You can travel the 78 km along HW4 from Taumarunui through National Park to Ohakune in a single day, but consider
the quieter roads through Whakahoro and Whanganui National Park. The following is just one option, have a look at
the NZ Cycle Trail site to checkout other
Head out along Hikumutu Rd and soon enough you're climbing a gravel road which you'll have pretty much to
yourself. At around 25 km the road forks. A NZ Cycle Trail sign directs you right down the gravel Kawautahi Rd,
but I prefer the alternative which is to continue left the remaining few hundred metres into the tiny settlement
of Owhango, an old mill town, located exactly along the 39° latitude line.
A kilometre or so south of Owhango you reach the turnoff right onto the alternate route down the paved Oio Rd.
After a small climb you start a glorious descent which just seems to keep going and going. All good things must
come to and end, and for the final 20 km the road levels out and turns once more to gravel, following the
Retaruke River to Whakahoro and the start of the Whanganui National Park.
The surprising find here is the Blue Duck Lodge, where you can
get a bite to eat and perhaps refill your water bottles. All in all this day has a nice shape to it: get the
climbing out of the way early then enjoy an extended downhill to end the day in the wilderness.
This route includes a 10 km section of grade 3 single track. Attempt this only if you are lightly packed and confident cycling off-road. Best avoided after rain when the track may be muddy and slippery.
Yesterday you joined up with the Mountains to
Sea Cycle Trail (Ngā Ara Tūhono) along the last few kms of Oio Rd. Today is a
continuation of that trail, along the Kaiwhakauka Track through Whanganui National Park. The Mountains to Sea
Cycle Trail is often on the suggested itinerary for long-haul tourers but NZ Cycle Trail rides can be something
of a mixed bag, so I was curious to see what the track conditions would be like, especially since the ride is
graded 3 (intermediate difficulty). Here's what the NZ Cycle Trail site has to say about grade 3 rides...
Off-road trails can be narrow and may include hill climbs, steep drop-offs and small river
The trail surface is mostly firm, but may include muddy or loose sections.
There may also be obstacles such as rocks or tree roots to avoid.
In fact most of this route is 4WD track, but there is a 10 km section of single track (roughly 5 km either side of
Mosely Campground) which demands some care, and it is for this 10 km that the ride earns its grade 3 rating.
Normally ride with only rear panniers. By strapping my tent onto the handlebars I was able to transfer some
weight to the front of the bike and so pick my way slowly and carefully through. But the bike still got a good
shake up; not the kind of place you want to suffer gear failure. Having said that... well the pictures speak
for themselves: it's just beautiful. And if all else fails you can walk the 10 km section.
Soon enough a more manageable 4WD track returns. Once you reach the Mangapurua Track junction you can either
turn right to continue on to the
To Nowhere and your (pre-booked) jetboat ride down the Whanganui River to
Pipiriki, or left to the road end.
The ride from Ruatiti Rd onwards is pretty relentlessly uphill, and it's easy to see why as views of Mt Ruapehu
begin to appear; you are riding up and onto the central volcanic plateau. Initially gravel, the road is sealed
once you cross the Manganuioteao River (at about 4 km before Orautoha). At around the 40 km mark you reach the
Domain where there is camping by the Manganui-O-Te-Ao River.
As you near the end of Ruatiti Rd a NZ Cycle Trail sign directs you left onto the rough, gravel Middle Rd,
eventually spitting you out onto the main road at Horopito. The reason? Horopito is the starting point for the
Ohakune Old Coach Road, a beautiful cycle route
incorporating some fascinating rail heritage by way of the Taonui and Hapuowhenua Viaducts.
Beautiful... but not well suited to bikes laden with panniers. In this case probably better to sail straight
past the Middle Rd turnoff and take a more direct route into Ohakune, leaving the Ohakune Old Coach Road for a
day-trip. Ohakune is a pretty town. A popular ski resort it has all the things you would expect of a tourist
destination, including a supermarket, pubs, cafés, and plenty of accommodation options.