The Bridge to Nowhere ride is about many things, historical interest, beautiful bush, Whanganui jetboating, Whanganui canoe trip and the biking. And that’s what makes it so cool, all of these different aspects together in one experience.
The biking track follows an old road. It originally gave access to remote rehabilitation settlements in the Mangapurua valley, land that was offered to soldiers returning from World War 1. These hardy pioneers (often plagued with old war injuries) cleared the land of the native bush in order to farm the area.
For over 20 years they worked tirelessly to make ends meet in the valley. The road was widened from pony track to take vehicles and a bridge was built, with the idea that it would one day be connected to a road network. However, this never happened and lack of access to this remote valley was ultimately the small community’s downfall. Erosion, slips and road damage were constant and the government eventually refused to repair the road. Forcing the last of the settlers to leave and giving way to the legacy of the “Bridge to Nowhere’.
So this adventure includes: Riding through a remote valley that saw the last of NZ’s pioneering farming efforts……. Finish with in seeing the Bridge to Nowhere in middle of the bush….. Have a Jetboat ride with your bikes……. Have you staying in an isolated riverside lodge and then the next day canoeing down the infamous Whanganui River!!!
So yep, there is a lot going on! And it is an action packed 2 days, that is worth the money (the jetboat shuttles, lodge and canoe aren’t cheap!) Although because we’re mad bikers we felt it necessary to add to the challenge by making the 2 day trip a 106Km loop without road shuttles!
Starting at Raetihi campsite we rode the 40Km of a mix of tar seal/gravel road to the Mangapurua Track. This is well worth it, especially if you’re a fit biker. This section has a cool downhill with pretty views, then a gentle ride along the valley – a great warm up to the start of the track.
The 38Km of track is mostly 4×4 track and is not particularly technical, apart from some sections of single track. There are also some very exposed sections to be wary off. The climbing gradient is good, it’s about an hour to the track high point. Then there is a fun downhill to the valley bottom. Along the track and throughout the valley you can see where the settler’s homes were, signs give you the names of the pioneers and lines of non-native trees and cleared areas give away where they farmed.
The many bluffs encountered along the track are a highlight. Battleship Bluff being the most famous.
Almost at the end of the track, the bridge appears out of literally nowhere! And it is truly odd in this environment.
When you get to the lodge it’s worth a quick flick through their copy of ‘The Bridge to Nowhere, The ill-fated Mangapurua valley settlement’ to get an idea of the money and effort that was spent building it!!
From here the track continues to descend down to the famous Whanganui River, where the Jetboat shuttle awaits. We took the Jetboat down to the Bridge to Nowhere lodge where we had booked accommodation and dinner. A comfortable queen bed private room with shared bathroom.
After a warm shower, we enjoyed a few cold beers admiring the beautiful view of the Whanganui river from the lodge balcony. We chatted to other MTBers and eagerly awaited dinner. The feed that we had at the lodge was AMAZING! Full roast dinner with delicious desert options and plenty for second helpings too.
The next day there are a couple of options. You can relax in the lodge, maybe take a short walk, then jetboat out. Or rent a canoe and paddle out to Pipiriki, which is about 4-5hrs away. Wanting to complete the loop with as much of our own efforts as possible, we chose to canoe. The weather was beautiful and we had a full day of sunshine and glassy flat Whanganui river. (Apart from ~3 sets of grade 2 rapids…. nothing to worry about if you’ve no experience in a canoe, and a little excitement if you have….there are a couple of places to try and eddie out in the rapids!)
Arriving at Pipiriki, we were reunited with our bikes (they were jet boated down river earlier!). Many people choose to take a shuttle from here back to Raetihi, but we didn’t!! We wanted to bike the 28Km back, and to be honest it was a decent bloody climb back out (17.5Km of uphill!), but really pretty and very rewarding having completed the whole loop.
BRIDGE TO NOWHERE OVERVIEW
A challenging 2 day loop of riding and canoeing. Steeped in history, great bush and beautiful river surroundings. The adventure has many great different aspects. We recommend doing the loop as we did, with no bike shuttle and the canoe in middle. For a fit biker this makes the adventure worthwhile.
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