I’ve wanted to ride Pou Herenga Tai - Twin Coast Trail (Opua to Horeke, Hokianga) since learning about it a couple of years ago. I have ridden in the area a couple of times but that was all road touring. The trail (No. 1 & 3 green sections on the map below) is about 87km which is a nice day ride distance, for me, but I wanted to do a bit more. Over the New Year break I started thinking about making a long weekend of it later in February, but not a public holiday weekend, to avoid road traffic and school holiday crowds.
During my research I hit upon the idea of combining the trail with some road riding over four days. It would mean staying, leaving a car, in Kaikohe as a base with a night at Opononi and Russell either end. My CX bike and new Tailfin pannier are perfect for the mix of gravel path/road and tarmac and light ‘overnight kit’ luggage. I would stay in motels and eat out both nights to save carrying tents and cooking gear. Besides, I really don’t like camping and see little point cooking in tourist spots full of much better food than I could ever make!
The thing which made this plan really work was finding the newly opened (December 2018) Left Bank Hotel, in Kaikohe, who had secure parking for the new toy. It would be my first road trip in AHBART, my Abarth 500 Esseesse, and a good test for my upcoming South Island road trip for the A2O cycle. Can I stand a long drive in the Abarth, with its very firm suspension, and fit in a bike + travel gear!?
To Kaikohe for the night
I left work Thursday evening heading to Kaikohe. I had a soft deadline, Kaikohe before 21:00, as wanted to check into the accommodation before they closed the restaurant.
Once past Silverdale, and the worst of the Auckland traffic, it was a nice drive towards Whangarei. Before getting there I took a route suggested by the GPS (HereWeGo app) up SH15. If I have driven this road before I’ve forgotten but it was superb. It follows the river up Otaika Valley to Maungatapere where I had to stop and take a photo of a rather odd combination of businesses. One building, part of an old dairy factory, had Manure, Café and Bridal Wear businesses! The other half of this site, more buildings out of shot in the photo below, will feature later in the trip. Its contents were even more surprising.
A bit further up the road I had to do a U turn to snap a photo of a rather special line-up of cars outside the Poroti Pub. Would have liked to go in and find out more but I had a deadline to meet!
The road is a lovely flowing highway, twisty in places but open enough to give some opportunities to pass if needed (not that I did). ‘BART was great, plenty of torque/power and awesome grip/handling meant I could maintain a good average speed without ever going fast. The only odd thing was having to slow often to allow flocks of small birds, probably sparrows, to clear the road. Maybe because it was twilight, but they seemed to be feeding, wind-blown seed trapped in the coarse tarmac?
I also stopped briefly at Twin Bridges. The bridge is an odd T shape, as has a side leg from the middle to a riverside reserve and a farm access road. Pretty sure the last time I was there was in the early 1980s on a bicycle tour, with a school mate, from Auckland to Kaitaia. I recall that day as we cycled from Dargaville to Kaikohe, where we camped overnight, but didn't sleep much due to rain and not a great tent, before riding on over the Mangamuka Ranges to Kaitaia. Accommodation this time would be rather better!
I got to Kaikohe about 20:00, booked in and got some dinner at Mint Restaurant (part of Left Bank). I pretty much inhaled the rare scotch fillet steak, both because I was hungry and it was superb. I hadn't noticed it came with sautéed potatoes (and vegetables), unlike Auckland Restaurants where everything is extra, so had also ordered a side of fries. I ate the lot and although very full it probably was wise, due to a catering mistake the next day, to double up the carbs!
The Left Bank is a beautifully restored 1910 Bank of New Zealand building. The ground floor has a café/restaurant in the old bank area, the safe is a small lounge! Upstairs the former Bank Managers accommodation has been converted into five hotel quality rooms. ‘My room’, I got the same one for the three nights there, was lovely. A big open room, fireplace and wardrobe on one wall, views to the town from windows on the other two and a nice en-suite bathroom. It was a very comfortable night, rested ready for the riding to kick off the next morning.