Wednesday 18th March 2022
Eleven keen HTC mid-week cyclist set off at 09:10 hrs from Otane. The weather conditions were just perfect for cycling. It was a typical C.H.B. blue-sky day, calm and relatively warm for this time of the year. The countryside that we cycled thru was looking particularly lush and green, partly due to the good 6mm of overnight rain. With plenty of feed around in the paddocks, the stock was looking in great condition.
We took a somewhat circuitous route to get to Waipawa from Otane. Instead of going the shorter route down White Rd, we headed off up Elsthorpe Rd to Pourerere Rd, via Tod Rd. There was plenty to see as we cycled down Tod Rd with the smell of freshly shorn wool pervading onto the road as we passed by on our bikes. A shearing gang was busy inside a large roadside shearing shed with the farm dogs barking loudly as they worked the sheep inside the stock yard enclosures. The recently pressed bales of freshly shorn wool were piled up at the open doors of the shed, making it a real quintessential New Zealand rural scene. The Country Calendar team would have been right in their element.
We had regrouped and arrived at Waipawa by 10:15 hrs, so decided to stop off at the picnic area just past the clock tower for a morning tea break. It was very pleasant just sitting there catching up with one another, and watching the world literally drive by, as we chilled out doing what we do best. Our next planned section of the ride was to cycle along the recently completed concrete cycleway / walkway, between Waipawa and Waipukurau, destination Russel Park, Waipukurau. We had only travelled perhaps a kilometre or so on this lovely new concrete cycle path before we encountered a stop barrier across the pathway, indicating that it was closed. On checking with the contractors that were parked further up on the pathway past the barrier, we were told that there were several broken sections of brand-new concrete paving that had to be replaced, and because of safety considerations, we couldn’t proceed any further. We then had a group meeting, and decided to put plan B into action. This involved going back a short distance to Tapairu Rd, and then following it down to the Tukituki River, limestone cycle path, and following it to Russel Park in Waipukurau.
At the bottom of Tapairu Rd, Johnathan & Karen decided to quietly make their way back to Otane. It was very nice to have their company, and we all look forward to having them come out cycling with us again sometime soon. The old site where the beautiful suspension bridge used to go across the river is now looking very empty indeed, the only evidence of it ever being there, being a small concrete pad. There is flood debris still in the trees, indicating just how high the flood waters must have been. It’s pretty amazing to see how powerful that volume of water is, and such a shame that all that time and effort building the bridge has been swept away by just one significant weather event.
We decided to have our lunch stop after arriving at Russell Park, Waipukurau, at around 11:45 hrs. After lunch, Pam and Sharron decided to make their way back to Otane rather than join us on the new Pukeora, Lindsay Bush, loop trail. With limited battery power, Sharron had made the call that her bike battery might not be up to the extra distance that we were planning to do. This subsequently proved to be a very good decision on Sharron’s part, as things did not go entirely to plan for us remaining seven intrepid cyclists.
We continued heading South towards Pukeora on the true R.H. bank of the Tukituki River, Pukeora Loop, limestone cycle trail. After reaching Pukeora, and crossing over the Tukipo River bridge, we regrouped and discussed where to proceed from there. The top of the flood bank adjacent to the Tukipo River bridge was the obvious choice for me as the trip leader, and eventually I managed to convince the rest of the group to follow me, even though there was no signage to indicate that this was if fact the correct route. A short distance along the top of the flood bank we dropped down onto a proper limestone cycle trail. This looked very promising, so we continued on until we encountered our second Stop barrier for the day, this one was across the entrance of a very small stream bridge. Fortunately for us there was a gentleman there, spotting for trout in the steam. He assured us that there were other cyclists regularly using the bridge, and the trail beyond, so we threw caution to the wind, and proceeded onwards with caution.
The trail had recently been topped off with fresh, thick, uncompacted, limestone. It was very soft and unsuitable for riding on due to the 6mm of rain that had fallen overnight. However, we were able to ride on the gravel margins of the trail, and not cause any damage to the uncompacted limestone surface. The trail terminated at the southern side of the bridge crossing the Tukituki River, close by to where the Parson Road turn-off is. This turnoff to Parson Rd is on the R.H. side, and on the northern side of the same bridge. We discussed as a group, going down Parson Rd in search of the start of the limestone cycle trail, but due to a lack of appetite for any more of Des’s dodgy half-finished limestone trails, it was decided to proceed back to Otane via Fairfield Rd, Ongaonga Rd, Waipawa etc. Just to rub salt into the trip leaders’ wounds, he punctured on the way back to Otane, a few hundred yards beyond the Parson Rd turnoff that we should have gone down.
By instigating plan C and aborting the original plan to return to Waipukurau via the Parson Rd, trail turnoff, we covered a total of approximately 70kms for the day. These extra kilometres made the return trip to Otane a little stretched for some of the e-bikers with lower capacity bike batteries. By all accounts, the Waipawa dairy also profited pretty well, dispensing their huge $3 ice-creams to the returning cyclists. The changes that we made to our original planned route all helped to make it a most enjoyable day, and I’m sure it will make us all the more determined to eventually complete our ride on the elusive Pukeora Loop Trail. The most important thing was that we all enjoyed our day of safely cycling in CHB.
Cyclists: Des S, Graeme H, Rodger B, Christine H, Joan R, Alasdair S, Ray M, Pam P, Sharron W, Johnathan & Karen F.