North Shore Tramping Club
Everyone loaded onto Big Yellow including returning newbies, we headed up to Arataki Visitors Centre in the Waitak's. Due to Kauri Dieback track closures, one of those now fairly rare visits to the Waitakere Ranges, not the usual 50% of our time in the past.
Arriving to a perfect for this walk, slightly overcast day, premium parking for Big Yellow in the bus parking bay ..... pertinent later in the story.
We head through our first boot station and down the Beveridge Track, enjoying the scenic lookouts over the dams along the way, some of the informative signs about the different trees and what they were used for historically by the Maori and history of some of the water tunnels and we pass the now defunct Rainforest Express entrance.
Boot station number two, scrubbed and doused, at the bottom of Beveridge at Mackie Rest with another lovely view across the Lower Nihotupu Reservoir and the Manukau Harbour.
The very pleasant tree shrouded return walk along the 3.5km (one way) flat Exhibition Drive and further points of interest with the old tram tunnels making the odd appearance behind the undergrowth and the pipeline the length of the former water pipe tramway road. At the Titirangi end of Exhibition Drive, a massive Pohutukawa in it's full Xmas glory emblazoned in bright red blooms and many Tui's scurrying around the tree gorging on nectar!
Return path through Exhibition and we head down to the only semi bush type track of the day that is quite well hidden and the connector to Pipeline Road, that's actually a graveled 4x4 track, with a very large Pipeline that runs alongside part of the track.
Much like the old song, the Pipeline connects to the kneebone, haha, actually to Slip Track! Slip Track is much like another very nearby, much reputed Incline Track (currently closed), quite steep and used to be as rough as guts, super muddy & slippery in Winter, but now heavily graveled 3 lane highway. Roughly 3/4 of the way up, the track turns into a narrow graveled track, with quite a few very short flights of steps. This bit of the track is quite lovely, as you have droopy Punga, Supplejack, the odd Rewarewa lining the track, and very little exposure to the heat being radiated by the yellow thing in the sky. Much appreciated about then, as we were all pretty toasty after the grind up.
The high point on Slip, is the wicked carving planted right in the middle of the lookout across all you survey! Thick Kauri forest to the north and west and dams below!
Nearing the end of Slip, the track turns to a suspended boardwalk that seems quite reminiscent of times past.
Boot station number three and we're back at Arataki. Some taking the opportunity to purchase a Dutch Delight, or should that be Danish Delight?! Our driver having been promised a Dutch Delight, and heaps of razzing during the day. Haha!
Some with Delights still in mitt, we scoot through the road underpass, beelining to Bootstation number 4, and the very spectacular Kauri Cathedral! On the way we stop to admire a stunning Kauri with the most amazing bark and one very large Kauri that is looking very ill! Reaching the Kauri Cathedral the grove of massive Kauri towering majestically above our small lookout and how small we are in comparison to these giants of the forest. And Kauri grass covering the ground below, reliant on the trees for their symbiotic relationship and survival.
Time for the climb back up the hill to Bootstation number 4, and back to Big Yellow.
A few taking the opportunity to quickly visit the Arataki Visitors Centre. It's worth taking the time to do so.
Another absolutely brilliant day out, with much laughter and chatter and razzing.
So those not on the Away Trip didn't miss out, we had one of our additional day trips.
Meeting at Little Shoal Bay, with rain in the forecast, but calm at the time, we soon headed off up a more tramping style track most don't know about, just for a change to connect us up to Kauri Glen.
Arriving in the magnificent Kauri Glen, one more additional track that runs through the centre of the park has been closed with one of the pink Kauri Dieback signs on it. All was not lost though, as the council have created a new track that skirts around one side, that was actually quite magic! Still masses of towering forest canopy above and near us, including a forest viewing platform looking into the valley of big trees.
A quick side path and a track that only the organiser had been down before we're connecting into the Chatswood bush paths. These tracks are quite a cool maze, connecting up to so many road ends, giving endless options, but we have our selected path ahead before we connect into the larger Chelsea Sugar Works area.
Just for a change we organised to run this trip in reverse of what we normally do, and we have the opportunity to enjoy the views ahead of us in the beautiful Kendall Bay below us and the workout for the knees and quads as we head down the big line up of steps!
Absolutely spot on timing for lunch at Kendall Bay, but tide still out a bit much for a cooling swim before noshing. Pity as the water temperature is already up to 22 degrees there, and it was a sticky day!
Weather still holding out, we head our way up the tracks we normally come down, and see a few things we don't usually see on our way back through to the Sugar Works closer park areas! Bonuses of reversing the trip!
Our last bit of Le Roys Bush, and exciting to hear that another Le Roys track is a bit closer to being ready, we're almost back at the start point only 10 minutes or less away and Murphy's Law, a very heavy deluge from the clouds above!! Thankfully Punga fronds & big canopy above being such great shelter and a perfect place to hide for 3 minutes!! No point of the day with raincoats. A couple of minutes later the end of another wicked day out with the club!
Another successful Open Day for the start of 2020!
A good turnout of people arrived at Narrow Neck, on a perfect morning for a coastal tramp. Cooler air temperature, very calm seas and low tide in 1.5 hours from our start time.
A few fun bits of scrambling as it wasn't a super low tide on Sunday, about a 2.7m, so some areas where we can normally wander along the sand towards the southern end of Takapuna Beach, were still covered up. But it's way more fun to scramble a bit!
A very brief road bash across to the other side of the pensinula to the Hauraki Tracks and we're back in tree covered tracks and bridge over the mangrove'd areas.
One track we usually do here is still closed due to a housing development. A great pity as it's a really nice little track skirting along the edge of the mangroves around Ngataringa Bay.
A quick stop at the Ngataringa Bay maze and bush maze and we're off again along the tracks towards Mt Victoria. With one quick diversion to the very cool Ngataringa Bay Dragon (a mosaic dragon) that was moved from Ngataringa Bay to a walkway at the start of Calliope Road to protect the dragon from damage.
Once again, we're on our way, up the very steep, footstep wide worn track up the northern side of Mt Victoria. Briefly stopping for a few photos, we find another even steeper path back down the eastern side. With much hilarity, some deciding that scooting down on their butts was a safer option to reach the usual boring track anyone can do. Haha!
Mt Cambria Reserve, Vauxhall Sportfields and Devonport Domain grassy areas and we're at North Head, working our way up the track to find a lunch spot on the eastern side, with a view across the harbour out of the wind, that is now reasonably strong. As we were nearly finished lunch we had two Tui's land on the grass 2 metres away from us, having quite a conversation!
Back into the wind, we got our torches/headlights/phone torches out to go have a nosey around some of the old military tunnels, that are usually open, but seem to be closed for maintenance. We scoot around the other side, and find a bit that isn't closed to explore a bit, but doesn't lead anywhere as the other bigger tunnels do.
The watery ebb now nearing high tide we make our way along Cheltenham Beach, going around the rocks isn't an option as it would usually be for the last 500 metres, so one small dash along the road and we reach our start point again. With time for a swim or hot drink or both, or a gianormous piece of carrot cake!
A really good crop of capable newbies, including another family, all of whom we're looking forward to tramping with again.
Very thankfully we finished our tramp just as the eerie sepia effect, orange dust haze from Australia arrive and the accompanying cooler air temperature!
It's a bit of a book, but you'll see why.
We keep hearing that the Okura Walkway is closed, but as many are now aware, it's been open quite a while, just with a new less trodden entrance.
We all meet at the large carpark in Ara Weiti Road, ready to hit the trail. It takes about 20 minutes to walk through the towering Gum tree grove track to the historic Dacre Cottage that dates back to 1848 & the big red shed!
As usual there are a pair of Dotteralls lurking around further down the shell-banked beach.
As the tide was ebbing out, we headed north up and over the picturesque cliff top track towards Stillwater, with glistening vistas across Karapiro Bay below and moving past some impressively large, old Puriri and Pohutukawa trees.
Dropping back down on to the foreshore, the tide is slowly ebbing out, just enough to walk around the edge of the bay without the occasional tip of toes in very shallow, cooling water. Reaching the next shell bank we elect to take the back, higher path so we don't disturb the Dotterall's and Oyster Catchers in their fenced off area. At the back of the shell bank there is normally a pooled area of stagnant water with dead Mangrove stems protruding that usually make for striking photos and reflections, but it's been fairly dry so the water level is much lower than usual. Still interesting photos though.
The last trot to Stillwater is easy, dry as a bone. No mud as their can be on the flat area during winter. A brief stop at the park in Stillwater and we're retracing our steps with a variation along the spit below the big damaged, old gnarled Pine and Macrocarpa's ravaged by the winds.
As we round the spit after early lunch, the tide has gone out quite a long way already and to our absolute delight, not just a couple of Dotterall pairs, but literally many dozens out foraging further out on the wet sand!!! We estimate about 70 or more in this area. Wow, just wow! Plus a lot of Oyster Catchers and Pied Stilts. Never, ever seen so many Dotterall's together in one place, not a common occurrence.
We admire from well back so not to bother them. But unfortunately a fisherman and his family, their little charmer of a child started chasing the poor birds! So one of our group yelled at top voice to stop the kid. Had to twice to stop the kid. Disturbing!
We carry on along the damp sand across the bay, back from the eroding cliffs, past Dacre Cottage and yet again one of our group had to yell at a little brat with it's family as the kid was climbing into the signed, roped off area where the Dotterall's nest! Our disappointment wains in the second group of people with no respect for the wildlife, with another wow! Yet another big group of Dotterall's out digging in the wet sand, and a big group of Canda Geese with babies. Gorgeous!
Not bothered by us as we're a long way back from them.
Making the most of the low tide, we move our way south on the shimmering wet sands, still on low tide around the end of the headland, and more Dotterall's! We walk around to the next shell bank and note that the normal track entrance is still fenced off (due to Kauri Dieback) and we respectively stay out as planned and back track on the foreshore to Dacre Cottage.
Absolutely awesome day! Blown away by the numbers of birds, that are obviously enjoying less people to the area and what a pity none of our group had big cameras with us today to capture all the wildlife in photos.
The Council Park Ranger and DOC have been notified of the large numbers of birdlife and the disturbances we sited, so hopefully all the birds all stay so we can all enjoy them from a safe distance.
A really big turnout yesterday including two families all keen to check out the new tracks or check out tracks that they didn't know were there!
Working the day out, so that any tracks exposed to the sun's punishing rays we covered in the morning, keeping the shaded options as the temperature increaded. We headed along the Lucas Creek Tracks, with a quick pit stop to check on a track, that we thought was partially open, but no, fully closed, stopped at the fence and back tracked, taking in the history of the area along the way. Back in the early 1840's Albany was a hub for logging, flax trading and gum harvesting and a bit later in the 1800's many orchards. Some of the old fruit trees still present in the parks along our way. No noshing as we did last year, as the fruit needs a month or so to grow to full yumminess!
We hit the shady Massey tracks and the start of the towering canopy of Kahikatea, Rimu, Totara, Tanekaha with much relief and the reduced temperature by probably 2-3 degrees! Phew! Summer has arrived!
Motoring our way along the track, and we pass through some extremely impressively tall stands of very large Totara and particularly tall Kahikatea, probably over 40 metres. Although we're still in the middle of suburbia, this awesome forest escarpment and the sound of the trickling streams over the small waterfalls, is so relaxing. That expression of forest bathing..... is so right.
Breaking out at the end of true right of the Massey stream, tracks, we head over to Tornado Alley.
For those that aren't aware of the history, Albany was last hit by a Tornado in May 2011, and many very heavy, large sheets of metal had flown through the air hundreds of metres and landed in this escarpment where they still lay. Deriving the track name "Tornado Alley" & adding a bit of character to the tracks, there is a Dr Suess theme and colourful NZRocks that people have left around.
Moving through "TA", we stop at the cute playground for lunch and a quick Rockwords game before heading taking on the brand new track, which the community group are still in the process of clearing creating a formed track. Quite fun, with a fallen tree to scramble over and weaving through trees.
We reach the turning point and make our way back along a different track, checking out a couple of picnic spots along the way.
So much chatter along the way amongst everyone, that coming back along true left of the Massey stream tracks, we only have about 40 minutes til we're back at the cars. The last part of the tramp we savour the canopy above us on the other side of the track.
About 19kms covered, an awesome bunch of people, including lots of newbies, what a day out!
After a warm dry June and a mostly mild dry July we were introduced to the beginning of August with cold, squally, windy, showery weather. Lots of snow was falling further south – some of it down to sea level on the West Coast of the South Island. Oh! No! Do I really want to venture out this weekend. However it is in my nature that once committed I go on to see it through so….. Careful, thoughtful packing and then off to be joined by 12 others to travel to Te Aroha Holiday Park on Friday night. Were the weather gods going to smile on our party of 13. It was a sometimes wet and windy Friday night on the bus but in the early light of Saturday we woke to a relatively clear day and Mt Te Aroha shrouded in misty cloud. Our group hit the Tui Mine trail entrance just after 9.00 am (after a brief tour of the Te Aroha Golf Course). It was onwards and upwards to conquer the “Mountain of Love” and at some point meet the other group who started from the Domain.
The weather seemed to hold on the way up – we were well sheltered in the bush – and only saw one other person, a mountain biker. Now and again we caught glimpses of the Hauraki plains farmland where the sun was making a valiant effort to stay out from behind the clouds.
Nearing the top of Te Aroha the mist came in very thick and once on the top the wind roared through the tower structure. A quick look around – no views – then off to a sheltered grassy spot for lunch. Still no sign of the other group.
Going down to the Domain seemed to take forever – it was steep, sometimes slippery and the wind was very chilling. At last we reached the Domain and the Bus and still no sign of the other group. Did they go at all? Had they sat in the cosy inviting looking Hotel across the road from the Bus? But no – they had missed the entrance to the Tui Mine downhill track from the top but managed to get back on track further down the tower access road. (so they say!) We enjoyed hot drinks and cakes at the quirky restaurant Ironique.
Back at the Holiday Park several of us were looking forward to a soak in Hot Pools but we were unaware that in winter, management had to be advised ahead of time if we wanted to use the pools. Never mind. The showers were hot and refreshing. A short rest then we went out for dinner at Ironique and more delicious food. A great way to end the day.
Showers and wind assaulted the bus on Saturday night and there was almost a mutiny on Sunday morning when a group of us were not looking forward to hitting the trail in cold rain and wind. However tramping enthusiasts won and by the time we got to the Waiorongomai track entrance the weather had cleared – temporarily! About an hour later the heavens opened and not even the bush saved us from a dowsing. In spite of the rain, it was very interesting seeing the remains of the train tracks (extremely steep in places and machinery used for the mining operations in earlier times.
Back at the bus the rain had almost cleared and we were soon on our way warm and dry back to Te Aroha for a quick lunch stop before returning North very satisfied we were indeed the lucky thirteen – on the whole!
The weather wasn't meant to be good, but intrepid trampers as we are, such dismal predictions don't waylay us. And so we arrived at the car park where Big Yellow would remain for the night. Nine of us set off at 10am-ish, heading down the Tahuanui Track, along pastures and green fields to the junction where the short and long groups bid farewell for a few hours.
The four of us, Monika, Kas John and Mary split off onto the Bell Track - first time Bell Trackers all of us. The day was surprisingly warm and to our delight sunny! The sun dappled path wound through the trees at first quite leisurely before starting to climb gently.
We didn't miss the opportunity of visiting New Zealand's tallest Kahikatea tree. Such a sight to behold. There she was, so majestic in all her beautiful glory, a true matriarch of Pirongia Forest. Back on the track after our 20 minute side trip, we soon started climbing again until we found a lunch spot with a view out to the south. After a delicious meal of tuna croissant, nuts and water we were refreshed and we were off again. Before long the dry mud track was replaced by the saddle mud pits! How many ways can one get through a challenging 5 metre long 3 metre wide mosh pit? Welll, as many ways as you can think of and all of them involve mud of course. Mud pit after mud pit reduced us to crawling pace at times. Finally we pushed up the last major uphill and reached the Cone. What a view 360 degrees all round. We could see the cloud gathering on the summit to the east and just to the right we could see the hut tantilisingly close with just a wee shallow valley in between us.
Down we went and steadily back uphill until we reached the exceedingly welcomed boardwalked track for the final push to Pahautea Hut. 18 kms and 9 hours later we had arrived!
No one said it would be easy and in fact the promotional blurb suggested it equated to Abel Tasman on steriods so where do I start....A 10 seater Stewart Island Airlines plane was waiting for us (Ralph, Chris, Kas, Karen, Roz, Kate and Keith) at Invercargill airport. Our Team Leader Ralph taking his role very seriously took his place in the pilot’s seat. Hold on Ralph– not sure that was the plan. Fortunately our pilot asked Ralph to move over so he could fly the plane. Off we go.
Once on Stewart Island, we launched right into it, adjusting packs, filling water and collecting gas. Karen and Kas were brilliant organisers and ensured we were all good to go. A shuttle took us to Lee Bay to start tramping. What a confident seven to share this adventure with, and those early kilometres we really enjoyed. But the day was a tough one. Starting our tramping later in the day and heavy packs made climbs and slippery declines a challenge. After that first day Kate and Keith decided to modify their itinerary to better suit themselves, leaving the surviving five to continue.
The North West Circuit offers such spectacular and unique scenery and with three avid photographers on our team so much was captured to share. It is surely a place of contrasts. On one part of the island the sea was a misty blue and round the next bay the sea was an rich emerald green. Sand was the colour of brown sugar at one beach yet light and creamy at another. There were incredible seaweed-clad rocks like we had never seen before perhaps Neptune’s dreadlocks.
The wildlife was something special too with kiwi in the wild seen in the day time and night. Deer, possums and unfortunately ferral cats were also sighted. This massive sealion was sunning himself on the sandy beach as we walked quietly by. The native birds like Kaka flew high in the trees singing out.
Annoying were the persistent sandflies and mosquitoes at lower altitudes drawing blood and leaving huge angry welts. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Ralph our bush basher and track clearer dropped his shorts to protect his thigh to knee portions. We were rather concerned about his other regions being exposed. Ralph assured us that he had them covered. Chris suggested sandflies should be marketed as an international commercial venture to reduce the numbers.
The sign of hunters was unpleasant with a dead deer hanging to mature in a fenced off area. On the seashore disappointingly we observed the pollution; multi coloured plastic fragments, fishing parahernalia- nets, rope, nylon, and rubbish.
Tramping terrain varied with undulating climbs, steep climbs, tricky muddy declines, boulders at Boulder bay, multiple river and stream crossings, sand at Lucky beach and Smokey beach and soft sand dunes. It was challenging tramping and taking regular breaks for hydration and nutrition made it manageable.
Towards the end of each day we became more tired and needed more encouragement or persuasion to keep up the pace. Right foot, left foot, breathe. Thank you Ralph. Not long to go now........ the hut is imminent- we are going to see it any minute. One of the most challenging days was when we were literally racing the tide. If we didn’t reach a certain point on the second beach at a certain time we would have to wait out six hours or attempt the high tide route which involved a scary sandstone cliff climb. We made it!
The estimated tramping times seldom equated to our actual tramping times (captured in the graph). Perhaps it was our pace or breaks. Days were long, nine and a half hours our longest.
We had packed our tents and were prepared to use them if necessary but we also had our five dollar unserviced hut tickets. Huts were not bookable and filled on a first in first served basis. Some nights the hut was really packed and on one night there were even two guests sleeping on the floor. Temperatures in the huts varied particularly when the wood burner was used. On a couple of nights temperatures on the top bunks became excessive with some exiting sleeping bags and shedding clothing. One hut had run out of water so we resorted to filling our water bottles and a big bucket from a nearby stream.
There was a real sense of community in the huts. We got to meet many international guests and of course others from New Zealand with a passion for the outdoors. Some travelled alone, some with family and some with friends. There were trampers and also hunters. A Japanese couple on honeymoon impressed us attempting to complete the circuit at pace. They left very early in the morning and on occasions skipped a hut.
In one of the huts a bright spark had attached a power switch with a sign suggesting suitable for a young lady’s hairdryer. I expect she was disappointed when nothing happened despite plugging it in. Kas had a light bulb moment finding a light bulb positioned near a signpost.
It was interesting to meet Father and son from Invercargill. Big Al ( the young son) carried most of the gear including Dad’s full bottle of Jamieson’s whiskey.
We are pleased to say there were no broken bones on this trip but just a few blisters, cuts, scratches, bruises and grazes. Karen had a NEAR MISS down a log. We learnt more about each other and a lot about ourselves, and had simply a wonderful experience.
The weather forecast for the Waikato better than Auckland for this tramp, we set off in Big Yellow. Coming into Huntly there is an abundance of low cloud and mist hanging around the big hills.
Before entering the track at the northern end of Hakarimata we utilised the big boot station to ensure our gear was squeaky clean ready for the track. We were quite surprised, so early in the day, as a few trail runners blasted ahead of us up the masses of steps. This end the steps are a bit more gently graded and easier on the quads. We elected not do the Kauri Loop and get into it.
At the first proper lookout we took the opportunity to take some photos and probably just as well we did, as the fog moved almost straight away creating an atmospheric mist around the undulating ridge line, with the highest point at the southern end of the range of 374 metres.
Certain areas of this track obviously weren't logged in the distant past, due to exceptionally steep drop offs, as some of the trees are significantly large. Some extremely impressive Rimu that must be many hundreds of years old with ruler straight stems making it obvious why they logged them.
We were impressed with the diverse array of fungi and ganoderma everywhere. We spotted some about 15 metres up a stem that must have steering wheel sized!
As we neared the high point, big wooden look out, the sky dropped all the rain that it had been holding, as there was no view due to the heavy fog still hanging around and the rather heavy liquid sunshine we elected to keep shifting and made a beeline for the 1300 odd steps back down to Ngaruawahia. A lot of these steps and handrails are additional to what was put in place about 3 years ago to protect the massive numbers of very large Kauri and Ricker Kauri (baby). Although we were very mystified by the lack of a boot station at the Southern end given the huge numbers of Kauri here.
The skies still heavily persisting we chatted to lots of people as they were going up, most not actually didn't go right up, due to the weather.
Nearing the bottom, you pass the original Ngaruawahia Reservoir, that has been long de-commissioned and our favourite waterfall for cooling summer dips! This bit of the track is quite magical with the purple'ish tinged ferns lining the very steep ravine, with the stream starting to gush after the heavy rain.
We were all very pleased to get back to the bus after a good 6 hour tramp, ready to go pick up the other cross-over group and head back.
Despite the pretty dire weather forecast today and the cricket being on, a hardy number of trampers turned up for the tree planting at Shakespear Regional Park at Whangaparaoa.
As we got off the bus in Army Bay, we were blasted with a reasonable breeze and a big flock of seagulls hanging around on the updraft over the beach. Quite a sight with the sun glinting between the clouds.
After a quick chat with one of the park rangers who just happened to be putting up the tree planting sign, we ascertained that we were to head to the far end of the park in a gully up near Pink Bay.
We headed up the very pretty Waterfall Gully Track, with a quick stop at the waterfall, that despite all the rain lately, was a mere trickle!
Through our second boot cleaning station of the morning, we popped up onto the ridge line near the lookout, to receive more windy gusts. The Lookout still boasts amazing 360 degree views, even on an inclement day!
Arriving at the planting site, walking through the sterigene hygiene pad to disinfect our footwear.
We were a few gully's over this year, and with the weather being a bit rough already, the numbers of general public was well down on the usual, hundreds of people.
After a quick planting lesson, we headed right down into the gully to plant lots of trees. Mostly Flax, Caposma, Cabbage Trees, Manuka and Kanuka and there were a few canopy trees. The ground was fairly easy to dig, made for quick planting and reasonably dry and most out of the worst of the wind.
For the first hour it was just windy, then the forecasted weather rolled in, and it was pretty wet. All very thankful of our raincoats we carried on and managed to plant quite a lot of trees, regardless of the yuk weather. Feeling quite rewarded for having done something good, for the future and the native birds and creatures in the area, and the environment we stopped to warm up and get into some of the yummy bbq & much needed hot drinks that are supplied to volunteers. Awesome!
Sloshy mud around the organisational tents and the rain still falling we opted to head back to the comfort of Big Yellow to head home.
Most planting days, we've been very lucky to enjoy lovely weather, so hopefully, the next will be in line with the usual!