Monday, March 27, 2017

Timber Trail

Escaping Auckland after work on Friday night we crammed 3 bikes into the back of Brendan's van and headed south to Pureora Forest. Arriving at Ngaherenga Campsite around 10:30pm in light drizzle we pitched our tents alongside Christian & Bryon. A relaxed start in the morning with plenty of fiddling around with bikes and bags. All five of us were new to bikepacking so our stowing arrangements were relatively untested.

Brendan, Me, Bryon & Dan (photo by Christian)

Heading off into the ancient podocarp forest at 10am we relished the first couple of kilometres of flowing dirt single track through magnificent trees. After crossing through a logged area it was time to tackle the long, gradual climb up to Mt Pureora. There was nothing particularly steep (only dropped into my granny gear once) and it was all nicely rideable. After passing the highest point on the Timber Trail we made a detour on foot up the tramping track to the top of Mt Pureora (1,165m).

Back on the bikes it was a nice long downhill through the forest to the first of several impressive purpose-built suspension bridges, where we stopped for lunch. Bryon suffers from vertigo so he crossed very tentatively without looking down. Another bridge soon followed, and then it was onto old forestry roads with a few dips in and out of gullies. Dan got a flat tyre which was a good excuse for a rest. The last section through to Piropiro Flats campsite crisscrossed gravel roads and was pretty fast. We had all thoroughly enjoyed the ride and couldn't wipe the grins off our faces. It had taken us 6 hours to cover the 41km at a laid back pace, including an hour detour to the summit of Pureora. Dan & Brendan experimented with pitching their tarps using bikes for support while the other three of us used tents. Light drizzle rolled in not long after we were set up, so Brendan's tarp became kitchen and living quarters for the evening.

I was a bit saddle sore in the morning for the first few minutes of riding (and after any stops) but soon loosened up. It was easy going to the bridge over the Maramataha Stream, which at 141m is the longest on the Timber Trail. This led to an unexpectedly long grunt up to the start of the old logging tramway and I realised just how un bike-fit I am! After that the gradient was pretty easy as the trail follows the tramway almost all the way down to Ongarue. By this stage I realised that my front brake had completely given out - diagnosis was leaked hydraulic fluid, probably due to disuse - which meant that I was careful not to pick up much speed on the descents as I knew I had limited braking capacity. At times this was frustrating as the track was great for blasting down. There were a few mud puddles which Brendan described as being like riding through PVA glue. After the first few I decided to walk these to avoid stalling mid-puddle. A small mishap when I lost one of the bolts attaching my carrier rack, but once I caught up with the guys Brendan came to the rescue with his bag of tricks. By this stage I was getting a bit tired as I hadn't had much in the way of a rest or food all morning so was glad for a break.

Sheltering briefly from the rain

The Ongarue Spiral is a marvellous bit of engineering where the tramline corkscrews underneath itself with a bridge and curving tunnel. A further couple of kilometres downhill brought us to the Mangakahu Stream - both Bryon and Dan copped wasp stings near the end. The final section of single track followed fence lines along the stream before abruptly spitting us out at the Bennett Road car park. The 43km had taken only 4 hours as it is mostly downhill. We were early for our shuttle pick up, but within a few minutes of texting Paul from Epic Cycle Adventures was there to meet us and drive us back to the cars at Pureora.

I found the difficulty level of the trail perfect for me - it was interesting without being too difficult to ride with a laden bike (despite not having ridden off road for several years). The only bits I had to walk were a few small but sticky mud puddles in the middle of day 2. There was a little bit of passing and re-passing a couple of other groups but the trail was by no means crowded.

It was a fantastic weekend away and definitely exceeded expectations!


Photos by Brendan, Dan & Christian

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