309 Days on the Road
Ah New Zealand, you are always keeping us on our toes! New Zealand is renowned for its dramatic change in scenery in such a short distance. The drive between Turangi and National Park Village couldn’t be a better example. After the last few days of soaking up the views of pristine lakes and riding raging rapids on the Tongariro River surrounding Turangi, we are hitting the road to the “Volcano Country”. A steady drive up into the Central Plateau first reveals the venting volcano of Mt Tongariro, then Mt Ngauruhoe peaks its red cone-shaped head from behind. Finally, the largest volcano in New Zealand, Mt Ruapehu, complete with a snowy mountaintop, proudly stands at the back. It’s difficult to take our eyes away from these volcanoes as we make our way to National Park Village.
Arriving in National Park
After only 25-minutes of driving, we arrive at one of the highest settlements in New Zealand at around 825 metres. National Park Village is a super small village where the landscape is carpeted with low alpine shrubbery making mountain-viewing all the more easier.
The Fishers Track with My Kiwi Adventure
We rock up to the base of My Kiwi Adventure, just around the back of the Schnapps Bar, and meet Richard who is giving us some mean mountain bikes to tackle one of the many mountain bike trails in the area. Today, we are taking on the Fishers Track, a grade 2 trail with a 600-metre vertical blast to enjoy. Equipped with a full-suspension mountain bike, helmet and a simple route directions print-out, we start peddling through the village to the start of the Fishers Track.
Begin the ascent!
The Fishers Track is well signposted from the village, which brings us across the railway line to begin our steady ascent for about 3km. The wide gravel road gives us plenty of room to ride side-by-side for a natter on the way up (between heavy breathing). With all the uphill pumping, we almost forget to pause and look behind us at those epic views overlooking National Park and out to Mt Ruapehu!
Forest and birds
The further along the gravel road we go, the more the road is consistently lined with low native forest. Birds dart from one side of the road to the other and they can be heard jamming away with those crazy R2D2 calls New Zealand birds are known for.
First glimpses of the RETARUKE VALLEY
Downhill blasts in the Retaruke Valley
Once we finally reach the top, we have a further stretch of gravel road. But what goes up must come down, making this section of gravel road a blast! We whiz downhill able to catch some speed on the well-formed road. The forest on one side of the trail begins to open up, exposing the view of the rolling mountains of the Retaruke Valley. Woah! The mountains go on for as far as the eye can see, covered in a mix of greenery from grass to native forest to pine forest. We even spot a couple of goats going on some sort of pilgrimage along a mountain ridge.
Single track in the wilderness
After passing a couple of gates, we get to a single track downhill section – this is where the real off-road wilderness mountain biking experience begins. It starts off on a grassy trail then quickly turns to (mostly) dried dirt with a few bumps along the way. The result of a recent two solid weeks of heavy rainfall is still ingrained in the track with pockets of thick mud – but most of them are easy enough to ride through, plus the bikes can handle it. The mix of epic views, downhill thrills and enough features to keep you switched on certainly makes the Fishers Track a must-do trail! What’s more, this is a very accessible track even for us who have had very limited mountain biking experience. As long as you can control your speed, the bikes and beauty of the trail do the rest of the work for you.
Powering through the farmlands
Saying that, having the stamina to do a few more uphills is needed for the next part of the ride which brings us to more gravel road going up and down for further 11km. Here, we peddle in a landscape of farmland where sheep, deer and cows pause from their grazing to look us in the eye and judge us. Even if the land has been wiped of its forest, the rolling hills are still alluring and a joy to ride through.
The end of our ride and our pick-up point is marked by a war memorial monument decorated with small white crosses in preparation for the upcoming Anzac Day. There’s also an ironic sculpture of a horse made out of horse shoes making an impressive end to our ride.
Richard arrives in a van to load the bikes on the back and take us back to National Park Village. As we travel about 20 minutes back to base, we think: “Holy sh*t, we’ve come a long way!” 27km from start to finish!
Checking in at the Skotel
We arrive back in National Park Village, say goodbye to Richard, and hit the road for a short drive to Whakapapa Village situated at the base of Mt Ruapheu. We check-in at Skotel Hotel and Backpackers which is going to be our base for the next three days of Ruapehu-related activities, from taking a chairlift up to the “highest cafe in New Zealand” to hiking in this volcanic landscape!
Until then, we are going to relax our tired bodies on the decking of our room and watch the sun go down over the North Island where we can see as far as Mt Taranaki on the west coast! See you tomorrow!
Stunning surroundings on the Fishers Track
Have you read that post about checking out the place where the Haka was born? What about these articles:
- The Best Mountain Biking Regions in New Zealand
- Mountain Biking in Ruapehu
- 13 Walks Around National Park Village & Whakapapa Village
See you tomorrow!