At one end of Ohakune is the Old Coach Road. This was a road built in the early 1900s to facilitate transit, especially via horse. The road was made using cobblestone and crossed in front of Mt. Ruapehu.
The Old Coach Road has a pretty amusing history – it was completed in 1906…and pretty much made obsolete in 1908 when the railway was finished nearby. Freight was no longer taken via horse through the area, it all moved with trains. The nice thing is, to build the railroad through this area, a large viaduct was required. That was my goal for the hike, the Hapuawhenua Viaduct, a major engineering feat in 1908. The entire Old Coach Road hike is about 5 hours, one way. I just did the viaduct and back, about a 3 hour round trip.
The trail had lots of these signposts, with information about the history of the Road, the surrounding area, and the railroad. Unfortunately it had rained in the morning so the track was a bit muddy.
Attacked by Magpie #4 around here…these blasted birds must ALMOST be finished with nesting season by about now. Please?
About 1/2 the way to a viaduct, there is an old tunnel that had been built. I had brought my flashlight, so naturally I ventured in.
I was pretty disappointed to get to the end of the tunnel…and find that end closed.
Why was this not mentioned before I entered the scary dark tunnel? Anyways, I backtracked and continued on to the viaducts.
In the distance is the original viaduct, and closer is the new viaduct, built in 1987 to help take larger, faster trains. So the old viaduct had a much better lifespan compared to the Old Coach Road. I continued on towards the old viaduct.
To get to the old viaduct, one passes underneath the new viaduct. Weee?
Anyways, onto the new viaduct. Here’s the view with both old and new.
Sort of looks like a single viaduct, but they are indeed 2 different tracks. The old track has a much larger curve – this caused newer trains to brake to get around the bend, where as the newer viaduct, while still curved, is much more gentle and able to be taken at higher speeds.
There isn’t much between you and a pretty good drop below.
The other neat thing about the Hapuawhenua viaduct is that is was the site of the first commercial bungy jump operation in the world! The business no longer operates here (shut down when the bridge started decaying), but can you imagine jumping off towards this? It really didn’t look that far down! Plus, it’s not like jumping towards a big deep river…this was hard ground below with a tiny stream that would barely get your feet wet walking across.
I made it to the other end, enjoyed the view, and then started my way back.
Thankfully I wasn’t accosted by any birds on the journey home. Still, it doesn’t make for the most pleasant of walks, constantly looking over your shoulder to see if a magpie is heading straight for you. Stupid birds!