Tag Archives: NZ cycle trails

Exploring Taupo – by bike of course

We love mountain biking in Rotorua so much that even as we were driving to Taupo for the weekend I wondered why we weren’t going to Rotorua. Spoiler alert, after a weekend riding there I love Taupo nearly as much as Rotorua so read on to find out what rides we enjoyed.

While Taupo doesn’t have a mountain bike park on the scale of Redwoods in Rotorua, it has a great variety of rides in the area and a good size mountain bike park at Craters of the Moon.

On our first day we decided to ride part of the W2K trail which is part of the Great Lake Trail, about 20 minutes drive out of Taupo. I couldn’t ever get my head around the names of these rides K2K and W2K but it turns out to be the initials of the towns where the rides start and finish; Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch and Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch. To do the full Great lake trail circuit requires shuttles and water taxis which sounds like fun but we just decided to do the Headland loop on the Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch (W2K) section.

Now we all know it can be cold in Taupo but we just happen to have chosen one of the chilliest weekends of the year to visit. When we woke up it was -4° but with a beautiful clear sky.

After waiting for the temperature to rise above 0 we headed out to Kinloch. Its funny how I have an idea of what a town is going to be like and I couldn’t have been more wrong with Kinloch. I imagined some rustic trout fishermans huts and found a large village of very flash holiday homes complete with a marina.

After putting on more layers of clothing due to a cold wind coming off lake taupo we headed off past the marina and along the lake front to the start of the trail. The trail is a steady climb up hill for about half an hour and you are rewarded at the top of the hill by stunning views out over the lake towards Kinloch. Then the views just get more stunning as you ride further around the headland with the most amazing view across the lake of Mts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro and a full sense of the size of Lake Taupo is awesome. Fun fact, lake taupo is actually the crater (caldera) of a blown apart volcano which was formed thousands of years ago and was one of the most explosive volcanoes in all of history.

After riding up the hill to the headland, we cooled off pretty quickly as we were hit with the full force of the wind coming off Mt Ruapehu and over the lake. At this point, I wondered if we had enough warm clothes with us as the temperature dropped to 5 ° and windchill was probably 0 °.

Thankfully, further around the headland we found a sunny sheltered spot out of the wind to have our lunch before we completed the loop and headed back down the hill. All in all it was an enjoyable 22km Loop with no difficult bits. It was slower to ride than we thought but as always we stopped to enjoy every view and the trail is quite slow to ride as it winds around the headland. Even though it had rained a lot recently the trail was in great condition.

That afternoon we thawed out in the Debretts hot pools which was lovely and relaxing. The kids enjoyed the slides and we enjoyed the heat.

The next day dawned as chilly as the first with the most amazing frost I have ever seen so again we waited for the temperature to raise above zero before venturing out.

We had decided to ride from Spa Park Rd to Huka Falls on the Huka Falls Rotary ride, well one adult and 2 kids were going to ride and 1 adult was going to drive the car to meet up at Huka Falls. We discovered an unexpected bonus at the Spa Park Rd carpark where there was a pump track my son could have played on all day. So after a slower than expected start to the trail the ice in the puddles still hasn’t defrosted. This was a great little 5.5km trail – the kids and I really enjoyed riding it. Again, even though it had rained a lot recently the trail was in good condition.

We met my husband at Huka Falls and all watched in awe again at the huge volume of water pouring over. Check out the walking/cycle trail on the same side as the main carpark which has a Falls viewing area that is way less crowded than all of the closer viewing spots and gives great views of the Falls.

Next we all rode to the Aratiatia Dam. It is a relatively easy 7km ride from the Falls to the Dam with more great views of the river and we got to get up close and personal with a very cool bridge on the relatively new Taupo bypass.  This section of the trail had a few puddles and even though it was a beautiful sunny day there was still ice in the puddles as we rode back. Plan to get to the dam just before the flood gates open at 10am, 12pm, 2pm (and 4pm October to March). The water flooding through the gates is an amazing sight and there are several platforms to view the gorge and rapids from.

On the way back to Huka Falls we decided to cross the Waikato river on the Taupo bypass bridge and ride back up the other side of the river. The trail is a bit more technical on this side and in places it has been rebuilt on a massive slip, has some quite steep bits and is quite narrow with drop offs. This part of the trail was also quite muddy. There is an alternative route that I would recommend you take if you aren’t that confident at riding. Again we got some great views of the river including seeing jet boats whizz by. We also came across a hot water stream and a hot water ‘beach’ along the trail.

Altogether it was a thoroughly enjoyable 14km loop from Huka Falls that could be made into a 25km loop riding from Spa Park to the Dam and back or any combination with a shuttle pick up or drop off from one of the many shuttle providers in Taupo.

If you have any energy left after riding the Huka Falls Rotary Trail, the Craters of the Moon mountain bike park is very close to Huka Falls and has about 50km of trails. We have ridden there before and thoroughly enjoyed it but after two days of riding we didn’t visit this time. You do need to pay to ride and can do so online at Bike Taupo or at one of the bike shops in Taupo – Its $25 for an annual pass or $10 for a weeks pass.

We still haven’t ridden all the rides in Taupo so will have to go back, maybe on a slightly warmer weekend.

Exploring the Hawkes Bay

We started our Hawkes Bay tour on the day after Cyclone Cook passed through. We had planned our road trip 4 months earlier and weren’t going to let a Cyclone get in the way. Strangely enough the planning started in the back of the car in the rain when we were supposed to be sitting on the beach. In hindsight we maybe should have checked the roads were open and campgrounds were fully operational before we headed off but we were a bit excited about getting on the road.

It was fun exploring some new territory on the way to Napier, lucky it was fun as it was quite a long drive but the sun was shining after the storm and the scenery was stunning on the Napier Taupo highway.

As we drove into Napier we were detoured round a back road as a tree had fallen across the road and that’s when we realised that although Auckland had dodged the storm some parts of the country had still been hammered by strong winds and we had just driven into one of them.

After setting up the camper we decided to make the most of the Hawkes Bay sunshine and jumped on our bikes to explore the cycle trail along the waterfront that started right from our campground. The after effects of the storm made for an impressive swell crashing onto the beach which only added to the stunning views as we rode along the waterfront. A lovely flat trail and mesmerising views meant it was hard to turn around but as the sun sunk low in the sky we headed for home, well the camper.

The next day we planned to hit the Eskdale Mountain Bike Park. A tourist in the campground saw us in our bike gear and asked where we were off to and when we told him he said that the Mountain Bike Park had been pretty hard hit by the storm with lots of trees down. Undeterred and forever in denial we headed out anyhow. We probably only got 5 minutes ride into the forest before the path was blocked by fallen trees, and I don’t mean one tree lying across the path more of a stack of trees making the path impassable. Still undeterred we started carrying our bikes straight up the hill over and around all the obstacles. We met a local coming back down, chatted to him for a bit and then he grabbed one of our kids bikes and started carrying it up the hill for us.

Turns out he was part of the Club committee and seemed to take everyones enjoyment of the Mountain Bike Park very seriously so he gave us the inside word on what tracks could be ridden after the storm. Not many were unfortunately but we still had a great time ‘sessioning’ ( his word not mine ) a few of the trails and after a couple of hours riding we decided to head back to the carpark a different way, only to be meet by more broken trees.

After a quick lunch at the campground we headed out to explore Napier on a sunny afternoon and took in the beach at Ahuriri, then wound our way up Bluff Hill and watched the workings of the port below as the sun set. We then wandered along the Napier town centres waterfront gardens and experienced the big waves crashing onto the new pier.

The next day dawned sunny and clear which made for great views from the top of Te Mata Peak. You could drive all the way up but we decided to park half way and walk up which took about half an hour ( maybe more as we got distracted by the views ) along sheep tracks. As we walked back down my son spotted mountain bikers so decided he wanted to come back and check out the trails the next day. We had planned to ride some of the cycle trails but figured we had all day and we love riding so why not ride two places in one day.

So the next morning we headed back to Te Mata Peak for our ride. Its fair to say these rides would have been more enjoyable if they hadn’t been hit by a storm a few days earlier and as they were on the side of a mountain they were quite steep and muddy. After Te Mata it was back across town to ride the Puketapu Loop, part of the Hawkes Bay Cycle trails. These trails cover most of the Hawkes Bay in different sections that can be ridden separately or all together. We did a loop from Otatara Pa to the Puketapu pub and back again. It was easy riding along the riverbank with the bonus of a pub lunch but if wineries are more your style there are rides that include them as well, in fact there is a trail called the Wineries trail.

All in all we loved the Hawkes Bay and the East Cape adventures didn’t stop there…next stop Tolaga Bay!!

Bridge to Nowhere Mountain Bike Ride

It was exactly one year after we rode the Timber Trail the first time that we set off to ride the Bridge to Nowhere ride with a much smaller group, maybe they knew something about the ride I didn’t.

The ride is close to Raetahi which is about 15 minutes away from Ohakune. We love the small town vibe so decided to stay in Raetahi in a holiday house. As the Bridge ride was ‘only’ 35km long, staying in Raetahi also meant we could ride from the house to the start of the trail, ‘only’ adding another 20km to the ride…are alarm bells starting to ring for anyone else because they weren’t for me !

My husband bought the weather station away with us so I can confidently say it was 4 degrees when we set off from Raetihi on the mid-April Saturday morning. It wasn’t long before it started drizzling…..cold and wet, great start. We were well prepared for the cold, wearing polyprops and carrying extra wet weather gear, including my husbands old swandri which was  actually needed quite early on.

Luckily the 20km to the start of the trail was downhill….mostly. Even so, it was about 1 and ½ hours and one flat tyre before we hit the start of the ride. At least it had stopped raining, now it was just cold, in fact I rode the whole ride in more layers than I have ever ridden in before including an alpaca scarf that I bought back from South American and have never worn in NZ before as it makes me too hot.

I loved the general history of the ride and after seeing the terrain close up it was easy to imagine how hard it would have been for the returned servicemen trying to make a go of it on the land. It is also easy to see why the area was abandoned and the bridge ended up going nowhere. Funnily enough the bridge was finally completed after most of the farmers had already walked away from the  land. Personally, I would have been interested in the personal stories of the families and would have liked some information boards along the way like on the Timber Trail or Old Coach Rd. There were sign posts with original family names showing where their plots/farms were.

Unfortunately it had rained a lot the week before we rode so there were a lot of mud and puddles, although my husband reckons it would always be wet here. Unfortunately these weren’t just any puddles, they were Taranaki mud puddles, big sucking puddles of grey mud that you felt like you were working twice as hard to peddle through.

Its incredibly rugged land – don’t be fooled like us and think that’s it is ‘only’ a 35km ride. The average riding pace is way slower than usual. The mud combined with the numerous narrow suspension bridges near the end that meant we had to get off our bikes and wheel them on the back wheel to get across, made it really slow going. We also had to stop and clear mud out of our bike deraliers and gears too, poor bike. This meant we were racing to get to the jet boat pick up on time. And we had been worrying about getting cold waiting for the pick up.

I have to admit near the end of the ride the only thing keeping me going was seeing the Bridge and when we got to there it was a quick read of the information boards and some photos before we were on our bikes again as our jet boat was waiting for us.

The 20 minutes jet boat ride out was awesome, if a little chilly and we were pleased that we had packed the hip flask. On essentials list.

 

Top tips

We rode in Autumn and it was cold, wet and muddy ( and this isn’t any ordinary mud, its Taranaki Mud and that mud sticks like glue) so not sure about doing this ride in winter.

Allow more time than you think you would need on an average trail or you could be rushing for the jet boat like we were. Alternatively, get dropped off by the jet boat and ride back. I would not recommend riding back to Ratehi from the end of the track as it would be a solid 15 km up hill.