More often than not we’re searching for the most remote places to ride. As with most tasks that are rewarding you need to apply effort in order to get the satisfaction you desire. So, there’s a cost of entry.
The cost of entry is how much effort you are willing to apply, before and during the ride. From searching, scouting, planning, packing, organising, applying for leave with work (and/or partner), through booking huts and motels, arranging buddies, or buying supplies (there’s probably more that I’ve forgotten) and that’s before you even turn a pedal. When you finally come to ride, the excitement from the preparation is overwhelming—but you mustn’t forget to save some energy for the journey to come.
One of these recent journeys was through the Te Pua a Tane Conservation Park, which lies between Rotorua and Taupo. This a dense and expansive native forest protected by the Department of Conservation in co-management with Te Runanga o Ngati Whare. The area is 65,000 hectares and is littered with DOC huts. Most of these were built by hunters trying to eradicate deer and other pests in the late ‘50s. The huts all have their own unique charm, character and history. When we initially talked about this trip and the word “hut” was raised it automatically excited me! There’s just something about staying in a hut in the middle of the wilderness.
We would be experiencing road, gravel and track on this two-day excursion. The Moerangi Mountain Bike Track was the main feature but linking the roads in and around it made for a real epic adventure. With an array of adventure bikes available nowadays that are capable for this terrain, it only seemed right to test the limits. Not only the limit of the bikes but more importantly ourselves. And with limits being stretched there’s a need to really “know” your crew before heading into the back of beyond. I believe your choice of people to take into the backcountry is one of the most important components.
Firstly, they need a sense of adventure, to be bloody determined, the ability to be resourceful and most of all a good attitude on all occasions. Without doubt the shit will hit the fan one on of these adventures and the crew must be able to get out of it and move on. So, with this in mind and the need to capture the trip (for your viewing pleasure), I selected the crew: Nick Lambert (Route Guide/Photography), Bob Tuxford (Model/Kai) and myself (Production/Writer). I have ridden with these guys plenty of times and we have had a few epic adventures. They are always up for a challenge and don’t shy away from hard mahi (work). These two, Nick and Bob, also know each other from racing mountain bikes back in the day.
The plan was to meet in Murupara, stay the night; ride to a hut on the Moerangi Track, stay the night; then ride a different route out. After a burger and beer at Rotorua’s Factory Smokehouse & Grill (highly recommended) we drove down to Murupara. The light was dim and there were slight showers. Ah, the good ol’ Kiwi weather! Thick forest lined the straight road as the light continued to fade. We rolled into Murupara with flood lights from the forestry mill gleaming through the trees; it felt dank and stark. Murupara is a small town behind Rotorua and is the gateway to Lake Waikaramoana. This town was once a thriving place of extensive forestry, which it still clings too. But there’s little other employment for locals so it’s been subject to some hard times of late. At the campsite, the proprietor Helen greeted us in a pink dressing gown whilst moisturizing her hands. She asked what we were up to and was somewhat bemused by our answer. Turns out she hadn’t even heard of the Moerangi... It’s hard to believe, but I suppose you don’t always know what’s on your back doorstep. The reason her hands needed moisturizing was she had been driving tanks—yes tanks—for the kids on Armistice Day. A motel owner moonlighting with tank driving?! After checking us in, she rushed back to her TV (we’d been keeping her from a replay of the All Blacks match).
We checked into our low-key room that contained a bed, TV, small fridge and a kettle—what else do you need? After a bit of banter, we got our rigs somewhat ready: we had an early start the next day, so we kitted them out the best we could and hit the hay around 11-ish.
Words & Images: Liam Friary & Nick Lambert
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