This former rail tunnel has sat abandoned since 1900. It is now three-quarters buried by the earth, and half-flooded. Distinctive arrow imprints on the red and brown clay bricks indicate the presence of prison labourers in its construction. Prisoners serving terms with hard labour wore arrows on their uniforms to visually distinguish them from civilian workers, and they marked their handmade bricks with arrows, as a kind of self-portrait. Finding this tunnel was a team effort involving anecdotes from rail workers, hand-drawn maps of enthusiasts, and – finally – simply groping through thick vines in search of the source of faint sounds of trickling water. The entrances are completely obscured in dense overgrowth. The thrill of finding something so untouched for so long is indescribable.
Standing at the feet of Mt Ruapehu are the remains of several railway viaducts in various stages of decay. Modernisation of the railway network and the move towards concrete bridges in place of the historic steel viaducts has meant that these symbols of industrialisation are no longer in use. One of the viaducts has been turned into a tourist attraction with the option of walking across it – on this viaduct I took the path less travelled and popped down for a look at the hidden service platform beneath its deck.