This enjoyable ride through the volcanic plateau’s back-blocks links Taumaranui with the Kaiwhakauka Track, an optional ride on the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail.
Following quiet country roads with some gravel sections, this quiet route traverses picturesque farmland and passes a couple of scenic reserves. Around halfway along, riders can also detour to the town of Owhango where there’s accommodation and access to another classic MTB track, the 42 Traverse.
Starting at Taumarunui’s historic railway station, head south on Hikaia Street for two blocks then on to Moreno Terrace to cross the Whanganui River. Turn right and follow Hikumutu Road.
Remain on Hikumutu Road as it transitions to a narrow gravel road and climbs 300 metres. On reaching a T-intersection, turn left on Kawautuhi Road to reach Owhango, 1km away, or take a right to continue towards to Oio Road. This section is particularly enjoyable, being scenic and largely downhill with very little traffic.
The connector ends at the Oio Road junction, from where it’s a further 21km to reach Blue Duck Station at Whakahoro, the start of the gnarly Kaiwhakauka Track.
A helpful source of information about this ride, and other Heartland and Connector Rides, is Classic New Zealand Cycle Trails by the Kennett Brothers.
The surface of this route is approximately 25% sealed road and 75% gravel road. There is very little traffic on this entire route with less than 200 vehicles per day from Hikumutu Road to Oio Road. Riders should still expect other vehicles on the road at any time and take particular care on winding downhill sections with loose gravel road surface.
FITNESS & SKILLS
This is a grade 3 (intermediate) ride suitable for averagely fit riders with some cycle touring experience.
TYPE OF BIKE
A touring bike or mountain bike with wide road tyres or knobbly tyres are most suitable for the terrain and surface. E-bikes, with sufficient battery capacity, are also suitable(but not for the Kaiwhakauka Track). The remoteness of this ride means that riders should ideally have basic mechanical skills and carry a tool kit and spares.
MAPS & NAVIGATION
The country roads are generally well signposted but a map will prevent wrong turns, help you time your ride, and identify points of interest along the way. If you’re heading on to the Kaiwhakauka Track, download a copy of DOC’s Mangapurua/Kaiwhakauka Tracks brochure to learn more about this fascinating area.
It can ridden any time of year although it can be cold and wet on the volcanic plateau at any time of year, and snow isn’t uncommon in winter. Good wet-weather gear is essential.
Accommodation is available in Taumarunui, Owhango, and the character-filled Blue Duck Station at Whakahoro for riders carrying on to ride the Kaiwhakauka Track.
FOOD & WATER
Food is available in Taumarunui, and at Blue Duck Station (ring ahead to make dining arrangements). Drinking water is available in Taumarunui, Owhango and at Whakahoro. River/stream water should be boiled or treated.
Intercity buses and the Northern Explorer train go to Taumarunui.
This route also links up with the Timber Trail Connection, Forgotten World Highway and the Kaiwhakauka – alternate section of the Mountain to Sea Great Ride.
Coverage is good around Taumarunui but patchy at best beyond Owhango.
Public toilets are located in Taumarunui, Owhango, and at Retaruke on Oio Road.