Whanganui cycling trip
25 - 27 January 2023
On a Wednesday morning, 14 cyclists drove from Wellington to Whanganui. On the way, we cycled out to Foxton Beach Manawatū River Estuary Bird Sanctuary. We were not sure if there were any godwits present but there was a variety of other seabird species in the area.
On arriving at Whanganui, we rode a 20 km return trip alongside the river to Upokongaro where a new shared pathway bridge was opened in 2020. The current upgrading of parts of the riverside pathway will assist in bringing about a circular trail from Whanganui to Upokongaro and return, all to be part of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail and Tour Aotearoa Cycle Trail.
Nearly all of us were staying at Braemar House YHA, an historic building providing a variety of accommodation and facilities. A first for most of us was being in a group who were all using electric bikes. The pace was not much different but hill climbing became very easy. There were no accidents or breakdowns and only one puncture. An enjoyable evening meal was had at the local cossie club restaurant, Club Metro.
The next day we did a trip of 66 km to Castlecliff, Bason Botanic Gardens, Kai Iwi Beach, Kai Iwi and return via Brunswick Road. The cycle track initially followed the river to Castlecliff, passing large industrial areas towards the port.
The Bason Gardens proved to be a worthwhile free attraction with many varieties of both indoor and outdoor plants in their large park grounds, and facilities for morning tea.
The next stop was for lunch at Kai Iwi Beach. This popular beach is patrolled by surf lifeguards during the summer and has a large picnic area. Ice cream on sale at the camping ground was popular with some of the cyclists.
After a hill climb and rapid descent to Kia Iwi, we crossed State Highway 3 on a road overbridge after assessing breaks in the traffic. Crossing to the right-hand side and riding on the footpath for less than a kilometre we turned into the much quieter Rangitatau East Road and continued to Brunswick Road, where our major long hill climb began. On a hot day it turned out to be an effortless ascent with our electric assistance.
On entering Whanganui City at Aramoho, views of disused buildings were a topic of discussion. They were later confirmed to be remains of Wanganui Woollen Mills, once the largest such company in New Zealand, Kempthorne Prosser’s chemical works and the disestablished railway workshops. That evening ended in a brisk walk to and from a local Thai restaurant that provided a filling meal. Some of the group enjoyed a leisurely stroll back to Braemar House via the river trail, with a colourful sky lit up with the setting sun.
Next day we crossed the river to go up Durie Hill, half the group biking via the steep road while the other half took the elevator, with their bikes. Eleven bikes and riders on a guided Tour Aotearoa Cycle Trail were queued up behind us. Some of the keener members of our group climbed the Durie Hill Memorial Tower for spectacular views of Whanganui.
After riding to Fordell for morning tea and ice creams for some we returned via Gordon Park Scenic Reserve, where bike guards looked after the bikes while the rest went on a very pleasant short bush walk in light rain. We rode back along the road beside the railway line, along the river trail through Anzac Park and on to Kowhai Park children’s playground where we found shelter in the pumpkin BBQ house, all kitted out with picnic tables. Before starting on our homeward journey, some visited a local coffee shop for refreshments and reflection on the trip.
- Party members
- Bruce Anderson, Frieda Collie, Jean Cookson, Doreen Courtenay, Diana Gibbons, Jim Gibbons, Kwai, Alison Stevens, Leena Stowell, John Tristram, Pat Tristram, Robyn and Frank Usmar (leaders and scribe), Christine Whiteford