After a warm dry June and a mostly mild dry July we were introduced to the beginning of August with cold, squally, windy, showery weather. Lots of snow was falling further south – some of it down to sea level on the West Coast of the South Island. Oh! No! Do I really want to venture out this weekend. However it is in my nature that once committed I go on to see it through so….. Careful, thoughtful packing and then off to be joined by 12 others to travel to Te Aroha Holiday Park on Friday night. Were the weather gods going to smile on our party of 13. It was a sometimes wet and windy Friday night on the bus but in the early light of Saturday we woke to a relatively clear day and Mt Te Aroha shrouded in misty cloud. Our group hit the Tui Mine trail entrance just after 9.00 am (after a brief tour of the Te Aroha Golf Course). It was onwards and upwards to conquer the “Mountain of Love” and at some point meet the other group who started from the Domain.
The weather seemed to hold on the way up – we were well sheltered in the bush – and only saw one other person, a mountain biker. Now and again we caught glimpses of the Hauraki plains farmland where the sun was making a valiant effort to stay out from behind the clouds.
Nearing the top of Te Aroha the mist came in very thick and once on the top the wind roared through the tower structure. A quick look around – no views – then off to a sheltered grassy spot for lunch. Still no sign of the other group.
Going down to the Domain seemed to take forever – it was steep, sometimes slippery and the wind was very chilling. At last we reached the Domain and the Bus and still no sign of the other group. Did they go at all? Had they sat in the cosy inviting looking Hotel across the road from the Bus? But no – they had missed the entrance to the Tui Mine downhill track from the top but managed to get back on track further down the tower access road. (so they say!) We enjoyed hot drinks and cakes at the quirky restaurant Ironique.
Back at the Holiday Park several of us were looking forward to a soak in Hot Pools but we were unaware that in winter, management had to be advised ahead of time if we wanted to use the pools. Never mind. The showers were hot and refreshing. A short rest then we went out for dinner at Ironique and more delicious food. A great way to end the day.
Showers and wind assaulted the bus on Saturday night and there was almost a mutiny on Sunday morning when a group of us were not looking forward to hitting the trail in cold rain and wind. However tramping enthusiasts won and by the time we got to the Waiorongomai track entrance the weather had cleared – temporarily! About an hour later the heavens opened and not even the bush saved us from a dowsing. In spite of the rain, it was very interesting seeing the remains of the train tracks (extremely steep in places and machinery used for the mining operations in earlier times.
Back at the bus the rain had almost cleared and we were soon on our way warm and dry back to Te Aroha for a quick lunch stop before returning North very satisfied we were indeed the lucky thirteen – on the whole!