Thursday, 21 March 2013

Golf, Gold & A Railway

We're staying in a lovely private bay at the moment(more on that in the next post) south of Coromandel township and today we've decided to travel back into town to play a round of golf & visit a popular tourist attraction, the Driving Creek Railway.

This was our first round of golf since starting our travels & we thought we'd better have a game before the clubs thought they'd just come along for the ride. Most of the land the Coromandel course covers was barren gold mining tailings from early last century and the reason each hole is named after a local gold mine. It's a very picturesque course but very challenging with lots of hills & slopes.

We were the only two on the course for much of the time & we both thoroughly enjoyed the round although it was getting rather hot towards the end caused by both the sun & the exercise. I liked their novel way of keeping the rake out of the bunker, with any luck you're ball could hit the handle & ricochet away, hopefully up onto the green!

After golf we drove over to the otherside of town, all of 3 minutes away, and booked for the 2pm rail trip at Diving Creek. We had half an hour to spare so we wandered down the road to the Driving Creek Cafe & had a bite to eat. The cafe was slightly alternative & vegetarian but with delicious food & coffee. David had the quiche & I had the gourmet salad sandwich.

The Diving Creek Railway (named after a gold mine that was located on the property) has largely come about due to the work of one man, Barry Briknall. Barry is an aclaimed NZ potter, he is also a conservationist, developer, railway enthusiast & engineer. To get the very good quality terracotta clay down from the steep hillsides on his property he built a narrow guage railway (381mm, 15inches) through very rough & steep terrain, surveying was done with home made instruments and a slasher to get through the scrub.

Barry began the project in 1973 eventually building 3kms of rail. But it wasn't until 1990 that Diving Creek opened to the public after Barry's bank manager suggested it was a way to reduce his considerable debt.

Bridges & viaducts, three short tunnels, two spirals & five reversing points are required to gain the elevation to the Eyefull Tower where there are fantastic panoramic views out over Coromandel, across the Firth of Thames & up to Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. On clear days the skyscrapers of downtown Auckland can be seen. Thousands of bottles form retaining walls in many places & pieces of weathered pottery scultpture dot the line along with  6 or 7 small but perfectly formed railway huts. Over 27,000 native trees are planted each year and the scrub is slowly returning to the native forest of yesteryear.

In the first year of operation just 15,000 people road the rail, in 2011 the one millionth person was celerbrated. Most of the income from the railway is used in conservation & upkeep on the property, but Barry also donates to the local community in many ways. Driving Creek will be left to the people of NZ when Barry (who is 72) passes on.

Here are some more photos from Coromandel Township.

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