The first thing that’ll cross your mind as you criss-cross these phenomenal old trails is: they brought a tram through here?
It’s exciting enough on a bike! Where would you start? Well, at Pureroa, actually. There’s a mid-point at Piropiro which, if you’re pressed for time, you can start at as well. Two days, or one day, it’s the ride of a lifetime.
This weaving, winding and wonderful 85km ride follows what remains of an old tramway trail, once a common site in the Kiwi bush, used by sawmillers up until 1958 to haul rimu logs by the thousand.
Yep, this was full-on timber country, and this trail reflects that, making the most of the tramway, old bulldozer roads and a few newly constructed sections of track as well. While it’s mostly pretty easy going, especially the family-friendly second stretch from Piropiro, you will wonder at the tenacity of the lumbering woodmen who drove logs through these amazing spaces.
For your pleasure they did a Pureroa version of 'straightening the curves and flattening the hills', as the old telly show used to go, only with these guys, bridges were the thing. The trail features a staggering (and slightly swaying) 35 bridges, eight of them significant suspension versions, the longest a stunning 141m in length and 55m high. If that doesn’t excite your Lycra, who knows what will?
Luckily they didn’t take all the trees. In fact, far from it. When you’re not crossing a bridge, you’re surrounded by ancient podocarp forest, with native rimu, totara, miro and more vying for your attention. The landscape between bridges and bush is equally stunning, and includes the legendary Ongarue Spiral, which is made up of a lower-level bridge, a cutting, a tunnel and then a complete circle of track and overbridge. Makes you giddy just thinking about it. Don’t think about it though, ride it, folks.