Lots of families have their own holiday traditions. Ours is not to go away during the peak holiday season. We like to leave the campgrounds and beaches to those who cannot get away at any other time. So that we can make the most of things when they are less crowded. When I mentioned to Sarah that we head away for a couple of days during the first week of January I expected stiff resistance to the idea. But, I had a cunning plan I had mentioned a place neither of had stayed before and rather than a campground we would be staying at someone’s house. No need to panic about overcrowded campgrounds.
Back in March last year Sarah and I attended a get together for a group of motorhomers affected by cancer. Over the course of that weekend we got to know quite a number of fellow sufferers. Including one who shares an amazing part of my life story. When my family arrived from the UK in 1971 my parents purchased a house, that had been built a few years earlier by the Gibbons Family. My mother continued to live in that same house until 2015 when she sold the house to it’s current owner. At that weekend I met for the first time Terry Gibbons who had lived with his parents in that house. What a small world!
During that weekend Terry let it be known within the group that members were welcome to stay at his place in Waikino. A very handy spot close to Waihi and very close to the famed rail-trail through the Karangahake Gorge. So my cunning plan for a quiet few days away was actually quite well received with Sarah knowing we wouldn’t have to deal with hundreds of other campers. What I hadn’t counted on was what seemed like the entire population of Auckland trying to leave the city at the same time as us. Bumper to bumper traffic all down the Southern Motorway certainly slowed our departure but once we hit SH2 things seemed to ease with a steady flow of traffic moving at 80-90kph.
I cannot think how many times I must have driven through the gorge, only stopping once or twice to briefly explore. Neither Sarah nor I had any idea that there was a little township located up the hill, above the gorge. A small community where everyone seems to know each other or they certainly knew Terry and he knew them.
Terry has a fantastic garden, with the Tui’s and other birds making the most of the nectar available in the flowers and trees at this time of the year. It’s rich free draining volcanic soil so you can park up without fear of being stuck all year round. The garden also provided a great setting to eat our BBQ dinner while outside enjoying some shade from the trees. Before we ate Terry took us for a wander around the village with Sarah and I admiring the many beautiful gardens in the area. There are many older cottages and villa’s in the village no doubt remnants of the mining days. A real slice of paradise.
We got up early the following morning so we could ride the rail-trail in the shade. Not in the 30 degree heat that would be around later. As Terry’s place is just up the hill from the Waikino Hotel it’s also just a short ride from one of the swing bridges that gets you off the busy highway and onto the trail. We couldn’t have picked a better morning with a cooling breeze and very few rider or walkers out and about that early. I think one of the main attractions of doing this ride is the chance to say you have ridden through the second longest tunnel of any rail trail in NZ. at 1km long you can only just see the other end when you enter.
It’s a terrible photo I know, but I tried to capture Sarah riding through the tunnel as I followed behind her. Sarah’s bike is the only one with a lamp and although there is lighting in the tunnel it’s very dim and difficult to see anything. One thing that was surprising given the lack of rain we have had recently was the amount of water seeping through the bricks. I felt a couple of large drops fall on me, and there was quite a stream running down each side of the tunnel. I wonder how wet it gets in winter.
After having spent the last two years being treated for Lymphoma which has severely affected my fitness. (You can read about my battle, in my blog on the subject.) I had started to run out of energy as we approached Paeroa. We have electric bikes but the throttle function on my one doesn’t work very well so I need to be conscious about not over doing things. With this in mind we turned around to head back about 2kms short of the town. Turning on my power wasn’t something that I really wanted to do but after having ridden 11kms I needed too.
The ride back saw the pathways becoming busier with more people out and about cycling and walking. We stopped to visit the information centre which is located across the river and accessed by a swing bridge but it was just far to busy to cross easily with the bike. So it was back through the tunnel and a return to our starting point. Since the river flows from Waihi towards Paeroa the outward leg of our ride was a gentle downhill. Meaning the return journey was a gentle uphill. Most people of average fitness probably wouldn’t even notice but I was thankful to have the E Bike to help me.
It’s just a short ride from our starting point point by the Waikino Hotel towards Waihi to the Victoria Battery. A collection of mining equipment that stands as testament to the gold miners of the 1800’s. There is also a museum that we would love to have visited but who thinks to bring their masks when they are out for their first bike ride in months. We heard later from Terry that the museum has a great reputation and is well worth a visit if you are in the area. After returning to the motorhome I was very proud to see that we had covered just under 26 kilometres on the mornings ride. The following day we resolved to ride the other way and visit Waihi. That story and another place you can stay in the area are the subject of the next blog.
Terry’s place is not an official POP so it’s not in any directories but he does welcome visitors as long as he knows about their intending visit. You could maybe find him and message him on Facebook, just look for Terry Gibbons. Or email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I can put you in touch with him.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can then click the link to read the blog about that area.