On Sunday 19th January we visited ‘Driving Creek Railway’ on the outskirts of Coromandel Town. It was built by Barry Brickell (potter, writer, conservationist) and is an amazing structure.
The hour long trip through replanted native kauri forest was fascinating. We went through tunnels and over viaducts as we spiralled up to its mountain-top terminus.
Here a wooden structure with a viewing platform called the ‘Eyefull Tower’ (only in NZ…) had panoramic views of the island-studded Hauraki Gulf with the forested valley and mountains behind.
We were surprised at the top to meet Barry himself! He’s in his late 70s now but had still walked up the 500 or so steps to chat to the group. Apart from the engineering feat of the narrow gauge railway Barry has also replanted the forest with kauri and other native trees. The land was devastated when he arrived in the 1970s; all the ancient kauri trees had been taken when the land had first been stripped by the lumberjacks in the mid 19th century and later deforested for farms.
I heard this comment the other day along the walk from Hahei to Cathedral Cove. The Coromandel – and Cathedral Cove in particular – are very popular destinations for Kiwis and foreign visitors alike. We heard French, German, Italian, Japanese and more as we walked, all of us admiring the beautiful blue sea and stunning scenery.
The Coromandel Peninsular once was a huge forest of Kauri Trees. It must have been an amazing sight. Awesome!
We visited a rare grove of Kauri that has survived the deforestation of the Coromandel; just off the 309 Highway on our trip to Coromandel Town.
The Kauri Tree grows to a great height and they are amongst the most ancient trees in the world; living for thousands of years. The oldest is in the Northland of New Zealand and is called ‘Te Matua Ngahere’ (Father of the Forest). It is 2000 years old!
The British apparently prized the Kauri for ship building, especially for use as masts – because the Kauri grows straight with very few branches for much of its height.
The specimen we are pictured with above is only a mere 600 years old. That’s from around the time of Joan of Arc.