Even before I moved to Napier (albeit the day before) I was told of some hot springs up the hills to the west of town. Being at the end of a long gravel road, that it is almost two hours’ drive from home for a relatively short distance hints at the sort of country one must pass through to reach the reward of a hot soak. Any suitable opportunity to go up there and do a bit of hiking was not forthcoming and a quick look at the map had me thinking such a route would make a great bikepacking trip from home.
I wasn’t wrong. After a large Saturday lunch and vaguely remembering where everything camping is supposed to go on my bike, I set off for the hills. Into the foothills on a day of patchy clouds and a cooling (and helpful) southerly, the climbing was modest for thirty-odd kilometres – a good opportunity to get used to a cumbersome loaded bike again. Weekend traffic was light and the views started to stretch further afield.
Loaded up again for, hopefully, another summer of bikepacking adventures.
Progress was steady, as was the climbing and three hours in a plateau at about 600 m was reached. I was surprised to see a reasonably sized school at Patoka, and a golf course at Puketitiri – unfortunately the little school there closed some years ago. I was chased remarkably well by a spirited fox terrier – that thing must have topped thirty kilometres per hour. Thankfully I have no fang marks around my ankles.
It was three-quarters of the trip before the seal ended and the gravel started – mercifully it has been a long time since it was last graded, so the tracks were smooth. There was so little traffic I enjoyed riding on the right hand side of the road as if I was back in the northern hemisphere. In the early evening light, everything started looking even nicer and the Kaweka Ranges came into view.
The road kept dropping down a fair bit before remembering it really should be around 600 m, energy levels dropped accordingly. But I was pleased my legs weren’t really complaining. As I entered the DOC (Dept. of Conservation) land the flowering manuka (tea-tree) stands were staggering. The little white flowers blanketed the hillsides, I’m quite sure I’ve never seen so much manuka in bloom before.
My arrival at the campground at the end of the road was greeted by all sorts of astonishment. They said I was mad for biking all the way in here – “but I built it all the same”. Perhaps I was, but that’s fine as I quickly found a secluded little spot to pitch my tent, cook my dinner and marvel in the beauty of the area and just how fantastic the afternoon was. I was well chuffed with the little adventure.
Water bottles topped up from a steep walk down to the Mohaka River, it was time to reward my muscles with a hot soak. A short walk down the hill from the campground are two small pools which are filled by water flowing down from a spring above. I must have sat in, or half-in, there for a good two hours. The campground was well populated, but not overly so as I imagine it will be in a few days, and there was a steady stream of people to chat to. It was a little strange being treated as a crazy-man/minor celebrity for being the guy that biked all the way in – but everyone was very generous and after a couple of offered drinks I had to start turning them down. The oddest thing was a young guy who went all the way back up the hill to get a cooker so he could have pancakes – hot pool pancakes and ice cream were quality.
After a fitful sleep and a leisurely Sunday morning start to the day, I got to ride down all the hills I’d ridden up (but there were still a reasonable number to ride up) and get chased by the same dog again before returning home twenty-four hours, to the minute, after departing. Such fun!