After an early morning soak, it was off to Waihi to look at the largest, still working open gold mine. It was reasonably cool at 18 degrees, and once on the state highway, there were some long log trucks to contend with. Being only 16 km to Waihi, we decided to have morning tea after the start of today’s major attraction – Hauraki Rail Trail. The trail starts beside a still working tourist railway and is really a tramway in disguise for a tarted up bit of gravel running past dairy farms along the river. It certainly put our bikes and skills to the test as we navigated small bridges, up & over banks, tight corners and some tricky moguls. Morning tea was high on the agenda after these challenges and at the first sign which had the magic word “coffee” on it, the lead group left the trail and retired to the comfort of Waikino railway platform (the end of the tourist railway) to enjoy muffins etc.
Liz, Robert & Ed did not see the others turn off. Instead headed another km or so to the Owharoa Falls where Colleen was patiently waiting. A quick discussion resulted in Liz & Robert heading on with Ed and Colleen returning to find the “lost sheep”. From that point, the front group did not see Robert & Liz till the end of the day, though they did manage a great lunch with Colleen in Paeroa but, even then, the two groups still missed each other!
From morning tea, it was back onto the rail trail, and this time it truly was the railway line – a magnificent ride through the Karangahake gorge (one could almost imagine you were a train winding along the side edges of the gorge with the river running beside). And then – a tunnel! Not just any tunnel, but a railway tunnel over 1 km long with little or poor lighting. A new cycling experience indeed and was the subject of much dinner conversation.
Paeroa was our stop for lunch and then continuation on the rail trail south for 21 km to our night’s accommodation at Te Aroha. The trail shale surface was slow going and, combined with too many cattle grids and gates along the way, the group continued instead along the road at a handsome 30 kmph into the town.
Distance: 71 km
Highlight: The rail trail, especially that tunnel. Though the gold mine was pretty impressive as well.
Lessons Learned: Leave breadcrumbs so we can regroup occasionally & learn how to pronounce the names of NZ towns.