Friday, 30 April, 2021
Pipiwharauroa Trail is a walking and cycling trail near Raglan, starting from a carpark on Kawhia Road just past Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls, and ending at the Te Uku Wind Farm. Much of the trail is a wide gravel road used for access to the wind farm, but also includes some old farm tracks in several places.
The formation of the Pipiwharauroa Trail over existing paper roads was made possible with the co-operation and goodwill of the landowners. The track winds its way over private farmland owned by the Vanhoutte and Jowsey families. The trail was formed from the roads that were used to bring in turbines for the Te Uku wind farm and passes close-by to several turbines. If you're interested in more info about the wind farm, you can read all about it HERE
On Friday, 30 April, Keith and I set off to cycle to the top of the trail, which rises around 380 meters from the start point over its 9 kilometre length. Although the air temperature felt chilly as we set off, it proved to be nicely comfortable as the track started to climb, demanding more exertion. In some parts the track is quite steep, requiring some effort even in the lowest gear. Riding without any clothing certainly made the job a whole lot easier!
Being a farm, there are a number of gates to pass through on the way up. Most of these have a small gate next to the main gate for walkers and cyclist to use. These are spring loaded with an automatic latch to minimise the problem of gates being left open. A couple of gates are permanently locked and have a stile to climb over, meaning you have to lift your bike over. So anyone riding this trail with a heavy e-bike might find these gates problematic!
The ride starts off as a gravel road, passing through the main gate by the quarry. A few meters past the gate we came across a bio-security wash station, with instructions to wash vehicles, bikes, and footwear. Being on a farm myself, I was used to this being standard practice as I know full well how cattle and sheep disease can easily be brought onto a property from an infected area. The only problem was that this facility was powered by a petrol-driven pump, which refused to start for us! I felt it would have been far more sensible to have sited the wash station near the main gate where there was an electrical supply and run the pump from an electric motor. But at least it's not lambing or calving season - just yet.
The trail is named for this little chap on the left, the Pipiwharauroa, or Shining Cuckoo. Although the trail passes through stands of native bush, we didn't manage to see one of these birds on this trip, possibly because they may have already departed for their winter migration north to Papua New Guinea or Solomon Islands, but more likely because they are pretty elusive. They tend to stay well hidden in dense foliage and are hard to spot.
During the trip, Keith reminded me how, just like the Common Cuckoo of the Northern Hemisphere, Pipiwharauroa are parasite breeders. They don't build nests of their own, but will lay one single egg in each of several nests of the Grey Warbler, then have nothing more to do with their offspring. Each young chick is fed and nurtured by its respective foster parents along with the other Warbler chicks for several weeks after fledging.
Eventually we arrived at the first section where the trail leaves the gravel access road and follows a farm track. In the photo to the right the trail goes up the bank to the metal gate, then continues along the fence line between the trees.
The farm is quite spectacular, with several herds of black Angus cattle quietly grazing along with flocks of sheep. The first of the locked gates with stile crossings are around 3.5 Km up the track where cattle yards are situated. Some Angus yearling bulls were there to greet us as we passed through the yard area.
The land here is prone to erosion and there are a number of interesting rock formations and volcanic boulders that have surfaced after the soil around them has slowly washed away. Some of the boulders have been strategically repositioned along slopes to prevent further erosion and to build ponds.
Being the last day of the school holidays, I was a little surprised that we encountered nobody else on the track. The only other people we saw was a farm worker in a side-by-side ATV crossing a paddock as we passed by, and a family group who drove into the car park, turned around and departed, just as we were finishing our ride. And so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
As we approached the top section of the trail, the sound of the turbine blades grew noticeable. Even though from a distance they appear to spin quite slowly, when you get close enough to appreciate just how big these machines are and to see the length of the blades, it's easy to see why the blades generate quite a sound. Lets do a little maths, shall we?
The length of the blades on these turbines is 49 meters. Using that as the radius, it means that the circle the blades move through has a circumference of 308 meters. The blades rotate at a speed of about once every 6 seconds, so the tips of the blades are travelling at a speed of 308/6 meters per second, or 51.3 meters per second. That equates to 184 Km per hour! Imagine that as a Rainbow's End ferris wheel ride!
At the end of the track visitors are congratulated for their efforts. We took a little time for a drink and snack as well as to take some photos to prove we made it! The blue skies in the these photos began to disappear behind dark clouds rolling in from the North West as we started the return descent.
I was planning to take some scenic shots with the drone while having some lunch, but the weather was quickly deteriorating and the temperature dropping, so decided that would have to wait for another day. Obviously the downhill run was quicker and much less strenuous, but with the icy breeze and light drizzle it was a little cooler than I would have liked, even with a jacket. But once back at the carpark and a bit of a feed, it was a satisfying and most enjoyable ride!