281 Days on the Road
Our final day in Opotiki has to go out with a bang with its most famous attraction: the Motu Trails! We were never going to leave the Bay of Plenty town without experiencing at least one of the three bike trails. So after wrapping up our final morning in The Royal Opotiki Backpackers, giving ourselves a larger feed than usual for our busy afternoon, we head on down to the Motu Trails base to hire some bikes and use their shuttle service.
The Motu Trails
The Motu Trails base is easy enough to find with a huge archway headed with the words: “Motu Trails”, then another building straight behind saying “Motu Trails”. Ok, we think this is the place. We are also surprised to find that the base is also a backpacker accommodation too, mostly occupied by fruit picking workers who all have a day off thanks to the dodgy weather forecast… Humm, should we be concerned for our bike trail?
Gearing up for the Dunes Trail
After meeting Hedley at the Motu Trails, we are geared up with some mountain bikes and helmet – remember, it is compulsory to wear a bike helmet in New Zealand. Then Hedley is topping up the tyres with air and loading the bikes onto the trailer attached to the back of the shuttle. With that we hop in and are transported to the far end of the Dunes Trails.
Now we have 19km of the coastal track to enjoy. Let’s do this!
Easy, breezy and heaps of fun
We are straight into the dunes: hard-packed sandy hills covered in grassy vegetation to keep it all together. Thankfully, we are not biking on sand though! A gravel trail as wide as your standard walking tracks follows the side of the dune sheltered by the sea breeze. The dunes go up and down in a rolling formation making the ride have the perfect balance of short uphill bursts leading to some slightly longer downhill thrills. At no point on this grade two trail do we feel like we overexert ourselves, it’s really just about enjoying the ride and the scenery.
It’s not long until we reach some boardwalks to cruise over, again, still avoiding the painful task of biking on dry sand. The boardwalk circumvents around a stunning and rugged coastal cliff with winding pohutukawa trees sticking out and at the bottom of it.
Welcomed by the Maori guardians
In the distance, we can see two tall-standing pouwhenua, totem poles of Maori carvings. After crossing a wee bridge and scaring a pukeko, a blue-feathered bird with super long legs, we find a shelter with information about the “Guardians of Tirohanga”. There are heaps of Maori legends and history surrounding the area of the Dunes Trail, which is explained in the shelter’s interpretation panels.
A stunning place for a bike ride
Stunning coastal scenery on the Dunes Trail
With the stream flowing under the bridge we just crossed, the pohutukawa tree cliffs, the waves rolling in, and a backdrop of mountains in the distance, we find ourselves hanging out at this shelter a lot longer than necessary to take in the views of this stunning section of the Dunes Trail.
We finally manage to get it together and continue on. Between the dunes, we often get glimpses of the ocean and the active marine volcano called White Island out in the distance. However, we also see the most bizarre weather patterns. Patches of the sea are brilliant blue with the sun, while other patches have a distinct dark line of rain…
Exploring the beach
Feeling like we have a bit more time before getting caught in the rain, we find ourselves a cute little shelter with the word “relax” painted onto it, as if to entice us in. Indeed, it works. We have a bit of a lie down in the patch of sun we have left for the day and even use the beach access for a bit of a stroll on the sand. Oystercatchers, birds that are always seen in pairs with long orange beaks, are running around squawking at other pairs over boundaries.
Birds seems to be a bit of a theme on the Dunes Trail with some sections decorated with wooden panels cut into bird shapes and painted. Laura is just about to take a picture of one when huge splats of rain start falling from the sky. We quickly get all the cameras in our backpack, put the rain cover over the backpack, and peddle as hard as we can on the remaining 3km. There’s nothing more that we can do than embrace the heaviest rainfall we have been caught in since that hilarious day on the Milford Sound. The trail quickly forms puddles for us to blast through. By the time we finish the trail, cross over a suspension bridge marking the end of the Dunes Trail, and get back to the Motu Trails base, we are covered in dirt splatters and are soaked to the bone. Nevertheless, that was awesome!
We thank Hedley for the bikes that made the trip all the more easy and enjoyable, get changed, then hit the road for our final destination for the day, Ohope Beach.
Final destination: sunny Ohope Beach
As we drive, you would never believe we had such a wet day. The sun is shining by the time we arrive at the Ohope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, to check in and make use of some of the perks this holiday park has to offer. While all our dirty and damp clothes are in the washing machine, we play a round of mini golf and shamelessly play on the bouncy pillow. This is one of those accommodations that when we check in we feel like: “Damn, we should have stayed here longer.”
Tomorrow, we have an exciting day ahead with kayaking in the morning and wild kiwi-spotting in the evening. Join us then!
We can only assume Robin is pointing at a huge rain cloud coming our way
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See you tomorrow!