exploring NZ history by running trail

Summer is definitely here in NZ and the Karangahake Gorge trail run gives some fun options to escape the sun. Karangahake Gorge in the Bay of Plenty is for most, a narrow state highway route through the Kaimai Ranges , but there are many pleasant surprises for those prepared to beat the feet up the streams and tributaries that feed the main river in the gorge.

The cliffs rising beside the rivers and streams reveal many clues to the rich gold mining history that shaped the area over 100 years ago. One of the more interesting characteristics is the mining tunnels used to shift the gold laden rocks to massive stampers, since dismantled, on the river banks.

Today, from a trail running view, what remains is lovely flowing fast benched trails beside the cool streams and fantastic tunnel systems. The tunnels leading deep into the mountain have since been blocked off, and the remaining tunnels provide great access through the gorges beside the rivers.

The tunnels are easy to navigate but the railway sleepers have since bee removed leaving uneven surfaces and trickling water, and made more adventurous by the need for a head torch. 

My running buddy Matt and I had a great time exploring the network and then spent 45 minutes of steady hill climbing ascended Mt Karangahake with expansive views of the area.

I recommend parking at Dalys Flat, a Department of Conservation ( DOC) campground beside a stream where we cooled off with a quick dip before a sumptuous brunch at the Long Table Cafe ( highly recommended if you are heading south!). 21 k of trail running with great variety, what a great morning out and about.

early start in Sumatra

Sumatra, Indonesia offers up some unique running opportunities.

While on a surfing adventure, I was lucky enough to have a motivated fitness fanatic in Matt as company, who was dedicated to squeezing in a morning run between all day surfs.

Early morning runs included crunching along coral beaches, navigating narrow buffalo tracks through groves of coconut trees and jogging on hard packed trails adjacent to rice fields.

 dawn jog on Simuele Island coastline

dawn jog on Simuele Island coastline

Humidity was high, even at dawn, and as we trotted through local villages, although always wonderfully friendly, I could see the locals thought the tourists doing burpees in the morning heat were a bit troppo!

 Matt coasting along thru a local village

Matt coasting along thru a local village

Each run was followed by a salty shower of course.....  :-)

 Indo morning 

Indo morning 

One Tree Hill, New Zealand

For a city, Auckland, New Zealand is filled with waterfront and city parks, and in my view One Tree Hill Domain offers the best running opportunities right on your city doorstep. 

One Tree Hill is a massive park, gifted to the people of Auckland over 100 years ago and is best known by the 600 foot volcanic cone rising out of the centre of the park.

The park is a working farm that has plenty of very hard and soft trails running through mature trees, glades and open farmland, right in the middle of the city.

A must visit for any running tourist or trail runner masquerading as a businessman looking to blow out cobwebs after a long flight.

East coast magic, New Zealand

The Toi Challenge is a annual 18km trail race in the summer around a gorgeous headland near the coastal township of Whakatane in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. The track covers varied terrain including coastal headlands to remote beaches, ridge running and dense bushland, home to native kiwi and many other birdlife.

With heavy snow covering NZ peaks and passes in August, I went looking for a winter weekend coastal trail run and together with Ben, my go to adventure buddy ( we all have one of those :-) ), we completed the Toi track.

Running the track in reverse from Ohope Beach, with the threat of rain overhead, we bounded off around the headlands, following the clearly marked single trail.

It is wise to read the tides before departure and we had no issues navigating the coast where the track is just the hightide mark. However soon enough we were climbing to the ridgeline and running freely on excellent single track bush along the harbour entrance to Whakatane township.

The track dips into town, but soon enough cardio kicks in as the inland trail climbs steeply up wooden stairways through dense bush with fantail and tui birds happily chirping encouragement along the way. Ben seemed talkative enough, but my lungs were burning as the climb wound it's way ever upward.

It is not all climbing though, with fast down hill sections where one can really let the legs fly and enjoy everything that is good about running trails. 

At about the 2 hour mark we crested the last high point and the sounds and peeps of the open ocean called us down the last free flowing trail to Ohope Beach.

We popped out of the bush just after 11am as the much threatened rain began to pelt down and after a quick change into warm clothes, tucked into a Big Breakfast at a local cafe. Perfect!