Wake up at 6:30am, in order to leave at 7am. We indeed saw that there was a good weather forecast for today, which would allow us to do one of the 2 outdoor days that I scheduled in Ohakune (one biking day and one trekking day). We will therefore try to do the biking day today (I’ll call the organization to see if I can change the day, which was supposed to be done on Wednesday). Regarding the trek (which is the renowned Tongariro Crossing), which was supposed to be done tomorrow, we are now contemplating to do it on Thursday (but it means to rent the camper for one day more – for an additional 400$!). Let’s see day after day.
So here we are, on the (4h drive) road to Ohakune. Isabelle drives.
I call ‘Mountain Bike Station’; it’s ok to do both rides today. Yippee!
I also call the only accommodation that I could find in Franz Josef Glacier (Top 10 Holiday Park), to confirm the booking of the standard cabin in their camping (for next week, Saturday to Tuesday). Luckily, it’s still available…
We stop on the road, near the beach in Whanganui, to eat our breakfast (cereals and lots of fruits, as usual).
We arrive in Ohakune at 12:30pm. I go and put the camper in our camping (rather empty), which is another Top 10 Holiday Park.
At 1pm, we are ready to go. We start with the short (17 km) ‘Turoa Downhill Madness’ ride, down the Mt Ruapehu ski-field access road. After taking our bikes, helmets and gloves from the shop, the shuttle brings us to Turoa Ski Field Carpark, from where we start the 1,000 m descent (in 17 km only), on a sealed road. The wind is rather cold over there. The beginning is very steep and we go very fast. Everybody enjoys! Kids like speed. We stop to eat our picnic (sandwiches) near water falls.
It takes us one hour to come back to the shop. It was amazing! We only broke 2 water bottles on this crazy downhill (Ludivine’s one and mine).
We are ready to do the second part of our “bike day”: the ‘Old Coach Road’, a 15km, grade 2 ride. As per the Lonely Planet, it is “one of NZ’s best half-day cycle rides”.
We are transported out, by shuttle, to Horopito, from where we start the ride.
The Ohakune Old Coach Road was used by horse drawn coaches in the early 1900s to transport passengers between the two rail heads of the unfinished North Island trunk line. Once the railway was complete, the cobblestone route became discontinued and was lost to the forest for almost 100 years. Recently restored and now part of the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail, the route wanders the lower slopes of Mt Ruapehu, passing historical sites including the camps of railway workers, the ruins of the Taonui viaduct and the Hapuawhenua Viaduct.
The 15km track winds beneath the cool canopy on the lower slopes of Mount Ruapehu, into the heart of one of the few remaining sections of virgin native forest in the North Island. The ride’s grandest spectacle is the Old Hapuawhenua Viaduct. Spanning 294m and fully restored in 2009, the lofty and elegantly curved engineering marvel offers up excellent photo opportunities. It’s so great to be able to ride on it; quite impressive! Just to make me regret my camera even more… Other highlights include a spooky (dark) tunnel and a fun downhill blast towards the end of the ride during which there are also panoramic views across the rolling Waimarino Plains. I really loved this ride; I’m not sure my enthusiasm was shared by the rest of the family though; they found it a bit tough (gravel and cobblestone path + difficult uphills/downhills).
Back in the camping, we take a nice (and well-deserved) aperitif outside, in the sun. The weather has been great the whole afternoon; we did very well to take advantage of this ‘sunny weather’ window! We now have 2 days (of rain) to wait before the next sunny day, which is forecasted on Thursday, to do the Tongariro Crossing, one of the highlights of the NZ trip. Let’s cross fingers!
Salad for dinner.