While Aaron was off running up volcanoes I joined the boys, Josh, Alan, Phil and Hilary to ride an NZ classic mountain bike route called the “42 Traverse”. The 42 traverse is approximately 42 km of track across the Tongariro Forest Park along old logging trails. The great thing is that it starts 900 m above sea level and ends at 550 m – so a total descent of 350 m. Unfortunately it is not all down hill and there are a few short steep climbs, a longer climb and several river crossings to keep you entertained along the way, not to mention the sketchy muddy rutted sections. It is obviously a popular route for the trail bikes too, as we bumped in to quite a few and there was plenty of evidence of their regular presence on the track.
The morning was pretty cold, as evidenced by the iced over puddles on the track, but with clear blue skies and no wind it soon warmed up and was quite pleasant riding conditions.
There are quite a few views of Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu at the beginning of the track. Logging in the Tongariro Forest ended 20 years ago, so the area is slowly regenerating and has a bit of a prehistoric look about it. It is also a very strange lumpy landscape (highly eroded ignimbrite sheets for all the geonerds out there).
The boys raced off at the beginning of the track – probably because it was freezing and we all wanted to warm up. I tootled along at the back, where I pretty much stayed for most of the ride. We caught up with another group of cyclists about 2/3 of the way along the track and I realised that compared the average mountain biker I’m not so slow after all. Unfortunately all the mud took its toll on the bikes and several of the guys started getting really bad chain suck and gear issues.
We got to the end of the track at Owhango and rode up the hill, probably the hardest part of the whole track. Fortunately we were rewarded with a beer at the end, as the track appears to unofficially end at the pub. So we patiently sat in the sun drinking beer while Phil and Aaron shuttled cars.
Back at the bach in National Park we queued for the one outdoor tap to spend a couple of hours cleaning and fixing bikes up to allow us to ride the next day.
After much debate and consulting the Kennett brothers mountain biking guide we decided to change our initial plan for Sunday. The final decision was to attempt the "Mangapurua Trig" ride – although none of us knew anything about it - the description promised 80% single track and 20% 4WD.
Sunday morning we woke up to drizzle and low cloud - disappointing. We were here so we were going to ride.... we headed off down a twisty back country road in the middle of nowhere to the start of the track. There were a few vehicles parked at the end of the track - but they all had trailers for ATV's, or quad bikes, so this was obviously good pig hunting country. We headed up a relatively gentle gradient 4WD track through some farm fields - this must be the 20% 4WD track. A couple of kms in we reached a more forested section and the 4WD track continued - in fact the 4WD track continued the whole way to the last 10 m, a short hike up to the trig. So much for the 80% single track - what is the definition of single track? I assume it means you can't ride next to each other. In general this ride was less technical than the 42 traverse, with only a few muddy sections to make hard work on the uphill and entertaining on the downhills, especially for the boys with v-brakes. I think we almost spent more time in the creek cleaning the mud off our bikes at the end than we did on the whole ride. Don't think we'll be doing that ride again in a hurry.
Covered in mud....one of my muddiest rides ever.