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Rocky's Goldmine Trail

 

Rocky's Goldmine Trail starts and finishes at Dickson Park. It is a 2 1/2—3 hour loop track. The trail runs through the bush of the old Tararu Gardens, then climbs the hill behind the Park (A hard climb for the first 3/4—1 hour) to the top of the hill. Along the climb, on a clear day,  there are beautiful views across the Hauraki Plains and the Firth of Thames. The trail then drops down through the bush and a Nikau Palm grove to Tinkers Gully, meeting and following the stream. This area has many unmarked trails … Rocky's follows the stream, so carefully follow the orange trail markers! There are numerous disused Gold Mines along both sides of the stream. It is NOT recommended to enter these mines, but if you have a flashlight/torch, you may be able to spot interesting insects in the ceilings of these mines. When reaching the road the trail is to the left, returning down the gravel road to Dickson Park.
Caution: Rocky’s Trail is a tramp/Bush-walk….NOT a formed path. Good boots or walking shoes should be worn. The trail is marked with orange plastic triangles...be sure to stick to the marked trail!
Follow all normal Bush Safety rules….and make sure someone knows where you have gone!
 
     

                                                    By  Kingsley  Field

                                                                          (Copyright)      

 

“It’s a bit steep for the first bit,” said the lady at the camping ground brightly, and she gladly pointed out the start of the Rocky’s Goldmine Trail and Tinker’s Gully.

It was that superb Good Friday of the Easter Weekend, and we had all arrived to Thames in the late morning, had pleasant coffee in the backyard leafy shade of a coffee shop, and then got to the motor camp about noon.  Lunch was a catch-as-catch-can affair, and then it was boots and day-packs on, water-bottles filled, and we headed up the well-formed track.

The formation vanished rapidly, and so did my ability to keep up with the others who had all obviously been raised on the upper slopes of the Canadian Rockies. The path, if it can be described as such, was little more than a long, thin clearing among a crowding clamour of gorse and scrub, with numerous self-sown old-man pines.

It’s a shame they have been allowed to run riot across the lovely shoreline slopes on the Thames coast, and no doubt they have a strangling effect on native plant species that would love to flourish there if given the chance.

But as the track climbed higher the pines, and the occasional massive old macrocarpa, faded out, as did the gorse, and after an hour or so of clambering over rocky outcrops, exposed root systems and steep clay faces, we broke out into a tiny grassed clearing, from where we could see way out over the upper reaches of the Firth of Thames and across to Kaiaua and Wharekawa and the  Hunua Ranges, soft and blue in the hot late summer distance. The tide was on the make, and where before there had been great dark sections of mudflat stretching far out from the beach, now there were patches of blue sea, spangled with chunks of muddy water.

All over the clay track were myriad penny-doctor holes, and they brought back childhood memories of my brother and I sitting on the edge of the farm vehicle track that ran along the bottom of the cowshed paddock, and spending an enthusiastic hour “fishing” for penny-doctors. The best fishing-line was a timothy grass seed-head stalk, pruned of its seed-head. They were long and thin, and when inserted into the penny-doctor burrow and watched closely, the stem would sometimes start to twitch fractionally. Then it was time to quickly snatch the straw out of the hole, and often, there clinging tenaciously, was the penny-doctor, its oversized jaws clamped around the stalk. They were an odd-looking little gadget, perhaps 2cm long, built like a typically segmented grub with tiny claw feet, a pale body and black head with fearsome-looking jaws.

I can’t ever remember being bitten by one, but over the years of childhood we must have fished out hundreds of the little critters.

Back on Rocky’s Goldmine Trail, the higher we climbed the more native growth there was, and we soon came across luxuriant bursts of kowaowao (hound’s tongue) fern and straggles of bracken. At that hour of the early afternoon, when the sun was at its hottest, I leaked perspiration prodigiously and was very glad of my water bottle. The bush was silent around us, no birdsong, no cicadas, no creaking cracks from bursting sundried pine-cones – just the endless faraway buzz and hum of the traffic trundling along the shore road way below.

Gradually that too was left behind, and more vigorous and larger native trees became to make their presence felt.

At one point along the track edge I saw what I am sure were several kiwi probes among the moss – holes had been sunk into the soft earth, and nearby was a small area where the moss had been vigorously raked away. I hope it was a kiwi, and I hope it gorged well.

There was a couple of young tanekaha, perhaps 10cm thick, growing strongly right on the edge of the track, and there were tawa and wineberry, the occasional sturdy young kauri, and karamu, along with tall ponga. High on a leading ridge we came through a beautiful stand of well-grown kanuka, their trunks strong and healthy and the trees standing a good 10m tall, with broad, thick heads. Somewhere up in that higher storey of growth, a lone bell-bird chattered briefly.

Not far past the kanuka, where the track closed in and toitoi clumps flaunted their blonde tresses, the first caressing tendrils of bush lawyer softly stroked my bare shins – and then, on some hidden signal, all 2500 hooks dug in. They hurt like crazy.

Eventually the track began to descend. And it was just as steep going down, although now we were working through tall, cool, drooping stands of ponga, their dying fronds hanging limp or already strewn across the bush floor. The going was certainly less strenuous than uphill, but the footing was damp, even sodden in places, and tree-trunks were well-worn where countless desperate hands had sought to halt a slip.

Gradually we found ourselves being led into a tight, steep gully through which a growing stream was tumbling and gushing over and around black shiny rocks, and purling swiftly across tiny flats of pebbles embedded in rich clay, then idling through small deep pools sparkling with leaf-shredded sunlight.

A little fantail flipped briefly into view, skipping and flitting around us, chittering away incessantly in what was either a right royal welcome or a severe scolding for the intrusion.

We came across a broad sweep of nikau palms, many of them filling side valleys that contributed further contents to our stream, helping to expand its plashing and lullabying sounds as it jostled quickly towards the nearby sea. That same growing stream presented us with several interesting little challenges, the track leading over and across a number of huge boulders around which the water surged. There were deep, watery, leg-snapping holes between the rocks, and the endless flow had made the stone slick and treacherous for footing.

As well, further down the valley where there was additional seepage from the steep valley sides, the track had been churned into a number of mud holes that added both colour and texture to the walk – the texture in the form of black sludge that covered boots and lower legs, and colour in the well-rounded and somewhat high-octane language at the mess.

But then the track ended suddenly, coming out abruptly from bush to a tongue of rough-mown grass and then on to the narrow metal Tararu Road.

It was less than a kilometre of route-march down the road, alongside the Tararu Stream, back to the start of the track and the entrance to the camping ground.

The 6km round trip had taken about three hours – a good pipe-opener for a more strenuous day on the morrow.

And after that sort of activity, the prospect of a hot shower, mug of tea, glass of cool wine and just sitting in the sun listening to the tui as they began their late-afternoon song, is about as good as it gets.

 

                   Kingsley  Field can be contacted at kingsley@accuwrite.co.nz

 
     
     
     
     
     

Dickson Holiday Park - Victoria Street - PO Box 242 - Thames - New Zealand
Telephone international +64 7 868 7308; local 07 8687308
email enq@dicksonpark.co.nz https://www.dicksonpark.co.nz/