With Day 3 planned as another long day it was again an 8:00 am start, and quickly on the road to Napier for breakfast at Café Divine. Then south again along the foreshore, initially retracing steps from Day 2, before extending the coastal run through farmland to cross the second bridge at Clive. Mid-morning by the time we got that far, so a short diversion into Clive for coffee at Café Zeppelin (yes, it is named in honour of Led Zeppelin), another café catering for the cycling trails. Our rides are not just about the refreshment stops though, as Paul’s discussion with another group identified an on-road “short” cut along Mills Road, which saved any retracing of the route back to the Clive bridge, and cut out a long section of coastal track.
This shortcut took us to the mouth of the Tukituki River, where it was once again on to the stop banks to ride along the southern (true right) side of the river for a couple of hours, heading steadily inland. Although there were fewer gates on this section, a strong cross wind and high temperatures added their own challenges.
Further inland the trail leaves the river, and reverts to on-road riding, climbing the “switch-back” Tukituki Hills along the Tukituki Road. This also sees a change in scenery, with vineyards, orchards and river flats replaced by luxury homes and estates looking out over the valley. The chance to ride through leafy roads, away from the direct sun and wind of the stop banks was welcome, but the climb up the hills perhaps less so.
According to our guide (who will remain nameless) the ride through these hills was the only significant climb on the trail; based on “information received” it would be all downhill once we crossed the river at Red Bridge, and headed to a welcome break at the Craggy Range Estate.
Either he was hiding something from us, or his own adviser had conveniently forgotten the hill after the bridge – and the one to be climbed immediately after leaving the Craggy Range Estate. Alternatively these were simply not regarded as “significant”.
The break at Craggy Range Estate was timely however, offering the chance to relax in the beautiful landscaped grounds, and sample a cooling Pinot Gris while waiting for the “rear gunners” to arrive. Very tempting to stay on, but with lunch booked at the Clearview Estate near Clifton (and already delayed twice to cater for our slower travel), a single sampling was all there was time for.
So back on the trusty silver bikes, and back down-river to the coast, before swinging right along a road-side trail through Haumoana, past Elephant Hill Winery and on to Clearview Estate. Our late arrival meant that lunch was off, but the mixed platters offered as an alternative were certainly appreciated. As was the cold beer under the blue umbrella.
With late afternoon approaching and close to 25 km to ride back to Napier it was tempting to whistle up transport from the bike shop to take the easy way home, but all it took was a brief discussion and general agreement that “we had started so we had to finish” and off we went again – albeit slowly into the head wind.
Ironically we did spot Rachael in the Napier City Bike Hire van as we passed through Clive again, so a pick-up probably would not have caused a problem, but no thought given then to flagging her down for a lift. None-the-less, on her return journey she did stop and offer just that as we got back onto the coastal cycleway, and while the offer was clearly appreciated (particularly as by that stage we were heading straight into a constant northerly) no-one took up the offer. Still, it does offer another example of the quality of the NCBH service.
Eventually we did all make it back, and after our longest trip ever (84.4 km and over six hours riding) quiet celebration back at the Boardwalk was fully justified. And not surprisingly, facing the drive back to Wellington the next day, a relatively early night all round.
Follow the ride here: