It’s hard to argue that the discovery of gold was a good thing for the Coromandel Peninsula.
As soon as miners began flocking to the boomtowns that sprang up wherever ‘the colour’ showed itself, the fate of the mature kauri forest blanketing the peninsula was as good as sealed. Logging got going in a big way, the timber mustered on dams across the beds of the steep creeks descending from the peninsula’s high spine to the coast and then released in ‘drives’ that carried the massive tree trunks booming and crashing down on the flood.
You can see remnants of this activity – and of the goldminers’ workings – on the Kauaeranga Valley loop track, a relatively easy three-day walk with one night in a hut and the other in your tent at one of the designated Department of Conservation campgrounds in the Valley.
Er... you did pack your tent, didn’t you?
The first section of the tramp, assuming you tackle the Moss Creek route first, takes you over a classic, New Zealand backcountry suspension bridge, through nīkau and rātā groves – the latter a spectacular sight when the crimson rātā blossom are in season – and then climbs steadily to the spot where Moss Creek Hut stood until it burned down in 1993. Here, you’ll camp for your first night. If you still have the energy on the approach to the campsite, or if you want a bit of a warm up in the morning, consider making the side trip to Mount Rowe, which rewards those who tackle the muddy scramble to its summit with superb views of the Firth of Thames and the rugged Coromandel Range. Near the campsite itself, there are remnants of two kauri dams, which are also worth a visit.
On the second day, the track joins what used to be a packhorse route across the ranges to Coroglen (known as Gumtown in the gum-digging days), and flirts with the Kauaeranga River on its way up to the superb new hut in the shadow of the Pinnacles. The best of the kauri dams in the Valley, the Dancing Creek dam, is close to the Pinnacles Hut. The Pinnacles themselves are a further 50 minutes of clambering, slipping and slithering in the bad bits, and scrambling up the ladders that have been laid over the worst bits. The views from the top of the rugged Pinnacles make it all worthwhile.
Keep an eye on the weather in this part of the country: there are numerous stream and river crossings, and these have a habit of swelling rapidly in rain.