77. Still in Paeroa – Road Racing and Karangahake Gorge.

Paeroa’s annual Battle of the Streets was set for Sunday 22 February so we decided to hang around for another week. Not that it was difficult – so much to do and see and also hopefully a little relaxation time. T5 had some important work done on its brakes and the ute went in for a service. The Blog was brought up to date and work done on the Book of the Blog Volume 3 (ultimately to be available from the Blurb website, plus volumes 1 & 2).

From the informative website http://www.battleofthestreets.co.nz/history.html  I learned that the Battle of the Streets started in 1991 and has been held every year since. Although motorcycle racing is far from my favourite sport (I certainly can’t speak for Dave though!!) I was quite looking forward to it, the smells and thunder and spectacular overtaking and jostling of the bikes.

The evening before, there was an air of expectation in the town. Barriers were already being erected down the main road, rolls of deer fencing and buffers (huge wool sacks filled with, I think, waste paper) were placed next to every lamppost and street sign ready to be tied into place, and hay bales were also being delivered and stacked up in places. Some of the shops had special displays.

From the website: “Two church congregations within the closed circuit area combine their Sunday worship with other churches elsewhere in the town. Residents who live inside the circuit and wish to leave have security for their properties provided. And for the cats, dogs and other pets within the area, accommodation is provided for them away from the noise. Businesses that provide a seven-day-a-week service make alternative arrangements, the medical centre changes surgery times and have an emergency service in place; temporary bus and taxi stands are provided and arrangements are in place for those local residents who wish to go to their local dairy or supermarket on race day. “

“Over 350 volunteers were involved, including a team of over 100 on Paeroa’s central streets from 5 am on race day….”  In other words everything was ready to run like a well-oiled machine.

The evening before, it rained.

The early morning work still went ahead. But about 9.30 am the decision was made to cancel the meeting altogether, as more rain was confidently expected (of course it never eventuated). The road would have been too slippery and rider safety was paramount.

We were unaware of this decision as we breakfasted in the sunshine, planning to make a late arrival around 11 am to catch the start of the racing. But by the time we arrived, everything was already half dismantled. Sections of deer fencing turned the streets into a maze. Bikes were being loaded onto trailers. Leather-clad people wandered around disconsolately. Hay bales were being collected and a street sweeper was vainly trying to keep up with the mess they left behind. About 5 ambulances were seen departing. Cars were still being rerouted through the back streets. It was so SAD.

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I couldn’t stop thinking of the immense efforts of the organisers and volunteers, and all for nought. And the cost. And the disappointment. And the traffic disruption – normally all traffic goes right down the main street.

By that afternoon the town looked like nothing had happened. Only a few wisps of straw remained in the gutters to remind me that less than 24 hrs ago the town wore a very different face.

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It never ceases to amaze me, an Australian used to long country distances, that in our 15 months’ travels we have often crossed our earlier tracks particularly in the north island. Sometimes when approaching a town or place from an entirely new direction it takes a little time for recognition to set in. So it has been with Waihi and the Karangahake Gorge, both of which have become much more familiar in recent days, given Paeroa’s prime position at the junction of several highways.

We did a day trip to Tauranga to visit Dave’s sister and other family members (and managed not to leave Penny’s lead behind, thanks for the reminder Bev!), and another up to Thames and the unremarkable mouth of the Waihou River, which latter I see with new eyes now I understand its importance in the Hauraki Plains drainage system. Captain Cook journeyed up this river, the most inland he ever travelled and charted in NZ. His “…. enthusiastic description of the Thames white pine trees (Kahikatea) brought other ships in there in droves” searching for mast timber.

Here’s an old photo of Paeroa; the map below shows its position in the river system  and many of the places we have visited previously.

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We called in at what was then a brand new POP at the top of the road leading down to Waihi Beach and admired the way the liquidamber trees lining the driveway have grown since our last visit.

And we investigated the Karangahake Gorge and did one of the shorter walks, 20 minutes along a narrow but well formed track which skirted the gorge on one side, with traffic thundering along on the other side and the river tumbling below. Plus two swing bridges (wheeee!).

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We went as far as a tunnel which goes across the river and under the roadway, but as we did not have torches we decided to retrace our steps rather than take the longer route back.

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As I mentioned in an earlier blog the area is full of old gold mining batteries. Mining started in 1882 but most mines had closed by the 1920s. In 1907 the mining town of Karangahake had a population of approximately 2000.

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The blog is up to date! Tomorrow we head for Hamilton for the Motorhomes & Caravans show.

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2 thoughts on “77. Still in Paeroa – Road Racing and Karangahake Gorge.

  1. Great story with so many fascinating places to explore. I wish I had done that wonderful walk along the Karagahape Gorge as it probably much more exciting than driving through which I have done a number of times. I have a book here about one of the Anderson sons who worked on a number of the bridges and viaducts in the North Island for the Anderson Firm. He led a most extraordinary life altogether including going to WW2 along with his 3 sons. You might like to read it.

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