On 2nd December 2021 the COVID-19 Alert Level System ended, replaced by the COVID-19 Protection Framework or traffic light system. Northland to about Gisborne – Whanganui were on Red (restricted) with the rest of the country at Orange. From 14th December the Auckland Regional boundary lifted but with proof of vaccination required to travel (no problem). This was loosely administered by requiring businesses to scan/sight vaccine passes on entry and random road checkpoints like how drink drive testing is normally policed.
On 30th December all but Northland moved to Orange which meant I could travel with little restriction other than masking (stay in motels, eat in restaurants etc) but I chose to delay until after the Christmas - New Year break. It was expected to be busy and I had no desire to join the mob, besides Auckland is nicer when everybody has left!
My first trip was after New Year, driving to Cambridge on 5th January to ride some of the Waikato River Trails. It would be another chance to check out the still new’ish En-Trance mountain bike as a day-ride machine. I booked a room at Leamington Spa Motel to use as a base as would do this 'ride from a base' for the rest of my travels. It saves constant unpacking/repacking and avoids leaving lots of gear in the car if doing a drive/park/ride.
Te Awa River Ride | Ngaruawahia to Hamilton
I drove down to Hamilton to ride to Ngaruawahia (TO2122-59) on the Te Awa River Ride. By nature, river trails typically aren’t too demanding and this one lived up to that. It combines existing shared paths with new sections and bridges to give an off-road route along the Waikato River from the Hamilton Gardens to Ngaruawahia.
When I rode work was underway to extend the path all the way through to Cambridge, and link to an existing Karapiro Path, but I would have to return for that.
I parked in Hamilton near the CBD, at Ann Street reserve, and rode North towards Ngaruawahia. This trail is all concrete path, so a full suspension bike was overkill for this leg!
The trail is all shared path using new and existing sections with no road riding. In a few places you climb up from the river, to cross a road bridge or avoid steep riverbank areas, but it is otherwise mostly flat. That said over the 70km there was about 400m climbing.
It was a hot day (27 °C) and little wind combined with radiant heat from the concrete path and lack of cover for long stretches didn’t help. I used SPF50 sunblock all summer, was never burnt but also used a zinc block on my nose for added protection.
Highlight on this part of the ride is the Perry Bridge. Built for the cycle trail in 2017 this 130m span takes you back to the West bank for the run into Ngaruawahia. Has some nice tile art and great mid-span river views.
Ngaruawahia Reserve was nice, lots of people picnicking and enjoying the river views.
I rode on, about 3km down Waingaro Rd, to check out the Hakarimata Scenic Reserve. There is a short rideable trail section, about 2km, but after that it becomes a walk only trail.
Back to Ngaruawahia it was time for lunch which I was carrying, on a viewing deck by the river, then up to the shops in search of an ice cream before heading back to Hamilton.
Watched some people, who were camping on the far riverbank, mucking around with kayaks and rubber ring rafting while rapidly finishing off a Magnum before it transformed into a puddle.
Nearer the Hamilton CBD there are some nice bush and boardwalk sections.
The river is used for rowing but sad to see signs warning of pollution, especially after heavy rain. There is a long-term project to clean up the Waikato, but it is going to be a huge effort.
I rode on to Hamilton Gardens, another 8km, before turning around.
I got back to the, very hot inside, car late afternoon, having ridden 68km, and packed up to drive on to Cambridge.
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