“About 15 kilometres into the 40 kilometre trail, we realised we had taken on more than we could handle, and yet we made it, which says that we actually could handle it.”

My blog is primarily about my writing and, although there is a lot I could share about New Zealand on here, I’m better off leaving the New Zealand travel blogging to my cousin Jenna and her partner Jordan at Stoked for Saturday. They go on tremendous adventures and share them extremely well with their GoPro gear and their winsome spirits.

However, my wife and I did recently go on a classic New Zealand adventure of our own last weekend, mountain biking the Timber Trail through Pureora Forest. I was very excited when she told me she had arranged the excursion through Paul, an acquaintance of ours who runs Epic Cycle Adventures here in Taumarunui. I was excited by the potential shared experience of it but also for a literary reason which I will share at the end of this blog entry.

Map of the Timber Trail

It was a cold, foggy morning in Ongarue where we met up with Paul who drove us 45 minutes away to Piropiro camp and the beginning of our ride. The true origin of the trail is at Pureora Village near Benneydale. We were starting at the 42 km mark, just about half-way along the route. We were told this was the easier leg of the journey—a fact we soon discovered to be a Godsend and a lifesaver.

Neither Mary nor I have ridden a bicycle since we were fifteen years old. Some of the pictures we had seen online showed folks older than ourselves cruising along with pleasant, relaxed visages. Apparently, it takes most cyclists between four and five hours to complete. We did it in just under seven hours, arriving back at Ongarue before sunset. Still, despite some trials during the ride and some aches and pains after, Mary and I overcame all sorts of physical, psychological and marital obstacles and, just a few short days later, look back on only the beautiful experiences we had.


Antony Millen on Maramataha swing bridgeWe rode over multiple swing bridges, including a massive one at Maramataha. There were plenty of other cyclists and walkers who paused at the bridge—an obvious highlight for everyone.

Once we learned how to change gears properly, we scaled rutted hillside tracks and shambled haphazardly down the same into valleys sprinkled with pathside waterfalls. We rode through a wonderful mixture of sun and shade and stopped occasionally to read some of the many signs detailing the history of the trail and area, including astounding examples of railway engineering and pioneering Kiwi fortitude this deep in King Country bush country. The evidence of this long-gone life is still on the trail in the form of equipment and even railway sleepers which provide for some of the jolting downhill mountain biking treat. Sometimes riding downhill was a greater shock to my body than the sometimes relentless pedalling uphill.

We were delighted, after several kilometres of such downhill, to reach the Ongarue Spiral, after which we finally found the pleasantly plain, consistent gradients we had envisioned when we signed up for this adventure. Back in Ongarue, we met up with patient Paul who had some cold drinks on hand. He was a welcome sight as was our car with its cushioned car seats.

Rock pool TImber Trail

It’s a funny thing about adventures—they’re not really adventures without some level of challenge and even adversity. About 15 kilometres into the 40 kilometre trail, we realised we had taken on more than we could handle, and yet we made it, which says that we actually could handle it. Two days later, after swearing I never wanted to see another bicycle, my wife and I are already talking about buying our own bikes and perhaps trying the trail again after building up our fitness and endurance levels and acquiring some gear to make it more comfortable. It was an incredible place to be, so far removed from town, out of cell phone range and surrounded by beautiful vistas and sounds. We recommend it—all 40 kilometres of it and more if you’re game.

So, what about this literary connection to Pureora Forest and why I was so excited to visit there? In my upcoming novel, Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s) (to be released in June 2014), the main character, Montreal Perec, searches for the treasure of his ancestors in the Central North Island of New Zealand. Through a strange and even esoteric series of leads, he investigates Pureora Forest, or, more specifically, the geographic centre of the North Island which is located in Pureora Forest. Unfortunately, my trail ride didn’t take me to that exact location, but I was pleased to visit close by regardless. It has a cool ring to it—geographic centre—and, in the Central North Island, someone thought it fitting to erect a plinth marking the spot:

Plinth marking the geographic centre of the North Island of New Zealand – Pureora Forest

Enjoy your own adventures and your own esoteric interests—and please check out Te Kauhanga, released in July 2014.

Antony Millen is a Canadian living and writing in New Zealand. He is the author of the novels, Redeeming Brother Murrihy and Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s).


Read about our ride on The Old Coach Road in Tongaririo National Park, New Zealand.




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