Riding Rotorua Thermal Bike Trail
(Te Are Ahi thermal trail)
We were very sad to leave behind the remoteness of the Timber Trail and Blackfern Lodge (see previous blog) but there were compensations at our next stop – the city of Rotorua has lots of cafes where we can get a good latte and flat white!!
We had booked 5 log cabins at Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park which was about 3kms outside Rotorua but was close to the Te Are Ahi thermal trail. Te Are Ahi means the Pathway of fire….should we be worried?
The holiday Park had just about everything to keep a person happy, clean and cosy log cabins, cafe, lock up bike shed, a bike cleaning unit, thermal pools and very helpful staff. It is beside the Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and often caters for student accommodation needs. The Holiday Park is in fact owned by the institute of Technology but this may change soon as there is a council proposal to return the land around the Holiday Park to the local Ngati Whakaue.
Day One: 35kms
Our plan for Day One was to cycle from the i-SITE in CBD, Rotorua to Waimangu Volcanic Valley approximately 30 kms. Cycling one way was perfect but we also needed to get back to our accommodation so we decided that three cars with drivers would drive to Waimangu and park there and a fourth car and driver would follow and bring all three drivers back to start the bike ride.
There was division in the camp about which way to go – as we were three kms from city – would we go into the lakefront and then back out to Waimangu or go straight there and go into town on the way back. Whichever way it added 5 kms to the ride.
Seven of our team opted to ride first to Waimangu but Marcia and I decided we would head into the town first and start the ride from CBD. We both had cycled around Rotorua before and just love riding through the thermal areas.
Just opposite the Thermal Holiday Park on Old Taupo Road and the bike trail there are two busy roads but the local council have made it easy for bikies to cross to the bike path via new underground path/cycleways.
We all set off together via the underground pathways and then waved good bye as we went our seperate ways!
Marcia & I followed the cycle path along Hwy 30 past Geothermal valley and Maori village. We turned right into Froude St following it until it met Sala street. A couple of hundred meters along Sala street we picked up the bike trail again – this bit of cycle trail is not very well signposted.
This was the start of the ‘off road’ cycling alongside the Puarenga Stream and under Te Ngae Road. Leaving the stream we headed towards the surface of the moon!! That is what is felt like riding through the the grey silica flats with steam rising from vents all over the surface. We stopped to examine the yellow crystallised sulphur on the rocks that sat in piles on top of the silica.
Our next stop was at Camerons Laughing gas pool which in 1931 was described as “a hot pool, the gases emitted from which banished the deepest gloom in peal after peal of uncontrollable laughter”. The gasses emitted are a mix of hydrogen sulphide & carbon dioxide which we mortals call laughing gas or Nitrous Oxide used by midwives for women in labour which of course we know is no laughing matter!!
On we rode around Sulphur bay pass the famous Polynesian Pools passing sloppy, murky bubbling brown mud pools one of which was called “The Coffee Pot’ which plopped and gurgled as we passed it. Locals tell the story that people tied themselves by rope to the Manuka bushes and lowered themselves into this brown murky liquid as it was a thermal attraction with healing powers. We did not try that trick or stop for coffee as there were many notices warning us to stay on the designated path!
We then crossed to Hatupatu Dr and headed towards Sulphur point but stopped to enjoy the spectacle of black-backed, black-billed and red billed gulls nesting at Rocky Point, a small silica inlet, which is part of a wildlife reserve and of particular interest because gulls are not usually found in geothermal areas. The black-billed gulls are only found in New Zealand and are, according to ‘New Zealand Birds Online’ “one of the most threatened gull species in the world”.
This inlet is part of the Sulphur Point Wildlife Sanctuary which is home to an amazing number of wading birds such as the endangered New Zealand dabchick, banded dotterel as well as the black-billed gull plus more common birds such as the scaup, shag, pied stilt and Caspian tern. This sanctuary achieved refuge status for wildlife in 1967.
The bay is a sulphurous area lying on top of a geothermal field and the colour of the water around the area is a milky white because of its unique ecological makeup due to sulphur particles suspended in the water. The area around Motutara Point is a refuge for all birds as the warmth of the water and environmental conditions create a bird spa.
Off the Motutara Peninsula just by the boat ramp are Timanga and Moturere Islands. Timanga Island was once home to several families who lived on it but little of it is visible today. Moturere Island was once a geothermal bath used for treating many illnesses and is now the bigger of the two islands and home to roosting and nesting birds. We stopped to watch the array of birds coming and going on this tiny island. There were a couple of kayakers paddling around – as motorised boats are not allowed into the refuge area kayaking is a great way to get close!
From Motutara Point you can also see Mokoia island in the middle of Lake Rotorua and is at the centre of a beautiful love story between Tutanekai and Hinemoa who were forbidden to meet but she swam to her lover on the island. It is now a wildlife refuge.
There were just so many things to see and do along this trail that riding a bike takes a back seat. There is also an amazing invention floating just off Motutara point – a man made island launched in 2012. It is the size of a football field (5000sq m) and was constructed from half a million plastic soft drink bottles specially treated and covered with fibre matting which had plants which were sourced locally sewn into it. This floating island is moored just by the point and can be moved to other areas. It is believed to be the world largest man made floating wetland.
Research indicates that the floating island will ‘remove up to four tonnes of nitrogen and more than 1000kg of phosphorus from the lake every year’. It also acts as a navigation tool for airplanes as it was constructed to spell out the word “Rotorua” in giant floating letters.
After leaving the point we stayed by the lakeside but rode through kanuka & manuka trees which lined the track all the way to the Lakefront where the water was black with swans and dabchicks all looking very content, many having been well fed by tourists!
As we got close to the Lakefront we passed the a beautifully carved waka called ‘Te Arawa Waka Taua’, built by hand in 1989 by local carver Lyonel Grant. It is constructed from totara wood, is approximately 20 metres in length and weighs approximately 2.5 tons.
We turned around at the lakefront and headed back the way we came, passing our accommodation and heading out towards Waimangu. This was a boring part of the ride as it was alongside a very busy highway until we turned into Highlands Loop Road. When we reached Waimangu Road our separate cycle path finished but it was downhill all the way to Waimangu Volcanic Valley where we all met and enjoyed a welcome cup of coffee at the cafe there.
Again – an agreeable division in the camp. Five members decided to drive back to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, this time with the bikes in tow and ride as far as Kerosene creek which was about 18-20kms out and same back. The report back was that is was a lovely ride until the turn off to Kerosene creek where the path became so overgrown they were torn by briars and blackberry bushes and one person rode through grass that was so long it sent him off his bike. David, one of our team, rang the council to complain but one wonders if that call resulted in any maintenance action. But the view of Rainbow mountain more than compensated for their discomfort!
The rest of the group headed back into Rotorua along yesterday’s route and ended up riding up Lake Road to a cafe called Third Place Cafe where we enjoyed a great cup of coffee. From the window we could see the small historic Maori village of Ohinemutu and decided we would ride down to investigate.
Ohinemutu is home to the Ngāti Whakaue tribe, who gifted the land on which the city of Rotorua was built. Ngati Whakaue is a sub-tribe of the Te Arawa waka (canoe) which journeyed from the Pacific homeland of Hawaiiki to New Zealand around 1350AD. The location is beside Lake Rotorua and has active geothermal energy, used for cooking, bathing and heating.
There is a beautiful historic Tudor style church at the lake edge called St Faith’s Church built in 1914. Inside there are many Maori carvings and panels but the most beautiful aspect of the church for me was the window etched with the image of Jesus wearing a Maori cloak. If you position yourself in the right spot he appears to be walking on water.
We all agreed it had once again been a very successful bike week and headed off to the ‘Wild Rice Thai’ for dinner to celebrate – a great place to eat if in Rotorua.
Our combined average age of 73.33 had survived – The Waikato Trails, The Timber Trails and the Rotorua Thermal Bike ride! Bring on next year!!!
Riding the Timber Trail.
In two days!
With The Waikato River trails (previous blog) behind us we headed for Blackfern Lodge – 1731 Ongarue Stream Rd, Waimiha or to put it another way – the middle of nowhere! We had just left our wonderful accommodation for two nights in a guesthouse called “Out in the Styx” which was fairly remote but Blackfern was even more remote. The lodge is situated half way along the Timber Trail bike ride and would be our home for the next three nights giving us two days to ride the 85kms of the Timber Trail. Because there were ten of us in our group we had booked several months in advanced to ensure accommodation as it is pretty sparse along the trail but is improving with the opening of the latest addition – the new Timber Trail Lodge.
We travelled the 82kms from Mangakino to Blackfern Lodge and arrived there about 1pm. The 82kms took us about one and a half hours to get there mainly due to the fact that the last 10 kms was on a narrow dirt road which required caution.
But what a spot! It was so worth the drive – Blackfern Lodge, a tranquil oasis dotted with rustic cabins and a softly flowing steam close-by the cabins. The stream was home to eels, trout and endangered Whio or blue ducks. A short walk took you to a fast flowing waterfall with a pool underneath to swim in (if you are up for it). There was also a longer one hour easy walk that challenged your sense of humour with several eclectic artefacts, sculptures and several creatively humorous notices which defined the rye and quirky sense of humour of the previous owners.
The couple who now owned the lodge had just taken over from older members of their family a few months previously. The previous owners had lived and worked there for over 20+ years . The complex started off as a place to make a home, it then morphed into a well known local restaurant and finally into an accommodation lodge.
Of course our main reason for being here was to ride the Timber Trail. Rachel, our host, had arranged for a shuttle to pick us up at 0830 the first morning and take us to Pureora – a very bumpy 30-40 minute ride along unsealed roads. The same shuttle would also pick us up at the end of the second day at Ongarue. The 87 km Timber Trail is situated in the Pureora Forest Park between Lake Taupo and Te Kuiti and is called the Timber trail as it follows the old rail track that was used to cart out the timber to the sawmill in Ongarue. The trail follows the Ellis & Burnand Tramway built in 1903.
Day One – 36kms on trail to turn off for Blackfern + 7 km to our Lodge
We were all up bright and early but full of apprehension about what was ahead on today’s ride. We are all well over seven score years except one youngster aged 65. We are also fair weather riders and had heard that the Timber trail was challenging for riders of our fitness and vintage! But we were also excited to test ourselves. I was riding my three year old e-bike – a smart-motion city bike – how would this go on this rugged terrain that suggested mountain bikes would be the best choice?? We had also heard that over 600 riders had been through the Timber Trail days before us so we anticipated it to be a little churned up, plus it had been raining for over a week.
Our shuttle driver regaled us with lots of local information which distracted us from our very bumpy ride to the start of the track at Doc base on Barryville Road.
The first 4 kms of the track were relatively easy with a short diversion at the three kilometre marker to view and photograph a 1920s historic logging caterpillar bulldozer, which was left abandoned for years but has since had a facelift. From 4kms to the first shelter (a little red shed) was a gradual climb through podocarp forests of rimu, totara, miro, matai and kahikatea. The King Country region was covered with forest prior to European settlement which the Māori referred to as Te Nehe-nehe-nui, the great forest which is slowly regenerating.
The climb continued in earnest into the ‘cloud’ forest around Mt Pureora with breaks for views and photos along the way up to the highest point on the trail – 971 meters above sea level. Just before you reach the highest point there is a walking track up to Mt Pureora 1165 m and is a 40 minute walk each way. Some tackle it on their mountain bikes but they are ‘true mountain bikers’!
We rode passed gnarled moss covered dark green trunks and trees and the undergrowth was dotted here and there with foxgloves and some pretty white flowers and red berries.
From here the trail is mostly down hill but with some steep and rutted descents to the 18kms marker (the blue markers telling you how far you had travelled were positioned every single kilometre) where we met the first of the trails suspension bridges 115m over Bog Inn creek, followed 2kms later by another bridge 109m over Orauhora creek. According to the Kennett brothers “Unless you suffer from vertigo, it’s worth stopping in the middle to appreciate the forest views”. I took their advice and walked back to the centre after first biking across the bridge just to prove I could! The view of the beautiful forested ravine below the bridge was a stunning canopy of trees with the New Zealand native ponga trees proudly displaying the fern leaves.
Between the highest point and the bridges there were several viewing points along the top indicated by special markers – ‘views of Lake Taupo’ and areas where you could get ‘cell phone coverage’. Unfortunately lake Taupo was not visible as there was cloud cover but we enjoyed the break trying to find it! This trail consists of 35 bridges including the 8 suspension bridges.
All along the route I was mindful of the bars on my battery reducing more quickly than I liked. I knew I was using my brakes because my road tyres were struggling to cope with the ruts, dips and bumps on the downhill run and of course I also used some throttle on the 14km climb. Using brakes frequently on an e-bike unfortunately uses more battery because the engine stops each time you apply the brakes and you need to use power to get going again so the battery suffers.
Finally we arrived at the 36km mark where there are very clear signs directing us to Blackfern Lodge – another 7 kms on…..would my battery last? After riding a further 3-4 kms I came to a stile (which we had been warned about) and as I was riding alone at that time I had to negotiate a 25kg E-bike over a style by myself. I managed to do it with a lot of huffing and puffing. I was over the stile and riding on top of a soft carpet of pine needles when …my battery ran out. Bugger…… I still had about 2-3 kms to go and most of it was uphill. In fact it turned out to be a long steep grind through the forest punctuated by the occasional bizarre notices place on the route by the Blackfern Lodge owners. What a sense of humour…! not long to go, just up around the corner….. no way! Finally after several corners and much more uphill I reached the top and was met with a notice that said – “Enjoyment is the success of conquering the challenge”. I admit to not feeling any enjoyment at that time!
We all arrived back in dribs and drabs and were warmly greeted by the two members of the team who did not ride. After a shower and a glass of wine I began to feel that excitement! We ate a beautiful meal prepared by Rachel. All we had to do was heat it in the oven while the wine and beer and tongues flowed.
Day Two: 47km Piropiro to Ongarue
After a great nights sleep we all had different ideas about what we wanted to do today and so there was lively discussion over breakfast. By the time Mark & Rachel came to see what the plans for the day were our plans had changed. Six wanted to do the trail from Piripiro to Ongarue but did not want to cycle the 7 kms to the start of today trail. So it was decided that Mark would take all six ( for for a certain price right through to Piropiro where the trail started for the second days ride and then the shuttle would pick them up at about 4pm at the Timber Trail carpark at Ongarue. So we loaded the six bikes aboard Mark’s pickup truck which has bike racks front and back and was used mainly to take guests back up to the ridge line to start the second day ride – just a couple of kms thereby avoiding a long climb to get to the Timber Trail but today he would take them right to Piropiro which would be about a 40 minute drive but would save that extra 7 km.
The second day of the trail is certainly easier than the first. With packed lunch and slightly sore butts they were off. There was less climbing and more descents but the rain the week before and the 600 cyclists riding through had churned up the trail so again one had to take the descents carefully so as not to get a tyre stuck in a ridge!. Again the day starts with a relatively steep climb through stunning Podocarp- hardwood forest and across another massive suspension bridge. There were several suspension bridges, including New Zealand’s longest one with a span of 141m across the Maramataha Valley. There was a moderate climb through native forest before they reached the terminus of the Ellis and Burnand bush railway that extracted timber from 1914 to 1958.
Meanwhile because of my battery issues the day before myself and Helen, another member of the team, opted to be driven to Bennett Road outside Ongarue. Marcia who was not riding because of an injury drove us to the car park to start the ride. Our plan was to ride out and back on the Timber Trail to beyond the Ongarue spiral. I would be able to keep a close eye on my battery and turn back if it began to get low. By riding out and back we could also get a lift back in the shuttle with our six team mates to Blackfern Lodge.
It was a beautiful ride although it was a steady climb for 10 km to the Ongarue spiral. We did pass an area that was cordoned off with red and white tape because of logging in the area but I am afraid we ignored it and kept going. It really was easy going until we came to a huge sign indicating a rock fall ahead! When we got to the rockfall we had to haul the bikes over this mound made by the fall. After that there were several alert signs telling us that we must NOT stop for the next two kms as we were in danger from rockfalls.
Finally we got to the Ongarue spiral – what an amazing section of the trail this is. Great to look at and even better to ride through the curved tunnel and over the bridge and ride around in a circle. You can still spot some of the original beams that held up the bridge when trams were passing over it.
The trail had several information boards that DOC with the help of local historians has created to take us back in time especially the information and photographs about the Ongarue Spiral and how the workers lived while building this railway. One story tells of a pay clerk riding out on his horse to deliver pay-packets to the workers and while having a cup of tea his horse bolted and was not found for several weeks but he still had the saddlebag with the workers pay envelopes in it!!
We arrived back at the car park having ridden 24 kms with lots of time to spare so rode down into the sleepy backcountry village of Ongarue where there is little to pass the time. However, there was a backpackers in the main street but it was closed. Luckily for us a guy pulled outside who was a friend of the owners and he persuaded the owner to make us a coffee, which he did reluctantly. The friend of the cafe owner and his son were in the honey & bee business and sold us 1KG of their honey via internet banking!! The father had been in the bee business for over 20 years and now the son had joined him and both live in Taurmanui.
The shuttle was there at 4pm exactly and took us all back to our oasis where a wholesome dinner, wine and beer awaited us.
So what had we achieved over two days? Eight long slow climbs, seven rapid descents, 35 bridge crossings, dark but beautiful regenerated native forest, lots of gnarled moss covered tree trunks, a few open plains dotted with toi toi, lots of muddy and rocky single-riding tracks, some easy pedalling, lots of stops/breaks, learned the history of the King Country, took many photos and finally felt a huge sense of satisfaction.
Next morning we were very sad to leave Blackfern lodge but we were off on another adventure – riding the Te Are Ahi Thermal trail in Rotorua.
Another year, another adventure, another trail but which one this year? It was time to put our ten heads together and decide which bike ride we would tackle in 2018. Which cycle route in our beautiful country of New Zealand had we not yet completed? We decided we wanted to stay in the north Island this year and chose the Pureora Timber Trail (2 days) and the Te Are Ahi thermal trail in Rotorua (2 days). Nine of the group were committed for a mid March start. Then I came across a really good package by a shuttle Group called ‘Blue Tui Shuttles’ for the Waikato River Trail. Would any of the group be interested in this as an add-on?
Six of us decided we would like to do this trail before going on to do the other ones, so I booked the three days Waikato River Trail Bike Ride with Blue Tui Shuttles run by Wilhelmina Gilbert. Wilhelmina runs a really efficient and friendly service with great food and is totally reliable – she was always where she said she would be! The package ($630pp NZ) included three days riding our bikes, three nights accommodation and most meals. Each accommodation was so very different but each had its own charm and the service from Blue Tui shuttles was really amazing.
A few days before our ride began we had an email from Wilhelmina letting us know that NZ Department of Conservation (DOC) had closed a section of the trail but she put forward several alternative suggestions. She suggested we decide when we met her at ‘Out in the Styx’, our first night’s accommodation.
We drove down to ‘Out in the Styx’ guesthouse on the day before our first ride – about 3+ hours drive from Auckland. ‘Out in the Styx’ sits at the foot of Sanctuary Mountain and lies midway between Rotorua and Waitomo in a tiny village called Pukeatua. Great atmosphere, remote, and very comfortable. We had plain comfortable rooms with ensuite and a room where we could relax, make tea and coffee and do our washing if we wished. The guesthouse has a variety of accommodation from ensuite to bunk rooms and cabins
Lance & Mary run this establishment, Lance is a wonderful front line host and Mary’s a great cook – her food was tasty, plentiful and varied. There is no menu – you get what is set out on the service table – but there is something there for all dietary requirements and taste. And so much to choose from ……You will definitely find something to suit your tastebuds!
Day 1: Waotu South Road to Pokaiwhenua Bridge – 29.5km
After a great breakfast Wilhelmina arrived with her mini-van and bike trailer full of enthusiasm for the trip we were heading out on. After greeting us all and loading our bikes we drove to Waotu South Road, the highest point on the trail to begin the days’ 29.5 km ride. The section heading north from here was mostly on road with a beautiful ride through Jim Barnett Reserve – full of birdsong and a 1000 year old Totora Tree. This reserve, (25 hectares), was rescued from the axemen of the last century by a forward thinking Walter Barnett and his son Jim who owned the land.
Our first stop of the day was following a enjoyable downhill ride to Jones Landing where Wilhelmina was waiting with the ‘billy’ boiled for a cup of tea and home-made baking!
We learned that the next 2.5 kms of the trail was advanced – which we did not know earlier. There is an 11km alternative route via road but we were committed to this section as there was also a fantastic lookout over Jones Landing – 10 minute walk up hill from the trail, but first we had to lift our bikes up 30 steps – The dreaded Tumai steps this was very cruel especially as I and my friend Marcia had electric bikes each weighing 25kg.
Wilhelmina walked with us and helped haul the bike up the steps – this was above and beyond the call of duty but we were sure glad of the help.
Nine kms further on was the Arapuni swing bridge (152 metres long) said to be New Zealand’s longest swing bridge!) and once we had all ridden over and back across the bridge with photos to prove it we headed to the ‘Rhubarb Cafe’ for a well deserved coffee.
Arapuni, is one of a chain of man-made lakes on the Waikato River, which were formed as a result of the Waikato hydroelectricity scheme. The 64-metre-high Arapuni Dam was the first of eight to be built on the river. Construction began in 1925 and by 1929 the power station was operational. The station now has a category one listing on the Historic Places Trust. There is a great view of the dam from the massive swing bridge that straddles the river near Arapuni Village. It was originally built to allow easy access to the dam for the construction workers. 150 meters below the bridge is the Arapuni Gorge and the fast moving waters of the Waikato.
From Rhurbarb cafe we headed back to the swing bridge and turned right to head off on a 13.7km ride to Pokaiwhenua car park. After 6.2km alongside Lake Karapiro we arrived at Little Waipa Reserve where we were greeted with more tea/coffee and refreshments by Wilhelmina. Next a very easy 5.3km along the road to the car park and our day was done!
Home to ‘Out in the Styx’ for a well deserved wine, chat about our day and a scrumptious meal and bed!
Day 2: Waipapa Dam to Mangakino Lakefront 19.5km
The day dawned with a spit of rain which soon disappeared. Wilhelmina arrived on time, loaded our bikes and we were off to Waipapa Dam to start todays ride. The section that was closed was between Waipapa dam and Waotu South Road. By the end of the day we decided we were glad it was closed as our biking skills or fitness levels would not have coped!!
When we arrived at Waipapa Dam the notice said this section was advanced???? Other maps and information about this section claimed it was Intermediate – even the oracles of NZ cycle trails – the Kennett Brothers and the Nga Haerenga New Zealand Cycle Trail had it listed as Intermediate.
The first part of the track was a breeze riding alongside the road but then the trail turned into the forest where there were many steep climbs and descents most of which were so rutted that we had to dismount and push our bikes up and down so we would not get stuck in the ruts and fall! What we did not know then but learned later when we got to Mangakino was that 600 bikers had been through the day before on their cycle from Cape Reinga to the Bluff which was probably why the trail was cut up so very badly but they also told the patrons at the Mangakino Hotel that that section was one of the hardest they had encountered!. The trail became easier as we got closer to the Maraetai Dam near Mangakino. This dam began operation in 1952 and is the largest one on the Waikato river. It can deliver up to 30 per cent of the annual output of the Waikato Hydro System – enough to power 170,000 homes.
The last 3-4 kms of this ride are gentler and so one can stop to read the information panels near the dam area relaying facts about the dam. I was ‘dam’ glad to arrive at the gentler part of the ride as the last bar on my battery was flashing at me telling me its time was nearly up. I just hoped it would get me to Mangakino Lakefront – which it did, but after coffee and refreshment at the lakefront I then had to cycle back up the hill to the village to our accommodation and as I drew level with the hotel my battery died!
Wilhelmina was waiting for us at the Mangakino Lakefront with a slight concerned look on her face and I did sense she was a little worried when we had not arrive by a certain time. She thought we should have been quicker but our average age was 73+….what did she expect?! We did arrive in dribs and drabs, very weary but relieved and were very pleased to see Wilhelmina waiting for us with refreshment before she took us to the Mangakino Hotel which was our accommodation for the night. My first action when I arrived there was to plug in my battery ready for the following day!
What a beautiful place the Mangakino Lakefront reserve is. As we arrived we noticed several people busy putting up tents and parking trailers in preparation for the NZ water skiing championships that were taking place on the Lake Maraetai the following day.
We wandered over to the ‘The bus stop cafe ’ which is situated right by the lake. It is a uniquely converted 1972 Bedford bus with amazing views across Lake Maraetai. We all had a well deserved coffee from the cafe and helped ourselves to wonderful food from Wilhelmina’s truck!
I had never heard of Mangakino until I started researching Waikato Trails but what a gem it turned out to be. It is a haven for watersports, scenic lake cruises, trout fishing, mountain biking, hiking and golf. What more could one want on a weekend away from the rat race.
Our hotel was clean and comfortable and staff were great – even provided an indoor room to lock our bikes away for the night. A prominent sign in the hotel read “ Mangakino Hotel – In the middle of everywhere!” The hotel is currently up for sale and has been for some time, in the meantime it is been very well looked after by two local women who take pride in ensuring their guests receive good service. Both women have their own full time jobs as well as looking after the hotel but luckily their jobs have flexible hours which is how they manage the hotel so very well.
We had booked into ‘Mucky’s’ restaurant for dinner on the advice of our tour guide which turned out to be just thee minutes walk across the road – tasty food and good value! This was also up for sale we discovered speaking to the owners daughter while ordering a wine from their well stocked bar. The locals call it ‘Manga’ and it certainly is a lively little town especially the weekend we were there because of the championships. It seems many people have holiday places there – mostly boaties and keen water skiers.
We hit the sack early as we were all shattered after todays ride – our shortest days ride! One member of our team described the ride as 19.5km of sheer brutality….I think I have to agree!
Day 3 Mangakino Lakefront to Whakamaru Dam 13km one way
Today there was division in the team. Two of us decided to ride to Whakamaru Dam have coffee at ‘The Dam cafe’ and ride back. Four others decided to ride there and meet Wilhelmina at the Dam car park and come back with her but were still undecided. Nothing phased Wilhelmina – she told us we could change our plans anytime and she would meet us at the dam carpark with our lunch.
I really enjoyed this 13km ride which included yet another 70 metre long swing bridge called the Mangakino stream suspension bridge. There were some great views back towards Mangakino and several speed boats testing out the water probably preparing for the championships. We arrived at our now familiar van – ‘Blue Tui Shuttles’ with the familiar ‘billy’ boiling and some sandwiches and cake. Of course there was also fruit and biscuits – one could choose.
Wilhelmina suggested we ride on a little towards Atiamuri maybe as far as Lake Whakamaru Reserve, a popular summer camping destination. Myself and Lorraine who had planned to ride back to ‘Manga’ decided we would ride as far as the reserve and then ride back to ‘Manga’.
We really enjoyed the 3km out to Lake Whakamaru Reserve and passed a bird hide along the way well positioned for the many water birds visible on the lake.
On our return to Mangakino Lakefront it was teeming with people, boats, skiers and children. We called to ‘The Bus Stop cafe’ and sat and had a coffee watching skiers reach speeds of 160kph, the whole waterfront was humming and there was a steady volume of traffic ordering food and drinks at the cafe. We negotiated being able to come down later and order six pizzas could they do this?? “If I survive the crowds today and am still alive I can” said the owner of ‘the Bus Stop’
Our Blue Tui Tour was over but we still had one more night to enjoy ‘Manga’!