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“The track is through to Motu at last,” Opotiki farmer Francis Foster wrote in a letter dated 1913.
Mr Foster must surely have been excited. He was referring to the Pakihi Track. Just over a century ago, there was no road between Gisborne and Opotiki. Many settlers hoped the Pakihi Track would soon become a stock route and perhaps even a coach road.
Around 1911-1914, many men were working by hand, widening the track. Halfway, a 12-foot-wide, wooden bridge was built across the Pakihi Stream.
But the settlers’ hopes were dashed. First, the Motu Road was connected through, taking a less direct but slightly easier crossing of the Easland ranges. Second, in 1918, a huge flood wiped out the wooden bridge, plus sections of the track.
For decades, the Pakihi Track drifted from importance, used only by hunters and trampers (hikers).
The track is reborn
Then in the late-1980s, keen mountain bikers discovered the track. The Pakihi became known as rugged and demanding adventure ride.
Through the 1990s and early-2000s, bikers and trampers worked on re-forming the track. But a series of storms left it in a poor state.
Then in 2009, the New Zealand Cycle Trail was born, and the Pakihi Track was selected as part of the Motu Trails.
From 2010, two work teams spent two years restored the track. Twenty-four wooden bridges, one suspension bridge and dozens of culverts were installed.
In 2012 the Motu Trails officially opened. Today, around 3000 people walk or run the trail, each year.
Discovering the Pakihi Track
You can read more about the trail here: http://www.motutrails.co.nz/explore-the-trails/
Two Opotiki companies offer shuttle transport and bike hire to ride the Pakihi Track. For these and other Motu Trails official partner businesses, visit here: http://www.motutrails.co.nz/service-providers/
A standard shuttle drop-off sees you start riding at just under 800m, high on the Motu Road. There's 9km of mostly downhill gravel road riding, then you're onto the 21km singletrack.
The trail twists and turns through the forest, maintaining a very even and mostly downhill gradient. The bottom half follows the pretty Pakihi stream.
If you know where to look, you can still spot the history. In several places the track slices through the bank — cuttings dug out by hand, far narrower than modern machine-work.
At the Pakihi stream suspension bridge, you can still see the abutments (ends) and rock fastening bolts from the 1914 bridge.
Questions? Ask a passionate cyclist and trail runner who knows the trails by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org