Cycling in the National Park – New Zealand

Fishers track

We had driven for five hours to be told by the tired looking receptionist that the weather was turning for the worst and that we should jump back into the car and head back home.  Four of us had eagerly ventured down to the middle of New Zealand’s north island to hike the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing but the clouds above were pitch black with the cool air giving us all goosebumps.

For a split second we did consider turning the car around and  heading back home, but as we drove through National Park village looking for a bite to eat we spotted the sign that would change our whole weekend.  It read ‘BIKES FOR HIRE’.

After a quick enquiry we left armed with four bright red mountain bikes, four matching helmets and instructions of how get to a gravel road known to the locals as Fishers track.  The track was easy to find, it began just over the railway track at the edge of the village with a trusty road sign pointing us in the right direction.

Happily we left the smooth road tarmac and found our wheels bumping over very rocky gravel.  We gripped our handle bars and found ourselves pedalling around twisty bends, over small potholes and up and down dips.  To begin with our views were obscured by the waving fingers of flax and the fluff of towering toi toi stems (a native New Zealand grass).

The native bush was knitted tightly together with no peeking allowed.  As we cycled closer to the edge of the hillside the native bush loosened its knitted weave and gave way to expansive views of the rugged Retaruke valley below.  The hills surrounded us like decorative layers of cake, a patch work of green covered in curling fern fronds and the pom-pom effect of the cabbage trees.  The road began to narrow as it tightly hugged the heights of the hillside.

The gravel disappeared and was replaced by a powdery dirt.   It became more of a challenge to stay on our bikes when this powder turned to slippery mud.

Trying to stay on the bikes!

We found ourselves wobbling through water filled trenches trying to keep our bikes up right – it was a laugh-fest watching the action unfold. Surprisingly we cycled past a mini digger in the process of fixing this muddy section. It was perched on a steep slope and it looked frightfully uneasy on the hillside.  I hope the operator made it home alright?

We rested our bicycles at a bend overlooking a canopy of green and enjoyed a tasty snack before enjoying our free wheel descent down a grassy path.  It took us over trickling streams, past a wild bunch of excited running goats and through the shadows of tall towering trees. The road finally widen again and the rocky gravel returned beneath our wheels.  We were down in the valley and the stormy clouds in the sky had disappeared.

The sun draped itself over the trees as we pedalled onwards nearing the end.  The farm fences followed the lumps and bumps of the hills as we pedalled past a few worn wooden cottages before finally reaching the cross roads where we waited for our lift back to National Park Village.

We decided to stay the night that evening and the following day even though the stormy cloud had returned it was deemed safe enough to hike the Tongaririo Alpine crossing.  So we wrapped up warm and headed up the peaks of the volcanoes… and it was amazing!

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26 Responses to Cycling in the National Park – New Zealand

  1. mahythesis says:

    Nice to see that final image (and all the rest too). I have fond memories of skinny dipping in that pool. Ah, it’s a beautiful land, to be sure.

  2. Madoqua says:

    What a great article. Have been to NZ a few times, but did not ride in such a spectacular spot.

  3. Whoa! IN-credible! I’d say you’ve done it again, but I’d be repeating myself… : )

    Don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shades of green! And I thought I’d seen rolling hills before, but I was clearly mistaken. Those shots where you can see the hills rolling away like waves in some fantastical green ocean are simply amazing.

    Your prose continues to be an absolute pleasure. Top prize this time around has to go to:

    “The native bush was knitted tightly together with no peeking allowed. As we cycled closer… the native bush loosened its knitted weave and gave way to expansive views…” The idea of plants parting somewhat grudgingly to finally permit a view is inspired!

    Oddly enough, I liked the next to last photo the best, the one at the end of your ride. Something about those tall trees, the fence, the riders and the road receding into the distance… it has a cinematic quality, like the final frame of a very satisfying film. Beautiful.

    I must get to NZ someday!! Great post, pedal on!! : )

    • lovethybike says:

      Thanks Mark… always a treat to hear from you! Glad that I have tempted you to take a trip to NZ.. if you make it I am sure you wont be disappointed . The country always manages to surprise me every time I visit.

  4. My friends and I hiked the Tongariro Cross three or four years ago, but we had bad weather (looked great when we started!) and it was a real mission! Plus we hardly saw any of the beautiful scenery going up because of the low lying cloud. I wish we had seen the “bikes for hire” sign! Anyway, we are going to try the hike it again in the future, and will also do the bike ride too!

    Love your posts, and the beautiful photography. I feel inspired to write a few about my (few) trips as well.

    • lovethybike says:

      Thanks for all your comments! It is always great to hear from the readers. The weather on Tongariro is so changeable is it crazy.. We had all the extremes in the span of 2 days. Sounds as if you had as much of an adventure as we did!

  5. Reblogged this on Michelle Childs’ blog and commented:
    Awesome post about the writer’s cycling trips around the world. Great writing and awesome photography.

  6. Your photos and descriptions are absolutely breathtaking. I’d love to see this place some day.

  7. VivianaAyre says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!

  8. Jeff Shone says:

    A great post as usual. Keep on trucking!

  9. Anita Mac says:

    Stunning photos. Look like you got to experience such an amazing adventure – by bike and by hike! NZ really is so gorgeous – love it!

  10. jcreore says:

    As always, beautiful photos and well written text. I really enjoy your blogs.

  11. tootlepedal says:

    Wonderful pictures. It looks like a great day out.

  12. Absolutely gorgeous. I am hoping to visit New Zealand next year.

  13. tmso says:

    I have almost the exact picture you got of that lake.

    Glad you all biked around first! What a great way to make the day work out for you all.

  14. A. S. Ellis says:

    I love that, thanks to technology, and your willingness to take the time to write and upload photos, I have the opportunity to take a break from work in Northern Wisconsin and join you on a trail in New Zealand. Thank you so much. Really. This just made my day!

  15. secretsofmommyhood says:

    Beautiful pictures!

  16. Spectacular landscape!! I must visit and I’d love to give mountain biking a go….
    ..starting with my own “backyard” – beautiful British Columbia! 🙂

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