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When we're young, experiencing new things is just a part of growing up. And testing our limits is something we naturally do. We jump off the highest cliff by the lake, we swing fearlessly on the playground, we explore without question or fear.
But as we get older, that “shininess,” that excitement of new experiences wears off. While undertaking something unprecedented becomes scary again and the onslaught of what-ifs begins.
What if I fail?
What if I fall?
What if my friends laugh at me?
The what-ifs can stop us before we even start.
So, when the opportunity came across my desk to ride the Orakau and part of the Kawakawa section of the Great Lake Trails with FourB Bike Hire & Shuttles, I couldn't pass it up. While I'd only really “mountain biked” once before (on the smooth and easy Wairakei Thermal Loop), I thought this is my chance to just be brave and share a few insights with other newbies who want to give it a go.
1. Let them go and fly! The Orakau Trail, approximately 5 km to Kawakawa Bay, is moderately downhill through native bush. Most parts of the trail are straight. So, I could look ahead to where I was going without corners blocking my vision, giving me the confidence to “send it” (I also learned some new lingo along the way). I let go of the iron grip I had on my brakes and let the wheels fly underneath me. It was the most exhilarating feeling, to say the least (even if it was only for a few seconds before I gripped my brakes again.)
2. Sit your hips back. For any newbie mountain biker, this might seem counterintuitive. Thanks to LoveTaupo’s resident mountain biker, Alex, I learned to control my balance and the bike. When descending, stand up and sit your hips back just above the saddle. This helped me to keep my balance while navigating the trail’s corners and downhills.
3. You will want to swim. Getting to Kawakawa Bay was a mixture of emotions for me. A sense of relief that I didn’t fall, and a sense of gratitude sitting in this remote scenic bay. With just a few resident ducks, the bay’s waters are gin-clear and still. After this first section, make the most of the public facilities and change into your togs – if you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to resist going in for a refreshing dip.
4. Take your time. The Great Lake Trails is one of New Zealand’s Great Rides for a reason...the dynamic scenery flashes by as you bike, the volcanic gorges, the crisp blues of Lake Taupō, the native tree ferns overhead, and the panoramic lookouts to the surrounding mountains. Between flying downhills, take the time to stop and immerse yourself in the scenic stops. I personally recommend Codgers Rock, overlooking Kawakawa Bay, and Lake Taupō. It’s a “wow” moment that you don’t want to miss.
5. Reward yourself. The last section from Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch is mentally stimulating. Between the sharp corners, switchbacks, and downhills, you will keep yourself on your toes (in the best way possible). After the trail flattens and opens to Kinloch’s lakefront views, I couldn’t help but grin at the thought that I did it! As the adrenaline rush fades, reward yourself at the Tipsy Trout*, just a few metres from the trail’s end. Over curly fries and a caramel slice, I got time to absorb what I’d just done, look at all the photos from the trip, and put those moments in the memory bank for later. There was nothing like it!
*Update: Tipsy Trout is now closed. However, we recommend you stop by Kinloch Store and get one of their epic fish burgers!
Do you think you've hiked the hundreds of kilometers of trails in the Taupo region? Explore the endless trails on an e-bike and discover its scenic attractions in a completely new and exciting way.