Sunday, 26 July 2015

Hauraki Rail Trail – Waihi to Waikino

After our time in Auckland, we wanted to have a few days of biking before going home. The direction in which we would be heading (New Plymouth, Hawke’s Bay or Hauraki Rail Trail) was dependent on what the weather was doing. The forecast told us that our best chances would be towards Coromandel, so we headed to Paeroa, the town in the centre of the Hauraki Rail Trail.

This is one of the easiest and most popular biking trails in New Zealand, running on a former railway line, roughly north to south, from Thames to Paeroa (33 km) and from Paeroa to Te Aroha (21 km). From Paeroa, the most scenically spectacular part of the trail heads east to Waihi (25 km). 

So on Saturday 18 July, we left Auckland in torrential rain, with a few mini-tornadoes apparently causing a bit of havoc. When we got to Paeroa, it looked as if something nasty had ripped through there as well, as there was a lot of tree debris on the road. It was still raining.

The man at the information centre was very chatty and helpful, but he thought that the trail might be a bit soggy after the downpours the area had received in the last couple of days. However he suggested we might enjoy lunch at the Ohinemuri Estate winery, ten minutes up the road towards Waihi. As it happened we couldn’t get in to there, so we had a simpler, but still pleasant lunch at the Talisman Café.

The setting for the café was quite charming, with tracks and a little bridge, carvings and pottery in the grounds. Inside, John was delighted to find a friendly cat, which was very happy to be picked up and petted for a while. John has been missing our elderly cat Tim, who died last year.

The Talisman Café (photo by John)

Happiness is a friendly, purring cat to hold …

The Talisman’s garden

It had stopped raining during lunch and when we got to Waihi, it was almost fine. We found a motel to stay in for the next couple of nights, and unloaded the bikes for a ride to Waikino, 10 km away.

Despite the misgivings of the man at the information centre, the gravel track was in quite reasonable condition – give or take a few puddles. Except for a few short steep-ish up-and-downs to get to river level, the track is flat and runs alongside the Ohinemuri River.

The first of two bridges over the Ohinemuri River (photo by John)

The track is flat and skirts the Ohinemuri River (photo by John)

A few of the puddles were quite large. I took the careful way around the edge, but in one case, I lost momentum and stalled in the boggy edge, and got my feet wet! John advised that I should go through the middle of the puddles, as that is where the gravel is the highest, therefore the ground firmest, and the water shallowest. Smarty-pants! Later I developed a trick to not stall, nor get my feet wet: coming up to a puddle, I would rev up my throttle, and power through without pedalling, while sticking my feet out the sides. Yeehaa!

Very pleasant riverside biking (photo by John)

The only place where the track went through a cutting (photo by John)

The light was very changeable, giving rise to this dramatic shot
(photo by John)

After 10 km, we arrived at the second bridge. Once on the other side, we went through a subway under the road to get to the historic Waikino Railway Station.

The bridge to the Waikino train station (photo by John)

It was 4 pm by now and the station and its café were deserted. A timetable board told us that in the winter time, the train would run on weekends and in the school holidays. Well, it was still the school holidays (just one more day) and tomorrow was Sunday, so we decided that next morning, we would take the train from Waihi to Waikino, before riding the next section of the trail, through the Karangahake Gorge to Paeroa.

The historic train station at Waikino was deserted (photo by John)

On the way back to Waihi – one last photo of the river, which was running quite high (photo by John)

In the evening we took a drive into Waihi, towards the far end of town. The lampposts in the median strip looked quite dramatic, all lit up in red. We followed a suggestion from the motel owner and had dinner at the local RSA (Returned Services Association), which was open to non-members. It was an interesting experience. The surroundings were very plain, as was the food, but it was very good value. And at least the sound of the sports TV, which was playing endless highlights from the previous night’s rugby match of the All Blacks vs the Argentinian Pumas, was turned down to an acceptable level.

Dramatic lighting on the median strip in Waihi’s main road (photo by John)

Pavlova and sticky date pudding at the RSA – it couldn’t get more Kiwi than that!

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