Twin Coast Trail Ride
All rides on hard tail with no luggage
We were in Paihai, on the Bay of Islands (North Island of NZ), and had a free day the following day, so we decided to try a bike ride. We had no idea of what was around or available, but a quick internet search turned up Top Trail Hire and Tours (toptrail.co.nz). We called Ray, who told me he could collect us from our accommodation in Paihai, at 9am the next day and look after everything. We had no idea where we were going, but left it all to Ray.
Ray was at our accommodation at 9am as promised. His mini bus could seat about 10 and he had a trailer that could have taken the same number of bikes. We dropped by his shop and grabbed a couple of mountain bikes and helmets, then he took us to the south of Kaikohe, the start of our ride today. By now it was about 9.45am, so plenty of time to ride the 30km to Okaihau. The first interesting feature Ray pointed out was some extinct volcanoes in the distance - we are not in Perth now!
The Trail had a familiar rail trail feel - nice and compact surface, no steep hills and nice and wide. We rode mainly through farm land, but the occasional section through the bush. The trail was always well sign posted and we were never unsure on which way to go. There were also a few gates to keep cars and motorbikes out as well.
We were skirting the aerodrome, but couldn't see any planes. After about 6km, we passed the edge of Kaikohe. We rode passed the old train station, and the historic pioneer village was only a couple of hundred metres away, but we were here to ride, and history could be done another day! Plenty of food and drink options were also available there, but as we were only 6km in to our ride, we didn't need anything. There were a couple of minor roads to cross, as well as the busier Broadway, but it was all well marked and safe.
The trail had plenty of interest placards along the way explaining things like Maori history and the kauri logging, They were always worth a stop to read. There was one old rail bridge - the trail didn't cross the stream on it, but next to it.
Sometime I climbed off the Trail and into the long grass to get some video or a photo. Walking through long grass in WA is a bit nerve racking as you worry about snakes, but as NZ doesn't have any, the biggest concern was tripping and twisting an ankle.
One of the highlights of the day was the 80m long curving disused rail tunnel. It was built in 1915. You won't need a torch to see, although we walked the length rather than ride it. It's cool, damp interior made a pleasant change from outside - the forecast was 29 degrees Celcius, so we were getting a bit warm.
We did notice a few mountain bike "loops" off the Trail. These usually had a map at the start and were usually single track sections for the more adventurous. They often re joined the Trail nearby. Blokes my age don't bounce well, so we stuck to the Trail.
Even though we usually rode through farm land or remnant bush, the flora and fauna was very different from WA. In many sections, tree ferns towered above us. Flocks of wild turkeys were regularly spotted, and the native birds were sort of the same as our Australian ones, but a bit different - to my untrained eye they seemed to be long lost relatives.
We were soon skirting Lake Omapare. Occasionally we would get glimpses of it, but usually it was hidden by trees. We also had to cross a fast flowing stream that was feeding it. There seemed to be so much water around compared to WA.
About 3 hours after starting, we had a short steep climb down, then up, to reach the Okaihau trail head. Ray said he would pick us up when we arrived, so we called him straight away and he said he would be there in about 30 mins. That gave us enough time for a quick look around (Okaihau is very small), a quick drink and icecream at the dairy (the NZ term for deli or shop), and a look at the Okaihau tunnel under the highway. Ray said the next section is even more scenic, as it follows the river, but that was enough for today. Just over an hour after reaching Okaihau, we were back in Piahai! Ray offers a great service at a reasonable price and we are happy to recommend him to anyone who doesn't have bikes or transport.
Our 10 km/hr average speed was low only because we stopped frequently to enjoy the scenery - we could have knocked it off in half the time. There were plenty of riders out as well, which is nice to see.