Sunday, 3 February 2013

OVER THE DITCH to New Zealand

An air of excitement has been building ever since we paid our deposit on a self guided cycling tour in New Zealand (what we refer to affectionately as Over the Ditch).

Every year our group, U3A's Peddling For Pleasure spend five days touring far from home. This year we came up with flying to the North Island of New Zealand where we will take part in an organised but self guided tour in the Hawkes Bay area.

In the past three years the group has ridden the following trails:

2010...The Otago Central Rail Trail, running 150km from Clyde to Middlemarch on the South Island of New Zealand. *

A Kiwi
2011...The Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail. This trail follows the old rail line for 100km from Wangaratta to Bright in Victoria and is a photographer's dream, with a side trip from Myrtleford to Beechworth which is all uphill and is guaranteed to elevate the heart rate. **

This photograph was taken from Mt. Buffalo and depicts beautifully the ruggedness of some of the country.

These shots were taken on the Murray to Mountains tour

2012...East Gippsland Rail Trail, stretching nearly 100km from Bairnsdale to Orbost in Victoria. ***

Even the scourge of punctures cannot subtract from the beauty of nature. Taken on the East Gippsland Rail Trail.

A wooden trestle bridge on the East Gippsland Rail Trail

Why pick New Zealand as a touring destination? Well! in my humble opinion New Zealand has it all, majestic mountains, beautiful seascapes, incredibly enchanting forests and pristine lakes all packed into such a small area. Not only that, it has an unique Maori culture. It also offers a variety of adventures, few adventurers could resist. These two tiny islands called New Zealand, "Land of the Long White Cloud", really does have it all .

File:New Zealand Cities.PNG
Map sourced from Wikipedia

We fly to Auckland where we catch a commuter plane to Napier and the destination of the start of our adventure. We have little idea of what's in store for us apart from what's on the itinerary. We do know however that we are staying the first and last night in Napier. This is my second visit to this quaint little town and I am looking forward to sampling some more of it's many delights.

Napier is not only appealing but quite unusual or at least the architecture is. It is very much Art Deco from the 1930s and the locals are very proud of this and of course it doesn't hurt tourism in the area either.Situated on the coast it boasts a long and very attractive promenade for locals and visitors to either stroll or indeed cycle. There is an array of restaurants, bars, tours, wineries and a variety of entertainment to suit most tastes.

On the 3rd February 1931, 256 people lost their lives when Napier was levelled by a major earthquake  measuring 7+ on the Richter Scale. One interesting fact associated with the earthquake was that the area actually grew by some 4000 hectares. This land was previously under the sea but as a result of the earthquake, was raised above sea level (Sourced from Wikepedia) . When rebuilt, the style of architecture chosen was Art Deco and many of these buildings remain to-day. In 2007, Napier was nominated as a World heritage Site with UNESCO.

Map provided by Takaro Trails

Our tour was arranged by Takaro Trails and some of the highlights of the tour include:
  • Port village of Ahuriri
  • Art Deco style Napier CBD
  • Market gardening country
  • Bustling Havelock North
  • Tuki Tuki Valley
  • Historic Waipawa
  • Hastings
  • Ngatarawa Gimblett Gravels vineyards
  • Taradale
  • Puketapu farmland

I intend to write and publish a post on this ride on returning from New Zealand.

In the meantime, further information can be gained by opening the following links:

*       Otago Central Rail Trail

**     Murray to the Mountains Rail Trail

***   East Gippsland Rail Trail

        Takaro Trails

Cheers and safe riding

Jimmy Bee

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