And down we go

While I was in Costa Rica in April I gave what was called Canyoneering. It involved 2 abseils and two…sort of abseil, sort of ziplines. The 2 full abseils were short, the sort of ziplines were the larger ones. The would have been highlight of the activity was that all 4 activities were over waterfalls. Except it was so dry at the time that there was no water to be found on any of the falls. I was left underwhelmed by the experience.

When a chance to do Canyoning (the local term) here in New Zealand came up, I decided to give it another shot. I was very glad I did.

Early in the morning I was picked up in Thames by a van with 2 guides and 7 other adventurers, on our way to the spot I had just hiked the day prior – the Kauaeranga Valley and the Billy Goat Track.

We packed all of our gear into numerous waterproof sacks. Myself and one other guy got the worst of it – we carried the rope in our packs. Incredibly heavy stuff. The hike was grueling. 40 minutes uphill all the way, with only a short stop. The heavy weight didn’t make things either. But eventually we got to the top, donned our wetsuits and safety gear, and got a quick practice with abseiling. And then we were off. I went first.

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The Pinnacles

The Pinnacles are part of the Coromandel Range, and while none are spectacularily tall (the largest mountain in the range is ~850m or something), they still provide a good hiking challenge. They would also be home to me for one night – I’m up to overnight hiking now, and using New Zealand’s backcountry hut system.

From the signpost it’s a DOC estimated 3 hour uphill-all-the-way hike to the Hut. One of the biggest differences this time is I’m taking my large backpack, not my small one. Sleeping bag, food, and cooking stuff takes up room! So I had a good extra bit of weight and bulk on my back.

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Dig hole on beach. Sit in hole. Feel the warmth.

The morning today started of innocuously enough as I got up early and went for a hike. The place I’m staying is really rather enjoyable – it’s right on the beach.

There is always something a bit special of being able to wake up and walk less than 2 minutes and be stepping into the ocean. Anyways, I did a typical 2 hour hike or so. This one was quite a good work out, with lengthy ascents and descents and at one peak I got a good view back of the small town of Whitianga:

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The 309

The drive from Coromandel Township to Whitianga isn’t too far – barely 40km by highway. But highways aren’t always the best way to see the scenery. That requires a bit more off-roading – and it actually is a short cut, only 33 kms. On mostly gravel roads. Which in actuality takes nearly an hour of driving. The road less travelled is the 309 Road – it gets the name because it has 309 corners. So much for a short cut!

Realistically, the weather for most of the drive was pretty unimpressive once again, clouding the mountains and the trees in dreary grey. I scrapped plans again for another peak hike – this time Castle Rock, a 2 hour ascent. I did make a stop and hike for the Kauri grove in the forest area – one of the better ones I’ve seen and shows off the size of the trees compared to surrounding vegetation/trees.

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Rain. It makes things wet.

Hiking plans dashed again. The weather just doesn’t seem to hold much promise some days. That being said, during my 3 hour drive from Auckland to Coromandel, I did figure out an alternative.

My original grand idea was to hike The Pinnacles, a mountain smack dab in the middle of the Coromandel Peninsula. It’s peak gives a commanding view of both sides of the peninsula as well as everything else around. It’s supposed to be a great hike (6-7 hour return), tough but doable. But I knew when I awoke in Auckland that I wouldn’t be doing that climb today – nothing but clouds, rain and mist. I was *not* about to hike yet another peak without getting to see anything from the top! Instead, I opted for a detour to the Karangahake Gorge – and I was glad I did.

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