Geyserland Gravel Grind: Day Two

Some people seemed eager to get on the trail, so campsite noise began early. Apparently the wind had really got up in the night, but I’d missed that – so my night maybe wasn’t as sleepless as I’d thought. Breaking camp it was down to the store to find breakfast – hot meat pies are fine for breakfast, right? Retracing our path a little along the highway we were soon climbing up in front of the cliff faces to the valley that Herepuru Road lies in.

Gaining that little bit of elevation quickly confirmed that it was another glorious day in the Bay. That’s White Island puffing away on the horizon – I really should visit one day.

While the more magnificient Tarawera Falls were near to our route, this would be the largest waterfall we saw on our trip.

Gaining four hundred metres in altitude was a little bit of a shock first thing in the morning, but it was a lovely climb up through quiet farmland and then onto another stretch of the gravel Manawahe Rd. A fast, loose and thrilling ride ensued on the gravel as we quickly returned to the plains, which were basically at sea level.

Looking toward Kawerau and Mt Edgecumbe partway down the descent back to the plains.

We made good time against a slight wind on the highway before turning south at Te Teko – our last place for getting water and buying supplies for sixty kilometres. Buying more pies, we rolled out under the watchful eye of a local Mob emissary – much speculation was had as to whether he was checking out the patch of the Coastal Crew (a group from Kapiti with their own printed riding gear) or just generally impressed by the large twenty-nine inch wheels.

For the next seventy kilometres we followed quiet backroads through an awful lot of forest, much of it unsealed. I was surprised to see a rail line through here – I’d no idea, apparently it brings logs from Murupara to the mills at Kawerau. It was not unpleasant climbing up to five hundred metres, even if all the pine trees were somewhat similar. We found a trail angel just past the halfway point of the day and gladly accepted oat cookies and were happy to stop and chat for a while. Eventually things flattened out and the hills became undulating; it was time for lunch in the sun on a big grassy patch, and another pie. Stopping briefly in the shade at Rerewhakaaitu School to refill bottles, I looked across the road and saw the hall that we stayed in twenty years ago on aforementioned cycle tours. Those were the days where you could walk or ride up & down Tarawera for the princely sum of two dollars. Always so much fun running down into the crater and then blasting down the 4WD road off the mountain.

Here’s a view of what I consider the back of Mt Tarawera, and what is definitely Steve’s back.

Having skirted around Lake Rerewhakaaitu and passing the roads used to access the northern part of the lake, I recalled numerous days and nights camping beside the lake and finally learning to deep-water start on a single waterski. Gosh, it’s been years since I’ve been waterskiing. There’s a nice bit of new singletrack around the edge of Rainbow Mountain that gets bikes & riders off the highway for a bit. We took that before stocking up for the next day’s breakfast & lunch at Benny Bee cafe – and feeding ourselves for the present as well, naturally.

From there all that was left of the day’s riding was to ride the notorious Waikite Hill – albeit in reverse, we went down the near-twenty percent gradient hill before arriving at the campground. Well, Steve had somehow managed to lose his debit card on the way down – so he got to climb the hill properly; pleasingly, he did manage to find the lost card. The best thing about the campground was that admission to the site also included the adjacent hot pools. Pre- and post-dinner soaks in the pools? Don’t mind if I do. A close second to the pools was the huge plate of beef nachos I devoured. I could get used to bikepacking for the day and finishing at four-thirty – most excellent, especially with hot pools, large dinners & beer.

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