A lost tourist sleeping in a large rural mailbox and several new businesses are early outcomes of the new Rimutaka Cycle Trail.
The 115-kilometre trail, linking Petone and the southern Wairarapa coast via the Hutt River and Rimutaka Rail trails, has only been open since last October but has already resulted in opportunities for entrepreneurs and quirky encounters for residents along the route.
Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock said the trail was proving popular with tourists and had led to new businesses.
Councillor Brian Jephson, who lives south of Martinborough on the other side of Lake Wairarapa from the trail, said several locals had spoken to him of encounters with tourists "loving" the new route. But he wondered whether better sign-posting was needed, describing how one tourist got lost and, instead of following Western Lake Rd south and then turning west around the bottom of the Rimutaka Range, turned east towards Ngawi.
Deciding he had had enough and with the trail's end at Orongorongo River nowhere in sight, he saw what looked like a bus shelter beside the road, and sat down to wait for transport back to Wellington.
Soon after, a resident was surprised to open the door to her walk-in mail box and find a large, lycra-clad man asleep inside.
There was no public transport on the road where the man stopped, Mr Jephson said. "So they gave him a feed and took him into Featherston for the train back to Wellington."
Mr Hancock said the incident was a one-off and he was not aware of anyone else getting lost, adding that the man may have been trying to follow another cycle route which goes around the bottom of Lake Wairarapa to Martinborough.
Frequent signs along Western Lake Rd made the Rimutaka Cycle Trail route very clear, he said.
New businesses taking advantage of the attraction included a shuttle company specialising in cyclist pick-ups and drop-offs, a new bird-watching tour and at least one new accommodation venture, at Waiorongomai Station south of Featherston.
He said counters would be installed eventually to provide hard data on usage of the new route but in the meantime, anecdotal evidence from camp grounds, cafes and residents pointed to "huge numbers" of cyclists.
- The Dominion Post
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