Otipi Road Trail

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At a glance  WEKA Jim 175121

  • Grade: Otipi Road is not the Motu Trails but if you want a challenging additional ride it's a superb adventure
  • From Toatoa it is 11km (22km return) on Takaputahi rd to Whitikau Forks then another 19km (38km return) on Otipi road to the Motu river
  • Time to ride: 4-8 hours return from Whitikau Forks
  • Start: Toatoa or Whitikau Forks, a 4WD vehicle is recommended if driving Motu Road
  • No mobile phone coverage
  • Otipi road peaks at 900m and is extremely isolated so experience and good preparation are critical.

 

Screen Shot 2018 07 30 at 2.36.09 PM

Otipi Road, in the Raukumura Forest Park, was built for hydroelectric dam explorations dating back to the 1950s-1960s. Today, the road is little-used aside from hunters, fishers, 4WD'ers and cyclists.

You must be prepared and take care on this ride as, at the far end, you're a very long way from the nearest house and over 60km from Opotiki.

The forest is sensational. The photos here are from a ride in January 2019, when we saw or heard: kaka, long tailed cuckoos, warblers, kereru, fantails etc.

Toatoa Farmstay makes an ideal base. If you’re camping, DOC’s Whitikau Forks campsite is right at the Otipi road start, at the confluence of the Whitikau stream and Takaputahi river.

To get to Otipi road, take the Motu Road and turn off at Toatoa onto Takaputahi road. From Toatoa, the 11km to Whitikau Forks is flat, narrow gravel road.

Ride description

At Whitikau Forks you walk across the river (impassable in high water) to Otipi Road and the climbing starts immediately. 

Otipi Road is 4WD track the whole time. It gets broken in places but mostly is well formed. The climbing is steep, at times you may well be walking.

The main climb from Whitikau Forks to Otipi peak is about 4km long. There are then big ups-and-downs before a drop of about 600 vertical metres to the Motu river. The only way out is the way you came in.

Total elevation from Whitikau Forks to the Motu River and return (38km) is 2600 metres.

At the far end of Otipi Road (Motu River), there are grassy flats to camp on, but no services other than a long-drop toilet.

At January 2019, a 4WD vehicle with good clearance could get to about 2km from the Motu River. Quad bikes could get to the river but not cars.

An Otipi ride starts by fording the river

An Otipi ride starts by fording the river

Spectacular forest

Spectacular forest

Especially on the outward ride, the climbs get steep

Especially on the outward ride, the climbs get steep

Expect slips and windfalls

Expect slips and windfalls

The climbs are long and steep

Plenty of rimu trees

Along the tops the road is well formed

Along the tops the road is well formed

Made it to the Motu

Made it to the Motu

Motu river, end of the road

Motu river, end of the road

The climb back up from the Motu river

The climb back up from the Motu river

The return climbs are not quite as steep

The return climbs are not quite as steep

Some places do need walking

Some places do need walking

Adventure at its best

Adventure at its best

History

In the 1950s-1960s, hopes were to construct up to four dams on the Motu River. Otipi road was cut in to access one of the dam sites.

The road was restored in the late-1970s for a second round of explorations, and restored again around 2012. It’s had no recent repair work.

 

Further reading

Gisborne Herald, The dams that never were

DOC campsites magazine article

 

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