Mountain bikes are forbidden from the Abel Tasman National Park – all except for one section, the Rameka Track from Tākaka Hill down into the Rameka Gorge.
This is an old pack route from northwest Nelson’s prospecting days and is still a registered road.
You’d be well-advised to involve two cars in your expedition – or one car with a dedicated driver. If you choose to use two vehicles, leave one in Tākaka, and take your bikes on the other along State Highway 60 back toward Motueka. You reach the track by taking the turnoff onto Canaan Road at the top of Tākaka Hill – known locally as Marble Mountain, due to the dramatic outcroppings of limestone and marble that occur here – and drive for 11km to the beginning of the track, the Harwood’s Hole car park. (Harwood’s Hole is a limestone sinkhole – the deepest ‘straight drop’ in the country – and well worth the side trip to have a peer in). From the car park, there’s a four-wheel-drive track that you ride to reach the beginning of the track itself.
The first section of the track is a gnarly, snaking trail through beech forest, with plenty of branches, tree roots, fallen logs, boulders and potholes to keep you concentrating. You’ll have to dismount from time to time to cross the stream, but most of it can be negotiated from the saddle.
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Presently, you emerge onto the tops, and you get a panoramic view of Golden Bay, and the misty peaks of Kahurangi National Park to the west. You’ll also get a pretty good sight of the track ahead as it plunges down into the Gorge.
Then there’s nothing for it but to stand up on your pedals, brace yourself and let your shocks do the work as you rattle down the track. It’s narrow in places, and there’s the odd sharp bend thrown in to keep things exciting. In no time flat, as it seems, you’re down. Eventually, you’ll emerge onto State Highway 60; it’s a shortish ride from this point to Tākaka itself, where you can enjoy a cold drink, a couple of hours after setting out.
If you had the foresight to stash a car or a driver here, you can painlessly mount the bikes on the rack and call it a day. If you’re riding back, you’ve got the gut-busting haul up Tākaka Hill ahead of you – around a three-hour ride.
The marble landscape up there is referred to as karst and after the ride be sure you don't end up in one...