When we had finished exploring the Coromandel Peninsula, Tim and I met up with my cousin Toby and Jo for the weekend in Karangahake. It was great fun to catch up, and to travel in convoy with their beautiful 1974 Volkswagen Kombi called Zeus! We found a tranquil campsite nestled in a valley, complete with piglets to feed and an animal petting area. Tim introduced them to his famous steak sandwiches, and we spent the evenings happily quaffing wine and chatting.
Karangahake is famous for its deep and dramatic gorge, and historic relics from the gold mining industry. The river meanders it way musically through the bottom of the gorge, while the road clings precariously to the edges and around hairpin bends while the sides of the gorge rise steeply skywards. The area is home to some beautiful woodland, including tree ferns and beech. Toby and Tim donned their waders and had fun having a go at fishing for trout with their fly rods.
Jo and I left the boys fishing and went to explore a really long, dark railway tunnel that was a true feat of Victorian engineering. It buried deep into a cliff and out the other side, and was used for transporting the rocks containing gold to the battery. It was very surreal, strolling through the tunnel, chatting happily away and every now and then reminding ourselves we needed to be careful not to slip in the dark! The light at the end of the tunnel seemed to come closer only very slowly.... I went back into the tunnel with Tim a couple of days later and we saw glow-worms - tiny pinpricks of iridescent green sprinkled like stars on the ceiling. Very atmospheric.
Jo and I also explored the tunnels where people used to dig long passageways into the rock, following quartz veins. We saw crude windows cut out of the sides of the tunnels where miners hurled the rock debris down the side of the gorge into the river below as they went. We could also see the rusting remains of batteries where cyanide was used in the process of extracting the gold from the rock. The mine closed by the 1930s when it was no longer economically viable to keep it open. It had suffered floods and fire in its lifetime.
Before Jo and Toby left, we enjoyed a very picturesque walk through the Wentworth Valley. We followed the crystal clear water upstream through the lush forest until we came to a stunning waterfall. The boys were very excited about the river as there were many deep pools and it was clear they had trout on their minds! Unfortunately, Toby and Jo had to head back to Auckland, so we had farewell mugs of tea with fresh strawberries, kiwis and hunks of chocolate brownie before saying farewell. Tim and I then started to make our way towards Rotorua.