Give a goat a roof over its head and what does it do? And what makes us mountain bikers, hikers, runners and rock climbers all scramble to the pointy bit at the top of the highest hill? It’s the view we’re aiming for – to see what you can see – and the feeling of achievement of reaching “the summit”. Fortunately New Zealand has many many hills and mountains to explore and some seriously fine vistas to take in once you get there.
This weekend my mate Stu and I rode along the Western Okataina track and up to the Whakapoungakau Trig. We’re lucky enough to live nearby and both could easily ride from home without having to do any driving to get to the start. This is a great and very time efficient overnight trip. With a clear evening forecast and precipitation scheduled to arrive some time the next day, all systems were go! We packed the bare essentials. Firstly, the luxuries – a couple of good beers to toast the last rays of sun as she dipped herself into the west, and coffee to welcome her up again from the east the next morning. Essential packing = something to lie in, on and under for the night and some nutritious granola for brekkie.
To enjoy these two precious moments at each end of the day is where the ‘goat’ bit comes in. Starting from Millar Rd in Lake Okareka, the track climbs approx 280m to our destination. DOC (NZ’s Department of Conservation) describes the Western Okataina track as being built as a logging road in the early 1900’s to harvest Rimu, Totara, Rata and Kahikatea – so most of the track is nice and wide. The description states that the track "is generally wide and well formed”. Indeed a large part is exactly that. However, the remainder has been left for mother nature to take over the job of ‘forming’ picking up where the loggers left off nearly a hundred years ago. This has resulted in a very technical rutted track which requires a fair bit of concentration and technique to keep the wheels where they should be.
After 1 3/4 hours of riding and pushing we managed to pop out of the native bush into the grassy clearing at the top just in time to watch the last rays of sun for the day. A quick toast to celebrate making it to the summit followed by preparation for a ‘comfortable’ night’s sleep, and we were soon settled into our sleeping bags ready to enjoy a stunning display of star-gazing and watching the moon rise.
The morning greeted us with a clear sky scattered with wisps of cloud. A stunning sunrise was toasted by a steaming mug of coffee while we enjoyed the changing colours. The Whakapoungakau Trig is a fantastic spot to experience this as you get a near 360 degree view of the lake district. From Rotorua with Mokoia Island in the centre all the way around to Mt Maungatautari in the west and Maketu on the east coast. You also realise how close Rotorua actually is to the east coast.
After a quick breakfast we packed up camp and headed back to civilisation. The hard work of the evening prior was rewarded with stunning downhills and technical ruts which ended 1 1/2 hours later with a refreshing dip in Lake Okareka.
It just goes to show that with a bit of organising and clever packing, your Friday night in front of the telly can be transformed into a pretty cool adventure without hacking into the weekend too much!