Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Te Awa River Ride – Cambridge to Karapiro

After Queen’s Birthday Weekend, during which I attended a Scottish Country Dancing weekend school in Cambridge, John and I biked a couple of sections of the Te Awa River Ride.

On the Tuesday, 7 June, we rode from our accommodation off Kaipaki Road, just outside Cambridge, towards Lake Karapiro. Officially, this section of Te Awa River Ride starts at the Avantidrome, goes through Cambridge, and eventually joins the cycle track alongside Maungatautari Road. However, we didn’t ride through Cambridge, but joined Maungatautari Road from Lamb Street, having come from Kaipaki Road.

It was a chilly day, so we didn’t set out until late morning. Only 4 km from our cottage, we stopped at the Lilypad Café for coffee and a muffin. Next to this café is the Garden Art Studio, which features a garden full of quirky and colourful ceramic garden decorations – birds, flowers, toadstools, totem poles, and the like.

The Lilypad Café and Garden Art Studio’s display garden (photo by John)

Kaipaki Road, nearing the intersection to Lamb Street (photo by John)

At the end of Kaipaki Road, we crossed Cambridge Road onto Lamb Street, a quiet road without a cycle track, which ran for nearly five kilometres before joining Maungatautari Road. From there a cycle track ran along the flat, beside the main road, until it dipped down towards Lake Karapiro.

Maungatautari Road (photo by John)

Te Awa River Ride dips down towards Lake Karapiro (photo by John)

When we got to the bottom, we diverted off the cycle track to take a look at the Karapiro Dam. There is a narrow one-way road across the dam which is controlled by traffic lights. Our bikes didn’t trigger the weight sensors to change the lights for us. We waited for a while until we spotted a push button for cyclists and motor cyclists. We rode across and then went back to the track.

The road across the Karapiro Dam (photo by John)

The lake above the dam (photo by John)

Not long after, we came to the Mighty River Domain. This is the site for the Karapiro rowing and canoeing races, and other water sports. Rowing NZ has its headquarters there. There is also quite an extensive complex, the Don Rowlands Centre, with conference facilities, camping sites and other accommodation options.

The Mighty River Domain (photo by John)

On our way out, we biked past the domain, the cycle track meandering under mature trees. A couple of times, the track dipped steeply down to lake level, only to rise above it again. At each end of the dips there were warning signs advising cyclists to dismount. Being used to such slopes in our suburb, we did not feel we needed to do that. Coming back up the other side would have required walking, if it hadn’t been for our lovely e-assistance.


The e-assist helped us back up the steep slopes nicely (photo by John)

The last dip ended up at lake level, where a boardwalk took us along the edge of the lake, above the water. It was about 370 m long, after which the track went back up the hill and ended there!

The boardwalk alongside Lake Karapiro (photo by John)

This is where the cycle track ends (photo by John)

Heading back (photo by John)

Returning along the boardwalk (photo by John)

On the way back, we rode through the Mighty River Domain. Being mid-week, there was no boating activity, except for one man who was in the process of getting his single scull ready to take it home on his car’s roof rack. I was amazed to see how very narrow it was. He had already taken off the riggers and put them in his car. We stopped to chat to him. He was similar in age to us, and told us that this was his retirement activity.

How narrow this single scull is!

Along Maungatautari Road, we found “Sarnia Park”, and a board by the gate said “Café open”. We just had to go and investigate. A long tree-lined driveway led us to an impressive building – not at all what we were expecting. It turned out to be a “boutique lodge” and wedding venue.

The tree-lined driveway of Sarnia Park (photo by John)

Sarnia Park Boutique Lodge (photo by John)

The place appeared deserted, but the door was open, and in the foyer was a receptionist who, upon our enquiry, confirmed that we could have Devonshire tea (or coffee) there. The dining room was all set up with crisp white table cloths and linen napkins, flowers, chandeliers and an open fire. Quite luxurious. The scones and coffee were very good too.

Awaiting our “Devonshire tea” (photo by John)

Afterwards we took a short ride around the park – lovely trees, a pond with water lilies and a little bridge, and a gazebo. Perfect for wedding photographs!

Riding in the park (photo by John)

The water lily pond

Going back down the driveway, we were highly amused by a group of young steers, which came galloping over to the fence to check us out.

In such a hurry to check us out! (photo by John)

The rest of our 30 km ride was uneventful. We rode up the driveway of the farm where our cottage was, crunching over autumn leaves.

The driveway to our cottage (photo by John)

John loads the bikes back into the car

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It was only mid-afternoon, so we went for a walk on the farm and down towards the river.

Pukerimu River Cottage was sited near the main house, in an amazing garden close to the edge of a steep drop to the river. It was ideal place to stay, both for attending my weekend school in Cambridge, and for biking around the area. In the mornings we were treated to magnificent sunrises, which made the surrounding trees glow above the fog that was rising from the river, especially a fabulous liquidambar at the edge of the drop.

This liquidambar tree was lit up by the sunrise each morning (photo by John)

The path down towards the river was strewn with autumn leaves, all beautifully dry and crunchy, which made lovely swishing sounds as you walked through them. The owner of the farm mentioned that he had recently taken 40 trailer loads of leaves to a dumping site (I forget where), as they were too large to compost well.

The leaves of the plane trees are too large to compost well (photo by John)
Click to enlarge, to see the size of the leaf in my hand.

Feeling like a kid, playing with autumn leaves (photo by John)

Down towards the river (photo by John)

The path towards the river (photo by John)

That gorgeous gum tree seen from below (photo by John)

Down the track we ended up at field with knee-high grass, where there was what appeared to be a stable, but it was empty. There was also a garden chair, in a prime spot overlooking the river. I could well imagine this being an ideal place to sit with a cushion, a rug, a thermos of coffee and a good book!
This was unoccupied - was it a stable? (photo by John)

An ideal spot for relaxing with a good book (photo by John)

Such lush native bush on the opposite bank (photo by John)

An impressive root system (photo by John)

The neighbours – a small flock of Suffolk sheep (photo by John)

Back in the garden – can you think of a more stunning setting than this? (photo by John)


  1. I am following and reading your posts and what an exciting time you both have. I'm saving for a ebike and Im looking forward to many explorations as well. Keep enjoying. Cheers Judy

  2. Hi Judy, thanks for your comment. We hope our blog posts provide some inspiration for others. Do take a look at our latest adventures on the West Coast Wilderness Trail.