Monday, July 22, 2013

New Discoveries - Karangahake Gorge and the Waihi Mine

The children and I spent the most amazing day together today exploring the wonder that is the Karangahake Gorge, between Paeroa and Waihi.

The main attraction for the children was the 1km long tunnel and the torches they had to carry. We parked at the first carpark on the right (coming from Paeroa), over the bridge, and this takes you straight to the beginning of the tunnel walk.  The tunnel is lit, but the extra light from a torch definitely helps the process.  Its honestly the tunnel that never ends.  We got to the 500 metre mark and I had by this stage thought up all sorts of disaster scenarios that I was convincing myself could happen and had managed to freak myself out.  Thankfully I had to keep cool in front of the kids and the giggling echos from the boys kept me from tipping over.  Tunnels and caves are not my thing, but there is always light at the end of this one and the kids loved the experience.

On leaving the tunnel, we followed the track around to the right until we reached the beginning of the Windows Walk.  The children still had an abundance of energy here, so I decided we'd tackle this as well.  It was amazing.  The scenery was stunning.  You can't do this walk without torches though.  You enter pitch black tunnels which are broken occasionally by a 'window' to the gully below.  I really needn't tell you how my nerves were once we came out the otherside, but the children again thought it was great fun.

During the walk there were swing bridges to cross, which of course needed jumping on to make them swing as much as possible, a heap of old mining ruins to clamber through and old machinery to awe the children with their size.

The children amazed me.  The Girl, at 2, needed carrying up the steep stairs, but she walked a fair bit.  Sprat (6) and Danger Mouse (4) walked the whole way (just under 5kms) without so much as a single complaint.  I took a pile of food and drink and just kept feeding them the whole way around.

There was a stretch along the river which was a bit hair raising, as the path dropped off straight to the river.  Being the confident beings my children are they just charged ahead with my instructions of staying close to the wall, while I flitted and flustered behind them thinking do I ditch the backpack or just jump straight in if one of them falls in?

Once we had exhausted ourselves, we headed over to Waihi Beach for a picnic lunch.  It was only a 20 minute drive from the Gorge and a great place to just chill out and get sand in everything.

Bellies full (how they could pack anymore in after what they ate on their walk I have no idea) we headed back into Waihi to check out the mine.  We parked at the top of the main street and headed up the grass hill.

Whoa.  In all the years I have driven through Waihi I had no idea at all I was passing this.  The children were fascinated, and stood at the fence for AGES watching the tiny (yea right) trucks and diggers at work.  Its mindbogglingly huge.

Across the road from where we parked is the Waihi Information Centre, and in the basement is a Mine Information Centre.  Its quite informative and has a small play area for the kids where they can wear hard hats, hi-vis vests and play with Tonka toys.  Its free to get in as well, always a bonus.

Sprat mentioned at this stage he wanted to go to the Museum so that was our next destination.  It cost us $8 to get in.  Under 5's are free, and I think it was $5 for adults and $3 for children.  I was slightly disappointed.  It was quite small, with a lot of static mining models and some old TV's and radios.  A lot of information on the mine was provided though, but it just all looked ... slightly rough around the edges and a bit unkempt. Just my opinion though remember.  They do have the old Waihi jail there though, which was quite cool to see.  It scared the kids but I thought the padded cell looked quite appealing for naughty children ...

On heading home I noticed a sign for the Owharoa Falls opposite Waikino Station.  A sucker for waterfalls I couldn't pass this by.  I parked on the verge of the road about 30 metres up the hill (on the righthand side) and it was only a 10 metre walk down to the bottom of the waterfall.  Totally worth stopping in for a look.

A massive busy day which I totally loved.  We honestly could of spent more time there as there were things we wanted to see but we ran out of time.  It was a 'cheap' day out - for the cost of our petrol and the $8 museum fee, we were entertained, exercised, educated and exhausted.  I am planning on heading back over the next 2 months or so to see all the stuff we couldn't fit in today.

And what drive through Paeroa wouldn't be complete without a stop at the L&P Bottle.


Leonie said...

Wow looks like a fantastic trip!

Lisa said...

that bridge terrifys me! my kids always make us stop when we drive through the gorge.
So glad to have found your blog :)