|JustMTB - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I kept my stoke burning after the ride by tending to the fire...
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.
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.
One at a time across the Kaipo bridge, the suggested weight limit would barely reach to two people and their bikes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Born 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
here on Pinkbike.
All images by @CamP1