Kauaeranga Valley – Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre 2018

Arriving in the Kaueranga Valley conditions were such that gumboots were the footwear of choice from car to cottage all the time. By 9 Friday night everyone was settled in either Kauri or Cookson cottages. Trip leader Lesley went through the programme for the weekend and also found that our guide Dave Wilton couldn’t attend due to injury. An evening meal and drink was punctuated with laughter and hilarity, before most headed to their bunks.

Saturday dawned overcast and many took in the Thames Market and a coffee fix before heading to the Gold Mine Experience. We were met by two of their dedicated volunteers whose passion to preserve, restore and keep the rich mining history of the Thames/ Coromandel area alive came through loud and clear. The first gem was in the video room watching a digitized version of film taken around Waihi and the Martha Goldmine during the 1940 – 50’s. Life in a rural mining town, its people and the conditions they worked in. From there, it was into the big shed to the working Stamper battery and gold extraction machinery. Ear protection was definitely needed once it got moving. It made you wonder how many workers in early times suffered hearing loss. Our guides gave a good insight into the various processes and chemicals used in the final production of the bullion bars. Most of the party also took the opportunity to go into the mine shaft to experience what the miners did and the conditions they worked in. A main point emphasized, was that the gold extracted from the Thames/ Coromandel area, was the fuel that drove the early commercial development of Auckland to the city that it has become. The dollar figures in present terms was to say the least, very substantial.

After lunch in Thames and with a warming sun, it was a short drive the William Hall Arboretum on the eastern side of town to begin the search for the tallest of Halls Totara (Podocarpus Hallii). Searching the various tracks was rewarded when Tree No 28 was located some 50 metres from where we started, only to find that it was a Norfolk Pine! However the elusive Totara was found to be only a few steps away. Mission accomplished!

The convoy then headed to the Miranda Shorebird Centre which survived the areas January storm. The photos on the walls graphically illustrated what it was like. A heavy 15 metre section of timber walkway construction had been lifted and deposited some 60 metres south of its original site by the force of the floodwaters. An interesting talk on the centre’s work and the birds, especially the Godwits, was given by the Centre Manager Keith Woodley.

It was a most opportune time as he has been in the team from the Miranda Trust, that been travelling to China and North Korea for several years on bird surveys. It was quite a coup for the Trust. This year they were able to take a TVNZ crew to record their trip and the inter change with the North Korean ornithologists. The documentary on TV showed the goodwill that had been generated by the NZ party. It also highlighted the importance that many countries need to be involved in protection of habitats for migrating species, who know no borders.

With that done and a high tide due at 5pm, we headed to the hides to watch the birds species gathering on the shell banks . The sun managed to dip below the clouds near the horizon to bathe the foreshore in the beautiful golden glow. It highlighted the many birds that were on the shell banks. The day ended with dinner at a local Thames restaurant. Sunday morning was clean out the cottages and pack up. Again gumboots were the best option as a short torrential downpour saturated the ground just before departure to the Kaueranga Valley Visitor Centre.

Here another gem of video recording the Kauri logging and everyday life in the valley early in the last century. The interviews with those who were there and worked in the industry highlighted the hard and at times dangerous nature of the work, plus the outstanding engineering and the sometime improvisation that was necessary to get the logs to Thames.

After a short loop to view the model dam and kauri plantings near the centre some of the group ventured further up the valley to the Billy Goat track for a walk and view the spur that so many logs came down and which figured in the video. The weekend was a visit with much to absorb in a short time frame, but left many reasons to return and explore more of the Thames – Coromandel Coasts.

Posted: Fri 17 Aug 2018

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