By Beverly Bacon, DOC Web Team
With two full suns forecast for the central North Island over Wellington Anniversary Weekend, we decided to head north and ride the Timber Trail – an 85 km cycle trail that passes through Pureora Forest Park and is part of Nga Haerenga, The New Zealand Cycle Trail.
Most people ride from Pureora to Ongarue to take advantage of the mostly downhill trend in this direction; we rode in the opposite direction as it fitted better with our other plans for the weekend. Either way you can’t go wrong – there are signposts at all intersections and every kilometre is numbered.
The section from Ongarue follows an old tramway, so the trail is smooth and wide with a gentle gradient. It passes alternately through cuttings and clearings that were once camps for loggers.
An interesting feature is the Ongarue Spiral. It consists of a lower bridge, a curved tunnel, a circle of track and an over bridge, and is fun to ride after you’ve got your head around it from the interpretation panels on the way.
Bridges are a major feature the whole length of the trail and the four huge swing bridges are nothing less than impressive – the biggest is 141 metres long and 53 metres high! They’re all wide and stable enough to ride across but it’s worth stopping half way to admire the forest views (and the engineering involved!)
We ended day one at Piropiro campsite, halfway along the trail. It’s accessible by road and many people choose to have their overnight gear shuttled in, as well as being shuttled back to their cars at the end of the trail.
The section from Piropiro to Pureora would have been a little easier if we had ridden the other way, but our slower pace uphill gave us more time to look for the kereru whose loud flapping wings we often heard. The forest under dappled sunlight was just as beautiful.
Leaving our bikes on the trail, we walked the 30 minute side track to historic Bog Inn Hut to have our lunch. We also made the side trip up Mt Pureora (1165 metres) with 360 degrees of the Central Plateau, Lake Taupo and across Taranaki. There are two tracks – from the Pureora end, the first one signposted is a 40 minute walk one way, the second one, which we took, was just 20 minutes one way. Be prepared to get your feet a little muddy.
Day two ended at Ngaherenga campsite in Pureora. We pitched our tent alongside a row of flowering flax bushes and were treated to an evening with tui feeding right near us – a lingering reminder of a superb ride that for two days had allowed us to get close up to the nature and history that makes New Zealand special.