The mighty Timber Trail – it’s more than just a nice bike ride

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Well-maintained mountain bikes with knobby tires, good gearing, and at least front suspension are a must on the Timber Trail. Photo / Provided

When it comes to dream jobs, Lynley Twyman believes she has one of the most dreamy jobs, not just in adventure travel, but in any industry.

She is ‘Official Trail Champion’ for the Timber Trail cycling tour which runs 85km through Pureora Forest Park between Pureora in the eastern part of the Waitomo district to Ongarue, 45 minutes south of Te Kuiti.

As an avid nature lover, conservationist and cyclist, Lynley is passionate about the Timber Trail and its role in advocating and marketing the trail, working with the community and businesses that provide accommodations, shuttle services to cyclists to and from the trail and, for those who need it, guides and bikes for hire.

To learn more about the Timber Trail, which is maintained by the Department of Conservation, and to help inspire powerful local adventurers to go and experience it, the Herald of Waikato spoke with Lynley.

The Timber Trail is a place of amazing history and connection to the environment.  Photo / Provided
The Timber Trail is a place of amazing history and connection to the environment. Photo / Provided

Waikato Herald: What is the Timber Trail? The magic, the experience?

Lynley Twyman: The Timber Trail is one of New Zealand’s 23 Great Rides. This is a two-day, 85km trail experience ideal for confident intermediate level cyclists exploring the magic of the ngahere (forest), beginning its journey in the pristine Pikiariki Ecological Reserve near Maniaiti/ Benneydale before heading up majestic Mount Pureora and beyond. at the south end of the trail at Ongarue.

Along the way, cyclists – and people who choose to walk the trail – cross eight stunning suspension bridges (there are 35 bridges in total), pass through incredible regenerating forest, and learn about the area’s rich history, including the Ongarue Spiral which was built in the early 1920s as part of the bush tram that opened up the forest to logging.

Widely regarded as New Zealand’s number one two-day adventure course, the Timber Trail’s wairua (spirit, soul) brings people back time and time again.

WH: Where do you usually get most of your visitors from?

For the self-sufficient, there is camping in the authorized areas.  Photo / Provided
For the self-sufficient, there is camping in the authorized areas. Photo / Provided

LT: Most of our visitors are Kiwi cyclists, mainly from the North Island. These are people who only come to the Timber Trail, as well as those who take the trail as part of a multi-day cycling trip like Tour Aotearoa or Kopiko Aotearoa where they cycle around the country.

WH: Which is more popular – sections or total trail?

LT: Most runners complete the full 85km Timber Trail distance. On a cloudless day, the view from the top of Mount Pureora (a short walk from the trail) is unbeatable. The screams and sheer delight they express as they cross the spectacular suspension bridges across pristine streams and valleys of ancient trees are testament to this incredible experience. The Maramataha Bridge in the middle of the trail is the longest at 141m and the tallest at 53m.

Most trail users are intrigued by the pioneering history of logging in the area.  Photo / Provided
Most trail users are intrigued by the pioneering history of logging in the area. Photo / Provided

Most trail users are intrigued by the pioneering history of logging in the area and the Ellis and Burnard bush tram, which operated between 1922 and 1958, as well as the stories about families and people who traced the original track that the trail now follows. For everyone, the abundance of birds is a joy – the whistle of the kererū swooping over your head as you ride, the loud cry and chatter of the kākā, and the inquisitive and inquisitive pīwakawaka, to name a few. to name a few.

WH: Do you have to be in good shape to run the Timber Trail?

LT: To ride the trail, you must be reasonably fit and have good biking skills to tackle the miles of uphill, downhill, and riding along a mix of well-maintained single-track and gravel roads. Of course, there’s the option of an electric mountain bike to take some of the hard work out of the climbs. As the trail is remote, riders should also bring warm clothes and food with them to refuel along the way.

The trail crosses eight superb suspension bridges.  The Maramataha Bridge at the midpoint is the longest at 141m and the tallest at 53m.  Photo / Provided
The trail crosses eight superb suspension bridges. The Maramataha Bridge at the midpoint is the longest at 141m and the tallest at 53m. Photo / Provided

Halfway accommodation options include Blackfern Lodge and Timber Trail Lodge which offer warm hospitality, dinner and breakfast. There’s also the friendly atmosphere of glamping at Camp Epic, where many runners say the showers are the best they’ve encountered on a trail.

For the self-sufficient, there is camping in the authorized areas. Hikers will find the tiny Bogg Inn Hut a rustic place to spend the night. The hut was built in the 1960s to house scientists studying in the area and is built in tōtara with the original adze walls and chain-sawn floors still in place.

Most hikers then space out their nights, including taking advantage of accommodation options halfway to the lodge with the riders and perhaps spending an extra night on the trail by camping near one of the shelters along the trail. journey.

The trail is widely regarded as the number one two-day adventure trail in New Zealand.  Photo / Provided
The trail is widely regarded as the number one two-day adventure trail in New Zealand. Photo / Provided

WH: Is the Timber Trail family friendly?

LT: Family groups of reasonably fit cyclists are welcome on the Timber Trail. Often we have parents with kids in their mid-teens and up who are ready for a big adventure without Wi-Fi, cell phone coverage, and screen distractions.

WH: What types of bikes are recommended? To hire? Or BYO?

LT: Well-maintained mountain bikes with knobby tires, good gearing, and at least front suspension are a must on the Timber Trail when navigating the old tram sleepers and gravel trail. Whether your choice of bike is electric or 100% human, a good bike makes the trail fun to ride. If you don’t have one, there are two companies on the trail – Epic Cycling Adventures and Timber Trail Shuttles and Bike Hire – that rent bikes, provide shuttle services, and provide necessary equipment, including trail markers. personal location for each group.

WH: What will most impress Timber Trail riders?

LT: The Timber Trail is a place of incredible history and connection to the environment – for many people, being off the grid in such a remote part of our country is pure novelty. At the southern end of the Ongarue Trail, there is also one of the few railway spirals in the southern hemisphere that you can cycle through.

The Timber Trail grew out of protests in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when conservation activists occupied Pureora Forest to prevent further felling of native trees.  Photo / Provided
The Timber Trail grew out of protests in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when conservation activists occupied Pureora Forest to prevent further felling of native trees. Photo / Provided

WH: Tell us about Timber Trail’s sustainability philosophy.

LT: The Timber Trail grew out of protests in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when conservation activists occupied Pureora Forest to prevent further felling of native trees. They built platforms in trees, sat on the ground in front of trees and on rails, and hid under logs.

For Timber Trail businesses, the event has laid the foundation for valuing, protecting and improving the environment as well as caring for our people, including our manuhiri (visitors) and our communities. isolated areas crossed by the path.

Of course, most accommodation on the Timber Trail is off the grid and the primary mode of travel is by bicycle. Additionally, the trail has created jobs for local people, while providing them with the opportunity to get out and enjoy the trail.

As the Timber Trail is free to ride or walk, we also encourage our visitors to donate to help with our work to improve the trail. They can easily do this via our Friends of the Timber Trail website fott.org.nz.

WH: What’s your all-time favorite visitor comment?

LT: Wow! Yes, that’s what many visitors exclaim when they experience the great adventure that is the Timber Trail.

Come ride the Timber Trail – we’re proud of our reputation, which is spreading among the global cycling community, and we’d love for more locals to experience it for themselves!

Image / Tourism in Hamilton and Waikato
Image / Tourism in Hamilton and Waikato

Forest trail at a glance

● Two-day 85km trail that can be hiked in either direction, but North to South – Pureora to Ongarue – is the easiest option as it is downhill overall.

● Grade: a mix of 2-3 – confident intermediate runners.

● Age limit: Although there is no age limit, it is recommended that drivers be at least the age of adolescence.

● Access points: Pureora, Piropiro or Ongarue.

● Accommodation, shuttles, bike hire are available – see timbertail.nz

● Best time of year to ride the trail: Fall, spring and summer are most popular, while cyclists who hit the trail during the winter months describe it as often spectacular (just pack warmer equipment).

● Website: timbertrail.nz

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