Blog // Tales from the trail
Whilst we'd come across some funky cycle-lane features and interesting driving behaviours, New Zealand's general attitude towards cycling seemed one of positivity and perhaps [most critically] something that regional and national governments wanted to develop. One such initiative was the growing network of cycling routes and trails, both with a view towards recreational cycling but also it appeared with a view to boosting cycle tourism. In our view as semi-qualified cycle tourists, this makes a lot of sense - cyclists you see generally travel light (when not carrying a big camera and laptop for blog writing!) and need regular feeds and unlike a well stocked, motorised traveller, are much more likely to take notice and stop at a well placed cafe or bar (depending on time of day) to knock back a few drinks and pastries.
The route we were cycling today was one such trail, although in this case it had been built along an already established collection of foodie stops, as well as passing through a number of stone fruit and hops farms. This was aptly named the Great Taste Trail and it was also our first taste of an official New Zealand cycle trail. Our route today was the coastal leg of this cycle trail, which also included an excursion onto Rabbit Island and a short ferry ride off the back of the island, back onto the mainland.
- Total distance - 48 km
- Distance on dirt - 40 km
- Time taken ~ 5 hours
- Ferry crossings - 1
- Hills - 1 small, but very steep!
- Cafe stops - 1
- Pub stops - 1
- Cyclists met - many
The cycle out of Nelson was OK, but frankly the trail designers could have tried a little harder, the out-of-town route showing all the signs of one not planned by a cyclist - lots of stops and starts due to lack of continuity, road crossings (giving cars 100% priority) not to mention the pointless, sharp 90° detour lanes onto the pavement near the frequent small roundabouts (meaning following the official route one would result in multiple road-crossings, before having to rejoin the road from a standing start, rather than making a simple right turn).
Fortunately, leaving town all things cycling improved dramatically. We hit a pleasantly graded dirt track punctuated by wooden boardwalks and bridges taking us out across the wetlands and along the coast. The route was also pretty much perfectly flat, which allowed for some gentle, stress-free pedalling as we kept an eye peeled for local wildlife (or indeed a well placed coffee truck!).
Back on the trail again we crossed the bridge onto Rabbit Island and into the beautiful cover afforded by a sizable pine forest (although we sensed primarily there for future logging) which offered welcome relief from the building midday heat. Cycling along we passed many small beaches and picnic areas in what we assumed would be a very popular weekend spot for those in the surrounding towns.
Our exit from the island was just as civilised as our journey over it, a custom-made, bicycle-friendly boat completed shuttle runs across the estuary and back to the mainland - although the bar onboard seemed a little excessive, given that the crossing was a mere 100 m or so.
Landing in Mapua we were welcomed by the smell of a delicious area of tasty looking treats served up in the small village's many shops, bars and restaurants - they don't call this the Great Taste Trail for nothing! Although having already eaten our portion of pedal-power power-pasta whilst waiting for the boat we sadly couldn't take advantage of the offerings and carried on our cycle out of Mapua and through another charming looking town Ruby Bay.
Our final stop-off for the day was at a small coffee shop we'd been recommended by a fellow boat passenger, in the town of Tasman. Not only did they have the delicious cakes we'd been told about, but a sizeable vat of local, freshly-pressed olive oil - perfect for topping up our supplies on what was now beginning to feel like a decidedly indulgent cycle tour.
The final leg of our cycling for the day was along the Moutere Inlet before we arrived in our camping spot for the night just outside the town of Motueka. Opting for a Great Taste Trail dinner treat, we headed to small chain of pubs we'd heard about in Nelson called the Sprig & Fern. These were renowned for their range of locally brewed ales and also we'd been informed, a popular meeting spot for local cyclists after rides. Thus it seemed only fitting that we should sample some of the local grub and beer after what we both agreed had been one of the most enjoyable day's cycling of the trip so far - just a good job we packed the bike lights for our trundle back well after the sun had gone down...
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