A Great (Little) New Zealand River Ride
Okay, okay, I know it’s got nothing to do with North Shore cycling, (or even Auckland cycling for that matter), but I’m scratching around for content and I thought you might be interested in bike infrastructure done right, south-of-the-border in this case.
While it’s hard to spot any money being spent on cycling up here, our cow-bothering neighbours in the Waikato are throwing bucket-loads at it, and it’s money well spent. In Mooloo country recently for a school rowing event I escaped the rigours of parent-help and went exploring on two wheels with my young daughter. Since my last visit the bike-path beside the rowing course had been completed and I was keen to check it out.
From the official website:
When complete, the Great New Zealand River Ride will travel 70 kms along the shoreline of New Zealand’s largest & longest river – the mighty Waikato. With a gentle contour it is an easy ride suitable for all ages and abilities. It is designed to work as a linear route or as a location based route with two key hubs; Hamilton and Cambridge.
Te Awa is being built in sections, with the full 70km expected to be completed in 2015. The sections through Hamilton City and between Cambridge and the start of the rowing course at Lake Karapiro are completed and can be enjoyed now.
Not to be confused with The Waikato River Trails ( an “off-road” experience), Te Awa (The Great New Zealand River Ride) is suitable for all bikes and abilities with mostly paved surfaces and boardwalks. The completed section mentioned above starts at Leamington (sort of the ass-end of Cambridge) by the pony club and follows the road on a beautiful wide path down to the dam at Karapiro. From there you continue past the rowing centre, following the river (lake?) along to the starting gates of the rowing course itself. That’s the bit we rode and where all these photos were taken.
It was a stinking-hot day but a gentle breeze off the water cooled us some, and we were in no hurry. The Midget Assassin is not a cycling fanatic (unlike Dad), but there was plenty to look at along the way and the five or six kilometres we rode was about right. My sons’ mountainbikes hang unloved in our garage, I don’t want to put this one off cycling!
We parked at the far side of the dam and waited our turn to cross back over. Sensors detect waiting vehicles, but cyclists have to push a button to trigger the phase. That’s okay, kids love pushing buttons, and when the lights turned green we raced across straining to see over the railing to the huge drop beyond.
When you reach Mighty River Domain (AKA, the rowing venue) you could continue along the path beside the main road, but it’s more fun to cut through the domain itself and have a nosey around. If it’s summer there’s bound to be something on and you may strike the child-cyclists’ dream – the mobile food vendor! Mr Whippy was doing a roaring trade at the Waka Festival the day we passed-through and my wallet was quickly lightened.
The path attempts to follow the waters edge with twists & turns and ups & downs. Some parts were much steeper than they needed to be, but it all added to the fun, before you know it you’ll be at the end. Time for a drink, a snack, or a nap, and retrace your route unless you want to join the road and continue east. We enjoyed the long boardwalk section most as it hugs the bank right down at the waters edge and you feel more connected to the lake.
All in all, a great little family ride. Not something you’d specifically drive to the Waikato for (not until the whole 70km is joined-up), but worth a look if you’re in the area.
As we pedalled around the Waikato on this beautiful infrastructure I couldn’t help thinking what an opportunity we’re missing up here in Auckland. Imagine riding from downtown Auckland through Wynyard Quarter, up and over the Harbour Bridge taking in the views, stop at Northcote Point for coffee, then down to Takapuna Beach for lunch. Catch the ferry from Takapuna wharf back to town or continue down the coastal paths to Devonport.
You can string together some of that route at the moment, but it’s a haphazard affair, with an emphasis on hazard. Done properly it would encourage bicycle commuting and be an attractive activity for tourists.