An update on the status of tracks at Craters MTB Park (Wairakei Forest), and where to go riding while they’re being rebuilt.
In March this year an intense weather bomb hit Taupo. The wind blew so hard I was half expecting to see a farmhouse fly past and land on a witch with striped stockings! But while I didn’t see the Wicked Witch of the East, I did see a whole heap of trees come down around the area. Unfortunately for us riders, Craters Mountainbike Park got hit hard. When we were finally allowed in for a nosey, it looked like the aftermath of a battle between a couple of giants, with trees snapped off and strewn all over the place. Just as I had feared, a lot of my favourite tracks were littered with fallen trees and were unrideable. Oh no! My happy place!
The storm saw the closure of the entire forest for a few days while Bike Taupo assessed the situation, but then incredibly, within a week, they had cleared and reopened Walter’s Wiggles, Incline, Mr and Mrs, Deb’s Track, Better than P, Young Pines and Outback. It was a huge effort from many chainsaw-wielding volunteers and the Bike Taupo crew, but all I can say is, thank goodness for their commitment to making sure we all get our riding fix!
Since then the rebuilding process at Craters has been going gangbusters. There were whole sections of the forest that needed to be felled, marking the end of tracks like Tourist Trap, Buddha, Corkscrew and Squirt as we knew them. The forestry crews have been knocking down trees at a great rate of knots, leaving a blank canvas to rebuild our favourite tracks and make them even better than before. Out of the ashes has risen a new and improved version of Tourist Trap, with the expert track builders adding a bit more flow and some nice berms and roll-overs to the old favourite. The new Squirt was also recently completed, and you can now enter the forest again from SH1 on a much-improved version of Inward Goods that is wider and has an easier gradient.
Building the new and improved Tourist Trap
I like to think there’s always a positive that comes out of these weather catastrophes Mother Nature throws at us. In this case it’s been a chance to get reacquainted with the plethora of other mountainbike tracks at Craters and around Taupo. Like old friends, I have been reunited with tracks at Craters I hadn’t ridden since the old days. There’s Buzzard (so much fun with its tricky, rutted corners and knuckle-whitening drop-offs and jumps), Deb’s Track (the track with the best view in the park but you need to watch where you’re going or you’ll be getting to know the little pines on the side of the track in an intimate fashion!), Luge (sweet flowing single track that makes the climb up Retro well worth it) and the awesome Outback (a great piece of single track that takes you on a journey out to the back of the park and back in again with some honest climbs and brilliant flowing downhills).
Amazing views from the top of Deb's Track out towards the mountains
Dropping into the top of Better than P – this section shows why it is such an awesome ride!
Away from Craters, and as I wrote in my previous blog, the completion of the Whangamata Rd to Kawakawa Bay (‘Chinamans’) section of the Great Lake Trail provided another opportunity for a good day’s riding. And of course there’s the W2K (Whakaipo to Kinloch) and K2K (Kinloch to Kawakawa) sections of the trail, the Rotary Ride and the other river trails that will take you up to Aratiatia Bridge and back.
Lovin' the Great Lake Trail! Look at that view!
There certainly is no shortage of riding options in Taupo, even with some of Craters being out of action in the meantime. This is one of the reasons I love living and riding in Taupo – choices, choices, choices! Sometimes I feel like the proverbial kid in a lolly shop with over 100 kilometres of single track in a variety of flavours all just out my front gate.
Hot off the press from Bike Taupo is the news that the old Tank Stand/Coaster area is to be felled, meaning the closure of Walter’s Wiggles, which has been the main access track through to The Connection and most other tracks over that side of the forest. In order to access this northwestern side of the forest now, you will need to ride the new Squirt track through to Q Line Road, then ride up Q Line Road and round the back to the top of Buzzard, Mr, Deb’s Track etc.
For more detailed information on track closures and access issues go to www.biketaupo.org.nz. The site gets updated almost daily with progress notes from Craters and what’s happening elsewhere in the world of Taupo riding. And if you’d like to make a donation to the worthy cause of rebuilding Craters MTB Park you can do so at any bike shop in Taupo.