Rotorua: Guys just wanna have fun

By Alex Robertson

Alex Robertson cycles through the Redwood Forests with Mountain Bike Rotorua. Photo / Jaqui Robertson
Alex Robertson cycles through the Redwood Forests with Mountain Bike Rotorua. Photo / Jaqui Robertson

I used to think the way to celebrate a mate's forthcoming nuptials was to have a few too many ales, threaten to strip the groom naked before painting him orange and putting him on the next train to farawayville, get thrown out of a few nightclubs then take a taxi that dumps you at least an hour's walk from home.

Then the idea of a stag weekend in Rotorua was mentioned. Perfect. A chance to burn off some energy in the North Island's adventure capital during the day and party up at night.

Our first morning was a guided mountain bike ride through the Whakarewarewa Forest tracks. Wade, from Multi-Day Adventures and our guide for the morning, collected us from our hotel at 9am sharp: in fact a little too sharp, with last night's cocktails at The Regent still working their way through my system.

Five minutes later we were choosing bikes and helmets at Mountain Bike Rotorua. As newcomers to off-road riding, we took a quick tour of the Kid's Loop to get used to our saddles and for Wade to assess our abilities.

We must have appeared okay, as Wade was soon dragging us along in his tyre tracks to more challenging rides, up steep dirt paths, dodging branches through the dense forest and hurtling down impossible slopes trying to stay attached to our machines over frequent mini-jumps. With names like Grinder, Roller Coaster, No Brains, Frontal Lobotomy, Katore Jumps and Mad If You Don't this is a place to let rip and explore your own limits as much as the beautiful, cool, dappled light of the tree-scape.

Boasting over 60 trails running nearly 100km and drawing riders from all over the world, there's plenty for all abilities and fitness levels.

Wade took us high to the A-Trail and we followed his lead, swooping down, down, down through high-banked turns, trying not to brake too much - though fear has a funny habit of taking over - like skiing without the cold.

After two hours riding we headed back along one of the oldest tracks, Big Dipper.

What a way to go out as we sweep among thinned-out pines on fast, hard-packed runs and through the steep-sided gully after which the track is named.

Back at the Millennium Hotel we soak off some of the exertion in one of the spas, followed by a dip in the 15m indoor-outdoor pool.

We decide to skip another round of cocktails after last night's experience and start with a drink in the hotel at Bar Zazu, which looked like a set from the 1980s TV programme Gloss. Then we head for the Pig & Whistle and a menu catering for all tastes, including us metrosexuals from Auckland.

As one of Rotorua's more popular nightspots, the bar soon fills up, as do we, from the wide selection of beers on offer.

The last time I partied in this bar I ran around telling everyone about the impending birth of my daughter. That was nearly seven years ago and I'm happy to say that fatherhood and time have slowed me down a little and I didn't make half as many new friends this time.

Sunday's adventure was the full adrenalin experience at Agroventures on the edge of town.

But first we had to blow the cobwebs out a little and, after breakfast, tried our hands at a game of catch the pukeko in the Government Gardens. None were caught, thankfully, and the huffing and puffing from running and laughing brightened the outlook a little.

The little burst of activity was definitely the right way to go, setting us up for our ultimate challenge: Jet boat, Schweeb racing, Freefall Xtreme, the giant swing and a bungy jump. The whole experience went in a blur as we spun, thrashed, flew, swung and jumped over the next two hours, all in the expert hands of our energy-drink fuelled minders.

Adrenalin rushed through the body giving me a strange high - my head was flying, my knees wobbly and my feet were in a tangle by the end.

For the first time ever, I knew what it meant to "need a drink", so we stopped in at the Te Poi Country Tavern on the way home.

Three Harleys and a Mustang sat in the car park, their bearded, leather-clad and tough-looking owners sitting on the veranda. We got a drink and joined them.

A lycra-clad cyclist rattled up and carried his bike inside. Billy Ray Cyrus sang Achy-Breaky on the sound system.

From nowhere in particular a woman walked up to the veranda and in an American accent asked one of the tough guys, "Excuse me, sir, can you tell me the way to Hobbit Town?"

His beard moved up and down as he contemplated his answer.

"Matamata," he replied pointing, "but I don't know why you wanna go there. Nuthin' but rabbit holes and grass."

She thanked him and shuffled off. I wished she'd asked him the way to Rotorua.

CHECKLIST

Where to stay: The Millennium Hotel is perfectly located beside Lake Rotorua and almost in the middle of town.

What to do: See Multi-Day Adventures or check out the rides at Agroventures.

Where to eat: The Pig & Whistle.

Further information: See rotoruanz.com.

Alex Robertson partied as guest of Destination Rotorua.

- NZ Herald

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