The Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge attracts competitors from across the world, the largest contingent from Australia. Bicycles Network Australia took part in this massive cycling event. We lived and breathed cycling in Lake Taupo and Rotorua on New Zealand’s North Island. I rode the 160km challenge and interviewed Jenny McPherson of the Australian Prime Estate Women’s team.
We are in New Zealand and have a big ride to compete in, but that’s not all, we are in New Zealand, a country with a lot on offer. Join me as I reveal some of the highlights from Lake Taupo and Rotorua outside of the Cycle Challenge.
Getting there is easy, Air New Zealand fly twice a week from Sydney to Rotorua where you can pick up a hire car from the airport and drive directly to Taupo which is about an hours drive through the expansive Radiata Pine Forests. With over 100 million trees over 22.000 hectares, the rich volcanic soil speeds the growth so that the Radiate Pine Exports are a major contributor to the economy.
Lake Taupo reveals itself
As you drive over the crest into Taupo the view is utterly spectacular, the glassy lake shimmering before the beautiful snow capped mountains. I had to stop to enjoy the view, it’s just that sort of place.
Taupo is a beautiful tranquil town on the shores of Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is the largest lake in the southern hemisphere (606 sq km) and was created by the world’s largest volcanic eruption in the last 5,000 years. Evidence of the eruption is everywhere, there are steaming pools, spectacular cliffs and geysers.
All of the locals are friendly and welcome tourists into their town, it has to be one of the friendliest places I have ever been to.
The region offers activities to suit a wide range of interests and age groups; wine tours, sky diving, thermal pools, swimming, cycling, skiing, sailing and an absolutely beautiful natural environment to enjoy.
The adrenalin kick with the Huka Falls Jet Boat
If you’re into action sports, a mere 20 minutes drive from town brings you to the Huka Falls Jet Boat where you can enjoy a wild 30 minute ride to the magnificent Huka Falls along the Waikato River. After short safety instructions on the do’s and don’ts and getting fitted up with safety gear, our driver made a crack about "not losing anyone today".
The Waikato River is the North Islands largest river and is squeezed between two narrow rock faces with 250,000 litres of water cascading over the Huka falls causing a brilliant display of color, power and beauty. The water is crystal clear as you travel from the jetty up o the Aratiatia Dam where hydro electric energy is generated.
The driver was a real entertainer and an expert behind the wheel as we hurtled narrowly past rock walls, river banks and debris at up to 80 kmh. With a hand signal from the driver it was time to hang on as he maneuvered for another 360. If you give him a bit of cheek then he will really give you the time of your life.
Relaxing on the Barbary sailing ship
Still in the water, but with a completely different pace, you can sail aboard a part of history. The Barbary sailing boat was once owned by the infamous Errol Flynn who is said to have won her in a card game. The ship sailed the world and was then purchased by a New Zealander in 1947. She broke her mooring and was severely damaged in 1976 to be salvaged and restored to her former glory in a two year long labour of love by Bill Dawson.
Captain Bill Dawson will tell you tales (some tall ones) onboard the 50 footer about the Barbary, Lake Taupo and the rich Maori history. Onboard you can take in the snow capped mountainous and the Maori rock carvings along the cliff faces. This is the perfect opportunity to escape and enjoy life.
On Yer Bike Wine Tours
The ultimate in leisure is riding your bike while enjoy the best of the wine country. On Yer Bike Wine Tours is an easy 90 minute drive, 146km North of Taupo. The tour owner and operator Julie Russell will give you the opportunity to travel through the region by bike and visit wineries along the 25km route. You can choose which ones to visit and you are equipped with a good bike, helmet, packed lunch, water and a mobile if you want to call to be picked up.
On the winery tour, I joined the winners of the BNA and Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge competition who won the trip for two to New Zealand to compete in the race. The winners were fortunate to enjoy accommodation at the Huka Falls Resort and the Hilton Lake Taupo. They chose a tandem and we reviewed the map before all setting off.
The road and trails are flat and it is easy to navigate from vineyard to vineyard. As you ride through olive groves, orchards, horse studs, vineyards and lush green hills, the wineries are well marked and the vineyard owners welcoming. You can treat yourself to New Zealand’s finest wines, ports, liqueurs and oils.
It’s worth extending your stay after participating in the Cycle Challenge to enjoy the region, though register and book early. During race time, accommodation is completely booked out. The 2011 Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge has been announced for Saturday 26 November.