Have I entered a black gap? Other than the little gentle on my bike, I am surrounded by darkness; the sort of heavy darkness that you simply solely get when you’re deep underground.
We’re on the Spooners Tunnel, a part of Nelson Tasman’s Nice Style Path which is an in depth cycle loop taking in Nelson, Motueka, Wakefield, Richmond and Kaiteriteri. Because the identify suggests, there are many meals and wine stops on the way in which.
The 159-kilometre trip takes three to 5 days to comfortably full, though most choose to take a day journey on a small part.
For those who’re a vacationer on the town, the simplest technique to trip the path is with native bike rental Kiwi Journeys. We selected the Tunnel to City by way of Mapua journey, which is a 50km trip that’s principally flat. We opted for e-bikes, which was a saviour.
Our journey begins with a 45-minute shuttle van out to Spooners Tunnel, the place we pedal by a fascinating little forest earlier than approaching the tunnel entrance.
The tunnel was constructed within the late 1800s as a part of an bold plan to create a rail connection between Nelson and the West Coast.
Teams of 15 males at every finish labored with picks and shovels for greater than a 12 months to dig the tunnel. Miraculously, when the boys met within the center, they have been solely 8 millimetres out of alignment. One other group of 20 males and two boys made 1000 concrete blocks a day for the roof of the tunnel.
The railway to the West Coast was by no means full and in 1955, regardless of fierce protests, the road was formally closed. For years the tunnel was opened as soon as a month for locals to expertise, nevertheless it’s now open 24/7 and change into the stand-out attraction of the Nice Style Path.
As we enter the tunnel, you rapidly realise there is no such thing as a gentle supply inside. When you’re about 500 metres in, it is full darkness. You possibly can’t see any gentle from both finish, and the air feels heavy; it would be unimaginable to navigate with out a gentle. To offer you an thought of the size, it is like driving the equal of 4 occasions the peak of Auckland’s Sky Tower in pitch black.
A glint of sunshine lastly seems, which slowly will get extra important. The path finally pops out in thick native bush, as we begin the lengthy – however flat – journey in direction of the coast.
The brand new a part of the path, linking the tunnel to Nelson, is exceptionally effectively constructed, with all kinds of surroundings to get pleasure from. We move quaint small cities with bustling cafes, cross swing bridges, trip alongside the borders of an unlimited free-range poultry farm, and we take brief diversions to quite a few wineries.
As soon as we attain the coast, we weave alongside a number of boardwalks, earlier than crossing farmland over to Rabbit Island.
The character reserve has an actual vacation ambiance; everyone seems to be right here to chill out or swim on the sandy seashores. We make our manner across the island, following the Nice Style Path indicators – which make the journey simple to navigate – earlier than reaching a ferry crossing. It’s a five-minute boat trip off Rabbit Island over to the bustling seaside city of Mapua the place our journey ends, and we return the bikes.
The Spooner Tunnel is a part of what’s been known as the “railway to nowhere” as a result of the observe by no means made it to the West Coast. However that identify would not apply anymore, as a result of it has a brand new life; the tunnel is bound to change into one of the widespread cycle points of interest within the nation.
For routes and important data on the Nice Style Path see: heartofbiking.org.nz
Kiwi Journeys run the Tunnel to City journey, together with transport to the beginning of the observe and bike rent. Be sure that to take possibility A, which extends the journey out to Rabbit Island and Mapua. It is $165 per particular person and permit as much as 9 hours. It’s extremely beneficial to improve to an E-bike for $54, which makes the 50km journey a breeze.
Getting there: Air New Zealand has flights to Nelson from Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland with connections throughout the home community. See: airnz.co.nz
Carbon footprint: Flying generates carbon emissions. A return journey for one passenger flying from Auckland to Nelson would generate 134kg of CO2. To offset your carbon emissions head to airnewzealand.co.nz/sustainability-customer-carbon-offset
The writer travelled with the assist of NelsonTasman.nz