Look at a map of New Zealand, any map. See that big body of water, situated right in the centre of the North Island? Yeah, I know you know: that is Taupo. A location famous for its geothermal activity and rugged, exposed lake.
Some 25,000 years ago, Mt Taupo erupted, causing reports of red skies in China and changing the geography of New Zealand’s North Island forever.. What that eruption left behind was the largest crater lake in the world, and 193km of pristine coastline, ideal for mountain biking tracks to be built on, thousands of years later
For many years though, Taupo has lay metaphorically dormant, overshadowed by its little cousin, Rotorua. That was until some 10 years ago when passionate locals moved to the region and began to put in place legislation and make changes that would all lead to today, when Taupo is now as much a mountain biking mecca as Rotorua is.
Within the last few years, many of us riders that have this noise in our heads that keeps us up at night, that pushes us to limit of our physical and mental abilities,have been making the pilgrimage to Taupo to ride several of the North’s finer trails. Trails that sit on the top shelf of technicality and physicality. More on those in later instalments however.
For all those times I have sat lakeside with mates, sinking a few cold ones and looking across the water to adjacent hills, never did I know what wound its way along that lake edge and atop those cliff faces. That was until recently when the rumble of Taupo couldn’t be overlooked any longer.
I gathered up two of the lads, Ryan and Jono, and set off for the usually sunny shores of Taupo. Maybe heading down in June wasn’t our best idea, but the joy of riding in the central north island is that the dirt drains quickly. Thermals required though!
With the first day of our exploration rained off, we tucked into seeing the sites and pre-emptively putting our feet up. Craters Mountain Bike Park, located just on the entrance to town was the ideal spot to kill a few hours and meet one of the key locals responsible for Taupo’s trails. Now with over 80km’s of varied singletrack, Greta kindly offered to show us around (more like leave us for dead) an ideal 2-hour wet loop taking in many of the parks classics and a few of the new ‘soon-to-be’ favourites.
With our lungs hanging around our ankles, we moved to the lake in the hope that our sea legs would be in better condition. A stumble and scurry landed us on a chartered fishing / shooting trip hosted by the team from Chris Jolly Outdoors. As we motored our way across to Mine Bay, the team kindly threw a few steaks on the barbie to recharge us before hopping back on the tools.
Steak sandwiches eaten and a house-brewed pilsner necked, we sat rod in lap waiting for the scaly locals to bite. It wasn’t long before the lads hooked up and pulled up a couple of vividly coloured rainbow trout. Us city boys though only really enjoy salt water fish so the trout found their way into the hands of our hosts.
At the time, I couldn’t speak for anyone other than myself, but when the shotgun and clays came out, I had to make note that there was a reason why I stick to riding bikes! “Hand-eye co-ordination is not my strong point”. By the end of the day though the tables had turned and it was I who was hassling Ryan and Jono about their gun-slinging performances. Eight from ten for each of us media lads and five from ten from the ‘talent’. Maybe those tasty brews went down a little too well for some?
Not that it was a competition, but a win is a win! The onslaught of banter went down equally as smoothly as the pilsners from much talked about Taupo brewery, Lakeman and steaks from The Steakhouse.
Next we ventured over and ride the Waihaha trail for the second day of trip though, so stay tuned for instalment #2.
Words & Images: Cameron Mackenzie
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