Alex Tully is keen to return after finding Whakarewarewa Forest's bike trails easier than expected
Sunlight leaking through the towering trees splashed droplets of gold on to the flags of green ferns waving us on as we rode the network of cycle trails in Rotorua's Whakarewarewa Forest.
Our tyres made soft swishing sounds on the carpet of red leaves and I was feeling peaceful and relaxed when suddenly we arrived at an intersection with signs to several other bike paths. Which way to go?
"That one was too easy. Let's do this one," announced our 7-year-old self-appointed leader pointing to a track marked grade 2. And before I could protest that easy was quite nice, he was off — with his father in hot pursuit.
Our family were enjoying a first foray around the 90km of mountain bike trails in the forest, planted in 1899, as an experiment to see which of 170 exotic species would succeed as timber trees.
Today, it is known as The Redwoods, after the giant California sequoias which are its most spectacular trees, and has a large area set aside for recreational purposes including walking, horse riding and off-road biking.
Mountain biking is a new pursuit in our household and some of us are a bit more fearless than others. So when my husband suggested going riding in the forest I was a bit nervous.
I had heard that The Redwoods was world renowned for some of the finest mountain bike trails on the planet and mistakenly thought that the trails were only for the experts. I was very relieved to discover that the forest caters for all levels of rider.
We chose the family-friendly trails found off Waipa State Mill Road for our first adventure. And, even though I did ride most of the way with a white-knuckle grip on the handlebars and clenching my teeth, I was pleasantly surprised that the grade 2 trails were more on the exciting rather than the terrifying side and I was able to keep up with the "waahooo" cries of the kids.
So next time we are in Rotorua, I'll be keen to try some of the more difficult trails, including some with views of the lakes, geothermal activity and Mount Tarawera.