The Apiti Ridge Road cycle tour
Two days. 160 km.
Our cat Mitze is 19. She is stone deaf. A few months ago she became blind, due to high blood pressure, the vet explained. She is now on blood pressure pills, is sometimes blind and at other times she seems to see. She can still get around the house, enjoys her food and sleeping and being stroked. So she is pretty dependent on us and we haven’t been away for a while. However, we decided we can’t let her condition totally dominate our lives. So we planned a two-day trip away and got a friend, Sue, to come and visit and feed her while we were away. Sue likes Mitze a lot.
On Friday 13 May we left Wellington at 6.30 a.m. with our bikes on the back of the car and headed for Palmerston North. This was a bikepacking trip described in the Kennett Brothers’ book Bikepacking Aotearoa. In PN we parked in the car park in front of the council camp/cabin grounds we had stayed in five years ago on our Tour Aotearoa journey. We were away by 9 a.m.
The route takes you around cycle paths in Palmerston North itself as you head west of the city. A lot of travel on shared cycle paths and an excellent cycle path beside the Mangaone Stream. Then we skirted around the PN airport and on to Bunnythorpe and further to Colyton, now on mainly quiet country roads. At Colyton, we stopped at the Ginger Bird Café for a top-class morning tea. Outside. A couple of cyclists were there. One of them, when he heard where we were going, told us the route ahead was pretty hilly and that bad weather and rain were coming. An older woman at another table replied for us ‘You just get started and you do it don’t you?’ I felt like saying (but didn’t) ‘If it rains we can put our coats on’.
We continued east on sealed roads for 10 km and then on gravel into quiet and pretty farmland. And great weather. Pollock Road. Our road started to climb up. We would be cycling up to 500 metres that day. After an hour we reached Ridge Road where we stopped for lunch. To the east, we could see the Ruahines and the giant Pohangina Valley.
For the next 30 km we were riding this exceptionally quiet, undulating, gravel farm road at around 500 metres above sea level with a great outlook both near and far.
During the next 30 km we saw three vehicles, a motorbike, a house truck and a farmer’s ute. This was great riding on a nice day. After about 25 km the road returned to a tar-seal surface and we raced downhill and into Apiti in the dusk. We went to the Apiti Tavern and had fish and chips.
It was now 6.30, dark and very cold. We put on lots of clothes for the seven km ride to our accommodation at Makoura Lodge. Our ride on this backcountry road in the pitch dark with just our bike lights was both strange and exciting. The lodge stay was a bit pricey but a very nice place to overnight.
The next day was supposed to be mainly downhill. After a big downhill immediately on leaving the lodge on seal, we were back on gravel for a big climb back up. This remote area was not settled by Europeans until late in the nineteenth century. We finally came to Pohangina East Road where we were back to tarseal. Where we turned right. The guide said left. An error. Left would have taken you to Whangarei.
Much closer to the Ruahines now, we could also look up high to the right and the ridge that we had come along the day before. The further down valley we went the more developed the farms became. But still minimal traffic.
Completely gorgeous stands of exotic trees at the height of their autumn colours. This was very beautiful to see and was a reward for riding this road in early winter.
The small old churches and community halls, some deserted, some still used, would have been at the heart of community.
We are guided off the main road to another back road. The climbing is a bit trying now. But always interesting.
At Pohangina village we stop for lunch. A nor-wester has come up but that suits us as we ride with the wind generally on our stern quarter. At Ashhurst we stop for afternoon tea, at the same café we used on Tour Aotearoa. We had been on parts of today’s route previously on our TA.
After Ashhurst we need to be on the main road for just a little. Then turn left and down to the river which we ride beside. At one point the riverside track stops – it will be developed soon. We need to return to the main road and ride down that for a couple of km. It is now raining quite hard so we put our coats on. And the traffic is busy. But there is a good shoulder and not far to go.
After a few km we turn left and take quiet roads back to the river trail as we ride through market garden country.
Back at the river – the Manawatū, it is easy riding on a well-developed multi-use path back to our car. By about 4.30 and still light.
A varied trip that many would find very interesting. Would I lead it as a club trip? Maybe. But it was physically quite hard - I would think about 800 metres of accumulated climb on day one and 500 on day two. And the gravel takes energy. Electric bikes would be fine. For leg-powered bikes, it would be in the medium fit class. And you would want reasonable weather on the high and exposed ridge road.
- Party members
- Mike Wespel-Rose (scribe).