© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Downhill Thrills at Waitangi MTB Park & Sunset Cruise to Russell

© NZPocketGuide.com

351 Days on the Road

You might think that all the action in the Bay of Islands is out on the water, but there are plenty of thrills to be had at the land-based activity we are checking out today! Before hitting the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park, we meet Johhny from Paihia Mountain Bike Rentals located on the waterfront of Paihia to get ourselves some bikes.

“Gearing” up with Paihia Mountain Bike Rentals

The Paihia Mountain Bike Rentals base has full suspension mountain bikes, plenty of info about the new mountain bike park, a shuttle service, plus they serve the Twin Coast Cycle Trail which ends/begins in Paihia. The Twin Coast Cycle Trail a cruisy cross-country cycle trail that we checked out some sections of just the other day by foot because, ya know, Robin has a broken arm. Speaking of that, his arm is still well and truly broken in two places so he has to give the mountain biking a miss today. Nevertheless, Laura is still taking one for the team (which isn’t exactly difficult with our job but we self-congratulate where it is due). But with very minimal mountain bike park experience, let’s just hope she doesn’t break her own arm…

Next stop, Waitangi Mountain Bike Park

Shuttle loaded with mountain bikes, we join Johnny and an intrepid couple from Tasmania who are sailing around the world and mountain biking where they can and head toward the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park.

Downhill thrills sponsored by the community

The Waitangi MTB Park is well sign-posted past the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (been there, done that) and past the golf course (which offers some awesome views across the views, by the way). We are greeted at the entrance of the MTB park by a stand of large red pouwhenua – totem poles carved with Maori designs. More about the cultural poles guarding the sacred land are told to us by Tiff, the lady behind the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park. The park is a community project that has been backed by various sponsors including the local prison where the inmates carved these pouwhenua for the mountain bike park. Even renting our bikes with Paihia Mountain Bike Rentals includes a small donation to the MTB park to help with trail maintenance. Heaps of information can be found on the huge information board at the entrance of the park, as well as a trail map.

But enough of this jibber jabber. Let’s go ride some trails!

Large 4×4 tracks lead to various zones by bike, but we’re kind of cheating for photo and video purposes. Tiff gives us a lift to up high to an awesome vantage point of the network of trails, as well as the start of many downhill trails too. The four riders including Laura tackle the Kiwi Flow first, named after the kiwi dogs that sniff out the kiwi birds living in the area so the trail-makers can avoid damaging their habitats.

Bikes off the car, helmets on, a quick ride around to make sure the seat is the right size, and we get into it. The ride starts off with a couple of sharp turns to test your nerve (but Laura has no shame creeping around these ones), then we have 1.4km packed with features to keep you off your seat. Small dips and drops keep the momentum going, while advanced riders could totally have a blast catching some air if they wanted to.

Ending the downhill blast with a cruisy ride over the bridge

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Dips, drops and tight turns to the family-friendly loop

After weaving through the pine forest, we reach the bottom of the valley, cross a bridge and meet up with Robin and Tiff to take us to the next trail. Now we tackle a quick downhill section with heaps more drops, tight turns and general downhill thrills until we get to the Holland Days Loop, a “family-friendly” loop so that Laura can stop sh*ting her pants. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of twists and turns through the forest, with a few rocks to ride over (and rock sculptures to admire too).

Muddy by happy mountain bikers

We catch back up with Robin and Tiff, looking fresh and clean while the rest of us are mud splat central. We like to think it’s a sign of a good ride – the most adventurous, feature-filled ride Laura has survived so far! The full-suspension mountain bikes are to thank.

As the morning cracks on and people have places to be, we say goodbye to the Waitangi MTB Park team, eat some lunch outside the pouwhenua, then head onto our next activity of the day.

A change of plans

To cut a long story short, we had organised to show you guys the Kawiti Glowworm Caves, but arrived to discover photos and filming were forbidden. Because we are making a video series too, which is coming out real soon – eek, we can’t exactly make a good video out of nothing. As we drive back to Paihia, Robin is feeling a little grumpy – missing out on the mountain biking, not high-fiving the glowworms… Then Laura remembers about a badass chocolate shop in Russell when we visited the other day. Robin loves hot chocolate, plus, we have only seen Russell under the rain. Ferry tickets are pretty cheap, so let’s do it! Let’s have a sunset ferry trip over to Russell!

A glorious cruise over to Russell

We park our car back at our accommodation, Base, then walk down to the Paihia Wharf where we arrive just in time to take the Fullers GreatSights ferry over to Russell. We get prime seats at the top of the boat to feel the sea breeze and the late-afternoon sun on our face. We still can’t get over how glorious the Bay of Islands can be in winter.

Chocolate overload and a sunset cruise in the Bay of Islands

As soon as we disembark the ferry, we waste no time in going to the Newport Chocolate Shop for the “Best hot chocolate in the Bay of Islands”. Two artisan chocolates are included and we drink the richest hot chocolate imaginable. Laura is so chocolated out (which we thought was an impossible task) that Robin has to finish it.

We catch the ferry back to Paihia just in time for sunset, which is pretty darn magical. Plus, we give ourselves backpacker points for finding the cheapest sunset cruise on the Bay of Islands!

On that note, we’ll see you again tomorrow where we will be kayaking through a mangrove forest and straight up to a waterfall!

See, there are plenty of things to do in New Zealand with a broken arm

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