Riding ToraTora July 28 2015

As I was in Martinborough for the weekend, there was never really an excuse for me to not head on out to Tora and tackle the ToraTora mountainbike track "The Loop". The Loop is a 13km, grade 3-4, one-way track on privately-owned land. Built by Gareth Morgan, this track showcases what is typical of a lot of NZ trails - a sublime mix of farm track, pine forest & native forest. After checking in at the office of the owners, Tom and Kathryn Elworthy, paying my day-tripper fee of $25.00 and receiving my track map along with instructions to the trail-head, I set off. After couple of gate clambers amongst the stock, the farm track turned into pine-needle strewn trail and the first test of the day - Pussy Hill. This is a fairly short climb to about 130m but it will certainly get your lungs pumping, from here the track switches  between pristine native and beech forest. Another couple of decent climbs follow with plenty of sections to test both the bike-handling skills and the legs. The highest point is at Barghies Nob at about 200m, which makes this a realistic ride for most people. The Loop threw up plenty: lovely rolling bermed sections of hard-baked clay with superb flow, tight uphill switchbacks that really had me working to get around them without dabbing, sharp downhill corners with plenty of obstacles to navigate, a couple of nice lookouts to take in the superb Wairarapa views and a few shallow stream crossings for good measure. Unfortunately for me, my map readings skill weren't quite up to scratch so I ended up tackling a walking track when I managed to go straight ahead when I should have taken a right. So after about 45 minutes of bush-bashing, bike-carrying I decided that my best way to exit the park was to head on down to the river a walk down it until I reacquainted myself with the bike track again. When I did find the track again it meant I got to do the high point again along with the downhills so a bit of a "bonus" really. For myself, I would probably do double/multiple loops of the track (just not by the above method!) in the future, just to get more of a fitness challenge but for anyone with a moderate level of fitness it would be a great days riding. For anyone thinking of heading out to Tora, I say do it, it's quite an unique experience riding a privately-owned track. Pay attention to the map (and don't pull it out of your pack when you've already gone past the point of no-return) and take your time to soak up the vista - it's certainly worth it!