Ok, so I have a new toy and it doesn’t work in the snow, so this weekend I will be ignoring the beautifully white-chocolate dipped mountain tops, and getting down and dirty.
I don’t know what you are thinking about, but I’m talking mountain biking and it’s going to be awesome. My shiny new all-terrain beast has been delivered, I’ve polished the seat and unpacked my padded pants, I’m ready for a weekend of gleeful whooping and slick speed along Lake Taupo’s many, custom-made mountain biking tracks.Amongst many other well-deserved titles, Taupo is home to the comely Huka Falls and the Craters of the Moon thermal area-what better place to whip and weave through the trees than on the over 39km of track made for such a purpose?
The beauty of the local mountain biking tracks are the ease of access and plethora of choices, the Crater’s area is less than 5 minutes out of town heading north and the Huka Falls tracks run conveniently from Spa Park, where you can also indulge in a natural and free (yes, FREE!!!) hot pool after your sojourn into the wilderness.
So if you are looking to wile away some winter days and prefer the mud and the trees to the snow and volcanic rocks, here are some handy tips:
For the fainter of heart, energetic families or the easy rider…
Huka Falls Tracks
Starting in Spa Park, it is approximately 4kms to the Falls themselves, where you can cross the bridge and take the redwood Track back into Taupo township- around 2.5kms.
For those with an insatiable appetite for the sights and the bike, you can alternatively continue on from the falls via the Rotary ride to Aratiatia Dam another 7kms away. Despite the grim start with a short but mean climb, the rest of the track is beginner suitable and it’s worth it to watch the waters of the Aratiatia Dam cascade down through the gorge on release.
Check the times for the daily water releases, they change dependant upon the season. Be sure to ring your bell or holler good and clear on the corners, at all times these tracks can be heavily used and it pays not to crash into your fellow riders cough splutter (It wasn’t me…)
For the brave adventurer, the cocky-upstart or the Pro….
Wairakei Forest - Craters of the Moon
Only 6kms out of town is this biking playground. Accessible via the Redwood or Huka Falls Rotary track, you only need to ride up to the Helistar Hub Café and take the tunnel underneath the highway to safely enter the park area- this is a much safer option than negotiating State Highway One, especially if you have tweens/teens with you and it also means you are only a short jaunt away from re-caffination or other means of hydration at the Café. Perfect.
The tracks are graded from One through Four, one being the beginners, and four being long steep rides for those of strong fitness that negotiate “gnarly obstacles” (you’ve been told!). This park is where the fun is at and where I will be! It’s less crowded and commercial than the Rotorua tracks and their flow works well; I’d highly recommend the Grade 3 Outback Trail. Sha-wing!
For the scenery-buffs, the off-roaders, the Intermediary…
W2K - Whakaipo to Kinloch
This can be ridden either way from Kinloch or from Whakaipo and is a 14km track. Great in the rain due to it’s pumice ridden (ha- no pun intended…) surface, which drains really well, this track is a beauty and takes you out of a picturesque bay to a sleepy village.
Apart from a few ‘steepys’ it’s relatively easy ride out around the peninsula and suitable for intermediate riders. Until you get to Kinloch you are out in the 'wops' as we love to call it, so pack a snack and plenty of water, when it gets hot it gets really hot although Whakaipo Bay is the perfect spot for a swim in summer. (obviously not now- it's F.R.E.E.Z.I.N.G)
So if you spot a beaming, bow-legged-walking tall chick holding a coffee in one hand and a bike in the other be sure to say hello. I’ll see you there.