on the rimutaka rail trail

R. had arranged for us to meet up with four other families, originally from our Playcentre, for a bike ride up the Rimutaka Rail Trail.

This is another cycle trail built on an old Railway formation: in this case, the old line that used to run over the top of the Rimutaka Ranges northwest of Wellington before the tunnel was built in the mid-1950s. We planned to ride up to the top and back again.

We could not have had a more lovely day.

Trail, sky

R₂ is still getting used to her new bike, and took a little coaxing to get up to full speed. So we took a little longer than the others to get to the top (10.3km), where we stopped for lunch.

Summit Station

This was a site of a very isolated little Railway settlement. There’s not much here anymore, although the area is host to a few interesting birds: I saw kererū, and also my first ever pair of cuckoo (until they were chased off by a grey warbler)… and a tomtit:

Tomtit in the pine trees

Unfortunately I had left behind the long lens, thinking that I wouldn’t see any birds in the cutover forest that I’d read was here. So no better photos.

Anyway, a couple hundred metres further on is a long tunnel through to the other side of the hill. Once all the kids had cooled themselves off by riding through the tunnel and back I thought I’d have a go too. It was a little tricky without adequate lighting: although you can focus on the light at the end it’s not always easy to know how far from side to side you are swinging, especially if you are, er, too cowardly to get up enough speed to give yourself a straight line.

The Summit Tunnel, Wairarapa side

But I got there eventually, fellow Dad Charles following me through (whose ghostly image you can see in the stitched up photo above) some distance behind. For some reason, the tunnel exit had a couple of extra arches built. Perhaps they’re to accommodate the waterfalls on either side…

This side, the eastern or Wairarapa side, was a lot steeper and the workers from the Summit were needed to operate the Fell engines that worked here. There was a tempting track leading down eventually to Featherston, but that wasn’t for today.

I followed Charles back through and caught up with R. and R₂ and some of the others. B₂ was in a forward group, and we didn’t catch up with her (again) until we got to the end.

R₂ needed a little coaching on the confident usage of brakes enabling travel downhill: she was wanting to walk her bike downhill instead. With a bit of support (which I was not the best person to provide, sadly) she was on her way.

R₂ and T scoot ahead

Eventually she got her speed on and the trip down was comparatively quick. We met the others in the carpark, about an hour after departing the summit.

We could see why lots of family groups do this trail: it’s got a nice grade (we didn’t feel like we were climbing, though we certainly felt the trip back was a lot easier) and it’s clearly doable, and would make a nice achievement, for probably most confident cyclists over the age of six or so. And it’s great training for the four of us: we’ll be on the Central Otago Rail Trail in late January…


Gathadair @dubh
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