Friday, September 05, 2014

Hauraki Rail Trail

This is not a tale of epic endurance and sleep deprivation, far from it. Its a story about 6 over 50s casual (very) riders doing the Hauraki Rail Trail.

We had a lovely holiday earlier this year with our friends Janet and Colin who now reside in Tasmania. They are great travellers and are always looking for a reason to come back to NZ. Janet is from the Arnst family down south which has a great cycling legacy associated with it. Janet and Colin have recently acquired electric bikes which has enabled them to cover parts of Tassie with less effort than would normally be required. Our plan was to spend some time with them chilling out at Hahei near Whitianga, and get started on the  Hauraki Rail Trail and meet up with Janet's sister and brother in law part way through.

Hot-water beach.

Hahei beach
We had almost a week together resting up at Hahei sampling some fine Wellington Craft Beers which I brought, and Colin obviously didn't have access to in Hobart. In fact there wasn't much sign of Craft Beer anywhere we went up there, so be warned! Hahei was lovely and a very nice warm change for us as Wellington was already starting to get colder. The accommodation was well appointed but each day we got a new surprise at the cockroach's new hiding places. They kept us on her toes. They like the warm. There were critters everywhere actually. Big black crickets in the grass, massive tiger slugs and on different days there were quail or pheasant walking just outside our bach.

New Chums beach near Whangapoa
In typical Coromandel style, the day we tried to leave for the start of our Hauraki Rail trail experience it bucketed down, trapping us in Tairua. No worries. There was still  plenty of accommodation and the road was cleared early the next morning.

The next day we tootled in to Thames and collected Colin and Janet's bikes from the Rail Trail HQ and we were away. We left the car there as I was intending to ride back to get it after we got to Paeroa, our day one destination. The trail was fast and well manicured. It skirted the edge of Thames for a while and then on to Kopu, Matatoki and past Puriri, where I once lived, (our house was gone) and on through Hikutia and on to Paeroa. The trail, to me, pretty much resembled a very well maintained cattle-race with views best described as "rural New Zealand", not really anything like you would see on the Otago Rail trail. Lots of green grass and the hills of the Coromandel just to the left.

Janet Kay and Colin somewhere between Thames and Paeroa.

 The people that "organise" the Rail Trail have done a great job at promoting it, and getting locals to open up their homes as Bed and Breakfasts and making visitors feel welcome. We stayed with a semi-retired couple of a similar age to ourselves. Apparently there just wasn't a lot of accommodation in Paeroa as it was, so it has been great for stimulating the local economy. Paeroa, apart from the large concrete Lemon and Paeroa bottle is mainly known for its Horse Racing and Motorcycle street racing event.

I rode back to pick up the car while the others relaxed and thought about where we were going to have tea.

The next day in Paeroa we met Janet's Sister and brother in law, Jennie and Rob  and we hit the trail to Waihi via the Karangahake Gorge. Our accommodation in Waihi was a very recently built home that we had all to ourselves for the night. As per agreement, our gear had been dropped off by the shuttle so all we had to do was ride there.

Waikino on route to Waihi

The famous five.

Ooh! A rainbow at the trail's end at Waihi.

Martha Mine in down town Waihi !
The next morning Colin and I jumped on our bikes and did a lap of the Martha mine which is pretty damn impressive. It was of particular interest to Colin who when we worked together years earlier, had done some work in the area. The last time I was in Waihi was for the Waihi to Waihi time trial and I had no idea the giant hole in the ground was even there. We did our loop and and hit the gravel back to a point on the Rail trail where we were to meet the others who had taken the "train-option". Its not sure which is faster, bike or train. Probably the bike I suspect. The train goes from Waihi to Awakino.

The Cornish pumphouse.
 We regrouped and continued on the trail until we got to the Karanghake Gorge again where we did the "Windows walk" through the old Talisman and Crown mining operations. It was well worth a look and even a typical Coromandel apocalyptic down-pour didn't dampen our spirits too much. There is a lot of info on the Karangahake Gorge here.

It rained a lot, for a very short time

Doing the "Windows" walk. It was a high-light for me.

We grabbed some lunched and headed off to our next destination which was Te Aroha, basically just hang a left when you get back to Paeroa !

Some random cycle tourists on cross bikes

A lone wheel barrow full of free feijoas in the middle of the trail from Waihi to Paeroa

Heading into the Karangahake Gorge

The Victoria battery
 It got a little bit wet at times and there was some pretty serious flooding left over from the previous day's downpour. One last stop for scones and tea on route and we rolled into Te Aroha and found our cute little "Miners cottage" which had underfloor heating in the bathroom. A great way to dry out our wet gear. Janet's bro-in-law, Rob, and I got shuttled back to Paeroa and we brought the cars back.

Ye Olde Gold Miners Lodge

It was a fun trip and and would score highly for those who live towards the sedentary end of the "Couch Potato" scale. The hire bikes used were reliable, if a tad heavy. Not that there were any hills. It's a much more achievable ride than the Otago Rail trail for the less athletic adventurer. The organisation of the shuttles and accommodation via the Rail Trail people was faultless.

If you were in a hurry (and a bit fit) you could no doubt do the whole thing in one day but it would probably be best to do that kind of thing mid-week. On the weekend when we were on the return leg from Waihi to Paeroa the trail was very popular with lots of young kids out amongst it. There were also alot of middle-aged people out there like ourselves. Janet's brother in-law was hammering away on the last day trying really hard to catch up to some people out in front of him. When he finally caught them he realised they were 60-70 year old ladies!  We got chatting to them as we waited for a shuttle at the train station and it turned out that I had ridden the first Kiwi Brevet with one of the lady's sons, Nick. It's a small world. Lets hope we are still getting out in it like these ladies were, at the same age.

Thames to Paeroa = 33km
Paeroa to Waihi = 25km
Paeroa to Te Aroha = 21km

Map borrowed from here.