It was another epic weekend away without the kids. I am infinitely blessed with the best of friends who are wholeheartedly loving and always up for anything. Special mention to my amazingly supportive husband who makes these adventures possible.
This season's getaway destination: The Timber Trail.
The Timber Trail is on the North Island of New Zealand in Pureora Forest Park. It's part of the Te Araroa Trail (which runs the length of New Zealand - bucket list!) and is known as one of New Zealand's Great Rides. You can expect to see walkers and mountain bikers along the track. The Timber Trail is 85 kilometres (52 miles) long with options for camping, staying in DOC (Department of Conversation) huts, as well as two private lodges around the halfway point. When travelling north to south (recommended), the track climbs 420 metres and is mostly grade 2 with a small grade 3 section. If you're cycle fit enough to make it up the long, gradual hills, then the trail is completely rideable. The few obstacles include large stones, loose gravel, mud, and few roots.
The most unusual technical obstacles are the suspension bridges, though they may be better considered psychological obstacles. At first, riding across suspension bridges is a bit unnerving. On the initial attempt, I adjusted my helmet and gritted my teeth, too scared to speak or breath, while I focused on staying in the middle of the bridge and not plunging to my death over the side. Upon reaching the other side, I turned around and went back over. A few more tries and the silence became nervous giggling. By the second bridge, we shouted and whooped going over and looked forward to the suspension bridges to come. If you go fast, it feels like flying! The Maramataha Bridge is the most spectacular at 141 metres long and 53 metres high. Luckily, it's also the last one you come across and there are 7 more to practice on before you get there. This is day 1 of my Relive. The squiggly sections are when I rode back and forth across the suspension bridges.
The trail runs through areas of clearing, farmland, regenerating forest, and mature podocarp forest, aka magical goblin forest. If you're really lucky you'll see or hear from the New Zealand native bat species that lives there, the pekapeka-tou-poto, the Māori name for the lesser short-tailed bats. Cool photos and article from New Zealand Geographic here.
On the Ongarue side, the most unusual section of the track is the spiral. The Timber Trail runs along much of an old tramway, which includes a curved tunnel cut through the rock that allows the track to complete a full circle so you ride in a spiral. You can see the spiral in day 2 of my Relive. The tunnel isn't too long so you're only in the dark for moments, but it's easier to ride through the spiral if you have your head torch.
Though the trail isn't too long for avid bikers to ride in a single day, most people will choose to stop at about the halfway point at the Piropiro conservation campsite, the Black Fern Lodge, or the Timber Trail Lodge. For us, camping was out as it's winter in New Zealand and the Black Fern Lodge was full so that meant Timber Trail Lodge - and it was like a little piece of heaven on earth. We're a tramping family used to huts and tents so perhaps it's all relative, but the Timber Trail Lodge felt simply luxurious. We found a spot by the fire to gaze out over the forest view, gorge on delicious food (pizza before dinner anyone? yes, please!), drink whatever we fancied (a gorgeous selection of herbal teas for me), and play board games. Our sore muscles loved the hot eco-showers and stretching out on the yoga mats.
At the end of the trail, we met Edwina from Pa Harakeke, who loaded up our bikes and transported us back to the start to Pa Harakeke headquarters in Pureora. She also shuttled our gear to the lodge on the first night and picked it up for us. No heavy lifting while cycling, we just carried small day packs with food, drink, warm and waterproof layers, and our cameras. Gear shuttle and padded shorts are a must for this trip!
Timber Trail, Pureora Forest Park
Central North Island, Aotearoa
Day 1: 40 kilometres
Day 2: 45 kilometres
Kids on bikes: Confident mountain biking adults familiar with carrying kids. Kids used to covering 30+km of mountain bike trails on a day out. Kids on e-bikes, maybe.
Dogs: Hunting dogs with permit only.
Barefoot: Very experienced tootsies only. There are stony parts and the track is cold. Consider barefoot shoes.