Gold’s grip may be over but the Waikato shines bright for cyclists, writes Grant Bradley.
Riding alongside the roaring Ōhinemuri River through the Karangahake Gorge it’s hard to believe the place was once declared a sludge channel, where gold miners were free to dump toxic tailings.
The river became clogged with cyanide-laden silt and dead fish and eels floated to the surface. It was known as one of the most abused rivers in the country.
But gold rushes don’t last forever. The river has largely recovered and now it can shift boulders the size of buses, plus the trout fishing is good.
What’s more, the gold rush that started in 1875 has left a fascinating historic legacy and one of the easiest Great Rides of New Zealand.
The old rail line is well gone and its level path carved, smashed and blasted through the rugged gorge is a wide and well-kept Grade 1 trail within easy day trip range from the big cities of the upper North Island.
If you’re keen for some more demanding riding there’s a 7km mountain bike trail on the foot of the mountain near Te Aroha’s domain that is suitable for a range of skills. And at the end of it all, if you have time, the mineral spa is great for a soak.
FACT FILE: Hauraki Rail Trail
The 136km trail showcases some of the region’s best scenery, and as a Grade 1 cycle trail, it is suitable for all fitness levels and cycling skills. Accessible from Kaiaua, Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waihi, Waikino and the Karangahake Gorge.
It can can be ridden in comfortable day sections, or as a multi-day journey. With section five currently under construction, the leg from Te Aroha to Matamata will see the trail increase to 173km in length.
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