Sunday rolled around and it was time to tackle the Track and Tunnel Walk through the Manawatu Gorge. As it turned out, this was the 20th annual walk which the Woodville Lions had organised. We read and signed the Walkers Consent form. The instructions were: moderate fitness- questionable, sturdy footwear – we’ve searched high and low for those tramping boots and still didn’t find them, wet weather gear – parkas at the ready, torch – two new torches plus batteries all set to go. We joined the queue to get in the line of buses all waiting to take us to the Woodville end of the gorge to start our walk. “Oh, I do like your walking poles” one lady commented as we climbed aboard. They proved to be very useful as the day wore on.
The walkers disgorged from the bus and the keen ones set off up the railway track at a cracking pace. Surprisingly, the majority of walkers seemed to be in the older age group. The youngsters taking part bounded along, without a care in the world, while Robin and I were more of the “plodding” type of walker. Although the track was flat, it was a bit difficult walking over the loose rocks over the track.
Lions members had been placed at strategic points along the track, at all the bridges and outside the two tunnels. They jollied us all along, giving everyone encouragement, especially the slower walkers like us. I must have been looking a bit worse for wear at one of the bridges, as the man in charge insisted on taking my hand and helping me across! It didn’t take long for Robin’s sore knee to start giving him trouble, and I was having problems with my right ankle, when my shoes slipped and slid on the loose rocks. Thank goodness for those walking poles giving us a little extra balance.
For those familiar with driving over the Manawatu Gorge, it is a bit disconcerting looking across at the road to see how it is constructed on piles perched on the edge. Mind you, while driving along, we often used to look over at the railway track which is similarly constructed, and comment at all the places it seems to overhang.
The two tunnels on the trip weren’t too bad to walk through at all, certainly very dark, so the torches were invaluable to see where to put each footfall. The two tunnels have been constructed quite differently, with the first one being rounded.
And tunnel number two is more rectangular. Strange noises bounced around the second tunnel as one of the older walkers decided we all needed shaking up with his wild animal impersonations. It was interesting to read that with containerisation and containers getting progressively larger the tunnel floors have had to be lowered to accommodate the taller containers, at least twice. There were a few mishaps before the floor lowering when a container was not offloaded and became stuck in a tunnel. There was also 30 something bridges both long and short which had to be crossed, some with hand rails and paths some we had to walk in the middle of the track, and some very slippery. There was a marshal stationed at every bridge to offer assistance if needed.
This is the approximate half way point of the walk, we were told. Great, let’s stop for a rest. (More to follow).