We had previously travelled the Karangahake Gorge by the Goldfields Railway, and this time it was by road, driving along quite a bit faster than the Heritage train had travelled as it had carefully chugged it’s way along the track. Across the river at Waikino we could see the remains of the historic Victoria Battery, the largest quartz ore processing plant in Australasia. It was the country’s largest producer of gold and the plant was in operation from 1897 to 1954. Giant tanks were filled with potassium cyanide and crushed ore, then compressed air bubbled through the mixture. This maximised gold recovery and the technology was exported and used around the world. Cyanide was discharged into the river until 1954 when the battery closed – hopefully this practice would not happen these days as we are much more environmentally aware.
The road through the gorge narrowed and the rocky cliff faces towered above us. There was only a small lip on the river side of the road to keep us from falling off the edge. Luckily that doesn’t seem to happen very often and we made it safely through the gorge and out the other end.
Then before we knew it, we had reached Paeroa, where we were stopping at the RV Centre for the next two nights. This is a very busy place to stay, almost full to the brim with motor homes and buses, and a sprinkling of caravans. With a bit of juggling, we slotted into three adjacent power sites.
After lunch we drove up to the main street to sample the delights of Paeroa. With Anzac Day fast approaching, (25th April) poppy sellers were out in force. We certainly don’t mind supporting the RSA (Returned Services Assoc) with their annual fundraising and stopped to purchase a poppy each. This couple volunteering their time were interested to know where we were from, and what we were doing in their town.
I spotted a lovely little timber church just off the main street – it was the Paeroa Co-operating Parish, and their slogan was “Arohanui – Love is the Key”. It certainly is a very attractive church, but sadly I didn’t get a peep inside.
Paeroa’s claim to fame is the production of the “World Famous in New Zealand” Lemon and Paeroa soft drink, known to Kiwis as L & P. The Paeroa Natural Mineral Water Co began bottling the refreshing water bubbling up from an underground spring, and added lemon flavouring. The iconic NZ soft drink was manufactured in Paeroa until 1980, but is now bottled in Auckland. The Big Bottle was created from concrete manhole ring sections and a plaster bottle neck. It quickly became a favourite with visitors to the town, who just had to have their photo taken in front of the Big Bottle. There was a family group snapping photos of their youngsters when we arrived at Onehinemuri Park, and the Mum kindly obliged by taking a photo for us too.