Baby Bikepackers!

Adventures in BBP

BBP, you say? That sounds exciting. Is it PPE but for bikes? Or something related to blood pressure whilst riding up Hill Road? Perhaps a new kind of burger to be enjoyed after a day of thrashing the magical Whaka trails?

BBP is in fact more fun than PPE, perhaps less fun than burgers after a shred, and almost certainly tougher than riding up Hill Road. BBP stands for Baby Bike Packing. That’s right, undertaking an overnight (or even multi-night) adventure on two wheels, with a small human along for the ride. 

E and I had been thinking about attempting a BBP overnighter for a while, weighing up route options and preferences for gear to carry one Baby Biker and all the accoutrements necessary to ensure no homicide was committed due to hunger, sleep deprivation or other calamity. We settled on a local itinerary, using the logic that if we stayed close to home and in cellphone range we had options to (literally) phone a friend should the weather turn biblical or someone require medical attention. We chose Lake Ōkareka as our camping destination, a hilly but not-too-distant ride from home, with a stunning DoC campsite right on the shores of the lake. It’s pretty basic– long drop loos, a shelter for cooking under and nothing else – but the location is second-to-none and the forecast wind direction suggested we would have a calm campsite (in terms of weather, at least) for the chosen evening.

The original plan was to haul Baby Biker and our kit in our Thule double chariot trailer, a wonder wagon capable of lulling a toddler to sleep and carrying kilos of gear fairly effortlessly. Our gear for one overnighter would include (but not be limited to) a tent, an air mattress and pump (E’s mandatory luxury request), three sleeping bags and pillows, dinner and brekky for three, assorted Baby Biker paraphernalia, and drinking water. Our chosen route from home in central Rotorua would take us up the new Forest Loop trail to the Te Pūtake o Tawa hub on the eastern side of the forest, followed by a steep on-road descent to the village of Ōkareka, and finally a couple of kilometres on a boardwalk trail to the campsite. 18km total, but almost 400m of climbing, which was looking less and less appealing as more and more gear piled up in the garage next to the trailer (keeping in mind that Baby Biker herself is over 12kg, and the trailer weighs in at 16kg). Luckily (or unluckily, depending on who you are in this tale), one half of the other couple we planned to head out with was feeling under the weather, and opted to meet us out at the campsite in the car. This meant less weight to lug by bike (Baby Biker only, and on our front mounted seat instead of the trailer), and more weight in gear to be transported on four wheels (mainly snacks). With this quandary solved, it was time to ride.

The Forest Loop is one of those trails that seems simple in its composition, but in totality offers something incredibly valuable to the forest we get to enjoy as part of our extended backyard: an accessible, scenic, and purposeful trail linking the entire perimeter of the Whaka Trails network in a loop that can either be a journey unto itself, or a means to an end. Winding up the face of Tokorangi Pā we were afforded panoramic views of our hometown in all its steaming, sulphuric glory, enjoying a snack stop for the two Baby Bikers along the way. The on-road descent felt glorious after the sweaty efforts of our climb in the late afternoon February sun, and the final stretch around the lakeside promontory eased us away from suburban life and into the true outdoors.

Arriving to find not only our gear was already there and waiting (snacks!) but our tents had been put up, were undeniable perks of not having towed our stuff. It meant the two baby bikers could plunge happily and nakedly straight into the lake, and us packhorses could enjoy a cold beverage and one of the aforementioned snacks. Burgers were promptly prepared on the camp stove, hot chocolate was consumed, and two tired but excited Baby Bikers were hustled into tents for an attempt at sleep.

As it turned out, the Baby Bikers were the least of our overnight worries. That deluxe air mattress that E had insisted on? It deflated. About midnight. We couldn’t risk waking Baby Biker with attempts to re-inflate, so while she slept like a proverbial baby, her two Mums tossed and turned on a rippling, sad sack of air, rotating bodies regularly to alleviate the pain of hip bones pressing into hard ground. It was a very long night.  

Come morning however, a beautiful dawn greeted us and Baby Biker whipped of her PJs and was straight into the (now somewhat chilly) lake waters for a pre-breakfast dip. Coffee was brewed, pikelets enjoyed, and kit was reloaded into that rather lovely motor vehicle. Baby Bikers were chased, clothed, and loaded back onto bikes, and we headed off for our return journey, this time avoiding the steep climb out by heading towards Lake Tikitapu. From there we hopped onto the (only slightly less steep) single track Feeder trail, and made our way back towards town. Same distance, but only about 80m less climbing, as it turns out. 

And that was our first BBP adventure complete. No injuries, no tears (though that deflated mattress brought us close) and plenty of great memories. Are we already planning our next BBP? You bet we are. Will we be taking an air mattress? Not on your nelly.



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