WEEK­END DRIVE

A three-day Christ­mas break in Napier also gave David Coxon a chance to visit some more re­mote parts of the Wairarapa.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by David Coxon.

We left Welling­ton early for a run over the Rimu­taka Hills and up SH2 to Eke­tahuna. There we turned onto Al­fred­ton Road and headed for morn­ing tea at the Al­fred­ton Do­main, a very pleas­ant re­serve with good park­ing well clear of the road. We then fol­lowed the scenic but slow and windy Route 52 past Pon­garoa be­fore turn­ing off onto an un­sealed road for the fi­nal run to our lunch stop at the rel­a­tively un­known Wainui Falls. Al­though sunny and mild, it was rather breezy so we took our lunch down the short but quite steep walk­ing track to the base of the falls for a more shel­tered break. As usual the falls were quite spec­tac­u­lar, a fan­tas­tic place for a very peace­ful lunch. Back at the car we con­tin­ued our back road trip to Waipatiti where we took a more ma­jor sealed road back to Dan­nevirke. It was then a quick run up SH2 past Norse­wood, to the turn-off onto SH50, fi­nally turn­ing onto Black­burn Rd for a loop into the Ruahine Ranges. Black­burn Rd started off as a good sealed road be­fore turn­ing to gravel as it climbed up Black­burn Ridge, named for the dev­as­tat­ing fires that oc­curred in the 1860s when newly-es­tab­lished farms were cleared by a some­times un­con­trolled ‘slash and burn’.

Fam­ily church

Gain­ing height, we were en­joy­ing the ex­pan­sive but hazy views across the plains to­wards the coast when we came across the small and beau­ti­fully main­tained Bibby Fam­ily memo­rial church. Built in 1911 by Ed­ward Bibby as a place of wor­ship for the lo­cal com­mu­nity and a memo­rial to his par­ents Ed­ward and Mary Bibby, the church is still used to­day. Reach­ing the very small set­tle­ment of Black­burn we took the Hinerua Rd for a loop around the edge of a small val­ley. Pass­ing a farm house we got a friendly wave from the fam­ily sit­ting out on the deck en­joy­ing a well-earned Christ­mas break. Com­plet­ing our loop on nar­row but well main­tained gravel roads we joined Wakarara Rd and headed to the end of the road in the foothills of the Ruahine ranges. We stopped at the gate to Parks Peak sta­tion but got a friendly wel­come from a bloke mow­ing the lawn who in­vited us to con­tinue a few more kilo­me­tres along the farm track to the park­ing area at the start of some of the Ruahine tramp­ing tracks. This was a nice grassy area, per­fect for a pic­nic. Re­turn­ing the way we came, we took Makaroro Rd to re­turn briefly to SH50 at Tikokino be­fore our fi­nal de­tour to pass through a pine plan­ta­tion on our way to Napier. By now it was get­ting a bit later, with the clas­sic evening light pho­tog­ra­phers love. So, as

we were now get­ting close to our des­ti­na­tion I stopped a few times to in­dulge my pas­sion for land­scape photography.

North to Mahia

Af­ter a good night’s rest our sec­ond day was a run from Napier up SH2 to Mahia Penin­sula. Al­though this was mainly a run up the main high­way, I had vi­sions of ex­plor­ing the back roads around the Mahia Penin­sula once we fi­nally got there. We planned to stop for morn­ing tea at a nice pic­nic area on the river bank be­low the bridge over the Mo­haka River, then May spot­ted the dead cow right by the park­ing area. So much for that idea. We fi­nally stopped for a fuel stop and ice cream in Wairoa, with a brief walk along the Wairoa river bank to get some fresh air and sun­shine. It was then a short and easy run up to the Mahia turnoff at Nuhaka then a slightly more re­mote run to Mahia Beach. Our first pri­or­ity was to ex­plore the area look­ing for some­where for lunch, with Oraka Beach be­ing our first stop. This was a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion but a bit breezy and lack­ing in any shade, so we car­ried on, fi­nally stop­ping at a lit tle park­ing area at Aurora Point for a very re­lax­ing break. We roamed much of the penin­sula, find­ing it very scenic but much more de­vel­oped and sealed that I ex­pected, and un­for­tu­nately we did not man­age to get the right tides to drive along the ac­ces­si­ble parts of the beach. The run back to Napier was un­event­ful, al­though as usual, we saw a lot of new scenery when trav­el­ling in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. A late af­ter­noon break at Lake Tu­tira was a pleas­ant way to end the day in the com­pany of the lo­cal, very friendly black swans.

Fi­nal de­tour

Our last day was lim­ited by need­ing to be back home at a rea­son­able time, so af­ter a slow climb up from Have­lock North to Te Mata Peak for some amaz­ing views, it was a steady run back down SH2. Reach­ing Dan­nevirke at lunchtime we fol­lowed the signs to the camp­ing ground and found a very at­trac­tive pic­nic area – a real hid­den gem. Fur­ther south, a fi­nal de­tour up to the ra­dio masts at Whar­iti gave us a run up a gen­er­ally well-main­tained gravel road with a rather bouncy ride for the last sec­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, while the view was im­pres­sive, so was the wind on the ex­posed ridge, mak­ing for a short visit, but a fit­ting end to our ex­plor­ing, with a cou­ple of hours run get­ting us home at a rea­son­able time as planned.

The coast at Aurora Point was less suited to swim­ming, but made a quite spec­tac­u­lar lunch stop.

Black­burn Ridge Rd was a typ­i­cal ru­ral back road.

An ex­cel­lent gravel road through the pine plan­ta­tions.

The beau­ti­fully kept Bibby Fam­ily memo­rial church. I found out later we could have gone in­side.

It was well worth stop­ping at Lake Tu­tira for af­ter­noon tea.

In­ter­est­ing rock for­ma­tions from Te Mata Peak.

Mahia Penin­sula from the ‘main­land’.

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