Mt Hutt ski-field road climbs relentlessly in the Hakatere Conservation Park, but lucky for us the most excellent “Bike Methven Club” has built 30+ kms of trail in the Mt Hutt Mountain Bike Park. After the forestry plantation was logged and replanted the club purchased the land and restored their original MTB tracks, and have been busy building more.
A favorable weather pattern presented Dave Mitchell and Ditte Van der Meulen with the only excuse needed to head south to the tracks and trails of Otago and Southland. A road trip on the cusp of autumn was soon conceived with their van packed to the gunnels, maps selected and bikes prepared within an inch of their lives.
The mono culture of grapes on the Wairau Valley floor stretches forever towards St Arnaud, and across the bridge on SH6 the foot hills above North Bank Road contain the second mono culture, pine trees. They follow the grapes towards St Arnaud, fill up the gullies and ridges to the native bush line and have self seeded their way onto open tops and into vacant clearings in the bush.
Seven years ago 29 miners died in the Pike River Coal Mine disaster on the West Coast of New Zealand. Last year DOC announced plans to create the Paparoa and Pike29 tracks in Paparoa National Park. The tracks were proposed by the miners' families as a living memorial to those who tragically lost their lives, and as a thank you to the region and nation for the support they received in the wake of the disaster. 65 km of new and existing multi-use walking-biking tracks will link Blackball, Punakaiki and Pike River.Construction started a few months ago. Due to be completed in April 2019, there will be various single and two-day options to climb and descend through lush native forest, and traverse the spectacular Paparoa tops.
In March 2017 the Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane Conservation Park, like much of the North Island, was hit hard by cyclone Debbie. Ditte and I were hunkered down in Rotorua while torrential rain drummed for three days solid on our accommodation's corrugated iron roof. Fast forward to spring 2017 and the Herculean effort to repair the road is still ongoing. It took all of four months just to join the dots so the locals of Minginui didn't have an hours drive through dodgy forestry roads to get to Murapara.
A tropical cyclone had brushed the top of the North Island causing slips and track closures across Auckland's Regional Parks and the Coromadel, and a missing chain link in our carefully crafted ride plan. We pumped up the tyres, lubed the chains and headed down the shallow arc of the Bay of Plenty through kiwifruit and avocado orchards to Whakatane and then up to the magic kingdom of Opotiki.