Day 114: The 309 Road

And… we’re back, I’ll be adding a few catch up posts over the next day or so, starting with this one… day 114…

This was heralded as a quirky New Zealand type of day.

We were heading up the 309 Road out of Coromandel Town. This is another road that hasn’t been sealed – i.e. it’s driving on a gravel track.

Another reminder for any readers hiring a car to drive here: check the insurance. It’s not unusual for hire cars to include the stipulation that the car is not driven beyond Colville. Some companies don’t want their cars driven on any unsealed roads.

…Which is a shame because it means missing out on a visit to some beautiful parts of the Coromandel Peninsula and public transport really isn’t a ‘Thing‘ here.

You could of course cycle but some of those roads twist and turn up some very steep hills.

The 309 Road is a 20km stretch crossing the Peninsula from East to West and there are several places that are must sees.

First stop along the 309 was to have a chat with Stuart who runs a smallholding for over 50 wild pigs.

There used to be over a 100 but he told us that he has had to scale down the operation.

The older animals were lying in the cool mud and taking shelter from the sun under a couple of trucks.

The piglets were running around and chasing each other – occasionally running under the trucks to squeal – and generally making a nuisance of themselves to their parents.

So much for a Sunday afternoon nap.

Stuart passed a piglet to me to hold. It was tiny and, though dusty, it smelled clean.

It wasn’t, however, happy being held by an amateur and, despite tickling its belly as directed, it was soon squealing to be back with its owner.

I’m clearly no Pig Whisperer.

Our next stop was the Waterworks.

This a theme park.

A bit different to your usual theme parks.

70% of the materials used in creating the exhibits and rides have been recycled. This is a park created by people who look at car axles, washing machines, scrap metal, old pots and pans, discarded junk and think: “I’ve got a use for that.”

Waterworks is a water park, unsurprisingly, and the water used to power the attractions is gravity fed from the creek and heated by solar power. No electricity is used in the gardens.

The exhibits are almost all interactive and there are plenty of opportunities for soaking members of your group thanks to numerous booby traps and games that invite battle with water cannon.

Not sure I want to use that toilet. I think I can wait.

There are also swings, flying foxes, seesaw, rocking horses and roundabouts.

The youngest member of our group was 22, the eldest 71 and the average age was around 45. Nobody failed to have a good time here.

We practically had the park to ourselves and at 25NZD per head, it was an excellent afternoon’s entertainment.

After a much needed icecream, following all of that running around, we headed up to Waiau Falls for a shower and a refreshing dip in the pool.

After one of our party briefly created a temporary tourist attraction… as onlookers waited with baited breath to see if he would survive the leap of the waterfall into pool, and two of us tried to remember our Bronze Survival Swimming Badge techniques for rescuing drowning people, and another attempted to hold a camera steady, while freezing in the icy water… we moved on to our next stop.

For any readers placing bets as to the identity of our daring cliff jumper… it wasn’t anyone you know.

There is no way that any of the protagonists you know would be jumping off cliffs. For a starters, I can’t see without my spectacles and I’d left my prescription goggles back at the hotel.

And yes, he survived, otherwise this would be a very different blog post.

The next stop along the 309 Road was very special… the Waiau Kauri Trees Grove.

Kauri trees, as I may have mentioned, once covered the Peninsula but today the hillsides are unrecognisable from the land that Captain Cook first saw 250 years ago.

Logging changed the landscape.

The Waiau Kauri grove is remarkable.

While these trees are whippersnappers by Kauri standards at a mere 600 years old. The fact that they are so old is the first clue that something a little different happened here.

The Coromandel Peninsula’s Kauri trees were plundered during the logging boom and this little grove would have been easy to get to, but these trees were not taken.

It’s possible that because the land was owned by a mining company that logging access was forbidden. There appear to be no records to provide clues as to why these trees escaped logging.

The grove next came in for consideration during World War Two when the New Zealand government eyed these trees as potential timber for the war effort.

Local people were unhappy with this and created what has been described as the first conservation action group on the Peninsula.

Their pleas were to protect the trees and to create a nature reserve around them. The reply from government in Wellington was “cutting is to cease forthwith”.

This protected grove is a direct result of community care and community action. Individuals and small groups can make a difference and always have done.

Today, people are asked to continue making a difference in helping to prevent Kauri die back. The disease is spread by soil displacement and at the entrance/exit to the grove is a boot (or jandal) wash facility.

Once through, seeing these trees is an incredible experience making a peaceful end to the day.

*Featured Photo: The Siamese Kauri

Categories: Environment, Nature/Landscapes, New Zealand, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
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