Category Archives: Outdoor adventures

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.

Auckland ( and close to Auckland ) Adventures

Rangitoto Island.

Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand
Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A great ferry ride across our stunning harbour and then a hike up a volcano (dormant, don’t worry ) with stunning 3600 views from the top. Ferry leaves from central Auckland.

Close to Auckland

Te Henga walkway

Goat Island Marine Reserve, Walk and Discovery Centre ( 1 and ½ hours North if Auckland on a good traffic day )

Tawharanui Regional Park
Tawharanui Regional Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

TTawharanui Open Sanctuary ( 1 and ½ hours North if Auckland on a good traffic day ) The open sanctuary includes mature and regenerating native bush, wonderful beaches, spectacular coastal cliffs, wetlands, heritage sites, a marine reserve and extensive areas of rich pasture.

Tiri tiri matangi scientific reserve – visit this open sanctuary, and see some of New Zealand’s most endangered birds in the wild including takahē, kōkako, saddleback/tīeke and hihi/stitchbird.

Further afield

Karangahake Gorge (approx. 1 and ½ south of Auckland )

Walks through historic gold mine area

Cycle all or part of the Hauraki Rail Trail.

Wairere Falls walk  (approx 2 hours from Auckland )

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Walk to the base of a waterfall and then right to the top for some spectacular views.

Coromandel (approx. 2 1/2 hours from Auckland )

Driving Creek Railway
Driving Creek Railway

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stunning beaches, walksWaterworks & Driving Creek Railway

Rotorua ( approx 3 hours drive from Auckland )

Te PuiaLuge and GondolaRainbow SpringsRedwood forest, Tarawera Trail

Takaka adventure

I imagined that the start of our 3 week South Island camping trip was going to be a relatively relaxing 5 night stay at Kaiteriteri lying on the gorgeous beach before the summer hoards arrived – how wrong could I be?

After a day of regrouping and another day in Abel Tasman National Park we headed over the Takaka Hills to explore further afield, and what a lot of exploring there was to do. This region has a lot of caves, rock sculptures and holes which occur as the area has a lot of marble and the soft rock between the marble is eroded easily.

Takaka itself is an adorably quaint little village that I expect had lots of interesting shops but we didn’t have time for that. After a quick stop for coffee we were off to the Grove Scenic Reserve.

This walk wasn’t like anything I has seen before in New Zealand and could have been off the set of an Indiana Jones movie with vines hanging down through rock crevices. The atmosphere was further enhanced by misty rain. It was an easy 30 —40 minute walk, luckily as from here we were off to a 2 hour hike up a goat track.

On to Rawhiti Caves,  the most un-signed posted Department of Conservation walk* we have ever seen, that involved driving up a farmers drive-way. In fact there were cows in the carpark.

The walk started along beside a dry river bed for about half an hour and then quickly turned to a steep uphill climb for the next half hour. I am not too good with heights and parts of the trail did feel like they had quite a steep drop off to the side. Not sure about doing this trail in the wet. But what awaited at the top was worth the effort as we rounded a corner to the entrance of a massive cave. The cave can only be described as spectacular and as with many things I don’t think photos do it justice. Suffice to say it was one of the highlights of the South Island trip for me.

You can’t venture very far into the cave but there is a great platform for viewing. While we were on the platform we saw some people who just couldn’t help themselves and had gone further into the cave. I was talking to my children about how it’s not good to break the rules when the guy also with us on the viewing platform said he could put them under citizen’s arrest. Umm…what…he was a member of the NZSS…umm…what…the New Zealand Speleology Society. Boy did he have some stories to tell.

So I can’t guarantee you will get your own tales from a Speleologist but I am pretty sure you will find the hike up the hill well worth the effort.

*The Department of Conservation ( DoC ) rate this walk easy. Having done quite a few DoC walks I am not sure this walk had an overall rating of easy. The last 30 minutes are like a goat track, very steep and narrow, clambering over rocks at some points. We walked the track with a 7 and 11 year old but they had recently walked the Tongariro Crossing.

More on our South Island adventures.

Top tips

Don’t expect to find any sign posts to the Rawhiti Caves walk until you are nearly there.

The river at the start of the walk can’t be crossed after heavy rain.

Allow time in the caves as they are quite mesmerising.

 

 

South Island itinerary

Planning a trip can be exciting and daunting. When we planned our South Island trip we first had to decide what we wanted to do in each place and then how long to stay…or did we plan the other way round? Either way we loved our South Island trip and felt like we made the most of every minute.

Day 1 – 5. Starting in Kaiteriteri- 5 nights

  1. First day was recoup and recover time after 2 days driving from Auckland so you may not need this day ( depending on where you drove from ) but it was nice to spend some time relaxing on the stunning beach in Kaiteriteri.
  2. We spent one day walking in Abel Tasman National Park. We wanted to kayak but the kids were too young for the kayak rental company so we caught the water taxi to Anchorage and explored the tracks and beaches in the area including Cleopatra’s Pool.
  3. We also were delighted to find an awesome mountain bike park that we could easily ride to from the campground where we were staying. Plenty of tracks for adults and kids to ride together. Walked around beach and cliff track.
  4. Drove over to Takaka the next day to walk the Grove Scenic Reserve and up to Rawhiti Caves.  In the afternoon more mountain bike riding (we found a lovely local childminder so we could ride without the kids this time ) The “Jaws” track is amazing, hard up but awesome down.

In between our adventures we made the most of the long evenings and sat on the beach relaxing.

Day 5 – 7. Westport ( 2 nights, 1 full day )

  1. We arrived in Westport about 5pm after a day of chores in Motueka and a stunning drive through the Buller Gorge. Quickly set up the camper and headed out to Cape Foulwind to see the seal colony. It didn’t disappoint – it was a foul wind and there were lots of seals.
  2. The next day we spent doing some of the most amazing walks I think I did in the South Island but then I do say that about a lot of the walks. Headed north of Westport to Mokihinui to soak up some West Coast beach vibes and check out a 100 year old shipwreck. Then on to the Chasm Creek and Charming Creek Walkways. Both stunning and the scenery is so rugged. Then up to the Denniston Plateau for a peek into what a coal mining town would have been like….tough people, hard work.

Day 7. Westport to Franz Josef

  1. Stopped in at Punakaiki and Shantytown on the way to Franz Josef. Try to visit Punakaiki at high tide to see the full effect of the waves and blowholes but its still spectacular anytime.

Day 7 -9. Franz Josef ( 2 nights, 1 full day )

  1. Rode our mountain bikes from the campground in Franz Josef to the start of the Franz Josef Glacier walk. The walk up the glacier valley to the snout is amazing and gives a great sense of nature’s power. Considered doing another tourist activity but they are pretty expensive here so we relaxed for the afternoon.

Day 9. Franz Josef to Queenstown.

  1. One of our longest drives. Crossed the Southern Alps at Haast pass then stopped at Puzzling World in Wanaka which was lots of fun.

Day 9 – 13. Queenstown (4 nights)

  1. Spent the morning doing chores and got out for an adult mountain bike ride at Wilsons Bay. Wasn’t the best riding but I think we had high expectations after Kaiteriteri.
  2. Did a 24km bike ride with the kids alongside the Kawerau river and down to the Bungy bridge. Crossing the Shotover and Arrow river bridges along the way was very spectacular. Arranged a shuttle bus pick up to get us back to Queenstown.
  3. Boat trip across the lake to Mt Nichol sheep station. The farm tour was great for the kids to see all the farm animals but the promised barbeque lunch was a bit average.

Day 13. Queenstown to Glen Tanner, Mount Cook

13.Nice drive north through the mountains crossing Lindis pass and stopped at Omarama for lunch on a riverbank. We arrived at Glen Tanner about 4pm. Its about a 20min drive up to Mt Cook Village and we walked the Hooker Valley Track that evening, lucky it stays light late down here.

Day 14. Glen Tanner to Geraldine

14. Another long drive but the scenery is amazing all the time so the time passes easily. Stopped at Tekapo for lunch, went up Mt John for an even bigger view of the stunning high country scenery.

Day 16. Geraldine to Hanmer Springs ( 4 nights )

  1. Decided to take the inland Highway 77 through to Rangiora rather than traverse the endless Canterbury plains. Culverden for an icecream (the biggest we have had) then arrived Hanmer about 4pm and explored the Hanmer Springs area. Went for a swim in the river to cool down.
  2. Mountain biked with the kids in the morning and then hot springs/pools in the afternoon. Bought a 2 day family pass.
  3. Walked up Dog Stream forest track to a cool waterfall, then back to the hot springs/pools again.
  4. Found a childminder in the campground for the kids and got out for an adult mountain bike ride. Relaxed for the afternoon

Day 19. Hanmer Springs to Kaikoura ( Unfortunately this area has been hit by an earthquake so you would need to check roads before you travel )

19. Took the inland highway to Kaikoura. Whale watching in the afternoon. The whales were amazing and the massive pod of dolphins was an added bonus.

Head for home ; (

Top tips

We camped in our camper trailer and I didn’t estimate how long it would take to move on each day and prepare food as nothing happens quickly when you are camping. I loved the experience of camping but some days I did wish we could just unplug and move on like the camper vans did. So if you aren’t camping like us you may find you can move faster.

You really don’t need to spend a lot of money on activities in the South Island. What we didn’t budget for was flat tyres, one on our car and two on the camper!

We mountain biked a lot and went for many walks to enjoy the natural surroundings. If that’s not your thing then you will of course have more time than us.

We were very lucky with the weather but it can be wet. If you are camping it might pay to slap some waterproofing on your tent like we did with the camper trailer.