Mine, All Mine! My precious....

Trip Start Aug 04, 2011
Trip End Jan 04, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , Auckland,
Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Waihi is somewhere a little random that just happens to be on our way between A & B. We're not actually staying in Waihi, but in a reserve a few km southwest called Dicky Flat.

Just 100m from the van is the running water provided at the site, a river running downstream towards the Karangahake Gorge. I took it as a good opportunity to be at one with nature, and feeling a bit icky from a couple of nights without a shower, went for a total immersion plunge. It was pretty damn cold. The cold quickly disperses however with numbness and at that point I could swim about without a care. I stood still for a few moments to listen to the quietness. This is what it’s all about. That and long drop toilets.

After breakfast (we have been eating so much healthier since being in the camper – getting our 5 a day and everything) we decided it worthwhile to explore the vicinity. Bag packed with an apple for keeping us going, we tramped along the track downstream.

After a couple of mini-suspension bridges that are meant to only take 5 people at a time (not a risk in these parts) we passed our neighbour on the track, they had clearly already turned around after being a bit pompous. Kate thought the man reminded her a little of Roger Moore – which in looks was fine, however he spoke in a strong New Zealand accent. We walked on berating them for being weak and feeble and then we found out why. The next stretch of the track was through a pitch black tunnel, about 2 foot wide and 6 foot high. In the distance, about 300m away; a pinprick of light could be seen at the exit. Kate was pretty keen to get going, I was less so.

After about 20m of the tunnel, I managed to convince Kate that walking down a pitch black tunnel was kinda stupid and so we turned around and walked back to the van; to collect her kindle light she uses for reading. Hard core adventurers we are. It lights next to nothing.

Back at the van the warden was there and I was a little worried he would sting us for the 60 cents we had shortchanged them in our envelope but he just seemed pleased we had paid anything. The honesty system isn’t the most effective. He gave us a map and gave us some advice about the tunnel. Take a torch. Gee, thanks.

Slightly more prepared, we hit the tunnel again with Kate in front lighting the way by her reading light. It lit less than a smothered match and I was continuously stepping down unseen cracks into pools of water. It was better than nothing though. On the advice of the Warden we turned off the light at about the halfway point and found some glowworms on the roof. Wild times. It was a grim, damp, dark and cold, however quite a rewarding 300m through the tunnel. The excitement of Kate on finding a glowworm was something to behold.

Through the end of the tunnel and the path followed the river along into a deepening gorge. The old gold mine workings of the area could be seen all around with rusty abandoned pipes and holes in the gorge sides. We found some information on the Crown Mine, had a bit of a read and walked down a couple more pitch black tunnels broken out into the mountainside. The photos provided do not give the darkness any justice – it was pitch black. The photos were taken with a flash which makes everything look sunlit and easy. I twisted my ankle after being deserted by my wife who couldn’t seem to care less. It was my fault for not keeping up.

The Glowworms were back out in force and I took a couple of snaps – I’m thinking of starting an exhibition of artistic photos in a big gallery or something, everyone seems to be doing it. I’ve uploaded a few samples entitled "Glowworm Thinking", “Glowworm Working” and “Glowworm telling a joke to friends” – see what you think, your responses will probably help getting my work published and eventually it will be worth thousands.

Kate really enjoyed the mines, and as they were unexpected and free, I enjoyed them too. The New Zealanders haven’t tried to molly coddle people but have left them open. If you don’t have a torch, don’t be stupid enough to go along them. They still stop you from climbing down holes etc, but at least they let you in the tunnels.

The walk continued over a suspension bridge and around the gorge at a high level. About an hour and a half after leaving the camper, we were at the main gorge we had stopped at for information the night before.

We took an alternative route back to the campervan much higher up Karangahake Mountain, just below the summit. It was a longer route but gave some good panoramics over the locality. This was much different vegetation being closer to rainforest, and over the 2 hours returning we didn’t come across anybody. All on our own. No people, No snakes, No spiders. It very much seems that if you want wildlife go to Australia. If you want endless landscapes, go to New Zealand.

Eventually we returned to our camp and lunched. Knackered.

A 2 hour drive brought us to our new site at Matamata, which has been newly signposted in the last few years as 'Hobbiton’. We invested a few more pounds for the luxury of a shower, power for the camper (hence me catching up with the blog), and a swimming pool costing us a hefty 16 quid for the night. The signs were good with the owner of the site possibly being the nicest man in the world. He seemed a little nervous and explained that they had only owned the site for a few months but were trying to turn it around. He gave us a map with a small plastic bag stapled in the corner. The bag contained some tea, coffee and sugar. A nice touch considering we were caravanning.

“I think we’re the only site to do that, we’re trying it out to see how it goes” he explained.

We got plugged into a nice plot and went for a swim in the mineral pool as the sun started it’s evening descent. Being quite a nice day in spring, the outside temperature was today about 19-21 degrees and sunny. At about the time of our swim, it was probably 16 degrees. The pool was not.

The first pool we got into, the main pool (they were all empty bar a young teen swimming around on his own and throwing a ball to himself – bless), was a pleasantly warm 27-32 degrees. It was a very strange feeling. The second pool, slightly closer to where you can see the water pouring into the line of pools from a few pipes, was a somewhat toasty 37 degrees.

The final shallow pool for wallowing, had a bath temperature of 39 degrees. Pure mineral water, straight from the geothermals.

We had the pools to ourselves, thoroughly enjoyed a warm evening swim and played a bit of Frisbee. Getting out of that warm bath though was a right bugger – it was freezing outside.
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