The final day of the trip was a relatively short (15 km) and largely flat ride along dedicated trails back to Richmond, then a quick run over the last 6 km along the now familiar Coastal section back to the Airport. The aim was to get back to the airport to drop off the bikes at 1:00 pm for a 2:00 pm flight back to Wellington.
Options for breakfast in Wakefield were limited, so it was coffee and toast at the Wakefield Hotel, then off along the trail for a late morning brunch at the Honest Lawyer.
This section of Tasman’s Great Taste Trail takes you from Wakefield to Richmond via Brightwater, riding through vineyards and over the Wairoa River on an impressive suspension bridge. Most of the trail is off-road, with a particularly impressive piece of cycle trail building as the trail leaves Wakefield on an elevated boardwalk that skirts a bank alongside the road.
The trail also passes through a number of properties, including orchards and vineyards, and even when following the roads, provides a shared path alongside the road for safety. Shared paths are at times frowned on in some areas, but here they seem to be widely accepted as a sensible compromise in meeting the needs of different user groups. While riding these paths back to the airport we regularly passed other users, out walking or exercising their dog. There was no sense of conflict between the two groups. Quite the opposite in fact, as friendly greetings were generally the norm.
A lesson here for Wellington City: with proper communication with communities and local businesses, and a genuine intent to create something worthwhile, it is possible to create a quality cycle trail without resorting to over-engineering and risking alienating the very communities needed for support.
Somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, riding alongside the river, we also came across an ideally placed rest spot, offering two benches on a raised mound, providing a place to rest and take in the view.
We never did find out exactly why these were there, but the opportunity for a final group shot was not to be missed.
Swing bridges are to be respected
The builders of the Great Taste Trail seem to specialise in the building of impressive swing bridges to cross major rivers. One of the longer examples crosses the Wairoa between Brightwater and Richmond, and other examples are on the coastal part of the trail (crossing the Waimea River) and at Riwaka.
These bridges do need to be treated with respect however, and not just in appreciation of the engineering involved in erecting them. They are not called “swing bridges” for nothing, and can sway alarmingly as a result of a false move, or even moving across them too fast.
“Ride slowly – ride straight” is clearly the best approach. And if in doubt, go it alone.
On this occasion lack of attention when leaving the bridge meant we all missed the sharp right turn at the end of the bridge, as the trail headed toward Richmond. Instead we continued along a gravelled service road, and shortly found ourselves in the middle of a working shingle recovery operation. On the other side of this a quick trip to the top of a stop-bank revealed that the next part of the “road” was apparently through a large farming operation, and with a clear “No entry” sign suggesting continuing was not a good idea, back to the bridge it was. An interesting but inevitably pointless diversion of several kilometres.
Once back on the right track the ride short ride through to Richmond and back on to the coastal part of the Trail was largely uneventful. Back to the Honest Lawyer for a late brunch, and an opportunity for Dale to meet his brother Chris, a long time serious rider with all sorts of suggestions on our next ride. For the record the Takaka Hill is not on the agenda for this group Chris, but thanks for the suggestion.
Then back to the airport, bikes handed over, bags repacked, and back to Wellington after another successful and entertaining – and at times challenging – trip.