With time on our hands we put the bikes on the back of the car, brushed off the tent and sleeping bags and headed north to Ohakune. We got to the Mangawhero DOC campsite just outside Ohakune township about 3pm and were the only ones there. So we claimed the best spot and put up the tent. By evening the place was full. And the same thing happened the next evening, initially we were the only ones there and BANG completely full.
Early the next morning we headed to the start of the track.
In early January the weather was still variable (ie cold then hot) summer but for once it worked in our favour as it was an overcast day which made riding easier. The Old Coach Road is part of NZ Cycleways development and this a portion of the bigger Ohakune to Wanganui ride.
The Ohakune-Taonui-Horopito section of the road was covered with cobblestones to provide a firm surface and good grip for horses pulling coaches and construction works’ carts up the steep grades. It was an interim measure while the connection across the volcanic plateau on the main trunk-line from Auckland to Wellington was being constructed. For 2 years from 1906 to 1908 drays and carts carried supplies and materials for railway construction and coaches ferried railway passengers between the steadily advancing railheads. After that is was not needed and was not maintained and became overgrown.
The ride from Ohakune to Horopito is only 10 or so kilometres, but is generally uphill and combined with stopping to take photographs it took us nearly 3 hours to reach Horopito. At this point we wondered how we would cope going back again, because we had not realised we were going uphill. The return journey took less than 1.5 hours, but we were a bit knackered and were rather pleased to see the car!
At Horopito we had hoped to have a coffee before the return journey. But it turned out there was nothing at Horopito – it’s more a mark on the map as opposed to an actual settlement. It DOES however have a claim to fame, as Horopito Motors was the setting for the 1981 movie Smash Palace. There are over 15 acres of vehicles, collected over 60 years including rare Bedford, Austin, Singer and Chrysler models.
So with no coffee refueling we headed back to the track. Just as we got there we saw a van-load of cyclists who had been transported from Ohakune. So we sprinted off and didn’t see them again – they probably did what we did at the start and took lots of photos. We felt more righteous having done both directions!
The view from the tent wasn’t too shabby.
And before heading back to wellington we did a walk to Lake Rotokura. A nice walk but a rather murky green looking lake.