Goal met! Waihi to Te Oraha to Waimato Falls
Like many countries, New Zealand is promoting bike tourism and, to that point, has reclaimed old rail lines and converted them to bike paths. Our path today utilized 44 kilometers of that track, followed by an additional 25 kilometers to the county’s highest waterfall.
This rail line was built in the early 1900’s to haul gold
ore. Since it was a private line, it was a narrow-gauge rail. Like other gold mining operations from the late 1800’s thru the 1950’s, this was as brutal as could be, to the land and to the work force. This operation crushed ore to a paste and boiled this paste in cyanide to reclaim the gold. The workforce was plentiful and there was no such thing as Unions or OSHA. It was said “A man could buy a house for a thumb.” In the 50’s, the mines played out and the operations were abandoned.
Today, with the rails removed, the track makes a wonderful ride. Yet at the same time, there is a surreal feeling when you pass the cement foundations and remnants of the smelting pots which lay abandoned and rusting in place while foliage crept in to reclaim the landscape. Couple this “post-aphotic” Planet of the Apes look with the huge fernsnative to this land, and you get a wee bit of a creepy feeling while cruising by.
The track took us across rivers and down man-made canyons, tunnels, and miles of fences laden with sweet blooming honeysuckle – really a magnificent ride.
This country’s gold rush continues today with a huge open pit mine in town. From the rim, you can watch the massive trucks circle up and down the pit; they look to be about the size of an ant from the viewing area. Very yin-yang.
The waterfall required a 45 minute hike to get to the base of the fall. This waterfall was everything I ever expected a New Zealand fall to be: lush, moss covered boulders, crystal water and, as always, ferns the size of palm trees. A perfectly exhausting day.