Day one of my ride was a mix of cycle trail, Pou Herenga Tai - Twin Coast Trail Kaikohe to Horeke, and road riding to Opononi for the night. After a good, big for me, breakfast (pancakes with fruit, honey & two coffees) at Mint Restaurant I assembled my bike. Fitting it in the Abarth means taking off both wheels & the Tailfin pannier rack but sorting that didn't take long.
The day was overcast, road damp from overnight rain, but warm (25 deg c) and very humid with misty ‘not quite rain’ to actual light rain coming and going.
It was my first tour with the Tailfin so, as a test, I loaded it up with a bit more gear than really necessary for an overnight stay in a motel. One pannier was ‘dry overnight stuff’ (too many clothes, Surface Go PC, phone & Cycliq chargers, toothbrush/paste and sunscreen), the other was riding and potentially wet stuff (Tools, Tube, cycling arm sleeve & leggings, wind shell and Teva sandals for walking). Both bags were about 2/3 full, I didn't weigh them but guess ~3kg each. I was interested to see how the bike handled on gravel, running 700x35c Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, with this combination.
Kaikohe to Horeke | Twin Coast Trail
The trail goes from Horeke, Hokianga, in the West to Opua on the East coast (interactive map). Kaikohe is in the middle and near the highest point. One advantage of riding from there is no matter which way you go, overall, it is a descent. However, the first part of the trail heading West from Kaikohe is a gentle (railway gradient) climb. In spite of the misty rain there I could take in the views over farmland.
The trail has a mix of steel tube and post barriers to keep out motorcycles etc. Although narrower than the Tailfin panniers lifting the front wheel allowed them to pass under the tube. The post barriers did need the rear of the bike to be lifted a bit to squeeze through.
At the crest of the climb there is a tunnel long enough to need lights, both to see and be seen. I only saw a few other cyclists during the day, due to wet weather and being a work day, but one of them emerged from the gloom just as I was taking a photo
From the tunnel there is a long gentle descent to a clearing which was once Kauri forest. All that remains is a few stumps and a sign showing what once was. The trail skirts Lake Omapere but the open terrain and rain meant I didn't take a lot of notice of it as was more intent on making progress.
Okaihau is a great stop for facilities, and food, but I was still full of breakfast so carried on. A group I had seen at Left Bank were stopping at the café when I went past, I heard it was good. A sign outside the school warning of “High Density Traffic” for about 20 minutes morning & afternoon made me grin, thinking of Auckland rush hours (which go on for hours)…
The town has a couple of typically cute rural colonial churches and some cool converted railcar accommodation if you want to stay overnight.
From there the trail crosses farmland and descends, quite rapidly, into a lovely valley where it follows the river. The trail is well formed gravel, the bike was handling it fine. Although it was damp, drizzling, occasionally raining, it was warm and there was no wind so I didn't bother with any wet weather gear other than my SealSkinz socks. Nothing better than warm dry feet even if your shoes are damp.
The final run into Horeke should have been a highlight, but I spent too much time concentrating on the riding to really appreciate it. A 1400 metre boardwalk spans the bay, but the damp weather meant it was slippery, even with the grip mat help, so I was happy not to end up having an unscheduled swim!
Horeke, Wairere Boulders, to Opononi | Road
A short ride to Horeke marks the end of the trail, many opt to shuttle back from here but I was riding on to Opononi. The Horeke Hotel is supposed to have great food but after checking out the wharf, which looked like a casting call for Hitchcock’s “The Birds”, I opted to carry on as thought there was another café further up the road.
After checking out the Mangungu Mission site, a Waitangi Treaty signing site, which was still impressive in the mist I headed inland on the gravel road.
I had seen the Wairere Boulders on TV, Country Calendar, several years ago and my route back to the main highway went right past them. Part of a farm, its is a valley with amazing natural rock formations with meandering tracks, steps and bridges to navigate them. Although you could spend three or four hours on some of the loops, I did a one hour circuit as still had 50+km of riding ahead of me. The walk was great, but wished had changed out of my cycle touring shoes as they weren't optimum for damp rocks, steps and boardwalks. Unfortunately the café I expected was more a “Coffee and cake caravan” so lunch was that, a Picnic bar and an apple which I had with me.
I think the weather added to the other worldly atmosphere.
You do need to be fairly agile to get around, but there are bridges and steps to mark out the trail and lots of information on the flora and fauna you encounter.
There was about 15km of gravel, Wairere Road, back to the highway. It was raining quite hard but I found the bike handled fine on the gravel road and slushy mud. Some corrugations needed respect, no suspension, but cornering and braking were good even with the modest Schwalbe Marathon touring tyre tread. The bike felt more stable riding on the drop bars at speed, I think the extra weight on the front wheel helped balance the rear load. I did have to stop at one stage and wash the road grit/clay sludge out of the disc brake callipers/pads but they were fine after that.
Once on the sealed highway, SH12 to Opononi, while descending a steep hill I heard a rattle on a bumpy section of road repair patches, it was the Tailfin, but they don't rattle! By the time I stopped discovered I had been a bit timid tightening one of the machine screws holding the bag brackets, the one part you assemble!
It was gone but I was able to jury rig a solution, looping a bag strap over the seat post stability bar, sufficient to save mucking around in the rain on the roadside. Later at the motel I swapped a fastener from a lower ‘anti-swing’ hook (which carry little or no load) and it was fine for the rest of the trip. The other 7 screws were all fine! Back home I found Mitre 10 had the correct countersunk machine screws so it was a cheap easy fix, with extra Loctite on them all!
When planning the trip I imagined arriving in Opononi, checking into the motel, enjoying the evening sun and swimming at the beach opposite. It didn't quite work out that way but I was glad a tropical cyclone which threatened the whole weekend just resulted in some warm wet weather, and little or no wind.
My GPS played up on the first part of the ride, but the old tech odometer captured the distance: ~100km for the day. Dinner that night was fish & chips (nice and fresh, caught that day) and two Magnums, one for dessert, one for ‘supper’, because I couldn’t decide between mint or berry…
Day one was great, although familiar with the area (from driving and road cycle trips) I was surprised how varied, and different, the scenery from the trail was. Day two is all road riding, some I have ridden before, but plenty to look forward to and an improving weather forecast bode well.