Located further up Pupu Valley from the Te Waikoropupu Springs is a rather interesting loop walk. The walk retraces an old gold-mining water race, which has been reused for power generation from early last century. After a major fault developed in the early 1980s (what engineers call a “flashover”) the power station was abandoned. But due to one man’s determination and the hard work of many, the power station was fully restored along with the water race and headpond, and began re-generating power again in 1989.
The climb to the water race is a little steep and at times awkward for those less nimble footed. It felt like we were actually in the old water race at times but eventually after 30 minutes or so of steady zig-zag climbing we broke out onto a flat and level walkway that then followed the old disused gold mining water race ‘upstream’ along the side of the hill deeper into the valley. The complete water race stretches for 3.7 kilometres along the hillside and took 24 men eight months to complete.
About half way along we reached a lookout point beside the headpond & above the power station deep in the valley below. Here the pond sends the water through a debris collection screen and into a pipe that drops the water 107m to the powerhouse below.
From the headpond to the weir/intake it was 1.7km and this part canal/part aqueduct, which was an engineering masterpiece for its time, followed the steep contours of the hillside all the way. It had a narrow boardwalk running alongside it for most of the way. This was the section that was restored & rebuilt back in the 1980s.
For most of the way, trees & ferns covered our view out into the valley but occasionally an open area on the edge of a rocky cliff allowed us to see out. The water in the race was very fast flowing, it was crystal clear and there were plenty of beautiful emerald green underwater plants swirling in the current. I looked carefully for koura (freshwater crayfish) along the way but didn’t spot any. Towards the end it became quite disconcerting walking along the narrow boardwalk, both of us had trouble keeping our balance right.
Once off the boardwalk the path opened up, wide enough to fit the tiny digger & bulldozer down which we saw tucked into the bush on the side. The digger is obviously used to clear the canal & the bulldozer to grade the path. Picnic tables were dotted here & there along the path along with marker posts counting down each 100 metres to the weir/intake (which were much appreciated!)
We finally made it to the intake and bridge over the creek where most of the water was diverted into the canal with just a small flow over the rocks and into the steep and narrow gorge below.
After lunch at the weir we headed on up the other side, steadily climbing for quite a way before levelling out and winding our way back around the hills on opposite side of the valley to those that we had just walked.
Helpful information boards were located along the way pointing out the water race across the valley, a waterfall up another valley and a path to a lookout that gave us views back down Pupu Valley towards Golden Bay & Pohara off in the distance.
Finally after 2.7kms we made it back down to the valley floor and the small power station building that had a viewing room and information boards inside. Hopefully you can read a little about the power station and the restoration.
We thoroughly enjoyed this walk even though we were both feeling a little weary afterwards, it was steep & awkward walking at the beginning and quite hard walking downhill on the rocky 4WD track on the way back. But there was plenty of interest and a variety of native forest, ferns & mosses along the way to make it worth the effort.
Once home we rested up on the beach steps with a glass of wine in hand, just in time to watch the sun go down.