Thursday, 30 July 2015


Dawn at Pauanui
We tore ourselves away from the New Zealand dotterels at Pauanui – pairs  of them strutting at regular intervals along the beach. They seemed incredibly tame and unafraid of us – rather like the variable oystercatchers, who were not at all variable, just black. I have to confess to having a little obsession about oystercatchers. Love them. Our early morning walk the length of the beach – just over two miles – took us past dogs being walked and unusual little shells, especially a collection of cone shells.

It is wonderful to be able to walk more easily. #practicemakesperfect  #nowaywillIhaveakneereplacementifIhaveanythingtodowithit

Negotiating the winding switchbacks through the forests, we aimed for goldmining town Waihi.  It is only a few years since the mine closed and is slowly being turned into a historic attraction by the company, corporate giant Newmont.

Interesting facts:
One tonne of rock produced between 3 – 8 grammes of gold.
The open cast mine went to a depth of 600 metres – now it is a vast open pit approximately 1200 metres across.
There were 15 different levels and around 175km of underground tunnels
There were around 400 workers, but in its heyday at the beginning of the twentieth century there were 15,000.
The project is aiming to replant kauri: one tree for every man year worked? Sounds incredible!

One tyre cost $20,000 - yes, I DID mean 4 zeros...
This ex-mining town had a frontier-style main street, a surprisingly prosperous air, a few visitors, and a German bakery/cafe, run by a young German immigrant. And as Lonely Planet says: Where most towns have hole-in-the-wall ATMs for people to access their reiches riches, Waihi’s main street has a giant open-cast gold mine: Martha Mine, NZ’s richest, working since 1878.

After Waihi we aimed for the Karangahake Gorge a few miles away, but there had been a terrible accident along the road earlier in the day, so the road was closed. Many cars were parked, waiting for it to open again. We took the bikes and cycled along the old tramway by the river until we came to a kilometre long tunnel cut all the way through the hill.  We started down it...

Karangahake Gorge

Chickened out from going all the way through - 1 kilometre, with no torch or lights... and then would have had to have cycled all the way back again, with no torch or lights...

...and, after a third of the way and increasing darkness, turned around. The prospect of battling the gloom only to have to retrace our steps wheels was too daunting.

The ride back was accompanied by dozens of fantails fluttering by the side of the rushing rapids. The road was still closed, so we journeyed back to Waihi and Waihi Beach, down the long peninsula. Surf to our left, a quiet inlet to our right. At the end, Anzac Bay. Peaceful car park with a few overnight camper vans next to the Pohutukawa trees...a headland overlooking the Katikati entrance to Tauranga (Toe-wronger) harbour, an easy climb of 88 metres....and, in the early morning, long calls from the Morepork, the New Zealand owl. 

More-pork; more-pork; more-pork...

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