Mount Maunganui Escape

Mount Maunganui has the small seaside town feel, despite being located on the outskirts of the much bigger city of Tauranga. The town gets its name from the extinct volcanic cone that rises above the city, also known as Mount Maunganui, or by its Maori name Mauao.

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Alvin and the Chipmunks

There are many fun and funky shops to explore, as well as quite a few restaurants and cafe’s. Oh, and don’t forget the ice cream! Monte Gelato has absolutely superb quality ice cream, although if you are after quantity, then check out Copenhagen Cones instead.

Surfing in Mount Maunganui Harbour
Surfing in Mount Maunganui Harbour

Mount Maunganui beach is lifegaurd patrolled in summer and has very few currents, although caution is always necessary in the ocean. Although the swell is less consistent than other beaches, Mount Maunganui remains a popular surf beach.

Big Boats in the Tauranga Harbour
Big Boats in the Tauranga Harbour

Andrew and I weren’t lucky enough to be there on big swell days, but I still took our surfboard out for a good paddle to stay in shape. I took the bodyboard out too, which was more appropriate for the size of the waves and the location of the break the days that we were there.

With its proximity to Tauranga, there was nearly constant

Summit Track
Summit Track

procession of massive container ships, cruise ships, sailboats, and other assorted boats passing by. I had fun watching them; it’s still impressive to watch something so large maneuver on the water.

Andrew and I stayed at the Beachside Holiday Resort, which had a great price for NZMCA members, not to mention a discount for the nearby hot saltwater pools!

Mount Maunganui Sheep
Mount Maunganui Sheep

We took advantage of the great price and visited the pools, which consist of a warm active pool, a large hot pool, two spa pools, and three private pools. I’m  used to the chlorine or mineral hot pools; I think I float too well for the saltwater pools! It was very relaxing and made for a very enjoyable evening.

New Zealand Robin
New Zealand Robin

Beachside Holiday Resort also happens to be located right on the boardwalk, which made it convenient to participate in another popular activity; walking!

Mount Maunganui Summit
Mount Maunganui Summit

If you haven’t noticed from previous posts, there are literally hundreds of walking and tramping tracks in New Zealand. While it wouldn’t be possible to explore them all, I aim to explore the most interesting ones in the areas that I visit.

There are two main tracks around the Mount; the circle path around the mount or the summit track. Summit tracks are also quite common here; it seems everyone wants to climb to the top of the nearest peak, wherever it may

City of Tauranga
City of Tauranga

be.

Andrew and I hiked both trails in the week that we were in the area. Both were pleasant, although the summit was, of course, a bit harder. Both tracks took us around

an hour round trip, which isn’t too long. The views from the summit are beautiful.

At Mount Maunganui Summit
At Mount Maunganui Summit

There are quite a few sheep grazing on the mount, although there are also signs indicating that, since there are shepherds in attendance, to please not disturb the sheep. While walking around the mount we also notice a few shiny moving rocks:

Posing Seal
Posing Seal

seals! It was possible to walk out fairly close to the rock that they were perched on, but we were extremely fortunate to have an opportunity to take some sea kayaks out.

Our neighbors had rented kayaks for four hours and very generously offered to let us take them out for the last hour while they had lunch. I’ve done boat launches, dock launches,

Kayaking near Mount Maunganui
Kayaking near Mount Maunganui

and beach launches at the lake; kayaking into the surf was a completely different experience. Our neighbors helped us launch so that we started off upright (always a good thing!), and then Andrew and I paddled around the mount to seal island.

Seal and Pup
Seal and Pup

We got really good views of two adults seals and then, as we were leaving, a baby seal pup poked its head out from behind the rocks with a giant yawn. It was so adorable! It took about 25 minutes to paddle about halfway around the mount and then we had to turn back. If I thought beach take offs in the surf were difficult, well, I definitely need to practice my beach landings. Both Andrew and I ended up going for a somewhat unintentional swim.

Andrew Kayaking with Seals
Andrew Kayaking with Seals

Andrew caught a wave that picked up the back of his kayak and drove the nose into the ocean, flipping him in almost a somersault. I managed to catch the wave slightly sideways and nearly surfed it in until the wave flipped my kayak completely broadside and dumped me over. It was still fun though and gives me something to practice in my kayak back home.

Andrew and I had a lot of fun at Mount Maunganui and I wish we could have stayed longer. It was a beautiful place with fun shops and great people. Time to move on to more adventures though!

Gear Review: Icebreaker

Wool is not just for winter! When Andrew and I say that we love our Icebreaker wool, the most common comment that we get is:

Isn’t wool too warm for New Zealand? Isn’t it summer? Why would you wear wool in summer?

This isn’t your grandma’s wool. It is soft, light, breathable, and one of the best performance fabrics that you can get. It stays warm even when wet, wicks moisture from perspiration or rain, and retains a pleasant odor after days of wear.

Icebreaker is how Andrew and I have managed to pack for a 2 week trip with a variety of weather conditions in a single carry on. Fast drying, versatile, and durable these clothes are a travelers best friend!

Here’s what we each packed:

  • 1 everyday cami
  • 1 tank top
  • 2 short sleeve shirts
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 beanie (toque for the Canadians!)
  • Light rain jacket

This sufficed for both of us in weather ranging from -10C to +35C, rain and wind, and everything mother nature chose to throw at us.

Icebreaker has a great video that explains how Merino works:

I probably shouldn’t admit to this but…I have worn the same icebreaker outfit for a week. Not joking. It still didn’t smell at the end of it!

Granted, this was when Andrew and I were doing field work. I needed something that worked well under the coveralls, was a natural fabric that wouldn’t burn easily, insulated when it was cold, and breathed when it was warm. With people who had an excessive like of heaters and air conditioning I needed a fabric that could handle -5C and +35C in the same day.

Merino wool was the answer.

They have a few different product lines and many different weights that allow perfect layering to handle all temperatures. Their products can be quite stylish too! I’ve been quite tempted by their dresses and funky sweaters a few times.

They offer all layering options. Of course, for those of you unfamiliar with layering, you might be wondering how to do it. Here’s my advice from my experience hiking.

Summer

Wear light, breathable, flexible layers. A nice light tank top, a pair of light shorts, and a light sweater over top for when it starts to cool down in the evenings.

I frequently layer a light t-shirt over their slim strap camisoles so that I have options depending on how warm and sunny it is. Clothing in the 120-135gm/sqmeter range are appropriate for summer conditions.

Winter

This is where all the layering comes into effect. Especially when engaging in outdoor activities you might be cold to start and then find yourself wearing too much as your body warms up and you start to sweat. You don’t want to overheat so being able to remove layers is essential! Then as you cool down when you stop for lunch its important to add layers back on so that you don’t get cold again.

Thankfully Merino’s got you covered!

In the coldest winter conditions I will tend to layer as follows:

  1. Base layer – long leggings and a light camisole
  2. Mid layer – long sleeve shirt and long pants
  3. Mid layer 2 – T-shirt and sometimes shorts as my thighs get cold easily
  4. Mid layer 3 – Sweater, neck warmer/buff, light gloves, balaclava
  5. Outer layer – Waterproof/windproof pants, jacket, gloves, and toque.

Only wear one pair of socks! In proper fitting boots more pairs of socks will usually result in your feet getting colder. Just pick an appropriate weight for the activity and carry a spare, dry pair in your backpack.

The only downside to Icebreaker is the price. I have gradually accumulated pieces over the years when they go on sale. The clothing is durable though and their socks come with a lifetime warranty. I have had my clothes for 5+ years and have not yet noticed any signs of wear on them.

Wellington Cable Car

The Cable Car museum is much smaller than the other museums, but was worth a visit. The easiest way to reach it is to ride the cable car up from the Wellington CBD to the botanical gardens. The museum is located right at the top of the cable car.

One of the Original Cars
One of the Original Cars

In 1898, a housing shortage was identified in Wellington area. Many people didn’t want to make the long trek up the hills between Lambton Quay and Kelburne. The hill posed as much of an issue to the cable cars as to the people though! The cable car system was only 785 meters long, but rose 119 meters over this distance, passing through three tunnels and over four viaducts. In 1899 construction on the cable car started. All of the work was done manually with picks, shovels and wheelbarrows.

On the Red Rattler
On the Red Rattler

In February, 1902, the cable car service opened, giving tourists and locals alike an easy way to access the upper sections. Over 1000 people per day rode the lines, which offered amazing views of the Wellington harbour. A tea house was opened at the top, which quickly became a popular leisure spot for Sundays.

Modern Cable Car
Modern Cable Car

Many people would dress in their best clothes, ride the tram up to the tea room and enjoy a meandering walk through the botanical gardens. In 1978 the original cable cars made their final run after having been declared unsafe. The cars were extremely popular, however, and in 1979 new cars with updated rails and safety systems were put into place.

Cable Car Three
Cable Car Three

They had two restored cable cars in the museum, one of which it was possible to sit on. I know it is a bit strange and wears things faster, but I love being able to actually touch pieces of history. It makes it so much more real than simply looking at pictures and reading about it. It is much easier to imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago while sitting on the outside of one of the old trams.

Winch House
Winch House

It took Andrew and I just over an hour to tour the cable car museum. I particularly enjoyed seeing the original winding house and learning how the tram technology actually works. Of course, we finished our tour by riding the tram down back into Wellington. The 3.5 minute ride was an enjoyable experience, although I wish they still had the pricing systems of the past! It used to be two pence to ride up the tram and a penny to ride down since the ride up was much more popular.

 

Wellington Parliament

Wellington has three parliament buildings, from the relatively modern beehive to the older Victorian style council chambers. They offer free tours from 10am to 5pm daily, except for civic holidays. Tours depart each hour and require visitors to pass through a metal detector, as well as to leave all bags, phones, and cameras behind.

The tour started with a brief video that explained how New Zealand’s parliament operates. It is very similar to Canada’s parliament, with a few exceptions. There is no Upper House, or Senate, in New Zealand. They also use a different voting system, called MMP, or Mixed Member Proportional, in which a party is allotted seats based upon which proportion of the voters voted for them.

Two Parliament Buildings
Two Parliament Buildings

I was quite impressed by the transparency of the parliamentary process. Even in the debate chamber there are chairs for the public to come and watch the parliamentary process nearly any day that the parliament is in session. They offer many different options for the public other than simply visiting. The public is able to watch live streams online, tune into ‘house tv’, or listen to radio broadcasts of the House in session.

The Beehive
The Beehive

The tour took us through all three parliament buildings. The House wasn’t in session when we visited, so we were able to see everything. It was interesting to note that the carpet in the House is a different colour; the Governor general (or the Queen if she visits) is not permitted to step onto the green carpet so that she cannot interfere with the free and elected government. They do still have links to the sovereign though, much like Canada.

The Oldest Building
The Oldest Building

The tour also took us into the basement, where we could see the same rubber and lead blocks that are used in the Te Papa museum for earthquake protection. For the parliament buildings it was a little bit more complicated since they actually had to cut out the foundation to install the base isolators.

Wellington Parliament
Wellington Parliament

Seeing the three different architectural styles was quite interesting. Although there isn’t much to say other than it was a tour of parliament and I learned a lot, it was interesting to do and worth seeing. I just wish cameras had been allowed inside, although the reason for no photos makes perfect sense.

Wellington Museum

The Wellington Museum is located on Queens Wharf, right by the harbour front. It has free entry and is open from 10am to 4pm every day. The harbour front itself is interesting to walk along, with several cool shops, great bars, and interesting people to see. Every Saturday there is an underground market as well, which is basically a large underground farmers market.

Bond Store
Bond Store

The Wellington museum is four floors of interesting displays, many of which are hands on and fun to explore. To enter the museum, you walk through the Bond Store, which is where goods were stowed before the duty was paid. It really felt like I was stepping back in time and made for a great start to the museum experience.

The host at the front desk suggested that we start at the top floor in ‘The Attic’, which turned out to be a strange and eclectic mix of random artefacts. It included information about the Wellington Harbour board, which once used massive iron gates to control access to the harbour. I had noticed the 120 year old wrought iron gates while riding along the harbour, but it was interesting to learn what they were from.

Clock Face
Clock Face

There was also the face from the town hall clock, which was removed for safe keeping after the 1931 earthquakes in Napier. Five years later it was remounted before being removed again in 2013 over earthquake concerns. The clock is now mounted in the museum. The Attic contains many other interesting artefacts, including an old record playing music from New Zealand’s first professional composer, an old pram, a Mecano reconstruction of James’ Cooke’s ship, the New Zealand UFO files, and a giant.

Old Pram
Old Pram

The lower floors housed more traditional exhibits, although there were a number of hands on exhibits, audio tracks, and even a short ‘movie’ story told by holographic projection. It told the a few Maori folk tales and made an interesting place to stop and sit for a few minutes

Maori Storytelling
Maori Storytelling

. There was also a lot of information on the Maori ships, history, and the discovery of New Zealand. An entire floor was dedicated to all things Maritime, with ship models, artefacts, history, and a lot of interesting information.

Hoist the Sails
Hoist the Sails

Overall I found this museum to be more stimulating and interesting than most other museums that I have been in. It explained history without making it seem boring and dry.

Te Papa Museum

The Te Papa museum is the museum everyone assumes that you are talking about if you walk up to them and say, “I went to the museum in Wellington today!”. With six floors it is certainly the largest museum. Open daily from 10am to 6pm admission is free, although parking is quite pricy. Expect to pay between $12-$30 for the day for parking if you want to park nearby. The museum also didn’t seem to be heated, so make sure to bring a sweater on a chilly or rainy day. I got a little bit cold towards the end of the day.

Andrew and I started outside with a small exhibit on Wellington’s earthquake zone and the base-isolation system that the museum is built on to protect it from earthquakes. Huge blocks of rubber with lead cores are used to isolate the building from the ground so that, even if the ground shakes and shifts a fair bit, the building won’t move nearly as much. I’ve never really had to think about or worry about earthquakes before so I found the technology to be quite interesting.

Te Papa Plane
Te Papa Plane

Andrew and I stowed our bike helmets and coats at the free bag check, then proceeded to explore the museum. I was most interested in seeing the new Gallipoli exhibit, but it was quite lined up when we got there so we decided to check out the rest of the museum and come back later in the day. We started with the ‘Awesome Forces’ exhibit, which explained New Zealand’s geologically violent history.

Gallipoli Exhibit
Gallipoli Exhibit

We finally learned what all those trig stations are for! Nearly every hike that Andrew and I do has what are known as trig stations. They are at the tops of most hills and various locations around New Zealand. When climbing to a summit it is usually possible to see three or four of the trig stations. They are used to track New Zealand’s land movement over time through trigonometry. Maybe I’m a geek, but I found it quite interesting. There was a hands-on display that let me actually look through a land surveyors telescope and see how the stations are really used.

The Fastest Motorcycle
The Fastest Motorcycle

There was also a ‘quake house’ where we could experience what an earthquake would feel like. Of course, they also had a lot of information on things that you can do to protect your house during an earthquake, many of which I hadn’t thought of. Something as simple as using the blue sticky tack to hold small figures onto a display case or fishing line to keep books from tumbling out of a bookshelf…it was interesting to learn.

Tortoise
Tortoise

Mountain’s to Sea explained how the flora and fauna of New Zealand developed and included models of the Moa and giant eagles. There weren’t many dinosaurs on New Zealand! There were stuffed kiwi’s and other animals too. There was also a giant pickled squid which, while interesting scientifically, was a little bit gross.

Eagle Attacking Moa
Eagle Attacking Moa

We meandered through the exhibits on the other floors, which included “Blood Earth Fire”, a story of how New Zealand has changed, Mana Whenua, the world of the Maori, information about the Treaty of Waitangi, an examination of modern New Zealand, and stories from immigrants and young refugees. There was a LOT of reading in the displays and towards the end I was tired of reading the signs and started to just look at the cool things. The Britten Bike, a world record breaking motorbike was fun to see.

Weta Workshop Model
Weta Workshop Model

At the end of the day the line for the Gallipoli exhibit had shortened enough that we went in. Gallipoli: The scale of war tells the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the first World War. Created by the Weta Workshop, the exhibit consists of several large scale, extremely life-like, models of people who served in the war.

Gallipoli Gunner
Gallipoli Gunner

It was extremely humbling and really made me see the people involved. So often war exhibits mention the lives lost but it is just numbers. Big numbers usually. This is one of the first exhibits I’ve seen that made it feel more human somehow. The models might be a bit too graphic for some sensitive young children, but otherwise they really do a great job educating and sharing the scale of war to a generation of people who have never been soldiers or seen conflict on those scales.

Nurse
Nurse

To fully experience the museum, see every exhibit, and read every bit of information would probably take two days. For myself, I found the Gallipoli exhibit and the Awesome Forces exhibit to be the most interesting; these took us about four hours total to see.

Gallipoli Rememberance
Gallipoli Rememberance

The Space Place

When most people think of a planetarium they think of a star show, perhaps followed by some elderly gentleman rambling on about random space trivia. This is not the case at the Space Place! They offer a digital full-dome planetarium with shows for all ages and interests, a multimedia exhibition with many hands-on exhibits, and late-night telescope viewing.

Gravity Exhibit
Gravity Exhibit

The Space Place is located in the Botanic Gardens, which are great for a stroll. Andrew and I had a bit of a difficult time finding somewhere to park since our GPS took us on a wild goose chase. If you are looking to park, I would recommend the Skyline Carpark, which is situated at the top. Another option would be to use one of the parking areas in the CBD and simply take the cable car to the top. The Space Place is located a short walk from the top of the cable car.

Rocket Exhibit
Rocket Exhibit

Open from 4-11pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am-11pm Saturday and 10am-5:30pm Sundays there are lots of chances to visit. Hours change over the school holidays, so be sure to check their website. On clear nights telescope viewing starts about 1 hours after dusk as well.

I touched it!
Touch the Moon

The Space Place consists of three main components: the multimedia displays, the planetarium itself, and the Thomas Cooke Telescope. Andrew and I were a bit early for the planetarium show that we had chosen, so we started with the multimedia displays.

Multimedia Display
Multimedia Display

They were really fun and neat! The first area described the universe, how things started, and what gravity is. Andrew and I probably spent about ten minutes playing with the gravity simulation, which demonstrates Einstein’s general theory of relativity. It basically consisted of a pair of funnels and a pair of bouncy balls that we could roll around the funnel-space to create different orbits. It was a very neat visual representation of gravity.

Columbia Heat Shield
Columbia Heat Shield

The next area described our solar system and included a few meteorite samples and a lunar rock; you were allowed to touch the samples, which I thought was awesome. Andrew spent a fair bit of time poking and playing with the media aspect of the multimedia displays, which were both entertaining and informative. It also described how to find south; a surprisingly difficult process for those of us from the Northern Hemisphere that are accustomed to having a north star! It involves locating the Southern Cross and the star Achemar, then finding the point directly between them to find where south is. I kinda miss trusty Polaris now!

Finding South
Finding South

There was also a fair bit of information describing the Maori legends associated with the stars. Growing up hearing the Native American stories of how the constellations were formed, I found it very interesting reading the different stories. There was one legend that described how the great hero Maui decided to harness the sun to make the days longer by flinging a rope over the sun. The sun, Tamanui-te-ra, fought fiercely but the harder he struggled the harder the hero Maui pulled. When Maui finally let go, the beaten sun limped across the sky as it still does today, giving us longer days and a break from the night.

Honeycomb Structure
Honeycomb Structure

Given the time of year that we visited (late May), there was a lot of emphasis on Matariki, also known as the Pleiades. Matariki means ‘eyes of the high born’ or ‘little eyes’. Matariki rising in the dawn sky marks the end of the old year, with the new year being celebrated at the next new or full moon. Matariki was also studied to predict the harvest of the next year. If the stars were clear and bright, it indicated a year of prosperity to come; if they were faint then a year of scarcity lay ahead.

Another part of the display explained New Zealand’s involvement in the space age, starting with Pickering’s mission: Go out and explore the depths of the solar system. Bill Pickering was a New Zealand born scientist who moved to California and, in 1954, became NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s fourth director. He worked on Explorer I, the American response to the Soviet Sputnik, as well as several other projects.

Pickering's Mission
Pickering’s Mission

There was also information on Peter Beck, the rocket scientist who founded the New Zealand based RocketLab (a company I very much want to work for!). There were pieces of the Atea I, part of RocketLab’s space development program to launch small satellites and research projects at an affordable price. There were also pieces of the Space Shuttle Columbia, showing how the heat shield should have worked and how the shuttles were made to be both strong and lightweight. For such a small nation, New Zealand is very involved in space!

Andrew and I also took some time to check out the junior astronaut zone. It was a very neat little space especially for kids (or big kids who haven’t grown up yet). There were quite a few of hands on displays for kids to try assembling things like an astronaut and such. A very fun area!

Junior Zone
Junior Zone

The planetarium was quite neat as well. We watched the “Dawn of the Space Age” show, which told the history of the development of man in space, from the launch of Sputnik all the way to the current era. It was quite interesting. Following the show, one of the guides walked us through the current night sky in the planetarium, pointing out some of the more interesting sights including Matariki. Andrew was very interested in the program that they used and we both really enjoyed the experience.

The James Cooke Telescope
The James Cooke Telescope

After the show we headed up to the telescope. We were quite fortunate to have a very quite night since it meant more time to enjoy the telescope and talk to Hedley and Gaby, both of whom were very knowledgeable and friendly. They even turned on the lights so that we could see the Thomas Cooke Telescope more clearly and see how all of the different components work. Hedley was great at explaining all of the different pieces and how everything worked together.

Telescope Tracking
Telescope Tracking

I think it might be the oldest dome telescope I have ever seen. Watching the clockwork like parts was simply fascinating to watch. We were also fortunate to have a clear, moonless night that allowed us to see some amazing views through the telescope. We saw Jupiter and the Galilean moons, Saturn with her rings (beautiful!), and the Omega Centauri Star cluster, which was simply magnificent. I could have stayed up there all night, and in fact we did. We spent about two hours in the telescope room just chatting and marveling at the telescope and the night sky.

The Telescope
The Telescope

Andrew and I both really enjoyed our night at the Space Place and would highly recommend it to anyone passing through Wellington! There was enough to keep people of all ages and interest levels occupied. Andrew usually tolerates my love of astronomy (reluctantly in the winter) and he thoroughly enjoyed the evening there. It isn’t often that I’m the one reminding him that our parking time is up and that it’s time to go when we are at something space related!

Museums of Wellington

Now for something completely different! Wellington has a large plethora of museums, quite a few of which Andrew and I visited. Many of the museums are free of charge and are a great way to spend a couple of days. I’m going to be covering each of these in a short museum series over the next two weeks, so stay tuned!

Space Place

Space Place
Space Place

The Space Place is the planetarium that is located in the Botanic Gardens of Wellington, at the Carter Observatory. Reachable by road or by the Wellington Cable Car, it is a great place to visit, especially on clear evenings when there is an opportunity to look through the telescope. Wonderfully interactive and informative this is a great visit for people of all ages.

Te Papa

Te Papa Museum
Te Papa Museum

The Te Papa museum is the largest museum and the one that most people mean when they say that they went to the museum in Wellington. It is quite large and has a wide array of different exhibitions, including the Gallipoli exhibit until 2017.

Wellington Museum

Wellington Museum
Wellington Museum

The Wellington museum is situated on the waterfront and offers a much more eclectic mix of materials from the Te Papa museum. It is also more hands on and has a larger focus on Wellington and it’s culture. A great little museum to spend an afternoon at!

Parliament Building – the Beehive

The Beehive
The Beehive

The trio of Parliament buildings, of which the Beehive is the most distinctive, are an impressive site in Wellington. It was interesting to visit and learn about the New Zealand parliamentary process which, though similar to Canada’s has a few notable differences.

Cable Car Museum

Cable Car Museum
Cable Car Museum

The Wellington Cable car is a classic Wellington icon, allowing easy access up the hill to the top of the Botanic Gardens. The cable car is a great way to get from the Wellington waterfront to the Botanic Gardens, which house both the cable car museum and the Space Place.

Karangahake Gorge

The Krangahake Gorge historical site is one of the hidden gems of New Zealand. Located inconspicuously on the road in between Paeroa and Waihi, you have to catch the single pull off to be able to explore the many fascinating trails in the area.

Krangahake Gorge River
Karangahake Gorge River

Part of a larger network of trails that let you walk or ride between Paeroa and Waihi, the trails at the Karangahake gorge are all relatively easy. Andrew and I pulled over for a nice picnic lunch and decided to do a short walk, despite our legs still being sore from the Pinnacles Hike.

Suspension Bridge over the Gorge
Suspension Bridge over the Gorge

We started with the Windows Walkway, which hikes through the remains of the Woodstock and Talisman Mining batteries.

Mine Ruins
Mine Ruins

The trail started by crossing a set of suspension bridges over the river, then wound gently upwards to the ruins.

The Woodstock Battery and Powerhouse is relatively intact. Along the way there were various informational signs educating us about the  history of the area and how the gold mining process worked. The mines here were more modern than the ones that we saw in Thames, using cyanide to separate the gold from the quartz and more complicated machinery.

I have always liked looking at ruins of old buildings and trying to imagine what they

Waikino Remnants
Waikino Remnants

would have looked like when they were new. It is one of the appeals of the medieval castles to me and is something I enjoy even with relatively modern buildings such as these. There were informational signs indicating where mine entrances used to be. I found it quite interesting that they used aerial trams to move the ore from mine tunnels across the river and higher up the cliff into the top of the battery.

Mining Tramway
Mining Tramway

Andrew and I then decided to walk further and continued on to the Windows Walk. I had seen a sign indicating that flashlights (or torches as they are called here) would be a desirable addition to the hike. I was glad we grabbed ours!

The pathway climbed from the batteries and the powerhouse up to the mining tramway that was used to move the mine carts from the tunnel to the battery. They even had one of the old mine carts on the path, which was neat to see. The path then continued…into the mine. It is called the Windows walk due to the Windows that were cut out of the rock to provide light and ventilation to the mine. It wasn’t enough light to see clearly along the full length of the path however, hence the desire to bring torches.

Entrance to the Mine
Entrance to the Mine

Upon reaching the end of the Windows Walk, Andrew and I decided that we hadn’t quite finished with walking, so we decided to continue and do the Railway tunnel loop. This would have been a good loop to take our bikes on, as it was relatively flat and wide. It wound its way past the Crown Battery ruins before crossing the road on a steel truss bridge and entering into the 1 kilometer long rail tunnel.

Railway Tunnel
Railway Tunnel

The tunnel exits over the Eastern Portal bridge. I found it interesting to learn that they actually had to build the road up and over the rail tunnel since, in older days, the sudden sight of the emerging trains would startle the pack horses too much and send them over the cliff into the river. The trail then wound along the riverside, following a pretty little track through the woods and back to the carpark.

Even though we were sore and moving fairly slowly, I was glad that Andrew and I decided to stop for the Karangahake gorge walks anyways. It would be interesting to return at a future date with more finances available to be able to partake in the scenic train and other activities available in the area.

Pinnacles Walk – the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail

Doing an overnight hike is something that I have always dreamed of doing. One, from a fitness viewpoint of being able to walk that far with a heavy pack, and two, from an adventure standpoint, to just walk that far into the middle of nowhere and be completely self-sufficient.

Walking up the Trail
Walking up the Trail

Andrew and I have been working up to doing a few of the Great Walks in New Zealand, which are 3-10 day self-guided hikes. We have gathered the required gear that we were missing, mainly a tent and a stove, so decided that a single night trip would be a good chance to test everything out. Perhaps we should have chosen a path with fewer stairs…

 

The Pinnacles Hike, following the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, is one of many hikes that can be done in the Kauaeranga Valley of the Coromandel Region. For more information on other hikes, I’d recommend visiting the DOC visitor center in the Kauaeranga Valley; they were extremely helpful.

Piece of Kauri
Piece of Kauri

The Pinnacles Walk can be completed in a single day and is approximately 6-9 hours return. The campsite is approximately 45 minutes from the top though and offers fantastic views.

The trail itself is steep, occasionally slippery, and mainly stairs, so be prepared. There were several times on this trek that I strongly regretted that my hiking poles are sitting securely in a storage unit in Canada.

Kauri Dam
Kauri Dam

The trail follows a historic packhorse route that was used by the kauri bushmen in the 1920’s. The entire valley was once covered in Kauri forests that were used extensively for lumber and were nearly cleared out. The forest has since regrown and offers beautiful hiking. It is still possible to see a few of the dams that were used on the creek to create log rushes to transport the kauri trees from the pinnacles down to the firth of Thames.

Valley Views
Valley Views

The campsites are basic, with a long drop toilet and a water tap with water to be boiled before drinking. For those wanting a few more amenities and a slightly lighter backpack, there is also an 80 bunk dorm available that offers gas cookers, bunks, and cold showers. You still need to bring your own sleeping accouterments though.

Our Campsite
Our Campsite

In our backpacks, Andrew and I had:

 

  • Sleeping bag
  • Compressible pillow
  • Titanium stove
  • Fuel Canister
  • Spare pair of wool socks
  • Change of wool clothes (pants, shirt, jacket)
  • Dehydrated dinner
  • Apples, trial mix, peanut butter, and granola bars
  • 3L hydration packs
  • Ereaders
  • Camera
  • Survival kit (just in case)
  • Survival knife (just in case)
  • Headlamps
Surprisingly Good Dinner
Surprisingly Good Dinner

While we didn’t need the survival gear (thankfully!) we have made it a habit to always have them in our backpacks. They contain firestarter, a sharp knife, signaling mirror, compass, water tablets, and some very dense dehydrated food. In the event that we ever do get lost, they will hopefully help us get back to civilization or survive until we are rescued.

 

The pinnacles themselves are the remnants of the volcanoes that helped form the Coromandel peninsula. The cores of volcanoes are a much harder rock than the side, so as they erode with time, great pillars remain.

Climbing the Steps
Climbing the Steps

After a restful night at our campsite, Andrew and I packed up and started the trek to the Pinnacles. Partway up the steep stairs we noticed a few backpacks had been left and thought it was a fantastic idea not to lug the big bags all the way up since we would be returning the same way.

The climb itself was a bit interesting, since it involved scrambling up iron rungs and ladders that have been set into the rock face itself. The path was well-marked and there was limited exposure, but a certain level of fitness and dexterity is definitely required.

Climbing up to the Top
Climbing up to the Top

The views from the top are well worth the climb. Looking out we could see most of the Coromandel, with views stretching all the way back to the town of Thames.

Andrew and I at the Top
Andrew and I at the Top
Across the Bridge
Across the Bridge

It took us about four hours to hike back down including crossing the swing bridges and creeks. The path is well-maintained and well-marked. For anyone visiting the area, I would definitely recommend spending a few days in the Kauaeranga Valley, checking out at least a few of the trails and tramping tracks in the area.