Wairarapa backroad day trip
This month David Coxon puts his regular exploring to good use by running a backroad touring trip for his club.
After an early rendezvous at Masterton, the convoy of nine vehicles headed out to the small settlement of Bideford, where the seal ended and our first true backroad section started. It was a fine, crisp, sunny morning with green grass and reflections from ponds and small lakes left from the last few weeks of intermittent rain. In keeping with the theme of the trip, there were plenty of photo stops as we worked our way through the hills north of Bideford, heading for SH52. Although the good roads meant serious 4WDs were not really needed, setting off after a photo stop when the left hand wheels were on the soft shoulder was a little challenging at times, with traction control a very useful accessory for those who had it. Reaching SH52 after a scenic but uneventful run, morning tea was at the Alfredton Reserve, always a pleasant place to park up away from the road, with plenty of space and even some welcome toilets.
Leaving the Reserve I was planning a quick run up SH52 to our turnoff for Pori Rd, however this was not to be. Our run came to a brisk halt when I came round a corner to meet oncoming sheep on both sides of the road. Luckily the sheep, or actually the dogs controlling them, had the sense to drive the sheep into their lane, letting us idle slowly past the mob as they all ‘followed the leader’ to the left. Looking in my mirror I could see plenty of cameras and phones out windows as people photographed a sight not common to those from the city. Once past the sheep we were soon turning off for Pori Rd and starting to climb to the ridge line. This was another well maintained gravel road, although a number of washouts on the downhill side and newly-cleared slips still slumping threateningly across the road showed that the recent wet weather had the hills on the move. Also on the move were the clouds, that had now swept in, turning the bright sunshine of half an hour ago into a drab cool day. At the end of the ridge I had originally planned to take Puketoi Rd back to SH52, but although the topo map showed this as a through road, I had luckily spotted that
there was a gate marked, which usually means that it only accesses a farm or two. Not wanting to end up at a locked gate, or in a farmyard, with a convey of vehicles, we continued on Pori Rd. I will explore Puketoi Rd from the SH52 end another time when I am on my own. Following Pori Rd we had a short section of seal as we dropped down into Makuri Gorge and followed the Makuri River up the gorge and past the settlement of, you guessed it, Makuri. Staying with the name theme we followed what was now the Makuri Stream along Coonoor Rd. This soon turned to gravel again and was a very pleasant run, although once again I managed to miss the sign for Pipinui Falls. Luckily a person in the convoy did spot the sign, and although we didn’t stop, I now have a better idea of where they are for next time.
Don’t have a cow, man!
One of the features of this part of the trip was the number of animals that ran into the convoy. Firstly I came across a cow in the middle of the road that started running when it saw me. Every time I stopped so did the cow, but stood in the middle of the road, refusing to move onto the nice grassy verge. Every time I set off it started running again, veering in front of me if I tried to get past it to move it to the side. It ran a few kilometres before finally getting tired and swerving onto the grass. Then a couple of sheep lying on a grassy bank heard me coming and ran in front of me – once again refusing to pull over. After this happened for the third time I was wondering if we would ever get to our turnoff into Towai Rd, when rounding a bend I saw the rear end of a very large mob of sheep going the same way as us. After a quick chat to the people moving the sheep I found that we were nearly at Towai Rd, and that the mob were not going that way, so we just followed them to the turnoff. Towai Rd took us up and over the Puketoi Range, with the rather desolate quarry near the top an interesting stopping place for some slightly different photographs. Interestingly, the road ran through the quarry itself although being a Sunday, there was no activity.
Towai Rd took us almost all the way to our lunch stop at Waihi Falls, the car park and roofed picnic table being a good choice with rain threatening. Luckily the rain held off long enough for those who were keen to walk down to the base of the falls, which were rather spectacular after all the recent rain. After lunch we took Waihi Valley Rd as an easy gravel road back to SH52 for the long run back towards Masterton. Once again the number of slips blocking one lane kept us on our toes, and at one point we had to negotiate major roadworks where the whole road had been washed away and a temporary track built as a short detour up the valley. This was signposted as not suitable for trucks, and I would say not really suitable for lower-slung cars either. Reaching Alfredton I had planned to detour across to Castlepoint but with time getting on the group decided that it was better to just head for home, leaving that trip for another day.
A rural roadblock.
Interesting machinery perched on a hilltop.
A photo stop was also a chance to socialise in the sun, and it was sometimes hard to get the convoy moving again.
One of many DIY delights we saw on the trip.
A fast-flowing Waihi Falls.