In February 2019, R&R was able to check off a bucket list experience. We visited both islands of New Zealand. Every view was eye popping. It’s as if we were trapped in a national park the entire time. The coastal towns were busy with tourists and water activities and the middle of the country is mostly golden farm land for free range sheep, cattle or vineyards with a dose of the Southern Alps providing for a more rugged alpine experience.
We brought our helmets and shoes in hopes to get a ride in and luckily we were able to on pretty cool trails in North Island town of Rotorua (home of Crank Works Rotorua and enduro racing). The town is pretty sweet with a cool city center that’s kinda like a market with shops, cafes and stores not far from natural thermal pools and streams. The town sits on a volcano practically so warm thermal air shoots from the ground in random places like back yards, side walks and parks.
The area where we rode bikes is called Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest (pronounced Fah-kah-reh-wa-reh-wa; reduced version of Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao, meaning The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao, often abbreviated to Whaka by locals). It’s best described as a system of trails that look like a plate of spaghetti on a map. Noteable features of this particular place have mountain bikers (and other trail enthusiasts) in mind: there is an outfitter at the the bottom with all that’s needed to rent, fix and set up bikes; there is a cafe with coffee, snacks and ice cream; clean bathrooms with showers; and the coolest shuttle system around - a guy drives riders in an old rickety bus up the mountain about 10 minutes on winding gravel roads to a drop off point where then the riders get off and either ride higher up or go down.
On our first run, we decided to ride higher while still fresh. Roxy was babying a knee injury so it was slow go but doable. Our rentals were full squish, heavy duty bikes and since we were so close to sea level, we didn’t have to deal with altitude! The trails were super fun. Pretty natural in the trees with roots and rocks. Oh, by the way, we were riding IN a rain forest where the trees shaded the trail so though it was a warm day, under the canopy of the bush, it was cool and dark. We had to take off our sun glasses in order to see! We did a few runs and on the last one opted to take a route that was new and not on the map. We got a bit turned around and ended up asking a couple of locals who happened to ride by how to get back. After a long day on the bike, in shorts, while our home trails were covered in a foot of snow, we sat in the sun sipping cold drinks and dreaming of never coming home.