North Shore Tramping Club
8 keen members travelled down on the Friday night to the Aongatete Road end (located off SH2 near Katikati) ready for an early start on the Saturday morning. Early drizzle on the Saturday morning cleared as we set off for the first part of the trip to set up our camp sites at the river before the North–South Track ascends to the saddle.
Our enthusiastic track clearers made excellent progress and with the new track clearing tools provided by the Kaimai Ridgeway Trust short work was made of some dense foliage overgrowing the track. ~1.5kms of track was cleared up to the top of the saddle, meeting the Wairere Falls track. This trip marks a 5 year milestone with track clearing now completed from the Aongatete side up the North South Track to the top of the saddle near the Southern end approached from Wairere Falls track.
This epic result represents 838.5 hrs worked since the first Club Track Clearing Party in October 2016.
Almost 90% of the track has been cleared, and only one section is left to clear from the Southern Side of the saddle. It is hoped the Kaimai Ridgeway Trust will be successful in gaining DOC approval to build a hut on the top of the saddle. Kevin.
This tramp was scheduled for Easter 2020 but had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
As on our last trip to the island three years ago, we chartered two boats from Hauraki Express, each with a capacity of twelve passengers. We left in calm, fine conditions and anticipated a fast passage but encountered a heavy swell from Cape Colville. Two eight-seater vans were ready for us at Tryphena and carried the out party to Okupu, on the west coast of the island.
We had lunch on the grass overlooking the beach – an idyllic spot. A brisk breeze blew in from the sea, and the angle of the surrounding trees indicated that this was probably constant. We then walked up the road for a kilometre or two and turned left onto the Te Ahumata Track.
There was a steady climb in warm, humid conditions and when we came to the turn-off for Te Ahumata peak (398m) only a few of the party chose to walk to the summit which seemed to tower above us. They reported that the climb was easier than it looked, with outstanding views. We reached the Whangaparapara Road, walked down to the sea and for a couple of hundred meters along the Old Mill Track to the Green campsite. This was a lovely spot, right next to the sea; when the tide came in, in the middle of the night, it sounded as if the waves were breaking only inches from our tents.
Next morning, we set off northwards along the tramline track, which has been up-graded to Great Walk standard. Here I had a reminder that it is always wise to refer to the most recent maps available. We were looking out for the Pack Track on our left and were surprised to reach the Forest Road. There have been many developments on the island in recent years, some tracks have been upgraded and others – such as the Pack Track – have been abandoned. It did not make much difference, we followed the Forest Road to Maungapika (280m) – this time everyone made the ascent – and turned off to the left, following the Kiwiriki Track.
We dropped down to Kiwiriki Bay and had our lunch at a picturesque spot where Pohutukawas leaned out over the sea. To reach the next bay we had to walk over two hills, each of about 200m. This was no great height, but the steady uphill climbs in warm, humid weather tested our fitness.
Several boats were moored in Kaiaraara Bay and when we saw a small zodiac heading towards us, some of the more optimistic spirits speculated that they might have been bringing us a case of chilled beer – alas, a fantasy. It was late afternoon when we reached the Kaiaraara Hut – apparently a second bunkroom had been added to make a total of 24 bunks, but there was no capacity to enlarge the cooking and dining area which became very congested.
Next morning – Easter Sunday – we crossed a high swing-bridge – right for the most direct route to Mt Hobson (Hirakimata), left for the coastal footpath to Port Fitzroy. Our hopes of enjoying coffee and croissants in a café there were dashed – everything was closed. One of the party decided to transfer to the home party; we were struggling to make contact with the other party when most of our cell phones were displaying ‘no service’ when, with excellent timing, the airport shuttle happened to pass by.
We walked about two kilometres up the road and turned right onto the Coopers Castle route – one track which has not been upgraded, but still perfectly satisfactory. The initial climb was not too brutal. We followed a ridge line, ascending a series of small peaks then dropping down again before climbing up the next.
At last, we reached Coopers Castle (465m) itself, with extensive views over Okiwi and Whangapoua Beach to the north. It was not a place for those prone to vertigo – we were on the edge of a vertical drop of a couple of hundred meters. We had lunch there and spoke to Imogen, whose group was enjoying their lunch on the summit of Mt Hobson, two kilometres away.
Mt Hobson is only 150m higher than Coopers Castle but it was not to be so easy – we had a precipitous descent of perhaps 250 meters before we started climbing again. At least we dropped far enough to find a stream which was good news for those whose water bottles were nearly empty. We passed a kauri dam, and then started climbing. We soon reached the bottom of the notorious stairs, which seemed to go on forever. How many are there? Perhaps two or three thousand.
There is a track junction, where the Kaiaraara Track meets Palmers Track coming from the left and South Fork Track on the right – from here it was only another five minutes to the summit. The summit did not disappoint – there was excellent visibility and a faint breeze which was refreshing but did not freeze us. One or two people even commented that it had been worth all the pain.
Our fourth and final day began with an easy walk downhill of about two hours to the Kaitoke Hot Springs. This is the perfect way to relax after the strenuous activity of the past three days, and we soaked there for more than an hour. Another 45 minutes’ walk through the wetlands brought us to the end of our tramp.
We were fortunate that both our vehicle and our boat came earlier than scheduled – we left Tryphena at 2.30 pm rather than 4 pm, and had a very rough ride back to Auckland.
So we're well into our New Year's resolutions for 2021. With a good group of keen newbies and clubbies, Big Yellow arrives in Piha to maximise the few tracks that are currently open in the Waitakere Ranges despite the possibility of showers.
Groups split, our group makes a beeline to enjoy the tranquillity of the 80 metre Kitekite Falls whilst it's still early and most importantly quiet before the herds of people arrive. Scrubbed and dipped as we enter the track, a quick stop and team photo op inside a massive old Kauri stump inside the entry.
Cruising along the track, immersing in the serenity with water trickling gently down the stream beside and substantial rainforest canopy above. Bliss! Working our way up the valley, the first lookout to the falls with recent rainfall, it's looking good! Standing by the waterfall pool, the 6 tiered fall as impressive as always. Just as well we don't have to pay commission for all the photos and selfies! Haha!
Keen for some hill work, we set off up the track steps lined with groves of Kauri to the top of the waterfall. Most our group hadn't been up before, so were quite excited when we reached the top and the infinity pool! If you go to the side of the first pool, there is actually another pool on a lower tier that a few people were already enjoying. Our young teen tramper decided that the top infinity pool needed to be swim tested. Talk about a big beaming smile! Think the pool passed! Crazy number of photos and noting that there had obviously been a log dam them in the past. The mostly rotted wooden beams and cuts in the rock eluding to the history. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitekite_Fallsandhttp://www.piha.co.nz/kitekite-falls/
Returning down on the other side of the stream, true right of the stream this time, just as enjoyable.
Reaching Piha Beach we nestle ourselves in a clear viewpoint spot on top of the dunes for lunch. Always a room with a view for feasting time.
Making the most of the low tide, we stride along gunmetal sands below the Tasman Lookout Track lookout and between Taitomo Island, with incredible conglomerate rock geology https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_the_Auckland_Regionand the Blue Pools. The tide was coming in, so not ideal to climb up Taitomo Island to view the waves crashing and rising around the island base so we strode up the valley to the The Blowhole. What a great move that was! Tide out enough to walk along the damp sand to explore the large Blowhole cave. When the tide is in, the water rushes through and right through plumming through the Blowhole! Quite spectacular.
What an amazing day so far! Not over yet, the council has finally made the southern end of the track, a proper cliff top track with a few steps up to the lookout. More photos, even on the overcast day it was, the vista across to Lion Rock and Piha Beach are awesome in a misty way. On our way back to the bus a quick stop for ice-creams, ice-blocks and coffees. Epic day! Epic group! Another adventure clocked up, so many more to complete & more mileage knocked off! Cheers Imogen
Late December last year, three girls, two guys and Mandy went for a hike.
They learnt a lot over those 4 days. These are some of those learnings.
Learning: Dad jokes on Day 1 were bad.
Learning: Be careful about how much faith you put in GPS readings. Early on Day 2, having climbed for over two hours through steep but picturesque and cool beech forest, liberally dotted with magnificent rimu, rata and kahikatea, our long-suffering leader reached for his phone and announced we had climbed a whole 200 metres. On that basis we were on track to reach Old Man Hut at about 7pm - on Day 3!
We had about 1,000 metres to climb over about 10km, so the observation was about as demoralising as watching a weka run off with your lunch. We somehow managed to climb another 300 metres in the next hour so all mutinous thoughts were forgotten.
Learning. NSTC Leaders are geniuses. For example, as we tramped away on Day 3 John promised us a break in 15 minutes. Somehow, he knew that we would stop less that 20 metres from the edge of the bush-line, in a clearing simply perfect for a lunch stop and metres from the start of the climb to Little Rintoul.
Learning: Just because you are at the front and manage to walk tall under an overhanging tree, do not forget to call out “HEADS” as loudly as you can. Especially if the guy at the back is 6’10”. Sorry John.
Learning: Basing yourself at a hut for two nights and having a walk with day packs on Day 3 is pure genius. Having woken to a dawn chorus at Old Man Hut that we will reminisce about forever, the trip up Little Rintoul with day packs, in sunshine, with a cooling westerly was a breeze compared to the efforts of the day before.
John had some trouble prising us off the peaks that day as we took in the views across the Wairau Valley to the mighty Kaikoura Range, still white-capped from the snowfall the days before we arrived. It felt like we were on top of the world with the steepness of the ridge around us and being above the clouds blanketing the valleys to the west.
Learning: If you are at the front and come across a tree blocking that path at about waist height don’t forget to yell out “Roz…. HEADS”.
Learning: Do not pose for photographs next to someone 40 years younger than you. Even on Day 4. Sorry John, photoshop just is not that good. And European woman that look under the age of 30 will henceforth be banned from multi-day tramps. Perhaps all tramps? John should decide.
Learning: If you arrive at Old Man campsite and see someone that looks remarkably like Chris, standing next to someone that looks remarkably like Linda, then it probably is the Chris and Linda along with the rest of the Long Party (there must be an oxymoron in that label). Was great to see you guys. Inspiring.
Learning: By day 4 no one cares where they are or who is watching when getting changed. No more need be said about that.
Learning: John, please do not stand up and tuck in your shirt at the dinner table if you:
There was shrieking and crying from the 4 vestal virgins on the other side of the table at the time.
Learning: Old Man Hut is sexist. I saw old woman there. Perhaps “Fit Old People Hut” is more PC. John and I posed for photos in front of the sign anyway.
Learning: The dad jokes on day 4 are bad. For example. What do you call a deer with no eyes standing still? Unfortunately, if you want the punch line you will just have to join us the next multi-day tramp or by this time next year you will still have no idea (sic).
The final day promised to be relatively easy. Morning mist and cloud cleared away slowly, keeping temperatures ideal for hiking. However, we were to be treated to enough river crossings to lose count. The upside was the water had warmed considerably as it was now several days since the snowfall.
The Richmond Range was a great choice for a multi-day tramp. It offers jaw-dropping panoramas, plenty of birdlife including the inimitable one-bird orchestra that is the bellbird, beautiful beech forests and enough challenging climbs to make that evening meal and coffee the tastiest, most satisfying you have enjoyed in a long time. A great setting for some shared challenges and an opportunity to make new friends.
We all know shared challenges make close friendships even closer, strangers become mates. Multi-day hiking is one sure way of setting yourself to encounter a few unnerving moments, and of course, make a few new friends.
Final Learning: More of a question really. Does anyone know who or what “Mandy” is?
***Footnote: OK. It wasn’t John. It was me – power of the pen and all that. And there were no vestal virgins. I could tell because the 4 females on the other side of the table fell about laughing until they cried. Literally. Point “c” was not true either. Just added for effect – power of the pen again. And I know no-one reads footnotes, so we are all safe. Except John. Ha!
You'd think with a 6.30am start, most would still be snoozing away blissfully. Not a game bunch of trampers, up for the challenge! Surprisingly a good number of people turned up to welcome in the most perfect sunrise cresting over Rangitoto Island. Hues of pinks and golds glistening over a perfectly flat, calm Takapuna Beach as we started striding in the direction of Devonport on the low tide.
Dawn views. Photo Imogen
The striding becomes more careful foot placement as soon as we reach the rocks at the southern end of Takapuna. Although the sand has covered in some of the rockiest parts allowing for good pace. Before most even realise it, we've reached Narrow Neck and then round the corner between two massive lumps of rock. In this particular area there are some particularly amazing rock formations that are vertical!
Not the usual horizontal, piquing most people's interest given the proximity to Rangitoto Island. We can only guess these rocks fractured about the time of the formation and disturbance of the island 600 years ago. As we're walking along we discover that most in the group hadn't done this full loop and didn't know it was possible. Many had only done parts of it. (There's also a like loop when the tide is up too, scenic cliff tracks instead).
Now that we are all spending more time at home and in our "backyard" there is more time for reading. I came across these two articles from New Zealand Geographic. I really like the long form journalism. There are not many magazines left who are still able to write articles such as these. Well done New Zealand Geographic.
Published in the New Zealand Geographic. Great article, but be warned, the opening paragraph is for strong stomachs only! Very graphic descriptions, but worthwhile sticking with the article, there are lots of information about fantails. For example, did you know what shape is a fantail's nest? Did you know how many predators fantails have? Can you name them all? Did you know that there is also one kind of tree which is also their enemy? The article comes with some amazingly clear photos to illustrate each point in the article. Well worth a read.
For full article, click here.
Illustrative photo taken by Vivienne.
Where are all the Spotted Shags?
The spotted shag numbers have declined dramatically, but I would never have guessed what some seabird scientists are doing about it. They are creating fake spotted shacks colonies to attract the seabirds. How would you do it? Would it cross your mind to get some white paint and make some white splodges on the rocks to make it look like poop? To bring a loud stereo with you? I wouldn't, but it makes sense! Looks like the scientists do have a few tricks up their sleeves. Did you know that the Spotted Shag is the only cliff nesting bird in New Zealand? Read up all about them and the scientists here. Well worth a read, accompanied by amazing photos.
The NSTC had a very successful weekend with track clearing on our allocated track from the Aongatete Junction to Wairere Falls.
We walked in from the Aongatete Lodge and commenced work on the North South Track where we left off on our last visit in January and managed to clear some 1.2km of track which makes us now within one visit to reach the saddle. Fortunately we had excellent weather with rain only commencing when we walked out on Sunday.
The tools which were purchased recently proved to be a bonus – they met their purpose 100%. Team members all wore hi viz vests. A safety induction was carried out and recorded. No incidents occurred and no wasps. The two wasp nests found on the last visit could not be found – maybe they are dormant and will arise once the ground dries out. On our next trip we will probably have to make a campsite on the saddle where there is unfortunately no water. Our party was 8 people, working 7.5 hrs on Friday, 9 hrs on Saturday and 1.5 hrs on Sunday, with rain curtailing our weekend’s work.
The section of the North South track now cleared by us from the Aongatete Track junction is shown on this map.
What a day again, tramping adventure around Piha!
Our group headed along the beach and up the Tasman Lookout Track. A bit of a gem of a track, as you climb up the stairs up the cliff, more spumy, hazy views revealed across the beach and Lion Rock and Taitomo Island and masses of surfers in catching some nice clean sets.
We were like a bunch of tourists reaching the lookout, clicking off so many photos, as all bar two of us in the group, hadn't been up this track before and didn't know it was there.
Back down the steps we headed back north along the beach, enjoying watching the aerial antics of the surfers as we walked.
We hit Marawhara Track that has very recently re-opened and had the Kauri Die Back track resurfacing treatment. A new yellow boot station greeted us, and mass boot scrubbing before entering the track, we headed into the glade area of beautiful old Nikau's as we worked our way up the new gravel and steps and re-routed track. In some ways nicer, as you are nearer the sea, so you can hear the constant roar of the waves crashing down and the odd snippet view, than where the track used to be more over the other side of the hill.
Before we know it, we'd climbed all the stairs and reached the grassy area, to find a suitable, out of the breeze spot for noshing time. As those that have tramped with us before will know, noshing spot must have a gorgeous view to feed our eyes as much as our souls.
Back down White Track and the newbies now understanding why we go down this track and not up usually! It's one steep sucker of a hill! Ok in cooler months, more of the baking, sweaty variety in summer months!
For variety we elected to take in the very tree tunnel like Laird Thompson Track to head the other half of the cliffs. Mandatory stop at the lookout for amazing views over Whites Beach below us and north to Muriwai, looking very ethereally soft in haze. Absolutely beautiful!
Last track in this area, that hasn't had any KDB (Kauri Dieback) treatment, heavily Pohutukawa clad Rose Track back down to the beach. It's still a muddy track! Bumping into the Park Ranger we stopped for a quick chat to find out if Rose Track is about to get some TLC. He didn't think so.
Thoroughly enjoying striding back along the main beach, negotiating the soft patches of sand, we discovered that most hadn't been up Lion Rock before, so that was a must do! For the views and completing the experiences of the day. Pretty cruisy about 18k steps for our group today, with some good steep hills.
Not too long after we arrived back at Big Yellow, the other party arrive, they missed doing Tasman Lookout, but headed up the valley to Kitekite Falls, that obviously didn't disappoint.
Really cool being able to share these amazing spots around Auckland and getting some good tramping, walking and hiking in!
After a one hour ride from Takapuna, we arrived at Piha with the brakes running hot on Big Yellow!
Toileting over, we set off for the short walk to Tasman Lookout, from where we had a great view north over Piha Beach, Lion Rock, and the many surfers enjoying the incoming waves.
From there we descended back to sea-level and headed north to pick up the White Track, aiming to reach the highest point of our tramp before stopping for lunch at about 12.30.
Setting off after lunch, we reached the Thomson Track which would eventually take us back to Kohunui Bay, north of Piha.
From there we made our way along the soft black sand of North Piha Beach, towards Lion Rock, which was to be our last uphill scramble of the day.
It's not possible to access the summit because of unstable ground and falling rocks, but it was still worth climbing as far we could to take in the magnificent view before finally heading home.
Sitting here writing this post-walk my legs are aching, but in that “satisfyingly tired” way.
This was my first tramp with the group and after a week of rain I expected another wet day. However, Bernhard managed to turn on the sun and navigate a 19km walk through Riverhead Forest for us in great weather.
It was certainly a muddy one with my personal highlight being a half face-plant. Good news, mud is soft! There were plenty of ups and downs - literally - but a really good work out. Great to meet a lovely bunch of people who all made me feel very welcome so a big thank you to you all and especially to Bernhard for organising and navigating the tramp. Much appreciated!