Te Huia to Hamilton - Retyrement on 2 Wheels 8 - CycleBlaze

December 11, 2023

Te Huia to Hamilton

Te Huia- long may you run.


It’s been a few months since we returned from Nice and any serious touring. We’ve enjoyed sharing our house with a lively 3 year old grandson and welcoming his brother into the world, but the road calls, albeit rather late in the year, and albeit on a not overly ambitious trail. 

We’ve decided on a brief one week jaunt down into the Waikato and back as a pre Christmas adventure. We are following a good bit of the route we took in 2020 when Covid put a halt to overseas tours, except in reverse. That’s to say, we’re catching Te Huia, the train that runs daily between Auckland and Hamilton, down to the Waikato, (a trip of about three hours by slow train) and cycling back from there via Paeroa and Thames. One point of difference this time is a planned diversion to Waihi Beach. Who knows, maybe we’ll get some real summer weather?

The future of train travel in NZ lives constantly under the sword of Damocles and Te Huia is no exception,  so we’d like to try it before it gets axed by our new transport minister. 

Much of our planned route is on dedicated cycle paths, though some, will mean sharing the road with cars. 

Preparation is pretty basic- no boxes, bags or camping gear; just two panniers each with clothes for most kinds of weather, some food supplies, washing gear and basic tools. All ready.

Monday 11 December 

We’re off just after eight, on a clear, early summer morning, for the 8 kilometre ride to the Waterfront and the Strand Station, from where Te Huia departs. 

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Commuter traffic on the cycleway is relatively heavy and the ‘take no prisoners’ e-bikers fly by, some a little too close for comfort. The route is a relatively flat track and then a steep descent down Grafton Gully. In the early days of Auckland’s European settlement the sea reached pretty close to the bottom of the hill, but reclamation has extended the land area considerably.

After a little hunting about, we find signs indicating the direction of the station and head down a narrow alley to the platform. 

Finding Te Huia.
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There’s a small crowd waiting, among them three other cyclists. A couple are chaps of our vintage, who are touring for a few days and there’s a young  woman out for a day’s riding. It’s a slow relaxed start.  This train is no Bullet or TGV.  Suburbia South Auckland is industry, car yards and housing. There’s the occasional garden, park and providing some greenery.

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Mike AylingNot crowded!
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2 months ago
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Enter the wild card. Earlier this year on train to Cambridge UK, we experienced a guy reenacting what seemed to be a UN round table discussion of the  Ukrainian war. He did all the voices and accents- Russian, American- the lot. All in a world of his own. Today a tall older Maori chap boards with a baby buggy full to the gunnels with a traveller’s necessities. He’s wearing a high crowned Rastafarian coloured hat āla  Gandalf  and carrying a crook worked in Rastafarian colours to match his hat. He’s loud, laughing and larger than life in every sense. Who is to be gifted with his presence as a travelling companion? He chooses the young woman cyclist and she good humouredly tells him it must be her lucky day. They get on like a house on fire for the rest of the ride. He  singing, quoting verbatim from Alice in Wonderland (‘I’m late, I’m late’) and Willie Wonka, as well as other erudite references. He has a surprising range. We’re entertained, and he’s enjoying himself, but we’re wondering what’s coming next. It’s like a King Lear scene- laughter, shouting, snatches of old songs. And all the way through the young woman laughs and provides clever repartee which he genuinely appreciates. The mountains of the mind. When he alights at Rotokauri we all wave, some ‘haere ra’ and then he’s gone, like some vision disappearing before our eyes, except there he is wending his way along the platform with his buggy to wherever. There’s a sort of collective sigh of relief on board, but there’s no doubt it was fun while it lasted. When I pass the young woman I tell her that her performance deserves a medal. But then so does his. 

Next stop is the end of the line and once off the train we find our way through suburban streets and  an uninspiring shopping centre to to the river. Here’s a difference. A sudden change to a green and leafy trail. There are signs for Te Awa, The River Trail. 

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Off on the trail through the burbs.
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Beaches like this suggest swimming there are no signs to say it’s advisable.
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Lunch stop.
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The goal to make NZ rivers swimmable - is it a promise or just an aspiration?
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The mighty Waikato, at 425 kilometres, NZ’s longest river.
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 From here the trail is easy and moves us from gardens, to suburbs, to rural homesteads and lifestyle blocks. 

At Tamahere there is a new section of trail that follows closer to the river. It has some mean little climbs, but there’s the compensatory downs. 

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This brings us to the sedate greenery of Cambridge where we watched cricket on the green a couple of years back. There’s a game on. Who knows, with cricket,  it could be a continuation of the same game. 

From Cambridge it’s easy riding through horsey country as we head towards Lake karapiro and the dam which will provide a crossing place for us, to the other side and our accommodation. 

The dam, or damn and other like words as it becomes is closed for repairs! Might they not have told us? There’s no alternative but to backtrack, return to Cambridge, and take the main road. The road we’ve been at pains to avoid. It’s five kilometres of twin cab utes, long haul tucks and speedsters; though there is a shoulder. The backtrack is quick, cricket’s still on the green, and we round the roundabout out of town, keeping to the cold shoulder. At such moments Adrian Henri’s poem always comes to mind: ‘I wanted your soft vergesBut you gave me the hard shoulder.. ‘

We’re watching the farm numbers on our left as we progress and counting down to 379. It comes up soon and we turn off, cycle across a grassy lawn to our quarters around the back. It’s a welcoming little attached cottage.

Tucked up in security blanket for the night.
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The shower works ok and dinner is quickly fixed - Greek salad and chicken. Our first day managed at a reasonable end. Tomorrow Middle Earth and The Shire beckon.

Today's ride: 48 km (30 miles)
Total: 48 km (30 miles)

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