RIDE #67 Caffeine Culture: A Turn Around the Lake
Lake Taupo is legend. It’s a large freshwater lake. The crater of an incredibly powerful volcanic eruption. Crystalline waters more than 150 metres deep. And the sparkling centrepiece of the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge. We take you on a journey to Aotearoa – the Land of the Long White Cloud – and the beautiful Taupo region of the North Island, where cycling opportunities abound.
Huka Falls from the lookout on the Thermal Explorer ride. Click the photo below to start the slideshow…
The Thermal Explorer
Only 15 minutes’ ride from Taupo is New Zealand’s most visited natural attraction: Huka Falls. ‘Huka’ means ‘foam’ in Maori, and one glimpse of the falls makes clear why. The Waikato River, NZ’s longest at 425km, drains from Lake Taupo about 5km upstream, and while the river is normally up to 100 metres wide, as it passes the hard volcanic ledge here it narrows to 15 metres, forcing around 220,000 litres of water per second through the pinch, with thundrous effect. A footbridge across the gorge provides perhaps the most awe-inspiring ‘park-up’ you’ll ever have.
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The Long Farm Loop
Taupo is nestled beside Lake Taupo and surrounded by countryside the Taupo District Council describes as some of the North Island’s most beautiful. After only five minutes or so on your bike, it’s easy to see why.
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The Forest/Paerata Loop
The Forest/Paerata Loop is a decent half-day ride that we recommend you begin with a hearty breakfast and a good cup of coffee. And, given the tar-and-chip make-up of the roads surrounding Taupo, we also suggest you take a couple of spare tubes with you. The scenery will be beautiful and the riding incredibly rewarding, but the journey home not so spectacular if you have to wait for roadside assistance!
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Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge ‘Solo’
It just so happens that the circumference of the lake is around 160km (100 miles in old money), the perfect length for a gran fondo. The lake itself is a marvel of geography – the largest in New Zealand, it was formed by a gigantic eruption around 26,500 years ago. Pumice stone can still be found on the beaches and floating on the surface and the water is crystal clear and drinkable. The first Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge was run in 1977 with just 26 local riders; in 2014 3,906 riders turned up for the solo 160km event. The event is extremely well organised by the Rotary Club of Taupo Moana with charitable groups and schools also helping out: over 800 volunteers work on the event.
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Out to Kinloch by MTB
If you have any energy left after the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and don’t feel like hitting the roads again, you can still get more time on the bike by hitting the trails. When it comes to MTB trails the Taupo region has some of the best.
The trails, heavily invested in by the New Zealand government and built by mountain bikers, are professionally designed and graded, and extremely well looked after. While on our ride we saw two rangers on quad bikes performing maintenance.
My guide for the day was Glen, a member of the Taupo Cycling Club. We rode the ‘W2K Link’ that follows the headland from Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch. Stunning views are to be had along the way on the 20km trail and a great little dairy (Kiwi for milkbar) awaits at the other end.
You can do a return trip along the trail or get dropped off and picked up by Taupo’s Great Lake Shuttles who can provide bikes and transport. The owner, Peter Hart, is full of local knowlege and will get you there and back safely.
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Download a PDF of great rides in the Taupo region brought to you by Bike Taupo.