I feel like I am about to have an Indiana Jones moment!
I have joined my sister and her family on a weekend visit to the Waikato region. The plan is to cycle the Arapuni section of the newly opened Waikato River Trail and the Arapuni swing bridge is certainly a highlight.
Resting our bicycles on the ground we test our nerves and attempt the walk over the swing bridge. The lush bush below surrounds the turquoise flow of the river. The water is busy rushing past the grand historic 1920′s power station. My niece and nephew jump up and down on the bridge making it move and sway. I stop looking at the view finding myself grab onto the rail to steady my shaking limbs.
The signs easily guide us to the trail as we pedal away from Arapuni village and its glorious swing bridge. Huge pine trees shadow our departure as our wheels crunch over a blanket of fallen pine needles. As the fresh scent of pine disappears the gravel trail snakes its way along side the flow of the liquorice strap of the mighty Waikato river.
We encounter a few steep climbs over the dusty trail and enjoy the speedy down hill races that follow. It isn’t long before we are under the spaghetti canopy of the damp native bush. Fantails follow us flitting through the tree branches while the children holler like ghosts. Pedalling through the tunnel of trees is rather magical.
The trail continues to weave up and over small mounds. I notice the effort that my sister and her partner make as they heave up the inclines with the weight of their children on the back of their bikes. The trees part to give way to a glorious view of the mighty Waikato River. We stop to enjoy the tranquil setting and to have a bite to eat. Our serenity does not last long as we are interrupted by nasty sandflies biting our legs. They quickly have us back on our bicycles hurrying on our way.
The rich greenery nestled into the river bank reflects in the still water like jewels in a crown. Next to the trail, moss-covered fences stand like soldiers in rows guiding the way to a boardwalk which winds its way over a protected wetland area.
As our wheels bump along the wooden boardwalk we try to spot frogs in the swampy marsh below, but to no avail. We eventually come to the Little Waipa Reserve and are greeted by a handful of hungry chickens who eagerly follow us around clucking for food. We end the cycle with the children splashing about in the cool waters of the river.
Our accommodation for the night is nestled comfortably in the tiny Arapuni village. It has beautiful views of the valley below and has easy access to the River trail. We are also within walking distance of the one and only popular Rhubarb cafe. It is a real gem of a place offering delicious fare.
The following day we make a side trip to the Maungatautari Ecological Island. We were fortunate to see the rare tiny Hihi bird hopping happily about the feeders. We are totally captivated by the sweet sound of constant bird song, the unfurling ponga and the enormous native trees proudly stretching towards the sky. The place is beautiful!
We all enjoyed the short visit to the Waikato and I look forward to returning again to explore more of this interesting river trail sometime…