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