Reading...
Hewn through steep hill country 100 years ago as a stock route, the Pakihi Track on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, is now a magnificent wilderness ride. Jim Robinson, Executive Officer for Motu Trails Charitable Trust, writes:
My most recent Pakihi escapade came hot on the heels of Easter’s ex-tropical cyclone Ita, which slammed the Eastern Bay of Plenty with an all-night lightning storm, tree-downing gales and, in one terrific downpour, 100 mm of rain in less than two hours.
“I’ve only done one ride since GODZone,” Toni grinned. But, typically, she was dead keen to do the whole 93 km loop of the Motu Trails: out on the Dunes Trail, up the historic Motu Coach Road, down the Pakihi, and back on the tar seal to Opotiki.
The Dunes Trail
The Dunes Trail is a cinch, purpose built to answer New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) standards. But it’s still a great legwarmer, rolling east over tussock-dressed sand dunes, with panoramic views of the Pacific.
Surprisingly, there were no other riders. And the usually common weka must all have been sleeping in.
The Motu Road Trail
After an hour, the Motu Coach Road clicked up the challenge (a big yellow road sign pulls no punches: “NARROW WINDING ROAD NEXT 48 KM EXTREME CARE”).
With tight corners and precipitous drop-offs, ‘The Motu’ used to be one of the famed stages on the World Rally Championship calendar. It’s still the highlight of the Motu Challenge multisport race — a fave of ex-Whakatane MTB rider and 2011 national XC champ Carl Jones.
A few times I could admittedly have done with the horsepower of a Jonesy or a Colin McRae, but we made steady going, and reached the start of the Pakihi by early afternoon.
The Pakihi Track
The day was awesome, though a long way off tropical. So, stopping at the mini trailhead shelter, it was fuel up and jackets on for what Jonathan Kennett rates as “one of the longest most scenic downhill cycle trails in the country. It is virtually impossible to ride the Pakihi without a grin from ear to ear.”
Bringing the Pakihi back to life
Jonathan first rode the Pakihi in about 1996, while researching for Classic New Zealand Mountain Bike Rides.
One of my dog-eared early editions of the biker’s bible rates the track “50% semi-rideable jungle country, 50% sweet single track”. But by 2008, edition seven cautioned with an almost audible sigh: “in 2007, a big storm closed the Pakihi Track … it doesn’t sound like the Pakihi will ever be fully rideable again.”
Fortunately, in 2010 there was an unexpected saviour in the form of the New Zealand Cycle Trail.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) had been aiming for some years to restore the Pakihi for trampers and hunters, and got behind the concept of reopening access to bikers as well.
Rugged! Photos of the Pakihi before restoration
With two work teams, one from each end, DOC brought the Pakihi back to life, better than ever.
As soon as we dropped off the Motu Road, Toni and I were into magic riding, below a dense canopy of forest, with punga fronds pushing in.
It’s wide and evenly graded, but a glance down confirms that you’re sidling an extremely steep slope.
Time and again, you skirt into a tight gut, cross a short wooden bridge, and return to the bush-clad face of the hill, all without changing more than a few metres in height.
I pedalled the Pakihi a year ago with four keen Australians, and they kept commenting how the scale of track work is unreal.
The 11 km upper section, with a dozen bridges and a total descent of about 300 metres, ends with a short sidetrack to the Pakihi Hut, which was built in 1969 by the New Zealand Forest Service (forerunner to DOC), for hunters.
The hut was originally big enough for 6, but the 2013 addition of an enclosed verandah and benching stretches that capacity.
It’s backcountry basic. But, for a lunch stop, it’s the best place on the trail — and if it’s sunny, there’s a picnic table.
Toni and I rolled straight on down, into the spectacular 10 km lower section, which starts by taking a tight twist into a shady gully with a small crashing waterfall.
A few minutes more and we’d reached a 35 metre long suspension bridge, crossing the Pakihi River just above the confluence with Papamoa Stream.
The bridges keep coming, all numbered: 18, 19, 20, 21…. We paused several times to look left to small waterfalls, the cold hanging in the still air. I love these spots most of all in summer: the lichens and ferns stay fresh, the nikau throw shade, and there’s still ample water to fill a bottle.
Then, around bridge 24, the valley stretches open. The track widens and straightens. The sun warms. Suddenly, you pop out on the road end, and it’s over.
“There’s stunning scenery all the way down, and a great variation,” said Toni, when I asked for her perception as a Pakihi first-timer.
“There aren’t many places that you can easily ride so close to a river without being in a riverbed, or way up high on a cliff. It was amazing to be so close, seeing the sunlight glistening off the river and hearing the water.”
“From what I’d been told, I was expecting a far narrower track with steep cliffs,” Toni commented. “In reality it was much better than I expected. You need to be cautious at times. But really why would you want to rush!”
Several shuttle providers offer group drop-offs and pick-ups around the Motu Trails. There’s a range of accommodation, including in Opotiki, Ohiwa, Tirohanga, Toatoa, Motu, Pakihi Valley and Te Waiti.
If you’re not keen on riding, the Pakihi Track is also a superb walk. From the Pakihi road end you can walk to the hut and back in about 5-6 hours.
Abridged from ‘Glorious Pioneering’ in the June/July issue of New Zealand Mountain Biker Magazine.
The Heaphy Track, closed since Easter due to storm damage, reopened on Monday.
The recent storm caused extensive tree windfall forcing the closure of the track and delaying the start of its winter mountain biking season.
A big effort has gone in over the past two weeks to clear fallen trees on the Heaphy Track with extra staff being brought in to speed up the clean-up.
With the reopening of the track the mountain bike season is now underway and runs until the 30 September.
Hut bookings can be made and more information found on what to expect and what to take when biking the Heaphy Track on the DOC website.
By Chrissy Wickes, Ranger – Biodiversity in Te Anau
It’s that time of the year when the world turns bright orange and yellow.
A perfect occasion to put on your helmet and explore the brilliant bike trails in all their autumn glory while it lasts.
There are many trails in the Wanaka area that are golden with fallen leaves. A favourite of mine is the Upper Clutha River track, this follows the Clutha River all the way from the Wanaka lake outlet, under the Albert town bridge and on to Luggate. This track is classified as “intermediate” for mountain bikers.
You can go as far as you want, lie amongst the autumn leaves, or just take a picnic and sit on the banks of the impressive Mata-Au/Clutha River. The entire track is 21.5 km long, one way.
On the other side of the river are two other great tracks; the Newcastle and Deans Bank for a slightly more challenging ride. These trails were made possible through the partnership of the Upper Clutha Tracks Trust, Bike Wanaka and DOC.
So what are you waiting for? Go plan your ride on the DOC website and find out more information about some fantastic tracks in your area.
Get out there, get amongst it!
February is Bike Wise month and to celebrate Fiordland Biodiversity Ranger Chrissy Wickes tells us about her recent trip biking the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold Trail.
Having biked the Central Otago cycleway with my partner and son we were looking for another great cycle route in the Central Otago area.
We found a real gem, the Roxburgh Gorge and the Clutha Gold Trail and we headed off in January on a three day journey.
As we were doing it as a family we took our time doing 20-25 kilometres a day, and taking all day to do it! Why not!
Starting at Alexandra we headed off on a fabulous purpose built bike trail. There is something so special about being able to bike free of traffic in an amazing gorge in the remote heartland of Central Otago schist country.
After the first 10 kilometres we met up with a jet boat (pre-arranged) that took us about 12 kilometres through the gorge to meet up with the trail again. This was a great luxury and currently the only way to do the trail without doubling back.
There was lots of history to learn about along the way, with old miners cottages made from the local stone. We stayed just out of Roxburgh the first night and headed off to Millers Flat the second day.
Millers flat is a charming settlement on the south side of the river — friendly and peaceful with plenty of history.
The third day got us back to Roxburgh, where the obliging owner of our first night’s accommodation had organised for our car to be relocated to. The people we met were amazingly friendly.
The gorge was our highlight. It was beautiful following the cool blue Clutha/Mata-au River all the way amongst the dry brown rocky landscape. I would choose your weather wisely it can be excessively hot in summer and extremely cold out of summer. It is also remote so you need to be prepared.
By Beverly Bacon, DOC Web Team
With two full suns forecast for the central North Island over Wellington Anniversary Weekend, we decided to head north and ride the Timber Trail – an 85 km cycle trail that passes through Pureora Forest Park and is part of Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail.
Most people ride from Pureora to Ongarue to take advantage of the mostly downhill trend in this direction; we rode in the opposite direction as it fitted better with our other plans for the weekend. Either way you can’t go wrong – there are signposts at all intersections and every kilometre is numbered.
The section from Ongarue follows an old tramway, so the trail is smooth and wide with a gentle gradient. It passes alternately through cuttings and clearings that were once camps for loggers.
An interesting feature is the Ongarue Spiral. It consists of a lower bridge, a curved tunnel, a circle of track and an over bridge, and is fun to ride after you’ve got your head around it from the interpretation panels on the way.
Bridges are a major feature the whole length of the trail and the four huge swing bridges are nothing less than impressive – the biggest is 141 metres long and 53 metres high! They’re all wide and stable enough to ride across but it’s worth stopping half way to admire the forest views (and the engineering involved!)
We ended day one at Piropiro campsite, halfway along the trail. It’s accessible by road and many people choose to have their overnight gear shuttled in, as well as being shuttled back to their cars at the end of the trail.
The section from Piropiro to Pureora would have been a little easier if we had ridden the other way, but our slower pace uphill gave us more time to look for the kereru whose loud flapping wings we often heard. The forest under dappled sunlight was just as beautiful.
Leaving our bikes on the trail, we walked the 30 minute side track to historic Bog Inn Hut to have our lunch. We also made the side trip up Mt Pureora (1165 metres) with 360 degrees of the Central Plateau, Lake Taupo and across Taranaki. There are two tracks – from the Pureora end, the first one signposted is a 40 minute walk one way, the second one, which we took, was just 20 minutes one way. Be prepared to get your feet a little muddy.
Day two ended at Ngaherenga campsite in Pureora. We pitched our tent alongside a row of flowering flax bushes and were treated to an evening with tui feeding right near us – a lingering reminder of a superb ride that for two days had allowed us to get close up to the nature and history that makes New Zealand special.