We awoke and as always our tents were wet with dew. To save us from having to deal with it later, Ned dried out our tents at a local skate park while I charged our phones at the local library and went shopping for supplies. Whilst away, a group of young Maori boys got talking to him and kept asking the old Aussie chap to say “balls” much to their amusement. It was a late start at 10:30am and we had a fair bit of climbing to the start of the Timber Trail, more than Ned could remember (he had cycled there before). By the time we reached the start of the trail it was 1:30pm. To begin with we cycled up up and up through thick rainforest. It was certainly different to anything I had cycling through before.
Mount Pureora was our destination and we didn’t hesitate to take the half an hour hike to the summit. With no maintained track it was a tough one but we were rewarded with views over Lake Taupo and a glass of LOW ALCOHOL red wine which Ned had mistakenly treated me to. I got to choose my own wine after that. After a 1000m climb it was a superb decent and as much as I love biking downhill, my arms and knees were sore from the rough surface. I wanted to call it quits and suggested we look for a camping spot.
There wasn’t much choice in the rainforest but we came across a small clearing next to a huge suspension bridge. Perfect. My tent was practically on the track and if a cyclist was to whirl past they would have gone arse over tit thanks to my “no shits given” poorly placed tent pegs. The likelihood of coming across another person was slim. We sat on the 130m suspension bridge and I cooked a gourmet dinner (Foursquare surprise) of mixed beans, chopped tomatoes, onion, capsicum (peppers), the last of our free Parmesan cheese and rice. I was pretty impressed with my efforts and excited to serve up. As I did the heavens opened and we quickly gathered everything up to try and shield it from the rain. My culinary efforts were cold by the time we scrambled under the bridge but at least we had a dry tent to crawl into.
The abundance of bridges made it possible to set up the bridge swing Ned had planned for many weeks. The more technical drawings he drew and the more he explained it to me I just didn’t understand how it would work but I agreed to give it ago anyway. We found a fantastic spot and set up the 10kg+ of climbing gear he had been lugging around on his bike. I wasn’t overly scared, Ned is a sensible kid and he’d never put me in danger. He went first and went smack bang into the water. Luckily I’m a little shorter so was able to dodge the water. It was so much fun. We continued to swing but had to balance on each other’s shoulders/back to clip ourselves in and out of the caribiner. This resulted in a series of weird looking positions which we couldn’t help but laugh at what people cycling over head must have thought.
The remainder of the Timber Trail was less of a long upwards slog but an easy undulating ride though thick rainforest. We crossed two large suspension bridges and 16 smaller ones. The surface of the trail became rougher as time went on and I was beginning to wish for smooth ground. The final part was graded “easy” but I would have said it was intermediate. It was practically all downhill so we gathered a fair bit of speed but on rough ground, that made some very hairy moments.
As we were hurling down we came across our first walker, a young Aussie girl called Bec who was doing the Te Araroa trail (the length of NZ). She was staying at Bennetts Road camping spot at the end of the trail so we decided to check it out too. The spot, just a car park with a small hut and a bike shop, was beautiful so we set up camp for the evening. There’s was a young German lad called Julian there too who was also walking the Te Araroa trail. An older American couple who had been traveling for over a year were enjoying a glass of wine outside their camper. Martin cheekily asked if they have a spare glass for us and within seconds the man came over with a bottle of red and two glasses.
We all got talking and the older couple, Ellen and Richard, asked if we wanted seafood pasta. “Oh wow” we said excitedly. We hadn’t had proper “non camp” food for four days and Bec and Julian a good 7 days. Seafood pasta was a major deal for us all. Ellen and Richard whipped up a delicious seafood pasta, salad, bread and more red wine for us all. So kind! We hit the hay fairly early as usual and I woke around 4:30am to the sound of Bec packing up her stuff. The poor girl left at 5am to reach town in time so she could have half a days break. The Te Araroa walkers sometimes walk 45km a day which is absolutely outstanding considering the weight of their pack. I couldn’t resisted trying Bec and Julian’s pack on. Wow. I’ll stick to my bike.
We smashed out the 27km into town fairly quickly and headed straight for the Laundromat. We hadn’t showered in 5 days and laundry was long overdue. While Ned did our laundry – good egg isn’t he? – I headed for coffee. The Copper Tree was the best option, after checking out what was about town, and I wasn’t mistaken. The staff in there were so nice and let us charge our phones and stay in there all day. We enjoyed our first and second lunch there plus multiple soft drinks. We spent the day eating and making use of free wifi, it’s amazing what a few days away from civilisation does to you! The cafe let us stay in there a little after closing and the owner sent us away with two scones and a muffin each. Such kindness, AGAIN, we were blown away. After half a days rest it was time to crack on to the next leg of our cycle, The Forgotten Highway..