Yesterday, a group bike ride along the Karangahake Gorge section of the new Hauraki Rail Trail was sponsored by Bike Wise, and Andrew joined the large group peddling the seven kilometres (4 1/3 miles) from the old Karangahake (pronounced kah-rahng-ah-HAH-keh) Hall to Waikino’s Victoria Battery.
From the old Hall, the route switchbacks down to the river cliffs and then climbs a series of bridges to cross the highway and enter the old railroad tunnel. The tunnel is 1100 metres (2/3 mile) long, and there is dim overhead lighting, making the tunnel not as dark as we had feared it might be. From the tunnel exit, the rail trail crosses the river again to the south shore, and then follows the river course, albeit less windingly, east to the Victoria Battery. The group ended their ride there, though the rail trail itself continues into Waihi.
At the beginning of the ride, participants were given gifts and some reading material. Andrew received a tire repair kit and some spoke reflectors. Others received bicycle bells, reflective vests and more. At the end of the rail trail ride, food was given to the participants and their support teams (like me), including roasted sausages (one of my kiwi favourites), fresh fruit, and water. We also got to tour the Victoria Battery Gold Mining Museum.
The weather was great. It was cool and overcast, and light rains began falling about an hour after the completion of the rail trail ride. The peddlers were an excited bunch, ranging in age from about three to seventy, including one dad who towed two of his very young kids in a double buggy child bike trailer. The two kids looked a bit freightened when I first saw them after they’d crossed the first bridger and were about to enter the tunnel, and they looked very happy and excited when I next saw them near the end of the ride.
It was a fun time for me, as well, though I didn’t ride the rail trail. I walked the first half kilometre down the switchbacks and across the bridge to the tunnel, and then I watched participants cross a small unused railroad tressel bridge near the end, before I drove the final kilometre to the Victoria Battery, where Andrew and I shared a sausage and a tour of the museum.
We both had fun, but I think Andrew had more fun than I, since he got to experience the tunnel and the rest of the beautiful ride.