Sometimes persistence does pay off. In this case, it wasn’t just our persistence in getting the 4×4 Action Adventure magazine’s readers trip into the Mamaku Tunnels together. It was also the persistence of those readers that stuck with the trip, that was rewarded.
What was planned as a two-day exploration of the old bush tramway tracks and tunnels of the Mamaku Forest in October eventually came together as a fun day in the Pirini Motorbike Park, between Rotorua and Te Puke (sort of) and a tour into the tunnels the following day.
Pirini Motorbike Park has been developed on a Pongakawa Valley Property, specially purchased for the purpose by Trish and Francis Pirini, and recently hosted the North Island quad bike champs, which was where 4×4 Action Adventure first became aware of the property.
Part of this development includes a quad bike trail running around the outside of the area, and zigzagging through the bush and farmland, for a total of 18km of track, just wide enough to accommodate a 4WD.
Following several weeks of sunny weather, the trail was really dry and dusty for our day out, but that meant we were able to use the more challenging tracks we had thought would have to be avoided because of their steepness.
During their tour of the trail, members of the almost 30 strong convoy were treated to massively cambered “berm” corners, 3 to 5 point turns some surprisingly extensive views out over the Plantation Forests to the sea, and, most dramatically, very steep climbs and descents.
The track is regularly groomed to repair the damage done by the bikes and quads and provided massive traction.
The biggest grins of the day, however, came when those that wanted to were permitted a “fast as you like but it’s on your own head” blast around the quad racetrack. Hugely cambered “wall of death” corners are huge fun in a situation like that!
Although Trish would be keen to invite more 4×4 access into Pirini Park, the property is very heavily used by the bike and quad fraternities, so access will be limited, but if you are looking to go somewhere a bit different, give her a call.
Following the day out in Pongakawa, the convoy headed out to Mamaku Forest off SH5 on Sunday morning, for a few history and geology lessons, and a drive-thru the areas’ main attraction — the old bush tramway tunnels.
The native Mamaku bush was extensively logged in the early to mid-1900s and the area was cleared using some of the earliest “Bush Lokeys” and tramways in the North Island.
Although many of these purpose-built steam engines, there were several local adaptations of trucks put onto the rails, and one of these sits in a semi-preserved state in Mamaku village itself. Paul Mahoney’s superb book on Bush Tramways is a fascinating account of the early forestry operations in the North Island and has a lot of info on the Mamaku area.
The day took participants along forestry roads, some sections of the old tramways, and a few detours off onto the pylon access trails, from a lookout high above the tunnel mouth, right down one of the Plateaus massive valley complexes, through the tunnels, to finally exit on SH1 just south of Putaruru.
Like the previous day at Pirini, the morning started off extremely dusty, but by the time we exited the forest, the rain had started, dampening things down somewhat.
During our exploration of the forest, we discovered a number of great little tracks that can be opened up for 4×4 access and is currently working with the forest managers, to put together more of these trips over the next few months.
This article first appeared in issue 100 of 4×4 Action Adventure magazine. See more images in the gallery above.