Photo Epic: Heli-Biking in Northern New Zealand with JustMTB

Oct 6, 2015
by Paul Aston  



bigquotesJustMTB - Hey Paul, after Crankworx in Rotorua, do you fancy going on a heli-bike trip in to the Northern Alps of New Zealand?

Me - Yes.


That ended that conversation and the next thing I knew we were taking off from the back and beyond of nowhere, closest civilisation being Lake Taupo in the North Island of New Zealand. Climbing in a helicopter no bigger than a Ford Fiesta with the stability of Bambi on a Bosu ball, our dearly beloved bikes ratcheted on to the outside, we landed on the barren brow of Mt.Tawake Tohunga.


Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Why take a helicopter? The peak of Tawake Tohunga is nearly 1500 meters above sea level, getting to this stunning location could take days by bike, mostly across access roads and trail-free terrain.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

The helicopter provided perfect panoramic views across the Northern Alps, an expanse of land that has remained free of man's touch and few of the blemishes we bring.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
 We should go this way bro


After the helicopter buzzed out of view we were left in silence. A peace that can be found on few places on earth, without a dot of civilisation anywhere on the 360 degrees of horizon. Man's only marks up here were a wind shelter, bike rack and the inviting beginnings of the trail.




This ten-kilometre ribbon of sand and dirt was freshly damped and firmed by the heavens the previous day. An incredible trail that began its multi-line weave through rock and scrub from the peak, descending into tussock and heath, narrowing into a hand-crafted single that ebbed and flowed down a large chunk of a vertical kilometer.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Stu tried his best to not look bored waiting for us to catch up...

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

The first tire track of the day, week or perhaps month sprayed our shins and supported our tires. Real hero dirt that only a lucky few will have the opportunity to roost.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Barely time to catch our breath at the end of the trail. We jumped back into the heli to our luxury accommodation for the night...




...luxury accommodation - perhaps not but the Oamaru hut served as our base for the night. This backcountry lodge is one of many in the area provided by the Department of Conservation to give hikers and bikers and place to rest weary legs. No mod-cons or phone reception or 'the internet' but who really needs that? A place to sleep, a fire to cook on, calm and heat. Running water and your bike leaning outside - ready for the morning's adventure.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

I kept my stoke burning after the ride by tending to the fire...

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Book your bed and pay your dues.






Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Stu Lill was the guide for our trip - a British ex-pat residing in the land of silver ferns. An accomplished rider who's probably ridden more trails, faster and harder than most.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

The Te Iringa trail is a behemoth of singletrack beauty, set deep in the Kaimanawa Forest Park. Flowing straight from the door of the Oamaru, for the next sixteen kilometres it traverses the banks of Tikitiki river and crosses the Kaipo swing bridge.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

One at a time across the Kaipo bridge, the suggested weight limit would barely reach to two people and their bikes.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Stream crossings, marshes, fallen trees and sharp punches challenged us along the way as we gained nearly 900metres in height. The final flowing descent rewarded with interesting tech features more than re-paid our exertion.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Rolling back into civilisation near Lake Taupo, we jumped back into the truck and headed towards Green Lake, Rotorua, ready for the final day of our trip.





Out of the wilderness for the last day of our trip to Maungakakaramea which is the Maori name for 'mountain of coloured earth.' Now referred to as Rainbow Mountain probably due to the ease of pronunciation, is much closer to civilisation than the Te Iringa and not far from Rotorua. A gentle singletrack can be climbed 400m in around one hour and culminated at the trailhead of an awesome descent.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Rainbow was less adventurous than previous days and our trio was supplemented by more riders. What did this lead to? More shredding, grinning, roosting and high five sessions at the end of each run.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour
Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

This trail took the flow factor up a notch with natural berms, whoops that begged to be doubled up and dusty drifters as we descended out of the dark jungle and into the final open section.

Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour


Images from the JustMTB Native North Tour

What better way could you ask for to finish this trip? Kerosene Creek, a dip in a natural 30°c hot spring with a chilled beer was the perfect finish line.

bigquotesBorn from a passion of riding bikes and love of New Zealand, JustMTB was setup to showcase the best of New Zealand's mountain biking. Combining the best trails, local experiences & cultures with bucket list of activities, JustMTB provides the experience of a lifetime - Stu Lill


Fancy going on a trip yourself? JustMTB offer the Native North 8 day trip for $3699NZD and run all year round, as well as trips on the South Island of New Zealand. All trips can be tailored to include heli-biking, 4x4 shuttles, high alpine rides, cruises, paddle boarding, hot spring visits, jet boats, skydiving and winery and gastronomic tours. You can also check them out on Facebook and Instagram and @JustMTBnz here on Pinkbike.

All images by @CamP1

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55 Comments

  • 62 0
 I have a plan: sell a kidney, buy that 26" Kona process, and then go heli biking in New Zealand. Airtight
  • 10 77
flag loopie (Oct 6, 2015 at 0:51) (Below Threshold)
 Hardly "airtight"....Heli rides can be had anywhere. From what's shown, tho nice, is fairly 'yawn fest' to me...But maybe I'm jaded or just a dick...no one knows...
  • 84 1
 Yea... You're a dick
  • 10 0
 Seconded: dick. However, You can change my opinion of you in a hot minute if you come watch my kids while I go on a heli-biking trip.
  • 5 16
flag loopie (Oct 6, 2015 at 14:39) (Below Threshold)
 Total dick. Can I neg rep myself? haha
  • 42 0
 We have Northern Alps?
  • 23 0
 Apparently, who knew.
  • 5 0
 ha ha yeah that cracked me up when I read that
  • 2 0
 It's probably because they were riding in a DOC park which doesn't allow riding... kind of like surfings "Oh we just went up the coast a bit"
  • 8 0
 DoC allows MTBing on these trails, and a lot more too ! DoC are finally open to MTBers ! Yeeeeewwwweee Ive done the helibike and rainbow mtn many a time, highly recommend them if you haven't ridden them yet !
  • 27 1
 ctrl+c, ctrl+v: Maungakakaramea
at first I was like: sure I'm gonna read this properly
and then I was like: eeeh macarena!
  • 4 0
 Try this: Humuhumunukunukuapua'a
  • 9 0
 What is this? The opening song to Lion King? I'm a confused American... help!

btw sick photos! That looks like an incredible trip, especially the jungle ripping.
  • 5 0
 Haha! That's the name of a kind of fish from Hawaii. Also a model of Kona bike. Check it out:
www.pinkbike.com/photo/12761814
  • 1 0
 WTF!
  • 19 0
 f*ck it! I'm moving to NZ!
Anybody in Rotorua who needs a german engineer? Will work for Beer and bike parts Smile
  • 6 0
 What kind of engineer? Rotos has quite a bit of industry, and hamilton is close enough that you can have a decent job and live an hr from epic trails
  • 7 0
 Mate their desperate for engineers over here just come over....especially German ones haha
  • 2 0
 well that got my attention!
  • 7 0
 Oh man really? This one will get stuck in my head.... Need to talk to my girlfriend asap!
I'm an mechanical engineer and roughly two years of experience in planing and building special-purpose machinery and an hour drive sounds like nothing to me Smile
  • 18 0
 And by "talk to my girlfriend" you really meant "I am moving, come with or peace out".
  • 2 0
 wait... NZ needs Engineers... I AM IN THE RIGHT MAJOR Big Grin
  • 3 0
 Man sign me up!!!
  • 3 0
 talking to the wife after work, been looking for a nice island to move too, Meet you there @Lead21
  • 3 0
 There's a big city rebuild in Christchurch as well if you prefer you riding more around the South Island. Serious, engineers should be able to find jobs in NZ.
If you're serious check out www.trademe.co.nz/jobs

That's the primary jobs website in NZ....it also double as our version of Ebay.
  • 2 0
 wow @FurryCrew, it looks like software engineering is pretty hot there too. I just did a quick glance, but there appears to be more opening there than Denver, CO (not a huge tech market here, but enough to keep me employed).
  • 15 1
 Ha Northern Alps... I live in NZ and have never heard of the Northern Alps... I think you were fed a line about the name... very cool story bro.. we love you guys coming over to ride.. you're always welcome here
  • 4 0
 count me as another Kiwi who had never herd of something called the northern alps,southern alps sure-thats where the best riding is but northern alps?? and I have ridden all the tracks in this story,more than once so its not like I don't know the area.

regardless of what the area is called,the tracks are well worth a visit!
  • 3 0
 Haha I lived in Taupo for over 20 years of my life and I have never heard the term Northern Alps either. Definitely someone having some fun!
  • 6 0
 This year we went to Whistler to fulfill our long-time wish for mountain biking. It seems we should now get prepared for our next destination - New Zealand.
  • 3 0
 Absolutely! See you here!
  • 6 0
 Just so I get this right, Heli-Biking is tits, lift access biking all day long, but don't even think about an electric bike. That's cheating.
  • 6 4
 Well, lift access is usually in bike parks where your lift pass pays the fee for trail maintainance. And with heli-biking hopefully the company and guide will make sure the local environment and people are respected. Plus it's super exclusive so will have minimal impact. But with an e-bike you can go wherever you like faster and further than a normal bike, causing more trail damage and more danger to other trail users- all without giving anything back to the commmunity who build and use the trails
  • 1 0
 So your argument is going fast is bad cause it is dangerous and impact on the environment should be avoided. So there should be speed limits for everyone and only slick tires should be used. And what does the kind of bike have to do with what I give back to the community? Well if the community is a bunch of stuck up elitist... lucky for me that is not how it is where I ride. Unicycle, BMX, fixies, fat tired and fully suspension. It's the person on the bike that gives.
  • 4 0
 One thing people don't notice in these pics/vids is that in NZ, if you go out bush, nothing out there is going to kill you other than your own unpreparedness. No snakes, bears, wolves, crocodiles, scorpions etc. You can venture into the long grass and the only thing that will bite you is the thorns of a gorse bush. As long as you prepare/equip/dress for the weather and don't demo yourself too badly, you've got nothing to worry about.
  • 3 0
 I don't like angry pigs in the bush bro!
  • 4 1
 Just reaffirms to me that this sport is becoming more and more exclusive, expensive - and far less obtainable for the likes of me! Smile
  • 2 0
 nah mate, noone is stoping you biking down to your local trail and going for a ride. Much like anything else in life, the most exclusive things/experiences will cost you significan $$$. Heli-biking is not going to be your typical MTB trip ever....anywhere in the world.
  • 1 0
 Heli biking can be had for as little $75 which isn't a lot in the big scheme of things. Once you go on guided rides, the price jumps significantly.
  • 3 0
 The peak is almost 1500m above sea level and it could take days to get up there by bike. . . if your starting point is Christchurch.
  • 3 0
 Oh man, now every man and his dog will be up Te Iringa.
  • 2 0
 This one would have put most people off...
originals.bikemag.com/escape-to-oamaru
  • 2 0
 Scenery like this is why I don't want to move overseas.
  • 1 0
 Only "Privateers" can afford this trip!! Lol
  • 2 0
 Where are the sheep?
  • 1 0
 How about that spoon/fork combo?
  • 3 0
 Its called a Spork!
  • 4 0
 I thought that at first but a spork has the prongs/scoop on the same side. This contraption has a full fork AND spoon on each end. Either way I need one.
  • 1 0
 That is made by a company called 'Light my fire' and they call it a spork. You'll still need a proper knife to cut things, but for eating anything it is the best. And it comes in titanium!!
  • 1 1
 Looking at all my NZ videos and others helibiking this images was kind of dispointing. Anyway I need to go to NZ one day...
  • 1 0
 That looks primo, I want to go there now!
  • 2 2
 Looks real epic! But is far from northern New Zealand
  • 1 1
 Way too much CO2...
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