Icy wind in my face, frozen fingers gripping handlebars for dear life, a camera hanging from my neck, and the overriding (haha) sensation: my sore, sore bottom. I can think of so many people I know who’d enjoy a cycling tour in Hawke’s Bay. But me on a bike? My friends will chortle at the thought.
Louise and I met Jenny Ryan, owner of Takaro Trails, who took us on a bike ride to experience Hawke’s Bay from a different perspective. She supplied the Scott Sportster touring bikes with panniers, helmets and water bottles. She showed us how to work our brakes and gears, helped me adjust my seat (to “short-arse“) and made sure we were both OK before we set off.
As usual, I kept falling behind as I stopped to take photographs. But I made sure Jenny and Louise remained within eyeshot, even if they were tiny specks far away in the distance. I’d take my photographs, then pedal furiously to catch up.
I didn’t carry my DSLR camera on the bike, by the way – I brought two cameras on this trip: the Nikon D600 DSLR and my old, much smaller and lighter Panasonic G2, which I packed specifically for the bike rides. All photos featured in this blog post were taken using the G2 with 12-35mm lens. I wore my Rainbird jacket, a lightweight weatherproof jacket that I wear when I plan to be outdoors in chilly and/or unpredictable wintery weather. It’s kept me warm and my camera dry on many a rainy food adventure. We were really lucky with the weather for our bike ride – a very fine drizzle fell just before lunch but despite dark clouds lurking overhead, no heavy rain.
The Hawke’s Bay region has 187km of scenic, off-road cycle trails that form part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. Don’t let the words “off-road” scare you off if you’re not a seasoned cyclist – as you’ll see in the photographs in this post, the trails are designed for safe bike riding away from motor vehicles. The trails range from flat, easy riding to gentle hills and more challenging sections. We did have to cross roads/traffic a couple of times on our mini tour, and negotiated our way through herds of curious cows, but it was all manageable and good fun. A great deal of commitment has gone into the creation of these cycle trails, a lovely way to experience the beauty of Hawke’s Bay. To see the extent of the cycle trails across the region, check out the Hawke’s Bay Trails map. It’s also worth noting that Hawke’s Bay cycle trails have mobile phone coverage.
Our first stop was Moana Park Winery for a wine tasting session and an all-important loo break. Winemaker James explained Moana Park’s winemaking philosophy of minimal intervention, which means additives, chemicals and preservatives are kept to a minimum in the making of their wines. Moana Park’s wines are approved by the Vegetarian Society of New Zealand; no animal-based fining agents are used during the wine-making process. Fining agents are used to remove suspended solids from the wine, to improve the clarity of the finished product, and the most commonly used fining agents are animal-based, including egg white, gelatin and casein, a protein sourced from milk. Vegans and strict vegetarians can drink Moana Park wines with a clear conscience. But this isn’t just wine for mungbeans – meat lovers can still enjoy the wine matched with meat dishes.
Moana Park Winery
530 Puketapu Road
Taradale, Hawke’s Bay
Telephone: +64 6 844 8269
We stopped at just one winery, but Jenny told us about Takaro Trails’ Havelock North and Cape Coast Wineries tour, which takes you past 7 wineries including Elephant Hill (see my blog post) and Black Barn Vineyard.
Our next stop was lunch at The Puketapu. You could easily drive (or cycle) by without thinking to drop in at this unassuming country-style pub.
There’s plenty of character in this pub, with a jukebox in the corner, deer and boar heads and whole fish mounted on the wall, and nostalgic photographs that are well worth a look. In addition to the laminated menu, there’s a chalkboard of specials to choose from. We sat in a cosy corner, glad to be out of the chilly riding wind.
I was disappointed that my first choice, the creamy chicken, bacon and pea pie served with fries was not available, but my second choice, the open chicken and bacon sandwich served on sourdough with homemade chunky fries and sweet chilli sauce (NZ$16) looked pretty good. I prefer dark meat to white meat, but this chicken breast was cooked nicely and still juicy. Add bacon, lashings of aioli and sweet chilli sauce and those fantastic rough-cut chunky chips, and I didn’t really need the bread (“What bread?” you ask – it was buried under all the good things).
Louise ordered the fresh panfried fish with salad, fries and mint aioli (NZ$22), which she enjoyed while Jenny and I both demolished our chicken and bacon open sandwiches.
It had been such a relief to get my bum off that bike seat during lunch, but it was time to reluctantly and delicately place it back on the seat. Ugh…ow…ow…ow – you may have heard that sound before. It’s the call of a wuss.
Last stop: the family-owned Silky Oak Chocolate Company in Napier for handcrafted couverture chocolate. The store in Napier includes the chocolate shop, a Chocolate Museum, cafe and provides the venue for cake decorating classes. There are two other Silky Oak Chocolate stores in New Zealand, in Lower Hutt and Tauranga.
We didn’t have time to check out the Chocolate Museum, but we all bought chocolates to take home – I chose chocolate truffles for Jac: raspberry creme, coffee ganache, honey milk chocolate truffle and a caramel creme fish (she loved them).
The Silky Oak Chocolate Company
1131 Links Rd
Napier, Hawke’s Bay
Phone +64 6 845 0908
The final leg of our ride was possibly the hardest, as we rode into an icy headwind that we pushed our way through with gritted teeth. Experienced, regular cyclists will laugh at my measly 21.86km, but I felt very proud of myself. It was a bracing ride and I was surprised and pleased how invigorated I felt afterwards, even with my tender bottom.
I used to cycle to and from work in my early twenties – I’ve been on a bicycle sporadically since, and my bike sits in our garage gathering dust. The different itineraries offered by Takaro Trails are graded for difficulty (easy – for novices and rusty cyclists like me; moderate, and intermediate) so you’ll have a reasonably good idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
The cycle tours are self-guided. There are Takaro Tasters which are day rides that take 3-4 hours, or multi-day tours that take in more of Hawke’s Bay over 3, 4 or 5 days. The multi-day tours include just about everything you’ll need: bicycle and helmet, detailed daily route, instructions and map, water bottle, airport transfers or secure parking, baggage transfers, accommodation and support throughout your adventure. If you buy wine and other souvenirs you can’t easily carry on your bike, Takaro Trails will pick up your purchases and have them waiting for you at the end of your tour.
9 Nelson Quay, Ahurihi
Napier, Hawke’s Bay
Phone: +64 6 836 5385
I travelled to Hawke’s Bay and cycled with Takaro Trails as a guest of Tourism New Zealand.
Getting to Hawke’s Bay
I flew with Air New Zealand from Perth to Auckland, then flew via Mount Cook Airlines from Auckland to Napier in the Hawke’s Bay region. Mount Cook Airlines is one of three regional airlines that are part of Air New Zealand Link, connecting New Zealand’s regional centres and main international airports.
My Hawke’s Bay blog series
The posts so far:
- Welcome to Napier
- Pacifica Restaurant, Napier
- Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market, Hastings
- Te Mata Peak, Craggy Range and Terrôir Restaurant, Havelock North
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 1
- Elephant Hill, Te Awanga
- The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Part 2 – including the Kiwi Discovery Walk
- Cycling with Takaro Trails – this post
There are more stories to come from the trip.