|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.
|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