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December 2014

Can you keep a secret? Neither can we.

271114WP1 Jeff Carter from Southstar looks happy about being where we are on a Friday.

Sometimes locals treat a thing they have at their doorstep as if it is a finite resource, and a secret. Surfers tell of the pressure that is created by too many people trying to ride the same wave. Even with another set coming around the point presently, there is a limit to the number of people you can cram into the sweet spot. Same thing with fishing: ask a fisherman exactly where they were the day they caught all those big ones and watch their eyes glaze over.

Mountain biking has turned out to be almost the opposite.

The more people we all tell about it, the more people will have a go. Locals, visitors, the more the merrier. That’s because the more of us there are, the better it gets. Everything gets easier: access, funding, cool new ways to ride.

Nzo tells as many people as we can about mountain biking, so when there is a trip planned to expose a new trail, we get invited. And it works: we have to tell you about it.

The Great Lake Trail is a project that has been brought to life by the co-operation of Bike Taupo, the Department of Conservation, and Nga Haerenga / The New Zealand Cycle Trail.

How far it may eventually stretch is a bit like asking about the length of a piece of string, but for now it has sections that add up to about 70 kms of trail. We went to experience the most remote and spectacular part of the route, from Waihaha River to the lake shore at Waihora Bay.

The day started at Kinloch, with a shuttle from Treadroutes out to the Waihaha trail head on State Highway 32. At 30 kilometres in length, on a trail so mellow that some mates had ridden it on their ‘cross bikes, it sounds like a doddle. And it could be, but it would have to be a slow doddle. If you try to get along at a decent clip it is a very honest day out.

The overall profile takes you down about 175 metres in altitude, but the constant undulations, tight corners, and several deep valleys to traverse add up to plenty of hard pedalling.

But the exact nature of the trail is not the main thing to report. It is the surroundings.

A series of views that are amazing, surprising, and not available except from this trail make the expedition worthwhile.

The final section descends a cliff-face, via a series of platforms hung from the rock, stitching a way down the water’s edge next to a waterfall. The sudden arrival at a pristine beach is startling, made even more so by the boat from Chris Jolly waiting to ferry us to the next section of trail.

The trip across the lake to Kawakawa Bay is made necessary because access to some blocks of land is not yet available, but racking a bunch of bikes on to a big fast boat is almost as good as the boat ride itself.

Pulling in to a bush clad shoreline to be delivered to another trail is something we don't get to do every day.

Make a plan to visit this place soon, and when you have, tell your mates. And make sure they tell theirs.

271114WP2 A view from an outlook on the Waihora Trail. There is no access to a huge chunk of Lake Taupo's shoreline except by boat, but at least now you can use a bike to get a look at it.

271114WP3 Even in the middle of nowhere you have to form an orderly queue. Not that we were complaining.


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