Category Archives: Outdoor adventures

You will want to know this before you fly

Passport ✔️

Adventure gear ✔️

Phone ✔️

Power bank ✔️ 

So many things to remember when you are flying including remembering to put your power bank ( the thing you charge your phone with when you are off the grid ) in your carry-on luggage.

A power bank will be taken from your checked-in luggage and a recent change to aviation security means they don’t need you to be present to open your luggage so you don’t know before you fly that its been taken out and you wont get it back.

This happened to me when I flew to Nelson to do the Abel Tasman walk. If we had been going directly to the walk I would have had no way of charging my phone, so no way to take photos and as we all know if you dont take photos it didn’t happen. Thankfully I had the chance to buy another one but it was still a costly mistake.

Just how great is the Great Lake trail

I have previously ridden the W2K Headland loop section of the Great Lake trail with my husband and kids and really enjoyed it so was looking forward to heading back with a group of friends ( minus the kids ) to do the whole trail.

The Great Lake trail is just out of Taupo and is made up of 3 rides that go from ‘K’ place names to ‘W’ place names. I was hoping that after I had ridden the trail the names would stick in my head but they don’t. For details on the trails you can check out NZ Cycle Trails description however we rode it based on Ted from Tread Routes suggestion to ride Whangamata Rd to Kinlock ( W2K – 20km ) and then Kinloch to Whakaipo Bay ( K2W – 23km ) on the first day and then Waihaha Bridge to Waihora Stream on the second day (W2W – 30km).

More details on the NZ Cycle trail website.

Great Lake trail, Taupo

Of course, being near Taupo, there are also lots of options for places to stay but as I started researching I realised our group configuration of 3 couples and 3 singles was going to make finding a suitable bed for everyone a little more difficult. So I was delighted that one place I found happened to be right on the lake in Kinloch with a suitable bed for everyone in our group. We found basing ourselves in Kinloch did make for some easy logistics and a great lunch spot on day one…but more on that later.

 

 

Day one dawned a little grey and overcast but not raining and given how wet the last few weekends had been we were happy with that. Ted from Tread Routes was super helpful with tips on the best logistics so 3 of our crew drove cars over to Whakaipo Bay, our end point for the day, while the rest of us waited and did crosswords. Ted then picked the drivers of the cars up and came back to Kinloch to collect the rest of us, and we were off to the trail.

For some reason I was so into my crossword and expecting a long drive to the start of the ride I took my crossword with me – coz that’s what everyone takes on a mountain bike ride right? Anyhow it wasn’t a long drive to the start and there was far too much pre ride bantering for crosswords.

Unfortunately, we did drive into light rain but that didn’t dampen our spirits as we jumped out of the van for the very informative trail briefing from Ted.

Great Lake trail, Taupo

The trail starts off on a slight downhill gradient which was a pleasant way to start and while it is rated as a grade 3, I would say its on the easier side of 3. The trail meandered through a wetland area and before I knew it we had done 10kms and were at Kawakawa Bay. From here we could see the headland we were riding up next and it did look a little steep. Thankfully the trail meandered up the side of the mountain and while it was a steady climb it wasn’t too difficult. From here it felt like it was all downhill into Kinloch, I’m sure it probably wasn’t but that was the impression I got.  We were back in Kinloch for lunch by 11.30 after setting off about 9.30am. Now I would like to say I planned our accommodation around a good lunch stop but it didn’t dawn on me till the night before that as we were riding right passed the place we were staying in, about lunch time, we didn’t need to ride with our lunch ( there is also a café and a general store in Kinloch that does takeaways right by the trail ) Of course the one problem with stopping in at the house was leaving it again. Lucky one of my friends was focused on getting back on the trail and finishing before the rain that was forecast for later that afternoon came so we were back on the trail by 12.30. One of our friends also decided that 20km the first day was enough for her so she stayed behind to do the important job of keeping the fire burning.

Great Lake trail, Taupo

The next part of the trail was familiar territory as thats the leg I mentioned we had ridden the year before with the kids. It’s a steady up hill climb and once again I am amazed by what our kids can ride. Although this was familiar territory it was completely different conditions to when we had ridden in July the previous year. Its been a very wet autumn and the trail reflected this with lots of mud and decaying slippery leaves on the track which made for some interesting cornering and some skidding downhills. There is nothing like knowing there is rain forecast to keep you focused on getting to the end though and we got back to the car at Whakaipo Bay just as the rain started. Thankfully we had someone at home keeping the fire burning so we were back toasting ourselves with a well-deserved drink in front of the fire in no time.

Great Lake trail, Taupo

Lucky for us day two dawned bright and sunny. Ted from Tread Routes arrived at 8am and we were off again with a slightly longer drive to the start, but first a detour to the local café for coffee. After another informative trail briefing we were off alongside the Waihaha River on a trail cut into the cliff – quite a way to start the day. A lookout spot along the way gave us views over massive ravines running through the country side, quite unlike anything I have seen in New Zealand before. As we left the river behind we rode into stunning native bush and very slippery trails that I just wasn’t enjoying as much as the day before.  Had I lost my mud mojo?, had too much coffee?, was I talking too much to concentrate?….finally figured out that my husband had thoughtfully pumped my tyres up a little, so after letting out some air I was whizzing through the mud again with a lot better grip. This part of the trail had some big headlands to pass over and there were a few steady uphills but with uphills comes great downhills. The views are amazing and at one point we had one of the biggest views over Lake Taupo I have ever seen. It certainly made me realise why the trail is called the Great Lake trail.

Great Lake trail

At our last viewpoint and lunch spot as we looked across the lake we could see out boat coming across the lake from Kinloch – perfect timing. We whizzed down the last hill and were at Kotukutuku Stream after stopping to admire the waterfalls and amazing structures that have been built down through a ravine to bring riders down to the lake edge.

Great Lake trail, Taupo

After a 30 minute boat trip we were back in Kinloch where we were dropped off at the Marina which quite conveniently has lots of hoses to wash bikes and was a 2 minute ride from the house we were staying at.

All in all we loved this ride, it’s a good grade, can be ridden in many different ways to suit ability, has stunning native bush and some spectacular views of Lake Taupo – we are already planning to go back and ride it all with the kids, maybe over 3 days.

Tips:

  • The track is 2 way and a multi-use track so we did wonder how busy it would be in summer.
  • We rode in slippery conditions in late autumn but have previously ridden in the middle of winter when it was cold but the trail was drier so I guess you need to be prepared for anything.
  • The trail can be ridden in many different ways; have a chat to Ted from Tread Routes about the logistics that work best for you.
  • Basing yourself in Kinloch does make for some convenient logistics.

Other NZ Cycle trails we have ridden;

How to save $200

Of course we all know that the license plates on our car have to be visible at all times and if you have your bikes on the back of the car the license plate might not be so easy to see, but did you know in New Zealand its a $200 fine for obscuring your license plate…eekkkk.

We have driven round for years with bikes on the car without even thinking about the license plate. Thankfully a mountain bike park did a windscreen flyer drop highlighting the issue and we jumped online immediately and bought the supplementary plates.

I have since heard that police are cracking down on obscured plates and handing out the $200 fine. I know I would rather keep the cash in my pocket so jump online and order supplementary plates in NZ

To read more about supplementary plates requirements in NZ.

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Westport – so much more than just seals

You know when you go on a road trip there are some places you are excited about and some places that you just figure you will stop at seeing as you are passing through? Well Westport was the latter, we were passing through on our way down to Franz Joseph from Kaiteriteri and figured it was as good a place as any to stop to see some seals if nothing else. But we soon discovered that the area around Westport has lots to explore – once again we discovered lots of the off the beaten track adventures in the NZ Frenzy Off the Beaten track guide ( available to buy on line, not sponsored in any way just love the guide )

 

Anyhow back to Westport….Just getting there from Kaiteriteri is a breath-taking drive through the Buller Gorge. After setting up camp our first afternoon there we drove out to see the seal at Cape Foulwind which was indeed foul but very scenic with great views of the seals and lots of information boards about the wildlife in the area.

The next day we were up bright and early as it turns out there is lots more to do in Westport than just look at seals so we headed North to Mokihinu where there is a 100 year old ship wreck on the beach.  West Coast beaches are pretty rugged, add to that a ship wreck and you have a great photo shoot.

From here we drove to Chasm Creek walkway which we couldn’t go far on as it was closed. Turns out it was probably lucky we couldn’t go too far on that track as we still had lots to explore. So on to the Charming Creek walkway, near Ngakawau, which was on an old tramline up a gorge. We walked for about 1 hour through tunnels and across a swing bridge before we reached a clearing where there had been a sawmill and found a spot close to the river to have lunch. There was lots of train relics, stunning native bush and even a waterfall along the way so lots to keep everyone entertained on this walk.

From here we drove up the Denniston Plateau, a very steep climb in the car up 600m to a spot where coal miners lived over 100 years ago. Some people never even came down from the Plateau and when they did it was in the coal wagons. On a clear day you would get great views from the Plateau – although am just not sure its ever a clear day on the West Coast of the South Island. There are a lot of relics and information on what life would have been like on the Plateau. We would have liked to have spent longer but the temperature was dropping which made us realise what a hard life the coal miners would have had up there.

Westport – so much more than seals!!!

 

Links to more information:

Cape Foulwind

Charming Creek Walkway

Denniston Plateau

 

How I took my mountain biking to the next level

Initially I wasn’t sure I had the energy or the time to get back in to mountain biking after having kids but I was so pleased that I did as its become a big part of our family’s life. My husband and I call it a date if we are out riding by ourselves but quite often we are riding with friends. I am not the fastest, in fact I call myself the turtle – slow and steady, just not winning any races. In fact the only time I might be faster than someone is when we are riding with our kids but I have the greatest time when we are mountain biking and really to me that’s all that matters.

So I wasn’t really looking to take my mountain biking up a notch – it all began when my husband upgraded his bike and it had a dropper seat. I had always looked at dropper seats as something for extreme downhillers but turns out that it was a game changer for this middle aged mountain biking mamma.

P1020035

It took a lot of convincing from my husband that I should get one. I’d never been one of those mountain bikers who put there seats up and down depending on where they are riding so I just didn’t see the point in being able to adjust your seat at the push of a button. But husband persisted, in fact my husband bought a dropper seat and installed it on my bike himself ( clever husband ) and then I discovered the joy of the dropper seat. It isn’t just for extreme downhillers.

Turns out its not just about putting it down as you ride downhills, although the dropper seat does change the way you ride downhill because you aren’t so high and you don’t feel like you are going to go over the handlebars, giving you more confidence in your ability. I have found I can ride over bigger drop offs now as I can put my seat down quickly at the push of a button. OK now I am sounding like an extreme downhiller – trust me I am not but I can definitely ride downhill better now I have the dropper seat.

Its not all about the downhills though and the dropper seat is also great for switch backs, riding narrow ledges on the side of cliffs, riding across narrow bridges and getting back on your saddle when starting on an uphill – anywhere you want your seat down and feet closer to the ground for more stability and safety but don’t want to get off and manually adjust it.

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The dropper seat is also great for riding uphills too because you set your seat as high as possible to get the best leg extension and cranking power without worrying about the seat being too high for downhills coming up later in the ride.

And I recently discovered on a slightly muddy NZ cycle trail ( the Great Lake trail near Taupo ) that the dropper seat is great for getting through muddy puddles and round slippery corners.

So even if you don’t think you are looking to take your mountain biking to the next level you should consider a dropper seat, I totally love mine and how its changed my mountain biking.