Last weekend I joined the Track and Tunnel Walk, organised as a fundraiser by Woodville Lions, passing through the Manawatu Gorge via the railway track. The track is closed for rail traffic for the duration and 1500 people took part this year.
The whole walk is superbly well organised from start to finish. Everyone parks their cars at Ashhurst Domain, with the aid of some marshals. Then you all get loaded onto buses- depending on the start time you booked- for the trip through the Gorge via road. (Last year the buses all had to wend their way over the Saddle Rd since the Gorge road was closed.) I was in the first lot of people to alight from the buses to start walking along the railway track.
I always love the sight of this road bridge as you come towards the end of the Gorge walking track, and it looks quite beautiful from the railway side as well.
Here we are heading over one of the many short bridges, not as scary as I imagined, and there was often a 'catwalk' on the side with 'solid', albeit a bit slippery, wood.
I loved getting to see things you never get to see from the road side, like this little steep-sided stream. I had no idea it existed, so it was like a secret, hidden valley.
There were various bits of equipment along the way that reminded you that you were walking on a real railway track, but this old red water tank was probably my favourite: it took me right back to my childhood in Waitara where there was a big tank for the steam trains.
After walking perhaps nearly halfway along the 8km walk, you reach the first tunnel. I had my torch handy, but I must admit I was a bit scared of the idea of cave wetas etc that might be there! But I actually enjoyed pacing my way through both the long tunnels- and I think the trains could well have scared most of the cave wetas away anyhow!
Out the far side of the first tunnel I saw the only person I knew during the whole walk- Sharon as a marshal- and it was lovely to hear her greeting.
You got a superb view of several slips along the Gorge. The Big Slip from last year was certainly large, but there were also several other large ones. (The 'small' white bus passing beneath it is one ferrying yet more walkers to the track.) Seeing these slips made me realise how very precarious our link from Manawatu through to Hawkes' Bay actually is.
Here are people exiting from the second long tunnel- and it was certainly dark in there!
Not long after leaving the second slip, we were leaving the Gorge behind us. The river was still to our left, and I realised that there was actually a hidden 'confluence' coming up- we were heading around to the right to cross the Pohangina River, shortly before it emptied into the Manawatu River.
There were so many volunteer marshals who made the day possible. These two looked like they had a great spot in the sunshine, but apparently their spot was quite a cold one, and they were all rugged up despite the deckchairs!
Finally it was time to cross the last, long bridge. Even this one wasn't as scary as I had imagined...
and I very much enjoyed the river views as I crossed. This shot is looking south along the Pohangina River and just out of sight is where the two rivers join.
At the far end of the bridge, the track walk is over, and a marshal gives you a small certificate.
Then it's just a short walk across the Ashhurst Domain....
...and the only hill in the whole walk was at the very end back to where the cars were parked above.
Thanks to all those who organised the day- it was a great walk. There's more about ithere from the Evening Standard.
(You can click on any of the photos to see a bigger version.)