November 22, 2023 Coromandel, Part 1 (Day 55)

We started out early on our road trip to explore the Coromandel Peninsula, the piece of land between Hauraki Gulf where Auckland sits and Bay of Plenty where we are now based. We got through the morning rush hour in Tauranga and through the suburbs, crossing the base of the peninsula through the beautiful Karangahake Gorge. We headed up to Thames (named so by Captain James Cook in 1769 because it was the first large river he had seen in the country, the river Waihou) and then inland to almost the middle of the large Coromandel Forest Park.

We came to hike a little bit of the many trails in the Forest and to see this suspension bridge!

We met a group of teenagers on the bridge, they kindly stopped to let us over, then engaged us in conversation, asking where we were from and how we like NZ. They had spent a day and night hiking and camping in the Forest and were very friendly and outgoing. They told us of a waterfall we could see just off the trail a few hundred meters past the bridge.

Billy Goat Falls, in the distance. Unfortunately Billy Goat Track, from which you get closer views, is closed now.

The history of the area is (as usual) tragic after Europeans arrived. The mighty Kauri forests that were here for millennia were logged off in less than 100 years.

The green arrow points to the waterfall. It is amazing that so much effort and expense was utilized to exploit and deplete a resource in only 60 years!

History of the Kauri Forest of the Coromandel can be found HERE.

We left the Forest and headed to the Beach, the west coast of the Coromandel peninsula, through Thames and north to the town of Coromandel.

The red traces our trip from the forest to the coast.

We traveled along the waterfront with views across the Firth of Thames.

Then went above the water through pastures. You can see a small ribbon of the road in the lower right of this photo.

Our destination was the Driving Creek Railway, a tourist destination with purpose! Built by  conservationist/potter Barry Brickell in 1973 it opened to the public in 1990.

The ‘railway station’ is in the midst of the pottery studio with hand built kilns of brick and work studios.

We joined the 2 dozen or so other travelers on the train and headed up the steep slopes of the property. Brickell utilized ‘reversing track’ to facilitate the climb, switchbacks basically, so the driver pulls into the reverse track, moves to the other end of the train, switches the track and drives up the next section.

Approaching the reversing track.

3 tunnels were built by hand also! This is the most impressive!

Brickell rehabilitated the steep rangeland by planting thousands of native trees.

He reminded me of Don Kerr of The High Desert Museum, he even looks a little like him, driven and focused on their passion in life. Both have left impressive legacies!

We enjoyed our train ride, the fabulous views from the ‘Eye-Full Tower’, walked around the wildlife sanctuary and continued to our B&B outside Colville. We had a wonderful evening, grilled some lamb chops and vegetables and toasted to the wonderful sunset view!

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