From Opotiki, our route turned southwards to Whirinaki Forest Park. By the time we reached Murupara we were desperate for a coffee. You might be surprised to know that Murupara has a coffee shop - we were. It's called the Dipherent Cafe (geddit..?) and serves espresso coffee in a pot, accompanied by hot water and a jug of hot milk. You make your own coffee as you like it and pots get refilled as required.
It also comes with the owner. She sat with us, another couple of Mtb'ers on a day trip from Tauranga and a pair of Aussies from Perth who had just done the Moerangi (and rated it the best trail they had ever done - ever!).
But back to the owner (the grey-haired one at the back). God knows what led her to Murupara but she's the best thing the town has going for it. She's a total crack-up to converse with, knows the ins & outs of every local tourist spot within 50kms (plus a few off the beaten track) and operates like a one-woman information centre, complete with maps and advice about when it is and isn't safe to leave your car at various out of the way carparks. Plus, she makes her own pies.
Like the Aussies, we were here to do the Moerangi. Whirinaki Forest Lodge was our base and provided the shuttle to the trailhead (definitely NOT a place to leave your car). We rode a lot of pretty cool track over our 3 weeks, but it would be hard to disagree with the judgement of the visitors from Perth. The Moerangi Track probably offers the best single-day, singletrack experience in the North Island.
At 35kms, it's achievable by any reasonably-fit, intermediate level rider. It's got the sort of flow that begs to be ridden fast. The trouble is, it has the sort of scenery that has you stopping every few minutes for another photo. Near the end, there are a few gradient/erosion issues that, one assumes, DOC has yet to get round to, but don't let that stop you booking yourself in for this uniquely kiwi ride.
And if you're looking for somewhere to stay, Garry & Darlene at the Lodge serve up the sort of post-ride, back-country tucker (wild pork, anyone?) that provides the perfect finish to a perfect day.