Monday, 1 April 2013

Riding the River Road

Last Saturday we headed North against the breeze (always a good plan- have a tailwind home!) up the Whanganui River.  We were following part of the Mountains to the Sea cycle route  which goes from Okahune near Mount Ruapeho to Castlecliffe at the sea, just beyond Whanganui.
 We start climbing a little after leaving the State Highway, at about 15k. That is Gentle Annie, and she is 3k of steady climbing with no respite, despite the zig-zag bends in the road.
I arrived at the top without a stop.

and this was the view from the top

You can see how the road goes on the right hand side of the river.  There isn't a lot of flat, just ups and downs.
There are marvellous views (especially if you're ok with heights and drops!) of spectacular scenery.
We took it steadily, this wasn't a race or a training ride and we knew how far there was to go!
This sounds a beautiful place to be...and how do you get there? By river, or by the Flying Fox itself..a cable car that seats six.........there it is, the far side of the river.

You travel through several small villages and hamlets, gradually climbing, and as you do the vegetation slowly changes.   It was still painfully dry, but from some narrow side valleys came a breath of moist cool air from the micro-climate within.
The river itself seemed quite low, with wide gravel beaches and mounds of logs and trees waiting to be washed down in the next flood. 
Before the road was built, only in 1934, river traffic was the rule, and boats were used as far as Taumaranui. They were winched over the rapids.
There the boats met the then railhead. 
At Taumaranui the river heads East for 6k to Mananui, then South for about 4k to Piriaka.   This was the rail town for the workers who built the spiral at Raurimu,
20 k further South.
From Piriaka the rail and river and road go together for 2k before the river heads East past Kakahi and then towards its source by Mount Tongariro.

The road goes past many river cliffs like this, some now well above the river.
Many are over twenty metres high, some look as much as seventy metres.   In  places the road is just on a ledge along the cliff!

Our aim was the Matahiwi Gallery and coffee shop. Lovely coffee and the best carrot, walnut and pineapple muffins anywhere! Good art and crafts and interesting history.
We took our photos by the special entry gate.

The gate was here before Marlene Ranginui arrived to run the gallery , so she does not know its story.
The old people used to hand the stories and history down to the next generation- but now she said she is one of the old people. The youngsters, as in many rural districts all over the world, are moving away and losing their heritage.

After her lovely welcome we were revived enough to brave another hill to the flour mill at Kawana.

The mill and miller's house were restored and you can walk around the mill and read its history and restoration there.

The millers garden was still in evidence, with apples, quinces and walnuts waiting to be harvested.

Then we turned for home with 56k to be ridden steadily.
 It would be good to go further one day, but this is not possible on road bikes as the road seal only goes another 5k. The Pirate has ridden the whole way through Pipiriki to Raetihi on a cyclo-cross bike, but most now would use a mountain bike on the gravel roads.
This shows why the road is at least ten metres above the river level. This floodmark from 10.March 1990 is on a barn above the road....
and the river is way over there through the gap in the trees.....

By a small tributary, which seems worth further investigation.  I've done a quick hunt on Wikipedia and Google, but no explanation as yet.
It was good to have a relaxed ride, to stop and talk to a farmer about the wild pigs wandering along the road, to wave to others and appreciate the grand scenery.
Then back over Gentle Annie...and despite it being straight and steadily up in the evening sun...yes, there is the top by the skyline....I rode all the way!!
It is definitely a journey to be recommended, however you do it, bike, car or boat.

No comments: