We cycled over 1000 kilometers on the north of North Island, so we had a perfect reason to spend few days with our family that lives on the south of Auckland. We had a lot of stories to tell and hundreds of calories to consume.
We bought quite a lot of hand made Maori flax baskets, and pieces of swamp kauri (ancient wood), and had to send it back to Europe, so that we could continue our New Zealand trip with lighter panniers.
We decided to follow the course of Tour Aotearoa – a self supported race across both islands of New Zealand, that was organised by the Kenneth Brothers. We really liked the fact that it was planned by local cycle touring enthusiasts and that we could spend most of the time on cycle trails of various grades, instead of avoiding being run over by Kiwi drivers on paved roads.
Some of the trails were quite demanding – more appropriate for mountain bikers than cyclists travelling on fully loaded bikes. The trails were designed for weekend riders in mind, not the pedaling nomads, but with a bit of pushing, we managed quite well.
Some of the most difficult sections of the Waikato River Trail were really steep and windy – but we enjoyed zipping down the switchbacks a lot …
We were amazed by the fact, that we could literally ride right through some of the most dense forests in New Zealand. The paths, a bit narrow and overgrown at time, were kept in relatively good shape.
Cycling on strong, steel bikes, with all the stuff that we needed was not easy. On the hardest sections we dreamed about doing it on light bikes, without all the load that was dragging us down on the uphills…
But the effort of hauling all our belongings on the trails was well worth it – we could camp right in the middle of the magical forest, that looked like a scene from “Jurassic Park”.
The dense forests covering the mountains of the North Island were once a source of timber. Now some of the former infrastructure (roads and rail lines) are being turned into hiking and cycling trails. The best example of it is the Timber Trail – an 85 kilometers long mountain bike trail, utilizing historic bush tramways and bulldozer roads and featuring dozens of bridges, including 8 scenic hanging ones.
We hadn’t been cycling on such bridges since our visit to Nepal, so we needed to gather a lot of courage before crossing the first one!
We had a lot of fun on the green trails of the North Island. The variety of landscapes and types of foliage was stunning! Highly recommended!
PS.: If you wonder how we managed to take the pictures of ourselves crossing the bridges, here are some behind-the-scene shots for you: