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Riding the Timber Trail as a family

Although I have experienced many multi-day adventures without kids, I realised over the last month that trying to pull off the same style of trips with kids, stimulates a whole new level of challenge.

Braden and I had some big dreams for the last month of adventures. We had lined up some epic challenges, and of course nothing went to plan as the two cyclones that hit NZ pushed all our major missions for the North Island into a 5-day segment. This left us with a 12-hour turn-around between two of the bigger multi-way adventures we had planned; The timber trail (2 day mountain biking journey) and the Wanganui river (3 day canoe trip). The locations were only 2.5 hours apart, so we felt that a 1 night turn around was entirely possible. So this is the story of how the first over night adventure on the timber trail unfolded.

We left the East Coast of the North Island on Easter Sunday and drove 4-hours to our starting point (the north end of the Timber Trail at Purerora Village).  The distant black sky were disturbingly close, but being the eternal optimists we are, we didn’t even give it a thought. The time was 2pm.

Within 20-minutes we were in our biking gear and ready to go. Just before leaving, the thunder and lightning started and the rain became torrential. Bella was fine as she was snug in her chariot. We were all wearing awesome wet weather jackets so we were feeling moderately invincible, and so we took off anyway. But because we felt like we should be more responsible seeing as we had two small children, we did ask my brother Roy (our driver) to wait 30-minutes for us, just in case.

After about 1 km of riding through thick mud on undulating slippery single track, Braden yelled out to me “do you think this is a good idea?” “Possibly not” I replied. The 45 km’s that we had planned to smash out in 2.5 hours was looking hugely unattainable. We turned around, but decided to not be too disheartened. Back in the car we thought the best bet was to drive to the Timber Trail lodge, which was half way along the track and then do a ‘out and back’ on the track.

As we pulled into the campground where we could of been setting up, I took a moment of thanking myself for organising actual accommodation. The campsite looked wet and grim and hugely unappealing in the rain. at the same time as thanking myself I also had a twinge of guilt at not being the hard core woman that my husband persistently encourages me to be. What can I say I like my creature comforts and I tell you what, the Timber Trail lodgehad all of those and more.

Turns out that it had only been open for a week and I was so incredibly impressed. The kids were also over the moon. Tarn (our 8 year old) who normally fizzes over putting his tent up was quite happy to settle into his plush bunk bed with a view.

We decided to stick with the B-plan and head out for a one way mission north along the trail from the lodge. It had turned into a magic afternoon and it was a nice way to recoup the failed attempt at the 42-km mission.

We finished up for the day at 5.30pm after a 20km cruisy ride and felt grateful we were not still out there battling away. The lodge served us a platter of gourmet cheese, crackers and olives and we sat in front of the big glass windows and watched the sun go down with a cold bottle of beer. I had a moment of thinking – “this is awesome, this is what I love about adventures”.

After a 2-course dinner, we played uno and then took ourselves off to bed.

We woke up to a pretty nice day and a shot of coffee, accompanied by some sort of delicious baked egg combination. When I started on my second coffee, Braden started looking agitated and conveyed to me with body language that only a wife can read, to swiftly get my s@*! together. I didn’t realise we were in such a rush! Lucky he reminded me.


We were off. We were doing it. Riding the Timber Trail. We were excited to feel like we were actually going to achieve what we set out to. The track was actually amazing. Beautiful flowing, single track, friendly undulations, 20metre high swing bridges, native bush, birds, sunshine!  Another moment of “wow, this is amazing.”

After an hour we assessed our cruising speed and realised it was just under 12km’s an hour. Bella (our 4 year old) was making noises that she wanted to get out of the chariot and again we realised that it could be a lot longer a day than what we were anticipating. The black clouds were coming in for round two and it looked liked rain was imminent.

We let Bella walk around, gave her some snacks and then put her back in her princess box so we could at least get through  another 12km before lunch. I took the lead and Braden sat in behind me with Tarn on tow. I started to feel the rhythm of the bike and rode along at what I felt was a nice consistent pace. When I started to hear Braden breathing quite heavily behind me I realised that he was actually working quite hard, which was maybe to be expected since he was towing 25kgs of dead weight and had Tarn on tow.

He looked happy enough though so I didn’t say anything and just kept riding. I was motivated to see the 25km marker, and know that we would then have under 20km left. After about an hour, Braden asked if we could stop for lunch. We opened the cover of the chariot and Bella looked as white as a ghost and started complaining that she didn’t feel well. We realised that she was likely motion sick. poor little thing. I gave her a quick cuddle and told her that there was only 20km to go. She was sick as a dog, but we didn’t exactly have many options and it had become cold again. Braden didn’t want to stop so we started singing nursery songs and road along at a pace that didn’t throw the chariot around like a rabbit on ritalin.

We were pretty relieved to get to the car at Ongarue by about 3pm and we were all stoked on our achievement. Well all except Bella. she told us she didn’t like biking anymore and wanted to go to a house.

In spite of Bella’s harsh conclusion, I would highly recommend this trip to any family. Its likely one of the few back country trails you can tow a chariot with, and the distances are very achievable. If you had children who had the endurance to tick off the 45kms a day, then it would be an incredibly enjoyable adventure. The tow system is a good back stop though. Braden uses a retractable dog lead that he attaches to the back of his seat post, and that simply hooks over top 1inch of our sons stem between the handlebars, using a loop of stretchy bungy. Its easy to put on when riding and slip it off quickly if needed. One day we will make a you tube clip of how this actually works, but it is genius and we should really patent it and if you have some basic practical skill you will figure it.

The other key bits of information that will make your life easier, are that there is a shuttle service offered by the timber trail lodge, which allows you to avoid having to take your own shuttle driver, which are often hard to come by.

The timber trial lodge also makes this little adventure that much more achievable as you only need to carry a change of clothes with you. Everything else is provided for at the lodge, and the reality is that this little pocked of NZ is quite often a bit chilly, so having a nice warm place to lay your head as well as delicious food to fuel the journey can be the difference between an awesome experience or an epic.