By Bex Houston
Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park is situated in Karori, Wellington. It has a trail network of over 50kms of trails situated in over 250ha of regenerating bush on Wellington City Council land. The park overlooks Wellington Harbour and the Tararua Ranges to the north, and to the south you get spectacular views of the West Wind wind farm, Cook Strait, and the Kaikoura ranges.
The Makara Peak Supporters was established in 1998—the objective of this group is to develop a trail network for local mountain bikers and walkers, and to help restore native forest to the southern end of Karori. Conservation in the park is focused on planting native species, controlling pest plants and trapping pest species such as stoats, possums, rats and mice. MPS philosophy is to plant one native plant for every metre of trail constructed in the park. Last year’s planting season alone saw 2500 saplings planted in the park on a range of trails.
It is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of MPS this year, and there are many examples of the hard work that the volunteers have put in over this time.
Above: Looking south from Makara Saddle. The zig-zag trail going up this exposed face is an uphill trail called Varleys. This photo was taken in 1999.
Below: Zoom forward to the present day Varleys, below. Photo taken in 2014.
The Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park forms part of a large green belt along with Wrights Hill Reserve and Zealandia (formerly known as the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary). Zealandia is a 225ha area enclosed in a pest-proof fence where forest is also being restored and many native fauna are finding a safe home—among them are several species that have been reintroduced—the endangered k?k? and takah?, tuatara and giant weta. We were extremely lucky to have k?k? nesting in the Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park this summer. Many park users have been thrilled to ride around on their bikes and witness these birds performing their aerobatics.
Historically, the majority of trails in the park have been hand builds by volunteers, but in recent years there has been a big shift to contractor-built trails. As the demand for trails of a range of difficulty levels outstrips supply, the creation of the ‘Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park Master Plan’ and an increase in funding has led to a large increase in new trails being built each year.
Above: Exit from Lazy Fern and SWIGG/Starfish trail (adjacent main car park) circa 1998.
Below: The same area as above, in 2018.
Cactus Outdoor gear has been hugely popular with trail builders and conservation crews for use in the park over the years. Thomas Lindup is the main trail building contractor in the park. Thomas works on the trails on a daily basis. The last time I saw Thomas he was working at the top of Makara Peak (412m). An Antarctic southerly graced us with its presence. The temperature for the day was forecast to hit the lofty heights of 9°C—with a chill factor of much lower thrown in there for good measure! Thomas was wearing Lifties pants and a Mountain Jacket to protect him from all that the Wellington weather could throw at him.
Ricky Pincott and myself are on the Makara Peak Supporters committee. We both use our Cactus gear regularly. Ricky spent two and a half years working on Nelson’s Wairoa Gorge trails. While in the gorge, Ricky cut down trees, chipped out countless tonnes of solid rock, moved dirt and helped create a mountain bike thrill seekers’ paradise. Ricky wore his Supertrousers almost every day he was in the, and has now put them into in his work at the Makara park.
Sarah Bramwell is a Makara Peak Supporters legend. Formerly a member of the Makara Peak Supporters Committee, she now works tirelessly in the park. Sarah is one of the main drivers of a planting programme that runs seasonally on the hill. Sarah has planted thousands of saplings on various trails. Sarah maintains bait lines/traps that she checks and clears and has an awesome success rate. In her spare time Sarah is also keen mountain biker. Sarah loves her Supertrousers and Huntaway pack, saying they’re “vital when working in the park”!
My fave piece of Cactus kit is my Lightweight Supershorts, which I wear not only wear in the park, but also for my work as a Survey Technician and on the rural property we live on.
For more info on the Makara Peak Supporters, the mountain bike park, and the conservation work we do, check out www.makarapeak.org.
Above: The "Wild at Heart" swing bridge which was opened in March 2017. The bridge is a 70m long landmark structure - the first of its kind in an urban mountain bike park in New Zealand. Funding for this project was provided by the Wellington Airport and a huge Give a Little campaign supported by the riders of Wellington and beyond.