A month ago, after a fantastic 2 day national summit of all the cycling advocacy groups in NZ, 9 doughty souls turned out for a supported tour to Miranda & the Hauraki Rail Trail.
We began in downtown Auckland by catching the Pine Harbour ferry under thunderous – looking skies. It’s a commuter service only, so it pays to check the sailing hours. As a local I was keen to show off the brilliant route through Beachlands & Omana Regional Park. Our mixed bunch was impressed; even our ‘trauma reduction’ specialist was undaunted by two falls within the first couple of kilometres.
A welcome warm coffee & scone break at Maraetai set us up to enjoy the coastal stretch to Duders and inland to Clevedon. Lunch was in the shelter of the Kawakawa hall, before the challenge of Te Morehu hill, which we crossed with surprising ease. Although the ride then heads inland for a while, the rich offering of coastal Regional Parks, (Duders, Tawhitokino, Waitawa (soon), Tapapakange, Waharau – most offering camping) at Auckland’s back door impressed our out of town visitors.
We hit the coast again at Matangarahi , and had a tail wind to sweep us along the Seabird Coast, past Kaiaua, to our wonderful accommodation; the Miranda Shorebird Centre . It has delightful bunkrooms & suites for enthusiastic twitchers, student/volunteers & usually a bed or two for the passing cyclist. We were free to engage as little or as deeply as desired in learning about the world-recognized tidal flats that support thousands of birds, some of who are fuelled up for non-stop many 1000km flights to the northern hemisphere. It’s hard not to be impressed as all this is on hand, while you sip your sundown reviver and eat fish and chips for which Kaiaua is reknown.
Despite deteriorating weather, we were happy to see the Hauraki Rail Trail Sherpa shuttle bus which picked us up the next morning. The first stop in Paeroa showed us the town hasn’t quite embraced the opportunity of thousands of visiting cycle tourists to enrich their ‘L & P and bric-a-brac shops’ tourism focus. It was therefore good to get to The Convenient Cow café and the Cheese Barn which are reveling in the wheeled trade brought to their doors. The trail from Paeroa is underwhelming until it hits the historic Karangahake railway bridges, where it plunges into the long lit tunnel, which had many of us singing & bell- ringing. After enjoying the rushing river and rain -enhanced bush alongside we rode into the cosy Waikino Railway Station Cafe. This is one end of the ‘bike-friendly’ Waihi tourist railway, and is a bit of a time warp in its friendly service and range of hearty food. We shuttled back to Miranda and various linking trips back were supported by the brilliant Barb Insull.
Wet though it was, I’m reminded how delightful cycle touring in our wider ‘hood’ can be. If you can manage a bit of weight in a pannier, a whole world opens up. Some parts are even better than many of the 80+ nights I have spent touring in the Loire, Jura, Provence, Pyrenees & Cevennes in France.
The arrival of the cooler weather means that I’m planning to document rides in between the brilliant Kennett Brothers’ ‘Cycle Trails of NZ’ & our very local bike ways. Some have been covered in Catherine Smith’s ‘Cycling Auckland -Bike Trails around the City & Environs’ that was contributed to by CAA). These will include day or overnight trips to Orewa, Muriwai, Clevedon/Maraetai and Helensville. Our good choice of ferries and improving trains gives us the option of avoiding loading the bikes on to a car. Even a half (mid-week) day in some of these parts feels like a cycling feast in another world. Maybe you and a few mates could sometimes forgo the 6.30am dash, & instead have a ‘golf’ (cycling is the new…) afternoon.
All photos courtesy Patrick Morgan, Project Manager CAN – Cycle Advocates Network