Sunday, 12 February 2017

Rimutaka Rail Trail

Wonder of wonders! We have had three fine days in a row! Quite something for this annoyingly disappointing summer we are having in Wellington. Saturday 11 February was fine, with a clear blue sky, and – a real novelty this summer – it was calm! So we decided to bike the Rimutaka Rail Trail

We haven’t biked up there for a long time. Not since October 2014, to be precise. That was just before we bought our electric bikes. I think what put us off going with the e-bikes was the gate to the track. It was narrow and awkward. We didn’t think we’d be able to get the bikes through the gate, and they are too heavy to lift over the car gate. But we had heard that there is now a modern, “standard Nga Haerenga design” gate. 

When we drove up to the start of the trail, we passed the turn-off to Stonestead at Te Marua, where we had Devonshire Teas on one of our Folding Goldies rides. 

That had been in the pouring rain, today it was possible to sit at one of the outside picnic tables, under a sun umbrella. So it seemed like an imperative stop before starting our ride.

Stonestead (photo by John)

Devonshire tea under the sun umbrellas (photo by John)

After Kevin’s delicious scones, we headed to the start of the Rimutaka Trail. We were pleased to see that the access road had been sealed, and was in good condition. The last time we were here, this road was in a dreadful state.

Being a beautiful day and a weekend, the carpark was pretty full, but we managed to score a spot in the shade of a hedge. In this photo, a fluke of the light and camera lens makes it look as if my bike has been “beamed down” to us from somewhere “up there”.

Was my bike beamed down from somewhere up there? (photo by John)

The new gate for bikes is a great improvement

The scenery on the trail is wonderfully varied. By turns, the track is edged with tall pine trees, regenerating native bush, wide open spaces, or dark fern-covered cuttings. There are historic bridges, rushing streams, tunnels and information boards. And when you get to the Summit, there is a large open area with picnic tables and the remains of the fell engines that once used to ply this track when it was a railway.

The pine trees exude their lovely fragrance (photo by John)

There is a second gate before the track enters a shooting range area

At this bridge there is an option to either ford the stream, or to keep your feet dry
and use the bridge (photo by John)

The historic Pakuratahi Bridge dates from 1876, though it was rebuilt in 1910 after a fire,
and restored in 2001 (photo by John)

The Summit. The shelter in the distance houses photos and information about the original
Rimutaka Railway (photo by John)

Though there were several small groups of people at the Summit, it was unbelievably quiet and peaceful up there. We relished the magic of a calm, sunny day.

John rides through one of the dark, fern-clad cuttings

Coming out of a dark and damp cutting into the bright sunshine (photo by John)

Ladle Bend Creek Bridge was built on a curve. It dates from 1875, and was restored in 2002

Another view of the Pakuratahi Bridge (photo by John)

This trail is not a long ride, being 10.5 km of very gentle uphill to the Summit. So we only did 21 km on this ride.

One day, we may even do the whole rail trail – starting from the Wairarapa side of the hill. It’s the thought of the notorious Siberia Gully that has put me off wanting to try it. Siberia has the reputation of being cold and extremely rough, where you may have to manhandle your bike over the rough bits. But having “survived” having to manoeuvre the bikes over boulders at the Waikanae River, I’ve been thinking that perhaps Siberia can’t be too much worse? Or am I being too optimistic? The rub of course is that we would have to push our bikes not only over rough ground, but uphill.

We will have to think on it. Who knows …

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