Hauraki Rail Trail
PART 1: Pipiroa to Kaiaua - 7 May 2021
The sunrise of Friday 7th of May struggled to break through the heavy, overcast sky, but the temperature was certainly more comfortable than the previous few mornings when frost lay on the ground as I went out to feed the horses and move the cattle to their next break. Today we were to ride the Hauraki Rail Trail to Kaiaua and back. Rail Trail? Well, in name only! In fact no train had ever been anywhere near this area! It has only earned that name by virtue of the fact that it is part of the network of trails that now extends some 200 kilometers from Kaiaua down to Matamata. In fact this section of trail reportedly follows in the footsteps of an early Maori settler, Te Aho, but I've not been able to find out anything about this chap.
The original intention for this day was to go from our farm in Pipiroa as far as Ray's Rest camping area, some 20 kilometers out, but as it turned out we went the extra 5 kilometers almost to Kaiaua village itself.
By 8:30 a.m. we were busy getting bikes unloaded and gear readied for the ride, but setting off without first enjoying a cuppa would have been most uncivilised, so it was shortly after 9 o'clock when we pedalled off, across the farm to the Hauraki Rail Trail that runs along the stopbank that keeps the sea from inundating the farmland, which lies as much as three meters below sea level behind the bank. Water runoff from the farm paddocks drains into a canal that runs the length of the stop bank. Several pumping stations along the canal then pump the water up over the stop bank to sea level.
With the morning breeze at our backs it was an easy ride for the first 5 Km, passing behind all the dairy farms and through to the small country village of Waitakaruru, but still a bit chilly to ride without some clothing. At Waitakaruru the trail meets the highway in a couple of spots where it crosses the bridges with the main highway. From here the trail runs alongside Front Miranda Road and is a well-formed, sealed surface for much of the way.
We finally leave the road some 6 Km from Waitakaruru at the Miranda Hot Springs, where the trail once again follows the stop bank along the mangroves to the bridge across the Pukorokoro Stream. Just around the corner is the Robert Findlay Wildlife Reserve which, together with the Shorebird Centre, is administered and operated by the Pukorokoro Miranda Naturalists' Trust. We
parked our bikes and wandered across to the bird hides where there is much information posted on the walls about the various bird species that make this area their home during the warmer months. At this time of the year most of the Godwits have now headed off on their migration journey to the Arctic. But there are still a few to be seen, along with others such as Oystercatchers, Wrybill, Banded Dotterel, Royal Spoonbill and more. The Godwits will be gone through the winter, returning from Alaska via a non-stop 12,000 Km flight over the Pacific Ocean. The Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Visitor Centre is just a couple of kilometers further up the road and well worth a visit!
At Waitakaruru the trail crosses the river bridge and turns right along Front Miranda Road
The Godwits will be gone through the winter, returning from Alaska via a non-stop 12,000 Km flight over the Pacific Ocean.
The time now reaching 12 noon, we found a quiet spot on the shell banks to take a break for half an hour and have some lunch before heading back. The wind was picking up and turning more easterly so the homeward trip was going to be more of a workout, but the air temperature was approaching its maximum of around 20 degrees, making the ride more comfortable without clothes for the entire return journey.
We passed a few folks as we pedalled back through Waitakaruru who smiled and waved out. One chap we passed outside the Country Store called out, "You guys are keen!"
One of our group had been involved with various aspects of conservation around this district in the past and was a wealth of interesting information. It was great to have someone like that with us.
The trail now continues along the chenier shell banks, through wetlands of international significance, past Ray's Rest Camping Reserve, ending at the small settlement of Kaiaua. The shell barrier beach along this coastline is the largest in New Zealand and the only one in the world still aggrading. The shells are mainly those of Littleneck Clams (New Zealand Cockle, or Tuaki), with a smattering of other molluscs.
"Actually it's more comfortable without clothes," I replied.
"I don't blame you!" he said.
A few more cyclists waved out to us along the stop bank on the final leg back to the farm, except one elderly couple who made us laugh by keeping their gaze dead straight ahead and pretended we didn't exist! I imagined that we would be their main topic of conversation over the dinner table that evening!
With only a few kilometers left to go the headwind was becoming quite a challenge for the group - well, all except one of us who had the luxury of being able to apply a bit of electrical assistance! But one or two of us were starting to feel a wee bit saddle-sore at this stage and the sight of the farm gate coming into view was most welcoming.
We arrived back at the house around 2:30 p.m. with a great sense of accomplishment. A brilliant ride, which we will certainly organise again one day.