DAY THREE: Looking for a pot of gold.
Day Three was off to an early start with another camp breakfast and loading the vans and trailer for the two and a half hour drive to Rotorua. We decided to detour slightly to our new crash pad at Woodberry Farm Cottages just out past the Rotorua airport to dump our gear before making the 30 minute journey towards Taupo to ride Rainbow Mountain.
The plan was to park at Kerosene creek so we could bathe in the delightfully warm hot spring river after an epic climb and more epic descent. Unfortunately it was a cracker of a day and hadn't rained for a while, so the hot river was FRICKEN HOT! (more of that later).
I was excited to be showing the team the wonders of this area, and that excitement turned to dismay as the access trail from the creek to the climb trail was so overgrown with Broom that I got confused and took a wrong turn and led us up the garden path so to speak. I was so embarrassed when it happened for a second time in just five minutes but I made my excuses ("lots of rain lately, and then lots of sun, boy that blackberry sure grows quick") and got us back on track. I still had to ride up front with a massive stick and hack away at the barbed branches that were hanging over the trail to clear the way. I nearly needed a blood transfusion at the turn point but I soldiered on and lead the gang up the 55 minute ride/push that Rainbow requires. Except for Richard that is. I had told him that it was so steep in places that it was pretty much unrideable, and like a red rag to a bull this ex-pro XC racer was gone and we didn't see him until the summit.
The days downhilling yesterdays at 440 MTB Park had taken more out of us than we had thought, so we settled into a slow pedal/walk with plenty of chit chat and enjoyed the scenery and witty repartee with the walkers we encountered.
It was a relief for most of us the summit the hill and old mate Barry invited us up to his tower to sup on ice cold water and check out the fire that was burning down yonder in scrub lining the mighty Waikato river below.
While everyone was soaking up the views and getting amped for the descent on offer, I had a quiet chat to Richard as I was a little paranoid about the technicality of the first hand built section of the grade 4 trail ahead. When I had ridden here just 6 weeks previously it was quite rutted and there were a few sections where this could get me in trouble if the team weren't on top form. Richard made the sensible call to play it safe, so we split the group and he took the less aggressive riders down the access road a few hundred metres to "meet us at the left hand hairpin where you'll see our trail pop out of the bushes onto your road then into a tunnel in the bush 20 odd metres further on". What could go wrong I thought. "It's sign posted" said Barry. "Perfect" I said.
so Jeff, Mike and I ran the gauntlet and teetered through axle deep ruts in the very narrow trail with 20 metre drops off to the side and I was pretty stoked that we had made the right call. That stoke turned to dismay when we skidded out onto the gravel road to see it was empty of our fellow ninjas. Oh SHIT ! Luckily we had hand held radios in our repertoire and I quickly called up Lead Ninja to ascertain that they had indeed missed the trail head and were enjoying a high speed Mammoth Mountain type run to the bottom. Only problem was, their bottom was not the same as our bottom. It was about 15 minutes drive away. And they would miss the mind blowing digger built grade 3 trail that we had made all this effort for.
I coiuld hear the swearing in the background as Richard relayed the news that they had to climb back up the road. Being the astonishingly nice guy that I am, I raced down the road to offer moral support and a tow rope to anyone who was extra shitty. Kristina got extra shitty when I drifted through a high speed right hander to find them all spread out climbing their way back up and it was only my incredible bike handling prowess that kept me from taking her out, and I don't mean for dinner !
After eating my dust and getting back to the trailhead, we let her rip down the high speed flow trail suffering plenty of tree clip paranoia as we dragged our bars through the menacingly encroaching flora trying to see the trail surface amongst the dark shadows and dappled light.
We all made it back to the river unscathed and changed into suitable attire for the soak (and scalding) in Kerosene creek.
So back to Woodberry Farm Cottages to drink beer and soak up the woodlands vibe. No neighbours, lots of grass, trees and serenity. Burger Fuel for dinner and the promise of an easy day in Whakarewarewa Forest tomorrow.
Tune in soon for DAY FOUR where we hit the best little bike park in the world.