I'd heard about the mysterious and 'out of the way' Moerangi trail from various people, and ridden in the general area at the Whirinaki Quest event which takes in some of the surrounding bush and is based around the Whirinaki MTB trail nearby. Finally after a couple of false starts, I managed to pull together a good crew of people who were keen, could skive off work on a Thursday, weren't scared by a weather forecast looking less than stellar and wanted to have an early morning.
After rising at stupid o'clock we fed ourselves on a solid half KG each of porridge and weetbix each then blazed a trail from Rotorua down to Murapara, onto Minginui and further on to our rendezvous point of The Jail House Farm Stay and Shuttles. Arriving at a time that was still earlier than most of us would be functional on a Thursday our crew was complete. Our group for the day consisted of, virgins to the track and moto riding, downhilling all round MTB gurus Dodzy and Gabby (MTB Skills Clinics), Gary Sullivan aka Gaz (www.nzoactive.com), the most experienced of the group and one who's ridden the trail multiple times, rating it as one of his all time favorites. The only rider using flat pedals and grom-for-a-day (only because he was the youngest in the group), and first time 'Moerangier' MTB stylist Morgan Moore (R&R Sport Hamilton) was on deck, as was Kevin of no last name, a some times MTB rider who was keen as to be away from work and his home responsibilities if only for a day who hadn't ventured there prior and obviously myself, Lester Perry who's always keen but hadn't made the trip so far either.
The guys from Jail House had a sweet setup, a sparkling clean (until we got into it!) van with custom made bike trailer to drop us out to the start point (this can be ridden but its a decent ride of gravel roads). Loading up we each signed a waiver stating that our problems were just that, our problems and nothing to do with them, no problem there. On the same clip board as the waiver was an elevation chart, showing every up and down of the trail. It interested me how much 'up' there was most of the ride, but the claimed 9km downhill at the end looked well worth all the climbing.
At the trail head bikes were unloaded, photos snapped, smack talked and an air of anticipation hung in around those of us who hadnt yet tasted the goods the Moerangi had to offer. Off we went.... 10m In a quick sign in book to the right of the trail got a squiggle of reach of our names and off we went, into the great unknown (well, for all but Gaz).
There are plenty of stories around the net (see links below) giving pretty detailed breakdowns of the Moerangi trail so I wont delve into that to much, but here are a swag of photos and some notes to paint some of the Moerangi picture.
Finishing the trail we popped out at a small shelter, surveyed the DOC map, talked about the prospects of doing a 'double-crossing' as Gaz has done with Mike Metz, Rob Smail and co, deciding it was well doable but probably not for us! With a total distance of 39km +/- a couple of k's its a decent ride for a MTB, and if you count in the 10km ride along gravel road back to the car (you can get the shuttle back to pick you up if required) then you talking 49km, and in our case an actual ride time of 3 hours and 10 minutes dispersed by many stops to claim lines, take a drink, survey the surroundings, roll rocks down the bank or just take a breather.
All up an awesome day was had by all and the Moerangi 'total experiance' was up there with one of my favorites of all time, from the anticipation in the Shuttle on the way to the trail head, to the 'quiet' times sitting at the hut's with mates, the entire experience was great.
The trail itself, while not particularly technical is a blast to ride, there are plenty of steep climbs to keep you on your toes and you're rewarded with some sweet flowy downhill sections with perfect corners and banks to hit off (just dont clip your bars!), at times when the trail isnt taking all your concentration theres always the scenery to keep you occupied.
Ideal bike? Pretty much anything could ride this trail but for the best experience my pick would be a 5" trail bike with a granny ring on it. Single chainring bikes can make the trip but you'll want a wide ratio on the back, nothing over a 32 tooth front chainring and a strong set of legs, possible some jelly beans too!
Tip: As with most rides of the 'adventure' type, be prepaired! Take lots of food, water and warm clothes. There is cell phone reception for some at the highest point (see the clearing above) roughly 10km from the trail end.
Useful links and reading: Gaz (NZOactive.com) has a good write up HERE about the track. XC Hard-Woman Annika Smail has a good take on the trail on her blog HERE The Rotorua MTB club took an outing to the opening of the trail and have a great article HERE Jail House are the people to contact to make your day a breeze, check there website HERE for more details.
The trail map can be found HERE
DOC have a break down and more info on the Whirinaki area HERE (essential reading in here if you want to go and ride Moerangi)
Ride Rotorua have some info too HERE
All photos. Lester Perry