Into the Gorge i went, i was looking for a great time and a big adventure! Only fifteen minutes from Paeroa and Waihi, situated in about the middle of the amazing Karangahake gorge there is very accessible area. This area is riddled with a rich history, the days of the gold rush. There are tunnels to explore, walkways to enjoy and beautiful rivers that lead to wonderful waterfalls. I would definitely recommend a torch though as it is pretty dark in some of those tunnels.
This is my story.
I arrived at the start of the Karangahake Gorge Historic Walkway. As i looked across the river i could see old mine buildings and machinery sticking out of the ground, i grabbed my bag and started exploring. I wanted to get some perspective on were i was. I looked around to see were the highest peak was. Straight up the guts of the vally was Mount Karangahake, off i went! The bush really amazed me, i was expecting it to be over grown with gorse but instead it was lush and green and there was so much bird life! Half way up i ventured into an old gold mining tunnel. Hiding in my chosen tunnel i found some awesome native cave Wetas, it was great until i had to walk out in the dark because my torch ran out of battery. The day was so hot, i was pouring with sweat by this point and i started to wonder 'why the heck am i walking up this mountain in this heat?'. I knew the view was going to be worth it though, so i pushed on. I climbed up and up until i spotted the trig sitting on top of the hill. I could tell i was close so i pushed on through the pain. My knees were giving me stabbing pains making me want to curl up and stop walking up through the thick shrub. As i approached the top i could see the last 10m were the steepest. I was climbing up rocks and roots, i broke through the bush and found myself standing next to the white and black trig on a baron patch of dirt, what a relief. I climbed up ontop of the trig for the best view possible. 360 degree views as far as you could see. All the way to the mount and then all the way to auckland and the ranges in both directions were fantastic with the new light that was shining on them!
In typical Wildboy fashion i decided to take a more direct path down to the bridge at the start of the track ( i don't recommend doing this unless you are an experienced adventurer). It was so epic, really steep and wild and slippery. I slipped and slid my way down. After 20minuets i was at the bottom, covered in mud sweat and a little blood from sliding over a very sharp stick!
After lunch on the river bank with a nice young lady i continued exploring the hills. I set off on the 2 hour loop track through the famous railway tunnel. The first part of the track was amazingly well maintained. You could even take a pram with your kids watch out for the brige with the steps though. The buildings are fantastic to explore they are so rich with history. After walking along a wide track next to the river you take a sharp left turn to go into the tunnel. It is massive and has been lit up for your enjoyment with some rather cool orange lights. At about the half way mark i decided to run the rest of the way yelling 'i hate tunnels i hate tunnels' ( i don't hate tunnels but all the other people in the tunnel thought it was pretty funny). The other side pops out on a bridge and then into more historic buildings its hard to describe how cool some of these are. You will have to check them out yourself!
The last thing i had planned for my day was the windows walkway. Along the track i observed countless relics of the ways they extracted gold. Tram tracks, open cast mines, old rock crushes and lots of dark tunnels. The information boards are great and give you a detailed insight into the history. Luckily i had some spare batteries for my torch so i was able to explore the tunnels in depth. Some of the damp ones are full of glow worms which was so amazing! The windows on the tunnel were used for discarding the rocks that had been pulled out of the mountain, this whole track was amazing, mainly because men had to cut the tracks and tunnels with hand tools. It would have been really hard and dangerous work! This track isn't too long but very worthwhile, something that i would take kids on as there is so much to see and touch!
The river at the bottom of this track was so nice to swim in after i was done!
I got back in my tuck and drove down to the Victora battery where they held crushed stones to extract the gold. That was something else, a photographers dream! Just up the road from here i visited a beautiful waterfall. If you are in the area or even driving through it takes 30secends to get to this and it is fantastic!