Saturday 18 April
With our usual weekend off, we headed off from the packhouse for a change of scene. We took both Suzi and the car – it seemed easier that way. We went a few kms northwest towards Waihi, and turned off to Bowentown. There is a great camping ground there at the far end of the beach. We tossed up on which end to camp at, between the sheltered end or the beach end – and chose the beach side. That may have been a bit of a mistake as the weather got windier and cooler and wetter which we were there. But it didn’t make too much difference as we were inside most of the time. The most important feature was the power outlet – meaning no worries with any of the appliances and devices. And the internet access was sort-of broadband – a definite improvement on the packhouse. The camp is very tidy and clean, with very good facilities, and run by very helpful people. In the evening Wyn and I managed a walk along the beach.
The Windows Walk – Sunday 19 April
The weather forecast didn’t hold out much hope for the day, and once again it was right. It wasn’t raining for a start, but then it did. We eventually got ourselves organised after lunch for a trip in the car. We went along to Waihi Beach for a bit of a look, then on through Waihi. We stopped at the start of the Karangahake Gorge and walked along to the Victoria Battery site – where there had been a huge gold processing plant. It was raining lightly, so parkas were on, and we were getting slightly damp. The battery was a bit damp as well, it turned out we were going to have to pay to see anything. Luckily we didn’t let that put us off entirely, and we drove to the other end of the gorge looking for the Windows Walk that we had heard a bit about. This is where old gold mining railway tunnels had windows/holes out to the world. We stopped at the first carpark we came to, which turned out to be the right place.
There is a side gorge off the main gorge, and the confluence had been an amazing scene of industry in the gold days – mines and batteries and railways and hotels and houses. Now there is just bush and a few relics and lots of foundations. DOC have done a good job on their interpretation signs, showing how it was. But somehow the Windows Walk is another bit of NZ/DOC understatement. The landscape and relics and views in the side gorge are like nothing else I’ve seen in NZ. It is extraordinary. The rain held off, and we walked our way along to the tunnels. Luckily the signs advise torches. They are dark and twisty. And there are “windows” out to the gorge, probably for light and ventilation and to dump their mine rock waste. The roof is quite low in places and Andrew did very well negotiating them – he is very protective of his head these days. The track crosses the gorge and comes back out on the other side. If anything, the views back into the gorge were even more impressive. The day was very gloomy by then, but I sort of managed a couple of photos, I think.
We went back to Waihi and had a look at their big hole – the gold mine. It’s a scale that is hard to comprehend. We stopped off at the supermarket and bought pies for tea, which we heated in the camp oven back at Bowentown. By this stage the rain had set in again – it cannot have been much fun for the families camping in tents.
Monday 20th April
The weather still wasn’t up to much, and it looked like some of the tenting families were pulling out. We were as well, Wyn and I had our afternoon shift plus cleaning after that. So we packed up and stowed away. And made good use of the camp showers while we could. Then it was back to the packhouse, and then work for us and rest for the kids.