Category Archives: Outdoor adventures

Hooker Valley Track

When you are road tripping there are some parts of the journey that are just an overnight stop on the way to your destination and I think that is what I thought our overnighter at Glen Tanner was. I couldn’t have been more wrong and the walk we did was one of the highlights of our 3 weeks in the South Island.

There aren’t many places to stay at Mount Cook; a Department of Conservation campground with stunning views of Mount Cook but we were there at peak time and it was packed.

View of Mt Cook from our campsite at Glen Tanner
View of Mt Cook from our campsite at Glen Tanner

We had already booked in at the only other campground, Glen Tanner and arrived at about 4 in the afternoon and found a spot with an impressive view of Mt Cook.

Already I was impressed as I love a campsite with a view.

After a quick set up and a lot of time admiring the view we set off on the Hooker Valley Track about 5pm. One of the things I loved about the South Island was how light it is in the evenings so we could make the most of every minute of the day.

And what an amazing walk up the valley with stunning views of Mt Cook and the surrounding mountain ranges. Awesome suspension bridges spanning an impressive river. It’s a very walkable track and I expect it could be quite busy during the day but walking it at 5pm meant we didn’t end up with too many other people in our photos.

It took about one hour to get to Lake Hooker. It’s not the most picturesque lake as the dirt washing off the glacier at the other end of the Lake makes it very sludgy looking. The glacier at the other end of the Lake doesn’t look that glacial either as it’s covered in grey sludge but the views of Mount Cook are stunning and the little icebergs floating in the lake add to the atmosphere.

We popped our beers and cider into the lake to cool down and then sat for about half an hour soaking in the views.

As we returned to the carpark there were still people starting the track, making the most of doing a very popular South Island walk when it wasn’t too crowded.

More on our South Island adventures.

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park where have you been all my life! My husband’s parents retired to Paihia about 15 years ago so it’s fair to say we have spent a few holidays in Pahia but sadly not had any where to ride. Apart from that time we bought our bikes and rode the forestry tracks which just isn’t that exciting. So it was with great excitement that we heard that Waitangi was getting its very own mountain bike park.

We were heading further North for part of our Northland adventure and sadly didn’t get a chance to ride our bikes anywhere in the Far North, so when we arrived in Waitangi I would have gone straight to the bike park. Lucky my husband is the voice of reason and pointed out it was a little hot so we decided to go first thing next morning…the day after New Year’s and we stayed in a campground. Lucky we love mountain biking tired or not ( notice I don’t mention hungover – we are too old for that )

So after a stop for coffee on the way and another read of the trail maps we were in to it. The trails we rode in on started off a little bumpy and stony, and unfortunately my daughter took a tumble. Lucky she is tough like her mother and got back on her bike or it could have been a very short ride indeed. We headed up Taane’s climb which was a relatively easy climb. Was a great view from the top and then a lovely flowing ride down Kiwi Flow.

As the park is quite new there are limited rides at this stage so it was up Taane’s climb again, only this time we didn’t go all the way to the top and rode down Kaokao Chaos.
All in all a great addition to the Bay of Islands. We thoroughly enjoyed our ride and can’t wait for future development of the park.

Top tips

It’s very dusty when the clay is dry so glasses would be handy.

It’s further out of town than we realised so we are pleased we didn’t ride out like we had thought we might.

At the moment the only way to pay is for a yearly pass which at $25 we figure is a good investment into further trail development and a reason to visit the in-laws.

And a shout out to the sponsors:

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, Northland, New Zealand
Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, Northland, New Zealand

Twin Coast Trail, Opua to Kawakawa

We had ridden the Opua to ‘the bridge’ section of the Twin Coast Trails once before but we had heard the bridge was open for the summer so we were excited to be able ride over the bridge and make it to Kawakawa for a coffee.

It was predicted to be a 29 degree day so we set out early, OK early-ish we are on holiday after all. Opua harbour was looking stunning as we drove to the start of the ride. The carpark for the bike ride already had a few cars in which was good to see.

The tide was in and we were pretty much instantly treated to lovely views of the Kawakawa River. The ride is on gravel that has been put down over old train tracks and is relatively flat and an easy ride. When we are riding other trails with the children we stop to give them a rest every so often but the only reason we were stopping was to enjoy the stunning views.

Usually from the Opua end you can only get to the bridge before Kawakawa ( just short of a coffee stop ) but over the Summer period ( of 2017 ) the council has got the bridge to a safe standard for people and their bikes. Thanks Far North District Council!

Not only does this ride have a bridge, its got a tunnel as well. Just short enough that you can easily see all the way through.

Usually I don’t enjoy riding over bridges ( think Timber Trail suspension bridges and the Old Coach Rd viaduct ) but I really enjoyed riding over this one. Maybe it was the thrill of knowing that its only open for a short period of time.

From there it was a short ride to Kawakawa for a coffee and a refuel for the kids and as an added bonus we go to see the steam train going through town and coming back again. If you haven’t checked out the Hundertwasser Toilets they are well worth a visit as well.

The return ride was just as enjoyable and an easy 11km return ( we rode 22km in total ) without so many stops for photos.

Top tips

This is a great ride to do with kids or are enjoying holiday mode a little too much.

As we were leaving there were people about to do the rides with e-bikes.

Check if the bridge is open. We found out the bridge was open on the Bay of Island VIntage Railway website and at that stage it was open until the 8th of February 2017.

Mountain biking with kids – mud, sweat and tears

We were mountain biking with a group of adults who hadn’t ridden with our children for ages and one of them had never even meet our children. The adults and I were catching up to my husband and the kids who had gone on ahead. We started riding up a solid 20 minute uphill trail ( Sidewinder for those of you that know the Redwoods ).

We have ridden it with our kids once before and there was a bit of bike pushing but it’s all part of the experience. The guy who didn’t know our kids was saying ‘your kids can’t be on this trail’ and at one point he actually stopped and said I should call my husband to find out where they were because there was no way they were on this trail.  Not sure if he was questioning my navigation skills (which are questionable ) or my children’s fitness levels. So we got to the top of the hill and there were my little mountain bikers with big contented smiles on their faces. ‘I rode all the way’ says my 8 year old – and then I had a big contented smile on my face.

Ok, so I am pretty proud of my kids. They love mountain biking and we love mountain biking with them but it wasn’t always like this. I can still remember the first time we went riding with the kids, they were 5 and 8 years old. I almost didn’t change into my bike riding gear because I thought it was going to be a short ride. Of course we started off on the easy trails and there was a lot of bike pushing and moaning…and not just from the kids. After about 6 km we headed back to the café for a refuel and probably thought that was it but after some cake they were keen to go out again so we ended up riding 16km the first time.

We started going to Rotorua on a more regular basis and took the kids riding about once a month with varying degrees of success and lots of perseverance. We spent a lot of time getting their confidence and fitness up on the kid’s trails. And then gradually the moaning decreased, the enthusiasm increased and we ventured onto harder trails.

And they aren’t just fair weather riders either – one time it was pouring with rain when we set out and didn’t stop the whole time we were out. Not only was it wet, it was cold. When we got back to the carpark after 2 hours ride we were covered in mud, soaked to the bone and freezing cold with the biggest smiles on our faces, kids included. Nothing more bonding and character building than a shared adventure.

So it might not happen overnight and there will probably be a few tears but it’s worth it to share your love of mountain biking or tramping or whatever form your adventuring takes because as the good memories grow the challenges of getting there fades. In fact the challenge of getting there are part of the good memories.

So when our friends thought there was no way my kids would be on the steep uphill trail I knew they would be because we had put in the mud, sweat and tears to get them there.

Top tips

Unless you are Mother Teresa,  this is going to test the limits of your patience but it will be worth it!

Try and get out on a regular basis. Just like us, the more your kids do something the easier it becomes.

Don’t think that your children need to be great riders before they hit the trails. The kids/family trails in Rotorua ( and hopefully its the same at your mountain bike park ) are a great place for kids to get their confidence up.

We have found that mountain biking with kids is more dangerous than riding with adults. Seems to be something to do with their unpredictability, sudden stops and my daughters ability to ride at ridiculously slow speed. So have your wits about you!

Take lollies, chocolate or whatever it takes to keep your child going and be prepared to stop often.

Invest in the best gear you can afford for your kids to enjoy the activity, e.g cycle shorts for cycling. We wouldn’t want to ride without cycle shorts so why would our kids.  My husband gets lots of great deals on trademe. Buy unisex colours and styles. You could also suggest to friend’s and relatives that they buy related gear for your kids birthdays or Christmas presents.

Check out my blog on training for Tongariro Crossing with kids.

Kerosene Creek at Rainbow Mountain Reserve

I love the feeling of discovering something new, well new to us anyhow. We have spent a far bit of time in Rotoura ( mostly mountain biking ) so decided to head to Taupo for a long weekend of mountain biking. Where the discovery happened, was as we drove from Taupo to Rotorua ( yes we just can’t stay away ) We had read about Rainbow Scenic Reserve and thought we would do a walk round the Reserve.

Imagine how delighted we were to find that the walking tracks were shared paths. A quick 3 km through the bush and we could be at Kerosene Creek, which I had seen photos of and was keen to explore. So we did a quick change in the carpark and jumped on our bikes – excited to be discovering a new ride. The ride was listed as a grade 2 but we thought it was more of a grade 3 as it had quite a few uphills, switchbacks and the volcanic scoria made it quite skiddy.

The native bush was gorgeous although the trail mustn’t have been used much in places as the tracks were a little overgrown, sometimes with blackberries so it was a little scratchy. Add to that some rain and we were in for a true adventure.

So the 3km seemed further than we thought – that could have been on account of the rain but Kerosene Creek was well worth it.

I should mention at this point that you can drive down a gravel road to Kerosene Creek. I should also explain that although the name doesn’t sound that inviting Kerosene Creek is actually a thermal stream with a waterfall into a dammed pond that people come from near and far to soak in.

The path to the pond meanders down the stream a little and while this may look inviting keep walking as the dammed area is a few minutes walk further down the stream.

It’s a slight clamber down the bank to get into the pond but well worth it. This is a very popular spot and at times there were about 30 people in the pond, however at one point we were lucky enough to have the area to ourselves which was truly magical.

Sitting in thermal water while the stream cascades over the waterfall has to be one of the best experiences of my life. Whether you drive directly to the carpark or walk or ride through the Rainbow Mountain Reserve it’s well worth a visit.