The last weekend of January 2016 saw 19 of our friends descend on the Hawke’s Bay to ride the bike trails.
Hawke’s Bay has over 200km of cycle trails which meander between the twin cities of Napier and Hastings. The trails are predominantly flat and take in the seaside and a couple of rivers. There are three distinct cycling experiences: the Landscapes Ride, the Water Ride and the Wineries Ride.
The Hawke’s Bay to me, is the fruit bowl of New Zealand where all manner of fruit grows well due to it’s lovely sunny climate. It is one of the oldest established wine regions and produces numerous grape varieties, with Chardonnay being the most planted.
Napier is also known as the Art Deco Capital of NZ. The city chose to adopt this style of architecture after a devastating earthquake obliterated it in 1931. There are approximately 142 Art Deco buildings in the region. I recently did the Art Deco walking tour which is operated by the Art Deco Trust and it was fascinating. It is amazing what you don’t see unless you know what you are looking for.
Day 1 – The Water Ride
After a yummy dinner of pulled pork and lamb on the Friday night we were up bright and early ready to travel over to Napier for our first day’s cycling. The weather was warm with a bit of cloud. We converged on the iSite along Marine Parade – some people had their own bikes while others were hiring from Napier City Bike Hire which is conviently located across the road from the iSite.
We headed north towards the Port. Napier’s Port is the second largest export Port in the North Island based on tonnage. The Hastings District, as one of the largest apple, pear and stone fruit producing areas in New Zealand has an important relationship with the Napier Port. It has also become an important grape growing and wine production area with the fruit passing from the growers around Metropolitan Hastings and then to Napier for exporting. Napier is an important service centre for the agriculture and pastoral output of the predominantly rural Hastings District.
The Port also welcomes between 60 and 70 cruise ships per annum between October and May.
The next point of interest was Ahuriri which is the historic fishing village. This area is home to the old Customs House which served the Port between 1895 and 1953 before the service was moved into Napier. The Harbour Board restored the building and set up a Trust to administer it so it could be used as a meeting place and future maritime museum. It is open on Sunday’s for the public to view. We also cycled past the old warehouses which have now been converted into bars and restaurants.
Next stop was Snapper Park Cafe which is not far from Bayview. Bayview is approximately 10km north of Napier. We met this interesting character along the way…
Snapper Park Cafe were on the money with their coffee and food. We then headed inland along a trail known as the Whakamaharatanga Walkway which takes in rolling plains and farmland, much of which was underwater prior to the Napier earthquake of 1931. The earthquake shifted large tracts of land some two metres upwards, emptying a lagoon that previously covered the area. The land surrounding Whakamaharatanga Walkway has also been historically important to Māori, both spiritually and for gathering food. Two prominent old pa sites can be seen, with identifiable terraces, pits and middens.
There are some wetlands along this part of the trail which various birds call home. We then cycled past the Hawke’s Bay Airport and alongside the Estuary which provides a valuable habitat for migrating birds like the Royal Spoonbill and various summer waders like the Bar-tailed Godwit who don’t breed here but migrate each year from Arctic Alaska. We then crossed the old road and railway bridge that was replaced in 2003 by the Hawke’s Bay Expressway.
After crossing some farmland and entering the suburb of Taradale our next destination was Church Rd Winery. We had booked in here for lunch, a winery tour and some wine tasting. Lunch was great and the tour afterwards was really interesting.
Bartholomew Steinmetz planted the first vines next to Church Rd in 1897 making it one of the oldest wineries in the country. He returned to his native Luxembourg in the 1920’s leaving the winery in the hands of 19 year old Tom McDonald who had been working for him since his early teens. McDonald later bought the winery and set to making the first quality red wines in New Zealand, releasing the country’s first commercial Cabernet Sauvignon in 1949. Quality steadily increased and by the 1960s New Zealand’s wine connoisseurs snapped up McDonald’s red wines year after year.
Tom McDonald retired in 1976 and the winery carried on winemaking up until 1981 when a change of ownership saw the winery slowly shut down. The Church Road Winery was renovated and reopened in 1989 with the express purpose to re-establishing it as the heart of quality red winemaking in New Zealand. From the 1990 vintage they produced their first Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
It was pretty hard to get back on the bikes for our 25km ride back to Napier but we all did it with a smile on our faces. The weather had turned out really nice but there were some rain clouds on the horizon so it was pedal to the metal to ensure we didn’t get wet. That night we had home made pizzas cooked on the Kamada Joe – Steve had to go to some lengths to get it super hot!
Day 2 – The Wineries Ride
Day 2 of our trip was a Sunday so you can’t have a visit to the Hawke’s Bay without a visit to the Sunday Farmer’s Market at the Hawke’s Bay A & P Showgrounds in Hastings. The team set off from Havelock North about 8.30am – the weather was pretty overcast and a bit cool but nothing like the lure of yummy food to get everyone motivated. The plan was for Vicky and I to take the car to the markets so we could take everyone’s purchases home before jumping on our bikes and riding the 7km direct route back to Stortford Lodge where we would meet up with the others after the market.
We had a bit of time at the markets before the group caught us – Karen had taken a kerb the wrong way and fallen off. She had a sore wrist and ribs but was OK to carry on. Purchases on board we left the group to spend a bit more time at the markets. After dropping the purchases at home we jumped on our bikes – we were about half way through Hastings when my phone rang – it was Karen ringing to say that Kevin had also taken a kerb the wrong way and he too had fallen off. She said he was in a bit of pain so I should go back and get the car to pick him and his bike up. I turned around and biked back to Havelock at top speed. When I got there I had a text from Karen to say that they had called an ambulance – OK this was serious.
By the time I got back to Hastings in the car with my bike on the back, Kevin was being loaded into the ambulance. The irony of all this is that the Hawke’s Bay Hospital was 300 metres around the corner from the scene of the accident. From the time of Karen’s phone call to me arriving back in the car was about 50 minutes. It must have been a busy morning in the Hawke’s Bay for emergencies. The other irony was that I had written in the trip notes “You will pass the Hastings Hospital on your left – this services the whole Hawkes Bay – hopefully we won’t need to pay a visit!”
Kevin’s wife Bridget went in the ambulance with him so we loaded both their bikes onto my car and I drove it around to the Hospital carpark. The plan was to park it up so that when Kevin was discharged they could drive themselves home. Little did we know.
The rest of the group carried on towards the actual wineries loop. Before getting to the trail you ride down Oak Avenue which is lined with these huge Oak Trees that were planted in 1874.
Unfortunately the weather was rather dull and we did get some light rain which meant we didn’t get to fully appreciate the environment and scenery. We called into Te Awa Farm Winery and some of the crew did a tasting. Steve went across to Trinity Hill and scouted out some picnic tables where we could enjoy our picnic lunch with a glass of wine. After lunch we decided to head to the Bridge Pa Golf Club for a coffee but when we got there they had a problem with the water supply. Things were getting desperate so we high tailed it back to Havelock North just in time to get a coffee before the cafes closed.
We then got an update about poor Kev – he had broken the top of his femur so he had two options – surgery to repair said femur or replace the entire hip. He opted for a hip replacement so the next day that is what he got. None of us were expecting that but luckily Kev is a tough old bugger and he took it all in his stride and was up and about again within a matter of days. I have renamed the Stortford Lodge intersection Kevvy’s Korner.
That evening we had dinner at Elephant Hill Winery. This would be one of the best winery restaurants in the country and the food and service lived up to expectation. It is a little on the pricey side but as a special treat it is well worth it.
Day 3 – The Landscapes Ride
The weather on Day 3 was much more in line with what we expect from the Hawke’s Bay – clear blue skies and hot temperatures. We started Day 3 minus Kev & Bridget unfortunately plus a couple of others who had work commitments. We all met at Cherry Grove Motel down in Havelock North and headed out on Te Mata Road towards the Tukituki River where the Landscapes Ride begins.
It is approximately 6km from Havelock North to the start of the trail. We then spent 8km riding along a limestone stop bank with apple trees and vines to our left and the Tukituki River to our right – unfortunately you cannot see the River due to the trees. At the end of the 8km you turn right to cross Black Bridge before crossing the road to head towards the ocean where we stopped to watch some fisherman reeling in Kawhai.
Cape Kidnappers is an extraordinary sandstone headland – it was named by Captain Cook after an attempt by local Mäori to abduct one of his crew. The cape is home to the largest and most accessible gannet colony in the world. The 13 hectare reserve includes the Saddle and Black Reef gannet colonies. Both are closed to public access, however the Black Reef colony can be viewed from the beach. There are several ways to get to the gannet colony – on foot, sitting on a tractor trailer, in a 4WD vehicle or by kayak. The Australasian Gannet is a member of the booby family, which includes shags, pelicans and frigate birds. Adult Australasian gannets have a wing span of up to two metres and an average weight of two kilograms. Although ungainly on land, gannets are exceptional flyers and conduct spectacular high dives into the sea to catch fish. They nest over summer; the first chicks hatch in early November and the last chicks depart the colony during May. The other major attraction at Cape Kidnappers is the golf course. Designed by American Tom Doak, the course makes the most of the breathtaking natural landscape. The sixth hole is widely regarded to be one of the great golf holes of the world.
Clifton Cafe is normally closed on a Monday but I had emailed them to say there were about 16 of us, it was Auckland Anniversary and it was still summer so he may want to re consider opening. He obliged and we all enjoyed a nice lunch sitting outside.
It was then back on the bikes for our 27km ride back to Napier. We went back to Black Bridge the same way we had come but instead of turning left to go back towards Havelock North, we went under the bridge in the direction of Clive.
Clive which has a population of about 1,500, is part of the Hastings district. It was named (like many of the towns in the vicinity) after a prominent person from imperial India, in this case Robert Clive, better known as “Clive of India”. The town of Clive is mainly rural, yet with the increasing number of people moving into Hawke’s Bay, and Clive being at the meeting point of Hastings and Napier, new subdivisions are being built to accommodate the growing population. Clive is home to the Hawke’s Bay Rowing Club who train on the Clive River. The Hawke’s Bay Rowing Regatta is held on the first weekend of the year and was started in 1872.
It was such a nice day and the vistas were amazing – it was great to look back at Cape Kidnappers from the various vantage points on the way back. It was fairly breezy and we came across some kite surfers who were really making the most of the conditions.
Steve managed to score a free beer from some young European tourists who were parked up along Marine Parade – he is so canny! The rest of us had our hearts set on an ice cream and boy did it taste good.
After dropping off the hire bikes we headed back to Havelock North in Bob the Bus from Napier City Bike Hire. Some headed for the pool, some for a sneaky margarita at Mamacita’s down in the Village and others just chilled before enjoying a lovely BBQ at the Rochfort Resort.