Ohakune to Taihape (71k)
Follow HW49 east towards Waiouru then after about 11km turnoff right into Whangaehu Valley Rd. This road looks
so enticing I was sorely tempted to follow
it all the way through to Whanganui. Another time...
Instead, at about 24km from Ohakune turn left onto the gravel Owhakura Rd through to Bells Junction. Tarmac
returns as far as Rangiwaea Junction, turning to gravel again for the last few km into Colliers Junction. With
all this junction hopping it's a good idea to have a map handy.
Dairy may have taken hold in Canterbury, but the central North Island is still home to a good number of New
Zealand's 30 million sheep. The volcanic soils in this area are cobalt deficient and must be supplemented to
avoid "bush-sickness" in livestock. Sure enough, the day I was riding through an aerial topdresser was at work,
swooping low over the fields and landing regularly in a nearby paddock to take on more payload. Highly
There are no services on this route, nor any stand-out drawcards; the real attraction is the landscape. Despite
the hills all around, this day has no major climbs and is not too taxing. Just settle back and enjoy the slower
cadence of the country.
About 5km past the picturesque little village of Mataroa the road joins up with SH1 and you must cycle the
remaining 4½ km along the motorway; heavily trafficked but there is mostly a good shoulder.
Taihape (the "Gumboot Capital of the World") is a popular stopover for HW1 travellers and has a supermarket,
cafés and many accommodation options.
Taihape to Palmerston North (2-3 days, ≈155k)
Head south down Highway 1 for about 6 km till you reach the turnoff left into Gorge Rd. Don't be tempted to
continue along the highway past this point; although there is a good shoulder up until Gorge Rd, immediately
after it disappears to make way for an overtaking lane which snakes up the hill, over a bridge and around a
The rivers in this area cut deep gorges and soon after the turn-off you're crossing high over the Hautapu
River. It's a climb through quiet, tree-lined country roads and the Omatane Scenic Reserve, then at about 15km
you cross over the Rangitikei River turning into Omatane South Rd which soon becomes gravel. Gravel remains for
8 km until you reach Potaka Rd. From here you mostly descend into Mangaweka, dipping into the deep ravines and
crossing the Rangitikei a few more times. Stop in at the Hub, a café inside an old DC3. If you've cycled
enough for one day there are several accommodation options here, including a campground.
Mangaweka is the starting point for the Manawatu Cycle
Trail, 125km of cycling through quiet, back-country roads. And it's all paved! Head back out and start the
climb up Ruahine St. Once along the top the views are expansive and it feels like you're up in the heavens; a
sense reinforced often as the road cuts down deep into a gorge and you climb your way back up. At about 38 km
from Mangaweka you reach the turnoff to Pohangina Valley East Rd. Here you have the option to cycle the
remaining 2 km into Apiti where there is a pub.
Once you've climbed out of Apiti most of the hard work is behind you and the remainder of the ride descends
through the quiet, rolling farmland of the Pohangina Valley. There are several options to camp along the way
with a DOC campground at
Reserve a further 10 km down the road. There are no services between Apiti and Ashhurst.
Ashhurst is a supply town for the surrounding farmlands and has everything you need. The highway south to
Palmerston North has a good shoulder and is safe to cycle. After a few kms a NZ Cycle Trail sign directs you
down a side road toward the
Pathway which adds a few kms to the trip but gets you away from the traffic. If you prefer you can
continue along the highway, as the good shoulder remains all the way through to Palmerston North.