Words: Liam Friary
Images: Cameron Mackenzie

The Timber Trail runs through the Pureora Forest Park, a place that not only offers stunning scenery but is rich within our history. The tale of Pureora begins with Aotearoa’s first people, te Māori, who named this mountainous area Te Pureora-ō-Kahu, the place where Kahu was restored to health after searching for her lost son. Back then, native forest covered most of Aotearoa with a shroud of green. A large majority, around two-thirds, fell to fire, bulldozer and axe. After the axes, the loggers moved in and took the game to another level with their saws, logging huge sections of native forest. The demand for timber grew stronger and now most of the forests are confined to large conservation areas. The Pureora Forest Park is now one such conservation area.

Not long ago, The Pureora Forest Park was known only by hardcore trampers and hunters, and the local community. The Timber Trail project took some seriously hard mahi; from bush bashing to trail and bridge building. A total of 35 standard, and eight suspension bridges, were built to span this mountainous country’s many streams and river gorges. The suspension bridges, in particular, have become icons of the trail. A lot of the mahi was done between 2010 and 2013, when two old Pureora Forest logging tramways – that had virtually disappeared under vegetation – were joined by fabulously flowing new single track under the guidance of the Department of Conservation. In 2013, the Timber Trail opened, offering access to a place of beauty and the opportunity to learn more about the hard-fought tales of the region.

We untethered a few of these facts as we pedalled into some of the finest forest the country has to offer. The unique trail doesn’t cover a ton of distance on paper (85kms one-way) but it should be respected – more on that later – and my advice, for what it’s worth, is that it should be ridden and seen in two days. The slower pace makes the days far more achievable, meaning you can stop at certain points and take it all in. Plus, you have the opportunity to stay in the middle of the bush in some of the fine digs that are dotted along the trail.

As with most adventures, we were super excited about this journey. But, perhaps we were a little relaxed to start things off. Yes, we’ve been on a few epic adventures lately (if you’ve been reading the recent volumes, you’ll know) but something always goes amiss, and there are always learnings immersed in there somewhere. Perhaps that’s the key to an ‘adventure’: find that certain breaking point – you know, the one you can’t control – and then resolve it. After meandering down to Ongarue, stopping for breakfast and supermarket snacks along the way, we eventually turned up around 2pm.

We were greeted by Mark from Black Fern Lodge, our shuttle driver, Rem from Flashpackers Ongarue, plus another dude relaxing out the front of his store. The banter kicked in immediately when Rem piped up – as we were hastily getting our gear sorted – and said, “Geez, they’re taking a while…” And we were. The sun was shining on this beautiful spring day – it was above 20 degrees with not a cloud in sight! Rem was swigging on a swappa’ crate bottle and I thought to myself, ‘damn I could go one of them!’ But, there was mahi to be done before I could even contemplate having a beersie. We piled into the shuttle for the transfer up to Pureora.