Mon 21 December – Day 37
40 km cycling
There is no rush this morning as my mountain bike is not to be dropped off before 9:30am. Any thought of a sleep in was thwarted from 4am when the birds began their chorus. Kaka make particularly loud alarm clocks with a morning melody arrangement provided by the tui blackbirds warblers robins and quail. No complaints from me. I’m pleased there’s such a plethora of birdlife in this piece of forest. There is also hordes of mosquitos. By the time I wake up there must be at least 200 mosquitos attached to my tent netting. Thankfully it does its job and none get through but they are determined little beggars and even when it is light they prefer to cling to the netting rather than go wherever mosquitos go during the day. I manage to get out of the tent without any invaders although swarms rise to the sky as I unfurl the tent sides. Neil and Steve come over to say goodbye and they too complain of the hundreds of mozzies. Lucy and Baptiste have left already. All four will walk through to Bog Inn hut today which is fortunate as it has just four beds.
I waited at the entrance to the Timber Trail for my bike to arrive and arranged a small day bag with essentials as my pack will get transferred separately. What a relief not to be lugging it around for two days and to have the convenience of it delivered to Camp Epic today and to the end of the trail tomorrow. Five vans of riders and bikes arrive within minutes of each other. It is much busier than I imagined it would be. The speedsters were soon mounted and off in no time at all. The families and day trippers are less competitive with their departure. Soon I too was off on my 10 speed Trek mountain bike into the bush. And stunning bush it is too. So is the track at this early stage. Here are mighty totara kahikatea tawa rewarewa and a beautiful ground cover of ferns manuka and the like. Shortly we emerge from the bush into a scrub and pine mix before re-entering the bush for the climb on Mt Pureora. The brochure describes this part as a continuous gentle climb. Sustained uphill peddling it sure is. The blim’n electric bikers hum past me as I puff and pant with little progress for the effort expended. The first day is categorised as Intermediate and I think it pays well to heed this when considering the Timber Trail. For instance can you walk 40km in a day? Can you cycle 40km on a rough track that has ascents and very steep downhills? If this frightens you then get an e-bike. It appeared to me that the majority of leisure riders had e-bikes and those comfortable and experienced with mountain biking had their own bikes. The second day is somewhat easier however it is still another 40km. I stop to have a quick chat to Neil who has progressed well. He is nearly at the turnoff to the summit of Pureora which is part of Te Araroa but an optional return walk for timber trail riders. Steve and the Frenchies must already have turned off as I don’t see them. It is with relief that I reach the high point of the trail at 971m above sea level. A little sign in a loose rock cairn denotes the location. Many of the DOC signs are small and positioned parallel to the trail so often I fly by before noticing them. I whizzed past the View of Lake Taupo and the Stump House. It is a magical sight at this elevation of the stunted trees draped in moss. Also a good place to top up water from the frequent streams. The downhill begins, it’s fast and it’s hard on the hands and legs as my body weight is pushing on my wrists and legs. I thought it would be a breeze going down hill but it takes a lot of concentration and energy to keep to the track and not fall off. Far more than I had anticipated. And then WOW you reach the first suspension bridge. The Bog Inn bridge is 115m long, an engineering feat spanning the gorge and allowing you to cycle way above the forest canopy. Soon after is the equally impressive Orauwaka suspension bridge plus there are two more on this section, although smaller they are all impressive. There is still another 15km to ride to Piropiro on undulating track and some gravel road. The land is pumice and gravelly. Cuttings in the high track sides reveal millennia of ash deposits which are all distinctly layered and could be a historical clock for those geologists in the know. To me it is a hell of a lot of volcanic eruptions. Being so close to the old mill town also means regenerating bush and now some pine. Piropiro is now a shadow of its former milling self. There is a catered lodge, a basic DOC campsite and a self catered glamping camp where I pull into at 3pm. It has taken five hours today and I must say I am more pooped than i would have imagined.
Camp Epic has glamping tents but also allows own tents as i will do fopr the night. For $35 I also get to use the hot showers bathroom and full kitchen facilities plus in the morning there is toast eggs and cereal for breakfast. Staying tonight there is a family from near Geraldine, a group of four friends and another large group of two families including one from Motueka who have just done the Old Ghost trail, now the Timber Trail and are heading to Mangawhai. Kiwis out travelling and doing something new. #dosomethingnew
I love having a proper kitchen to have my packaged meals in. The kitchen dining area was finished Labour weekend and has everything one needs to cater. The bathroom block is also new with tiled showers (forest views) and proper toilets. The fire pit is lit and everyone is enjoying their evening. But holy moly families with kids are loud! It starts raining at 8pm. It might quieten them down.
Tomorrow I’ll ride out to Ongarue and am taking a break from Te Araroa over Christmas and New Year.