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June 2012

Riding the Pakihi back in the day

About ten years ago the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club took a field trip to the Pakihi Track. The Kennett Bros reckoned it was a pretty adventurous trail, and a few people we knew who had done it agreed. We set off on a sunny Sunday to find out for ourselves.

We got to Opotiki, the closest town to the end of the trail, to meet our transport to the start of the trail high on the Motu Rd. The bus driver never turned up. A search party found his house, and the bus, but the neighbours said the driver had gone fishing. After some discussion we drove to a farm where one of our group knew people. A short time later we had alternative transport, three cars full of us towing three trailers full of bikes, and heading for the hills.

At a regrouping stop well into the wilds the third car didn’t show. We waited about an hour, calculating the value of the bikes that were in the missing trailer, just to kill the time. Finally we decided to head back to see what had happened, and as soon as we had the cars and trailers turned around along came the errant vehicle. Their trailer-axle had failed as soon as they hit the gravel of the Motu Rd, so they had been back to Opotiki to replace it.

By the time we got to the trail head up in the forest it was well after noon. The cars rattled off down the road and we peeled off down the trail. For about 100m, where we came upon a huge fallen tree completely blocking the trail. As we were discussing how to get around it one of our party arrived with a massive gash in his right arm, which he had done as soon as he started riding, in an unlucky fall on to a sharp rock. It was A&E material, and not to be examined by people who don’t like looking inside other people’s arms. We offered to form a posse to help him get a lift back to town, but he was pretty keen to carry on so we wrapped his arm in bandage and got to work manhandling all the bikes down a cliff, under the tree, and back up on to the trail.

From there it got worse. Some more fallen trees, some monumental slips, and some very exposed and narrow trails lead through spectacular forest to a waist deep wade through a feisty river. After that the trail hugged the bank, sketching along about 5 m or more above the water, riddled with washouts that were invisible due to the overgrown vegetation (which was cutty grass). We all survived, although several people had episodes that could have been fatal, but weren’t.

Afterwards we swam in the river, then rode about 20 kms along a quiet road back to our cars. Even the guy with the bandaged arm claimed to have enjoyed the day, but to my knowledge none of us went back for another go.

Not long after our big adventure we heard that DoC had stopped looking after the trail, and it had become impassable, and that would have been the end of it, if not for the national cycleway project.


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