North Shore Tramping Club
Our intrepid group of NSTC’ers and three newbies didn’t let the weather stop us having another supercool day out with the club, tramping around Albany and up to Unsworth, with a variety of tracks on the way back.
We had thunder and lightning twice, hail, some heavy rain, lots of mud … and we made the most of it.
Water levels were up in most of the streams after all the bad weather. Two newbies needed no egging on—being good sports they went down the wet, very quick metal slide at Kell Park, landing in the puddle at the bottom. (On a previous trip to this area a few years ago, two French guys who were out with us did the same thing.)
The tracks that run both sides of Oteha Stream, behind Massey University, looked like something out of the Hobbit, with little bridges and steps, and massive native trees towering 30-plus metres above the stream, creating a magical canopy above us.
A great day out, despite the liquid sunshine, plus we covered some ground: 20.5 km in total.
Another stunning day with the club on Rangitoto Island, which just happened to be the club’s foundation (first) trip 49 years ago! There was a nice, chilling southerly, always appreciated when walking on the heated scoria tracks.
For those who have never been to Rangitoto, you’re missing out on its tropical beauty and native birds like kereru and saddlebacks, plus others that have migrated across from Motutapu or Motuihe. The melodic birdsong added to the atmosphere, with some brave birds foraging only a metre away from us.
My group of five made a beeline for the supercool lava caves about three-quarters of the way to the summit. You can stand upright in the largest cave, and you can look up and see the gorgeous pohutukawa canopy through an open in the cave roof.
You can crawl into the other, smaller cave, which has red pohutukawa roots growing through the solidified lava into the cave. Very cool! We enjoyed majestic views at our lunch spot on the summit, where we met up with the other groups; one had circumnavigated the island, and the other had come up by an easier route. Post lunch we headed to the very tropical Wilson Park Track and lots of lush kidney fern.
Some people went home on the earlier ferry, and the rest of us strode towards McKenzie Bay, picking up the fast group. Then we all explored the kowhai grove, where the trees were just starting to bloom.
After seeing many different varieties of gorgeous native orchids and other interesting flora, we headed for the ferry.
Much fun as usual, out with the club.
Potential newbies seemed to be put off by the thundery forecast, with not even one enquiry, but we still had a group of hardy trampers keen to do the club favourite, the Okura Walkway!
Plenty of showers passed through, but most seemed to pass either side of us, at one point providing a spectacular double rainbow, which we all stood in complete ore of, madly taking photos.
We moved to the other side of the swamp for a different angle of the rainbow. The gorgeous cloud reflections in the swamp and the gnarled old trees had us all clicking away again.
There was plenty of mud and trapped water, which created some nice deep puddles to work our way through around the Stillwater end of the track.
On our way back, the tide was almost fully out so we enjoyed the low-tide walk, spotting a pair of foraging dotteralls on our way around to the shell bank, and scrambling back into the tropical-looking, lush, completely sodden bush.
An absolutely fantastic tramp for photos: the subtle light glinting on the water with a backdrop of heavy, dark thunderclouds was quite magical.
We hope the photos will console you—or make you a little envious that you missed out.
For those new to the club, it only rained on us once, very briefly, so please don’t ever let a bit of rain deter you from tramping. It’s a different experience, and it can be just as rewarding as when the weather is fine.
PS We’ll try another open day in spring.
Another awesome day out with the club on a coast-to-coast traverse. Our group started at the Viaduct and crossed over to Onehunga, while the other half did the trip in reverse—the benefits of having a club bus and two drivers (big thank-you to both!).
We covered just over 19 kilometres. Conditions were ideal, with cool, overcast and moody dark skies but no rain, bar one exceptionally quick shower on the summit of Mt Eden.
We were taken by the old, re-purposed shipping containers in the centre of town, where they’re being used as protection for pedestrians on construction sites. Ingenious and very practical, and great to see they’re not dumped after their initial purpose.
Our group passed through some detour parks that we’d not been through before. We had driven past but not stopped, which is a pity as some of the informational signs about the history of each park explaining areas around Auckland were very interesting.
We found some new tracks, and of course a tramp wouldn’t be an NSTC tramp without some slippery mud (I’m looking at you, Mt Eden and One Tree Hill!!!).
Exciting to see that there are now five baby pohutukawa, fenced in for safety, at the top of “None Tree Hill”. Hopefully, at least one will thrive.
An enjoyable hike across town, taking in lots of history, points of interest, a variety of terrain and surfaces, and some exceptionally stunning views of Auckland.
Very still, extremely foggy conditions made for a stunning tramp down the Destruction Gully Track and Whatipu environs.
The first Destruction Gully lookout was completely fogged in, so onwards and downwards we went. This pretty track became more challenging as it steepened towards the bottom. The jury was out on whether the electrical cable someone had kindly placed there instead of a rope was a good idea or not.
The dramatic beauty of the sheer rock faces appearing and then disappearing as the fog was gliding over the towering cliff faces above us really added to the misty atmosphere.
As much as we were enjoying Makaka Bay, we decided to scurry around towards Paratutae Rock, only to discover a deep watery gut that meant no crossing safely, despite low tide over an hour and a half away. So return hike back up we did.
Time for a quick nosh at our usual lunch spot on the Omanawanui Track, shrouded by a blanket of luminous white fog that occasionally revealed the opposing side of the Manukau Heads of Awhitu.
After lunch we tackled the rest of the undulating Omanawanui Track as the ethereal fog slowly dissipated, displaying the surroundings.
Dropping back down into the Whatipu valley, we opted for the quicker road trudge straight up the valley to the bus at the top, otherwise it would have been an extremely long day.
An epic day out, including newbies and, much to our delight, more teenagers to help perpetuate the love of tramping into the future.
We didn’t have a DJ or even any EPs with us, but David, John, Pat and I did go tramping together. After much debate, the decision was made to make the trip to the top of the Coromandel and do all the tramps proposed in the club’s original Queen’s Birthday weekend trip, despite not having Big Yellow and the Fletcher Bay campsite being closed.
The DOC website had been advising that the Coromandel Walkway was closed until 10 June, but we didn’t give up. Two days before departure, they announced it had reopened.
We made the long and exhilarating (there were a few slips to negotiate) drive (thanks, David) to Waikawau Bay and parked up.
We headed off into the damp undergrowth and encountered the first of several river crossings, which meant wet feet for all—except John, who declared his new boots “super-waterproof”.
We climbed steadily up the Matamataharakeke Track and were rewarded with stunning views at the top.
Completing the circuit, we descended to the car after a final river crossing—just a quick splash-through.
A short diversion to the beach was essential before we headed north for Stony Bay.
Instead of the original plan, John had managed to upgrade the tent accommodation to a 5-bunk bach with a sea view. It meant late nights—well, nine pm, which was a change from the usual camping bedtime in winter.
Sunday was a stunning day with clear blue skies as we headed off on the Coromandel Walkway to Fletcher Bay. This really was beautiful scenery, with views of Great Barrier and Little Barrier (unusually cloudless), and some of the Mercury Islands. The lookout above Shag Bay gave us views in every direction, as evidenced by the photo shoot required by all!
We descended into Poley Bay, where Pat went down to look at the rocky beach, before we headed to Fletcher Bay, where we had an encounter with some cows, and lunch. It was a muddy descent to the coast, not helped by the cows having churned up the ground.
The campground was pretty soggy and still closed, although some intrepid souls had erected their tent just above the beach. We ate our lunch at a thoughtfully provided picnic table, and even brewed up some tea, before heading south again.
We stopped off to explore the beach just south of Fletcher Bay and regretted the decision not to pack the togs. Yes, it was that warm, and the water felt even warmer.
To vary the route and complete a circuit, we chose the mountain-bike track for our return journey. The view out to sea was superb, but otherwise the walkway provided much more variety, if not quite such steep ups and downs.
It was a very hot group that reached the top and then had a knee-jarring descent back to Stony Bay.
On Monday we packed up and headed back over the hill to Coromandel township and our last tramp for the weekend, the Kaipawa Trig Track. This was fun to do, and more technically challenging. Although it was a cloudy day and we could see rain sweeping across the harbour from time to time, we stayed dry and enjoyed lunch at the trig.
A great weekend with stunning coastal scenery was had by all four intrepid trampers.
We tramped new ground for the club on our Sunday trip to Mataia, which is in the very scenic Glorit area on SH16, northwest of Auckland. Our group of day trippers met up with the group that had stayed overnight at the Mataia Lodge.
The weather was a little overcast but calm, nothing to deter keen-beans, so we headed up along the farm tracks. We stopped along the way for a quick chat with one of the farm staff, who was tending to eight very cute newborn calves.
This area is similar to Atiu Creek (also northwest of Auckland), but perhaps even a little more scenic and diverse, with a mixture of farm tracks and lush, well-established bush tracks. There was a neat track along the edge of the wetlands, with massive old pohutukawa and puriri providing a tropical archway above us.
The colours were so vivid—from the reds, oranges and browns of the wetlands to the bright green grass and blue sky of the open land, with a gentle haze rolling over the hills. Really very picturesque.
As this is such a pretty area, we’re planning to go back again in a few years’ time, perhaps in spring/summer when the ground will be drier and even better for lounging around in the sun on the Mataia Lodge patio.
This Sunday tramp on the southern side of Mt Te Aroha was perfect. Beautiful crisp morning, no clouds, and as we drew closer to the Kaimais and Mt Te Aroha, fog gently adorned the mountain, with subtle autumnal light illuminating everything.
Although we all felt for the surrounding farms, still extensively flooded, it made for a stunning foreground with the towering 956-metre Te Aroha behind.
The recent heavy rain in had scoured many of the streams, waterfalls and tributaries. The first major stream we reached had us scrambling around the massive boulders, trying to keep out of the faster-flowing water. Most of us failed to keep the inside of our boots dry, but it was worth the discomfort to see this beautiful stream.
A few more stream crossings later we were on an extremely steep track, finally reaching one of the three inclines in the area, all part of the fascinating gold-mining history of the late 1800s.
Waiorongamai has a strange history with the club, because we always seem to find things there. One time we found a couple of lost trampers who were out for a day trip and ended up being stuck overnight (they were very happy to see us). Another time we found a kid stuck halfway down a waterfall (a baby goat just a few weeks old).
If you haven’t been to Waiorongamai yet, it’s worth the visit, with all of the waterfalls, which you’ll quickly lose count of, and the gorgeous tracks.
There are only a few times a year when the tides and times are just right for exploring Mercer Bay, when it’s possible to access both sea caves. We struck it lucky with one of those ones on a recent Sunday tramp.
The conditions were absolutely perfect for the descent down to the ruggedly beautiful Mercer Bay. The temperature was cool, there was almost no breeze to whisk up the sea, there hadn’t been any rain for a few days, and the tide was perfectly low—king tide!
For those that haven’t made the trip down the very steep cliff face (now rope assisted in two places where there aren’t enough—if any—handholds on the almost vertical sections) it’s a lot of fun. And a bit of a workout. You have to make sure you’ve got your balance or a good handhold before you snap that photo of the cathedral to your right that you’ll be viewing from below soon enough.
Once down on the beach, we noticed that the sand had banked up quite significantly since the last trip, which just added to the spectacular beauty of the bay, with its waterfalls trickling gently down the cliff faces into the bay.
After a quick recce to ensure the water and sea levels were safe—compared to previous trips it was very low—the whole group (twenty people) waded into the first 50-metre sea cave, headlights ablaze.
It was still looking safe, so we ventured into the more open sea-ish area at the bottom of the cliff.
We saw some very cool starfish, rock formations and colours to enjoy as we entered the second sea cave where the cathedral is.
Light streamed into the cave through a hole in the rock a hundred metres above. It was interesting to note that there was a lot of fresh rock fall at the back of the cave!
After we all took a huge number of photos, we scrambled back up the cliff to the Mercer Bay loop track to check out the spectacular views from the different viewing platforms.
This is always an absolutely stunning tramp to do, and I encourage all club members to give it a go.
But just a word of caution for those who choose to go down without the club.
Please check and double-check that the weather conditions, and especially the tide, are right. Wait until the weather is calm and dry, the tide is at an absolute low, and don’t forget that headlamp or torch.