It’s a very unfamiliar thing to be here writing a blog post. These days, between facebook updates and an occasional tweet, I don’t feel the need to write many blogs to express myself or update people on what I’ve been up to.
But occasionally, I have something to say that I believe google needs to find, and given that my facebook posts
rarely never go viral, this is the best place to express those thoughts.
A few weeks ago Meg and I realised that given the girls were down South for the school holidays, we could go away and undertake a cyclng trip that might be too long for their little legs.
One of the trails that had been on our list to try out was the Twin Coast Trail, between Opua (near Paihia) on the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island, and Horeke on the West Coast (Hokianga Harbour).
It’s 87km, and depending on which guides you read, is either grade 1 and 2 (I share this opinion) or grade 2 and 3.
A little bit of background on my and my cycling. Up until a couple of months ago I was a very casual cyclist who mostly rode my 10km commute to work and spent holidays doing short bits of New Zealand’s cycle trails with my family.
However in February I did the Tour Aotearoa, riding 3000km from Cape Reinga right at the top of New Zealand to Bluff right at the bottom. As part of this I rode many of NZ’s higher grade trails as well as the full length of trails such as the Timber Trail and West Coast wilderness trail.
After all this, I would rate the Twin Coast Trail the second best two day ride I’ve done (after the first two days of the West Coast Wilderness trail, Greymouth to Hokitika). Note: On the TA I did this and a bit extra in 1 day.
Originally I had been planning to driving to Opua, park up and ride (with gear) to Kaikohe (well equipped settlement, halfway along the trail). Then ride the second half to Horeke and pay to be transported back to Opua.
However after starting to ring around I struck the super helpful Lindal at All Seasons Bike Hire. He explained that people normally based themselves in Kaikohe and rode downwards in both directions. After explaining my situation in terms of timing (and the fact I didn’t want pay for full transfers at both ends) he offered to think about it and call be back.
Five minutes later he called me back with a fantastic solution, at a price that was far cheaper than what anyone else was quoting. He also proved to be prompt, friendly and well informed. I can’t recommend him and his company more highly.
So, on Saturday we drove up from Auckland. It was a 3.5 hour drive and in all honesty, the seven hours of driving in a weekend felt like a little too much and in future we’ll spend a few more days up there.
We got to Kaikohe at about 11am and were fortunate to be able to get into our motel room and leave some gear there.
By the time we left we were already well later than Lindal’s recommended time, but we compounded the error by following an eroneous map I had downloaded to my garmin. I won’t link to it because that just makes things worse, but take my word, DON’T USE THE MAP YOU FIND ON MAPMYRIDE FOR TWIN COAST TRAIL. If I get time I’ll make a proper route file.
So after leading Megan on a 6km detour up a crazy gravel hill road and down again, we found the start of the route.
Lots of sites can exlain in detail the route, but suffice it to say that it was varied, almost entirely off road and had a particularly lovely 10-15km stretch which they consider to be grade 3 but is in fact just lovely, river-side flowing gravel (my highlight of the trail).
I’m a particular fan of the Hokianga harbour (apparently they may extend the route through to Rawene which is a fabulous idea) and the boardwalk at the end was a beautiful and straight-forward way to finish the day.
Lindal picked us up at about 4:30pm, impressed by the speed we’d knocked that off. I didn’t understand why until upon reflection I eventually worked out that I’d forced Megan to ride the 43km almost without breaks.
One particular frustration was the frequency and design of the cattle stops. They’re the standard ones found around NZ, but were an absoloute pain for Meg’s bike with the baby seat on. If you have the option, avoid bringing a childseat. I had Leon on the DoLittle bike seat for most of the trip which didn’t have a problem with the cattle stops and he had a lot of fun (and the occasional cuddle).
We enjoyed dinner at the RSA in Kaikohe and got an early night (I think Meg was asleep before Leon).
A quick note on the Mid North Motor Inn where we stayed. It was well equipped, well priced and we will stay there again. I loved the rooms, because it felt like we had been transported back to the 70’s. But I am aware that one person’s “retro” is another person’s “dated”. We also really appreciated their secure indoor storage of the bikes and related gear.
The next day started with me driving the car from Kaikohe to Opua. Lindal then picked me up and brought me back to Kaikohe (part of his ingenious plan) and we went down to start the day (as I always tried to do on the TA) with breakfast at McDonalds.
After this we hit the trail and quickly got into a good flow through the fantastic scenery.
A highlight for me was coming across an unfortunate family whose son had been stung by an insect (bee, hornet etc). When I did the TA I had been well prepared but fortunate to not have too many health problems. But I think it was safe to say I was the most prepared cyclist on the trail that day. His Mum asked me if I had any cream to put on the bite, and after supplying honey-based balm, I added antihistamine and paracetamol to the list of my contributions and kept riding.
We enjoyed a nice lunch in Kawakawa (while trying to convince Leon that we would return to go on the train with his sisters) and then rode the last section down to Opua, got to the car and drove home.
It’s worth noting that the last section may change quite dramatically in future years. At the moment you get to the old train station after Kawakawa and ride across an awesome wooden rail bridge (apparently the longest curved rail bridge in the Southern Hemishphere) and then ride the rail trail in to Opua. Apparently the vintage railway want their land back so that they can run their trains into Opua. This may mean that cyclists are “forced” to catch the train for this leg, which would be a great experience but something different. This leg is stunning as it is, so I’d recomend getting up there soon and riding it.