© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

An Alternative Way to Take on the Twin Coast Cycle Trail

© NZPocketGuide.com

342 Days on the Road

So let’s address the elephant in the room. We are doing the Twin Coast Cycle Trail but… we’re not cycling it? What the hell?! Well let’s recap to a day and a half ago when Robin took a tumble down Mt Manaia and broke his arm. That has posed a bit of a problem for today’s activity which is cycling the renowned Twin Coast Cycle Trail. Nevertheless, he still has two perfectly able legs, which means we can still enjoy the trail by foot. And let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be the first time we went for a walk in New Zealand!

The Twin Coast Cycle Trail with Top Trail

Although we can’t hire bikes from Top Trail like we had originally planned, the owner, Ray, still kindly offers to shuttle us to some of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail highlights. (Perhaps walking the entire 85km trail would have been a but too much of a mission). With this new plan sorted, we hit the road from our accommodation in Kerikeri to the base of Top Trail in Kaikohe. The small town is ideally situated right in the middle of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail.

A trail into the forest

After meeting Ray and getting a torturous glimpse of his bikes for hire, we head into the shuttle and onto the first highlight of the cycle trail just outside of Kaikohe on the way to Okaihau. Here, Ray takes us to a section of trail accessed over farmland where we are soon walking on a wide gravel trail overshadowed by native bush. Interpretation panels along the way give more information about the trees around us, which we are at least more inclined to read since we are not speeding past them on bikes.

Cheered on by birds

Where there are native trees, there are usually native birds and it’s certainly not long until we spot a whole group of silvereye – named after the silver ring around their eyes – cleaning themselves on various branches. We also get a quick glimpse of a kereru a.k.a wood pigeon soar across the road, as well as the odd fantail doing its acrobatic tricks in the air.

Met by a 80m tunnel!

Just when we are starting to feel like we are delving deep into the forest, indicated by a hill absolutely covered in thick forest, we come across a tunnel heading straight through the hill! What?! The tunnel built in 1915, which is proudly stated on the top of the tunnel’s arch, is a sign that we are following an old railway corridor. It also indicates the determination of those early pioneers who would build a railway through anything, even if there is a mountain in the way. One more surprise comes along when we start walking through the 80m long tunnel and find that the tunnel is actually curved! Now that’s just the pioneers showing off.

Whether you’re hiking or biking, the tunnel is certainly an impressive sight looking long-forgotten nestled in the native bush. Now we take the short walk back to the shuttle where Ray can take us to the next Twin Coast Cycle Trail highlight.

Emerging from the tunnel into the wilderness

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Trailing through the stunning valley

On the way, Ray points out various sections of the trail seen in beautiful valleys. You’re not exactly helping with our bike envy here, Ray! Nevertheless, the section he is taking us to now is often described as one of the most stunning on the trail, giving us a taste of the river valley below.

We arrive at a section of farmland actually gifted to the trail by a keen farmer who has displayed vintage tractors along the bike trail for all to enjoy. Peter drops us off here and leaves us to our own devices for an hour or so while he goes to pick up some other customers. Ahead of us, we have a stunning trail currently decorated in autumn colours right beside a cascading river. And what is farmland without some farm animals to gawk at. We laugh at goats eating ridiculously large leaves, chickens stealthily trying to follow us, while we follow a couple of native ducks called paradise shelducks along the river.

European landscape meets native palm forest

With all these autumn colours and pastoral lands, we feel like we’re back in Europe. Just as Laura expresses this notion, we literally take five more steps and we are suddenly surrounded by ferns and nikau palm trees… And now we are back in New Zealand! The single track steadily goes up and down through this short tract of native forest and back alongside the river where we decide to turn back in order to make it on time to catch our shuttle.

We have to come back!

Although we’ve only managed to get tasters of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail today, we are already impressed by the variety of landscape, as well as the mix of New Zealand’s wild side with the history of the nation’s first European settlers. Hopefully one day, when Robin can use both his arms, we’ll return to explore the entire trail.

Back to Hone Heke Lodge

Ray drops us back where we began in Kaikohe where we drive back to our fun and social accommodation in Kerikeri, Hone Heke Lodge. The covered outdoor courtyard area makes it always feel like summer, even as we are approaching winter, and is a great place to hang out and play a few card games with our fellow backpackers (and get our asses handed to the both of us – Robin blames his broken arm). Until next time, team! See you tomorrow!

A pretty forest section of ferns and palms

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