A few years back, Uncle John (the Prime Minister of New Zealand) came up with an idea to build a cycle trail the length of New Zealand. This idea has morphed into a variety of trails throughout the country, which will one day hopefully be connected to each other through back country roads. The Kennett Brothers have published a guide on these trails and connector routes.
It is my mission to explore as many of these as possible and I am doing quite well so far. This year’s holiday took me to Taupo on the doorstep to the Great Lakes Trail. It would simply be wrong not to ride it.
After quick consultation between Our Rider and Biggest fan I was loaded into truck and taken to the start of the trail off Whangamata Road, west of Kinloch. The first section is, with great originality, called K2K (Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch). Only thing is you have to ride 10km to get to Kakwakawa bay, which is gloriously blessed with no road access!
With a backpack loaded with roast lamb and nutella sandwiches (not on the same sandwich), fresh peaches, camera equipment and an EPIRB we waved good bye and started on our way. Within seconds I was singing praises of this beautifully made trail, smooth under tyre a pleasure to ride. We happily shared the trail with several walkers and dogs and undulated the 10km to Kawakawa Bay.
There are strategically placed seats, which offer the explorer the opportunity to take time out from their journey to resplendently reflect on the Creator, the meaning of life, or whether it is time for a nutella sandwich.
After taking time to be resplendent it was the start of a 3km climb, all very rideable especially as Our Rider’s fitness has enhanced greatly over the past six months. The effort of climbing is always rewarded.
While having a lie down I met another bicycle ridden by a young lad, who also took time to resplend in the view. We were soon to meet the young lad again in less than fortunate circumstances. While riding downhill his bicycle decided to have a very close encounter with a tree in an attempt to avoid a close encounter with another bicycle who was coming up. Let’s just say no trees or bicycles were harmed in the encounter, although the young lad took quite some time to come around and may have two broken fingers as a reminder of his adventure.
With the magic of snakes and water the lad arose looked at his fingers and commented “although broken they are not the fingers I need to brake“. (OK they were not his exact words and I am allowed poetic licence to play with words). After such bravery we escorted the young lad and bicycle the seven or so kms downhill to Kinloch, where due to wonderful cellphone reception on this trail, his friends arrived to pick him up.
Our Rider happily sat and munched on her roast lamb sandwiches while I took a wee nap in the shade. While resting Pete from Great Lake Shuttles approached and provided informative detailed information on the ride ahead, some of which was accurate. “It’s 8km uphill, well only the first 3km really. Are you riding the Headland Loop too?,” he asked. Our Rider nodded in assent. “There’s a couple of uphills in that, then when you get back onto the W2K trail it’s all downhill from there.” He then provided detailed instructions on how to get to the W2K trail, which meant Our Rider only having to ask directions from one person along the way! W2K is yet another inspired name for Whakaipo to Kinloch (although we were riding it the other way).
Before leaving Kinloch Our Rider visited the dairy for more water, a can of coke to be carefully carried until Whakaipo, and then she saw a slushie. Ever since reading about Cadel Evan’s use of slushies for performance enhancement (well it’s a bit different from Armstrong’s use of Edgar Allan Poe – never understood why poetry is a banned substance), Our Rider has become quite a fan of icy sugary things. The bright magenta slushie displayed in the dairy was too great a temptation and the perfect antidote to the hot day and solid climb ahead. Our Rider stoically pushed through the brain freeze in the interest of science and performance enhancement.
Pete was quite right only the first 3km were solid uphill. The next 3km or so were relatively undulating and before we knew it we reached a signpost standing in indication of decision. Our Rider rested here hoping that Mr Whippy (an ice-cream truck) would arrive.
Hmm an entrepreneurial person has yet to find a solution to the dilemma of how to get and keep ice-cream frozen up here. So once Our Rider realised that Mr Whippy was not on his way she chose the Headland Loop / Lookout Option.
At the lookout there was another opportunity to resplendently reflect and then we carried on back to the Headland Loop track and on and on. Pete had said there were a couple of hills. I counted only one. It was continuous.
Just as I was becoming weary of all the upping I reached a clearing and there she appeared. Both Jan and I have had the pleasure of seeing her before and yet on this occasion she was even more magnificent than ever. I really did believe I had ascended to bicycle heaven.
Carting the camera equipment around certainly paid dividends as Our Rider carefully whipped out the telephoto lens and captured her magnificence.
This was definitely a place to take time out and enjoy a resplendent nutella sandwich. There is even cell phone reception up here and we were able to report our progress to Biggest Fan, who was back at base camp having returned from his fishing expedition (successful of course).
With the shadows lengthening and the camera battery dead, it was time to focus on the homeward leg, which Pete had promised was all downhill. His statement proved correct until the uphills appeared.
For some strange reasons on one of the downhill sections Our Rider decided to part company with me. I still struggle to work that out. I am a faithful steadfast stead who carries her on so many wonderful adventures and yet she does not want to be with me. I was not physically hurt and quite frankly I do not care whether or not Our Rider sustained a few bruises, or maybe I do. I do need her to take me on adventures. Oh it is a symbiotic existence, which is an improvement on a parasitic one.
Fortunately Our Rider landed on her right knee and not her back, so the camera equipment remained intact and the roast lamb and nutella sandwiches had earlier moved from the backpack to Our Rider’s digestive system, so all was well.
Despite the tumble it was still a pleasant descent (with ups in it) to Whakaipo, another stunning spot. Our Rider called our last rest stop and carefully opened the can of coke transported from Kinloch. No coke was lost in the process and it quickly disappeared down Our Rider’s throat.
From there it was a pleasant ride along a road with very few cars up a long climb and then a lovely descent to Acacia Bay, where we came to our temporary abode. We sat and reflected in the resplendent omen such a day presented. A New Year with each day a New Day.
This was one of my very best outings I have had in my adventurous life and I highly recommend that all Mountain Bikes out there grab their riders and explore this trail. It indeed lives up to its name “Great Lake Trail.” – Thanks Uncle John.