Dennis and I have been in New Zealand for more than two months, yet I have hardly been out on my bicycle. First, it was a shoulder injury and then it was pure laziness but when friends visited from Canada, it was time to show them one of our favorite New Zealand rides.
If you have been following my blog for a while, you might remember our ride on the Hauraki Rail Trail last year. (If not, refresh your memory by reading the post Hauraki Rail Trail.) It’s an easy ride through some beautiful New Zealand countryside, with few hills and some interesting geography, history and dining. Only an hour and a half out of Auckland, it makes a great day ride away from the hubbub of the city. We rode midweek and rarely saw other riders.
The full trail offers three days of riding, but we opted to re-visit the route out of Paeroa through the Karangahake Gorge and on to Waikino. Even though, Dennis and I rode this section of the trail last year, today’s ride was a unique experience. The places we chose to focus on last year and this year were completely different, which speaks highly of the variety this ride offers. It’s possible to ride here multiple times and still feel like you have had a new experience.
Paeroa is most famously known for “Lemon and Paeroa” or L&P, a beverage of lemon juice and carbonated water first manufactured in Paeroa in the 1940’s and now produced by Coca Cola. Last year, we never managed to find the giant L&P bottle rumoured to be somewhere in the town. After some quizzing of local boys roaming around town on skateboards, we finally found it at the corner of Victoria Street and Normanby Road, just past the turn off to the rail trail. It was our first photo op before starting our ride.
Heading out of Paeroa, the trail heads across the Ohinemuri River and we are quickly riding through rolling pasture land, dotted with small farms, ubiquitous New Zealand cows and the neighborhood goat, Dolly.
Our first stop was the Victoria Battery, the largest and longest operating gold recovery plant in New Zealand which operated from 1898 to 1952. Story boards help explain the site and give the reader an understanding of the derelict remains.
Head uphill to the Transformer House and Museum and the Ore Kilns. Eight large kilns were dug into the hillside. Lined with brick, they were loaded with raw ore and locally hewn firewood. The kilns burned continuously from 1897 to 1901, using 100’s of acres of raw wood. Once roasted, the ore became easier to crush. The roasted ore was off-loaded by hand from the bottom of the kiln into small rail cars. An illustrated panel helps explain its workings. It was backbreaking, hot, relentless work. (Tours of the museum and the tunnels below the kilns can be arranged in advance by calling 07-863-8640. The kilns, however, are always accessible).
The roasted ore was then sent to the cyanide tanks below where it was sluiced to extract the gold. This was unique process first used in New Zealand before it became the standard method for gold extraction used around the world.
If you are in the mood for a mid-ride tipple after touring the Victoria Battery, head back across the Ohinemuri River and Highway 2 on the bridge adjacent to the battery and enjoy a bevy at the Waikino Tavern. Admire the Waikino Village Memorial at the foot of the bridge, commemorating the riverside village of Waikino which was washed away during a flood in 1981.
Fully hydrated, re-cross the bridge and return to the trail. After a few kilometres, another cycle bridge will cross the highway to the Waikino Station Cafe.
The cafe is housed in a historic railway station and is the turnaround point for the Goldfields Railway which runs three times daily between Waihi and Waikino. Constructed in 1905 to serve the gold mining industry, it originally ran from Paeroa to the port in Tauranga. The Waihi-Waikino leg is six kilometres long and is the only remaining section of the rail line. The balance was dismantled in 1978.
The station house design is typical of the small regional railway stations of its era. Incorporated into the decor of restaurant are memorabilia and photos of the station in its heyday.
The food is excellent and the staff is excited to share stories of history of the railway. Their pastry counter features classic New Zealand treats from the iconic Edmonds Cookery Book, first published in 1908 and still being published today. The Edmonds Company began making baking powder in Christchurch in 1879 and is the New Zealand equivalent of America’s Betty Crocker. I sampled the ginger crunch square and the staff was kind enough to share the recipe with me.
The Hauraki Rail Trail continues on to Waihi (10 kilometres one-way). We rode to the end last year and would recommend it as the Martha Mine and the Waihi rail station are worth exploring. Today though, we head back towards Paeroa after a relaxing visit in Waikino. We stopped to explore the Karangahake Gorge, a must-see section of the trail. Though Dennis and I walked the gorge last year, we felt we needed to share it with our friends. Well worth a second visit. If you want a peak at the Karangahake Gorge, check out my blog post from last year, here.
Here’s the recipe for Ginger Crunch.
Kiwis must love their ginger slices, because last year, on the West Coast Wilderness Trail, we sampled Oaty Ginger Crunch. You can find the recipe for it or read about the West Coast Wilderness Trail, here.
Another golden day, courtesy of my bike.
Hauraki Rail Trail – Trail Information
There is a one-day trip from Auckland CBD. The link is Here