DAY SEVEN: A very peaceful Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch ride (K2K).
I woke on the last ride day actually feeling a little sad that it was nearly all over. I was sure I would have been rearing to get away from the 24/7 week with my new family but I realised I was going to miss them big time.
All day drizzle with possible rain was forecast, but I wasn't worried. We had enjoyed the best weather so far and Taupo has the best draining soil in the world (volcanic pumice) so getting a little damp was the worst it was going to get.
We drove the 25 minutes to the start of the Kawakawa bay trail and set off for an idyllic easy pedal alongside the Orakau stream passing through wetlands until we got the first lake view. Then a fast and flowing downhill to the lake weaving through the stunning native beech. Very little pedaling and braking required. There's nothing like getting your flow on and practicing your riding style and working on fast corner exits.
By the time we got to the lake edge everyone was on fire. W stopped for a snack but the sandflies were snacking too, so back on the bikes to climb up and around the point.
I was in the lead group as we put our heads down and climbed the gradual ascent. Soon though the serenity was ruined by Richard squawking through the radio that he had found a great photo spot a mile or so back. Patty being one to never miss out rode back down with Jim and myself in tow to ride and wander through a 100 foot deep ravine that looked untouched since Moa roamed New Zealand.
Back on the bikes and climbing back out we met the others near the top at a stunning rock outcrop with views of the lake.
Then a super fast descent down to Whangamata Bay where we raced each other and tried out a few Ninja cornering techniques to see what worked best.
Hitting the lake edge at speed there was a moment of panic as we spooked a couple of horses with riders heading in for a swim. We parked up and watched mesmerised as the horses snorted and stamped and swam in the deep water with their riders half submerged up to their backsides.
Then a short pedal back to the Van and coffee, burgers, cake and quiet banter as we all realised it was no more bikes and just packing and driving and far too much air travel home.
While we could have got back on our bikes and crossed Kinloch to try out the Headland Loop, everyone was happy with their lot and were keen to try out the hot pools and maybe some tourist shopping to take home a Tiki or some other Kiwiana gift for friends and family back home.
we lounged about at De Bretts Thermal pools for a while and while the girls went shopping, I took the lads for a drive and idyllic walk along side the super heated stream that exits the Wairakei geothermal area and heads down through the forest to join the mighty Waikato river.
I won't bore you with the rest of the trip. Dinner, a good sleep, packing up and driving out back to auckland to a luxury villa in Ponsonby to rest and pack the bikes properly. I went through the marathon effort of getting everyone to their respective flights on time then returning the van and trailer.
Then the final leg...getting myself back home. I was too knackered to try it in one hit, so I made for Turangi and a beautiful scenic riding loop around the Tongariro river as the sun sank low into the sky. A quick river swim, then dinner on the run and a short drive to the high point of the Desert road to catch the setting sun. I parked up off the road and clambered into my mobile bed (the joys of van life) and had one of the best sleeps of my life.
I woke pre-dawn, cranked up the cooker for fresh coffee, and watched the suns rays hit Mt. Ruapehu and burn off the mist that was hanging around. Then back on the road and a mid morning arrival back home to catch up on a weeks worth of chaos and try to settle into next weeks routine.
What a trip. What great people. What great riding. I'm so looking forward to doing this again with the next group. And it can only get better right? A huge thanks to Team Ninja for being such a great bunch of people and for putting up with my foibles and lack of trail knowledge. I hope I see some of you again, and lookout for therodfather in California sometime. I will track you down.