RideNZ's Scarlett Hagen takes a closer look at adventure photographer Camilla Rutherford’s special journey around the Central North Island. Complete with a couple of 1970s VW Kombi campervans, this journey was entrenched in style right from the beginning.
Although the Central North Island is a relatively small geographic area, Camilla Rutherford, Traharn Chidly, Mike Hopkins and Casey Brown embraced the New Zealand way of life and took their time traveling between the tracks.
As they traveled off-the-grid, the riders spent time on the Te Iringa adventure ride, the beautifully scenic Coromandel Walkway and Mountain bike track, the world-renowned Whakarewarewa (Redwoods) Forest and the Pakihi Track which forms part of the Motu Trail network. On foot, the riders escaped for a day to the Emerald Lakes in Tongariro National Park.
“The concept was two weeks, three bikers, two Kombi campervans and the open road, as we tried to source out the best trails in the North Island," Camilla told us. "It’s surprising how much time you chew up traveling and getting to the trails," she added.
Although the journey was centered around riding bikes, the group took the time to embrace the natural highlights that New Zealand has to offer.
“The landscape in the Central North Island is a chameleon – always changing its colours,” she explains.
There is no doubting, the Central North Island is unique.
“From the high purple open moors and sharp volcanic skyline of National Park to the lush dense native bush, to the golden sandy beaches with aqua marine waters of the East Cape and the rolling farmland and thermal lakes around Rotorua, you will never be bored,” the award-winning adventure photographer shares.
She said there were trails for everyone in the Central North Island, from the Grade 1-2 trails such as the Hauraki Rail Trail and the Coromandel Walkway, to the Grade 5 Te Iringa Trail and everything in between.
“There are so many trails we barely scratched the surface,” Camilla offers.
For this group of avid riders the Te Iringa Track, which traverses through a section of Kaimanawa Forest Park, stood out as one of the best.
“We did four big rides in the two weeks and the highlight for everybody was the Te Iringa Trail, just outside of Taupo,” shares Camilla.
“It’s a phenomenal trail – I was a little bit nervous about it – it’s pretty hard core!”, she admits.
On the first day, the group rode over exceptionally technical terrain. Fallen trees, swamps, and rocky river beds slowed their travel. Nonetheless, they were committed to riding the entire trail and chose to bunk down for the night in Oamaru Hut.
“It was a wicked adventure and definitely not for the fainthearted,” Camilla warns.
The group traveled through some of the most ancient native bush in New Zealand during their 38km journey in Kaimanawa Forest Park.
“The trees are absolutely gigantic with whole ecosystems growing out of them – it has a real Lord of the Rings feel to it. By the time we got to the hut, we realized that we needed to do it all again the next day. The downhill on the way back was a lot more technical – this is definitely an advanced trail.”
“We were in the bush line for most of the trail and that was amazing in itself and then you end up going over a small metal swingbridge that is really hard to push your bike on," Camilla explains. "We ended up on farmland for the last part of the trail."
On completion of the Te Iringa adventure, the satisfaction that Camilla and the group felt was immense – a fitting end to an epic mountain biking journey through the Central North Island, New Zealand.