I begin my cycle mission on the foreshore at Petone – the official start of the Remutaka Cycle Trail. With my GPS units set to record every second of my experience so I can continue building the Great Rides App, I’m away. The sky is blue and there is a little chop on the harbour from the breeze that helps me ride north, upstream along the bank of the Hutt River. The GPS units plot the river edge’s gently sweeping curves along the reserves on the urban fringes. My tyres lap up the well-formed path, wheeling past Petone and both Hutt cities. Upon reaching the scattered forest pockets, I leave the city behind. After passing under the Wairarapa rail line, I climb a short hill where the trail is now on the former railway alignment. I have reached the line that, prior to the mid-1950s, was used by steam trains to travel over the Remutaka Range. Today, electric trains speed along a newer line that bores 8.8 kilometres through the range, while my ride goes over the mountain on the old railway line. It’s a popular ride that I am eager try.

What a lovely starting point along the Petone waterfront

To my surprise I am launched into darkness only a few metres along the rail trail. The 253-metre Mangaroa Tunnel is the first of many on the ride. I flick on my torch to navigate through and reach the Tunnel Gully recreational area at the other end, the first of my many rest stops. Sitting under giant eucalypt trees in the reserve I enjoy the last of autumn’s warmth. Having refuelled my engine and checked the data being captured, I ride on towards the range and into the side catchment of the Pakuratahi. Here the trail follows the forest-lined river; the trail is wide and gentle and there is a sense of mystery beyond. Crossing a restored truss bridge (the oldest of its kind in New Zealand) I pass over the river and through another tunnel. This portal was built in 1876 and with rails yet to be laid and no vehicular access to the site, the contractor innovated to make 13,000 concrete blocks on site. The arched walls of the tunnel made of pressed sand and cement are considered to be our country’s first concrete block structure.

Winding up the Pakuratahi catchment


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