Duder Regional Park

Or El Duderino, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

To view the full gallery of 26 pictures on imgur, click here.

Most, if not all, of Auckland’s Regional Parks, and many other parks as well, are working farms, if that means that there are sheep grazing there, and they occasionally shear them… but Duder Regional Park makes a point of letting visitors know that it is a model of sustainable farming.  The visitor can walk Duder Sustainable Trail to learn about this.  Farming is one of the most important sectors of the New Zealand economy, and the Department of Conservation seems to be consistently friendly to farmers.  To hear about the damage done to New Zealand‘s environment by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and use of the land generally, you have to do some digging – New Zealand’s image as a green country is part of a carefully cultivated PR campaign, and you won’t hear much from the DOC or any other government body to tarnish that image.  Still, many regional parks were donated by old farm families who wish to see the land preserved, including the Duder family.  And farmers grant access to their land so that visitors can see many of the country’s sights, including East Cape, the easternmost point of the main islands of New Zealand, and it’s historic lighthouse.  Para-gliders are allowed to use launch sites on farm land throughout the country.

Duder Park is located on the Whakakaiwhara Peninsula in the Tamaki Strait, and offers stunning panoramic views that include the Brookby/Maraetai hills, the Hunua Ranges and Hauraki Gulf islands.

Pasture and gulf view at Duder Park
Pasture and gulf view at Duder Park

It was a hot, sunny day, and the pasture land was an especially bright green, as many of the pictures show.  The gulf views were even more beautiful.  But the star of the show for me was Whakakaiwhara pā.

A pā is a Māori fortified village or defensive settlement, often hills with palisades, defensive terraces, and/or trenches.  I’ve been told that war with the Māori gave the English early experience with trench warfare.  Often, I find it difficult to look at the remains of a pā and understand how the defenses worked.  But this is not the case with Whakakaiwhara pā.

Hauraki Gulf view, Whakakaiwhara pā on the right
Hauraki Gulf view, Whakakaiwhara pā on the right

Whakakaiwhara pā is a long thin peninsula stretching into the gulf.  Three sides are far too steep to climb while defended, and the 4th side is narrow, with a series of rolling hills that allow the defenders to take the high ground.  It is also a beautiful location, with access to the shores, shellfish and other food from the sea.

Whakakaiwhara pā
Whakakaiwhara pā

While at Duder Park I saw 2 different planes that appeared to be of  WW2 vintage.  The other was too far away to see well, or to get a good picture.

Vintage plane over Duder Park
Vintage plane over Duder Park

To view the full gallery of 26 pictures on imgur, click here.

Merry Christmas from New Zealand!

In which Miles enjoys the New Zealand Christmas tree, and gradually improving weather on Christmas day.

Metrosideros excelsa (pōhutukawa, New Zealand pohutukawa,[2] New Zealand Christmas tree[3]) is a coastal evergreen tree in the myrtle family,Myrtaceae, that produces a brilliant display of red (or occasionally orange, yellow[4] or white[5]) flowers made up of a mass of stamens. The pōhutukawa is one of twelve Metrosideros species endemic to New Zealand. Renowned for its vibrant colour and its ability to survive even perched on rocky, precarious cliffs, it has found an important place in New Zealand culture for its strength and beauty and is regarded as a chiefly tree (rākau rangatira) by Māori.[6] The blossom of the tree is called kahika.
Wikipedia

The pohutukawa is also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, because of the bright red “bulbs”, and because it only blooms around this time of year.

pohutukawa
pohutukawa

During the month of December I visited a number of beaches fringed with pohutukawa trees.  They’re in bloom everywhere now, and the colors seem to be getting brighter.  The photo above was taken at Mahurangi Regional Park.  I’ll be posting about this soon, although I’m a bit behind and have several other adventures to post first.

It rained hard most of Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day started without rain but cool and cloudy.  It took a while, but started clearing up nicely in the afternoon, and the parks filled with people enjoying the weather.

This view of Auckland on Christmas Day is framed by pohutukawa trees, although you have to look closely to see the red flowers.

pohutukawa
pohutukawa and Auckland’s city center

Everything is closed on Christmas Day in New Zealand, and the grocery stores are full of last-minute shoppers.  Many kiwis take up to a month off this time of year, and many of those go camping – many more locals will be encountered at campgrounds this time of year, and really anywhere outdoors.  I’m going to head down to the South Island soon, but before I go I need to visit central Auckland, which I am told empties considerably this time of year.  The day after Christmas is Boxing Day (as in England and a number of other countries), a big shopping day comparable to Black Friday in the USA.  So, today would not be the day to enjoy an empty Auckland.  Maybe tomorrow.

Merry Christmas!

Hunua Falls

In which Miles visits Hunua Falls and walks in the Hunua Ranges.

To view the full gallery of 11 photos on imgur, click here.

To visit the Auckland Council page for Hunua Falls, click here.

Hunua Falls is the only place of which I’ve ever lost all of my photos.  I don’t know how it happened.  I looked for them one day and couldn’t find them (this was in 2014).  They weren’t in my backups.  They were nowhere to be found.  Fortunately this didn’t happen again in 2015.

Hunua Falls is easily accessible, with a car park and restrooms nearby.  There is a bridge right next to the car park, and you can see the falls from the bridge.

Hunua Falls, view from the bridge, right next to the car park
Hunua Falls, view from the bridge, right next to the car park

The large pool below the falls is cold, but great for swimming on a hot day.  This visit did not occur on a hot day, and no one was swimming.

Hunua Falls
Hunua Falls

You can take short hikes to a couple of different lookouts above the falls.

View from one of the lookouts
View from one of the lookouts

The Cossey – Massey Loop walk ascends from the falls area to the Cossey Dam and reservoir, circles it, and then returns to the falls.

Misdirection

Follow the arrows to the left, and you’ll arrive at the car park in 5 to 10 minutes. Follow the arrows to the right, and you’ll ascend to Cosseys Dam and Reservoir, circle it, and descend back to this spot in about 3 hours, and then you can follow the arrows to the left to the car park.

Directions to the car park
Directions to the car park

I read Australia: For Tourists! by Dagny Taggart for some info on traveling that country.  The book mentions several times that getting lost is part of the fun in Australia.  I don’t know the country well, and never experienced this visiting Sydney and Brisbane.  But this phrase can be applied easily to New Zealand.  I wonder if the real meaning isn’t “make the best of it”.  The sign above is my very favorite example.  So far.

Cosseys Dam and Cosseys Reservoir

We started the climb up to Cosseys Dam, but we weren’t well prepared – we had planned to just visit the falls, and hadn’t brought water or our lunches – and I had driven up to the dam in 2014, so we went back and did that.

Cosseys Dam and Reservoir
Cosseys Dam and Reservoir

We walked around the reservoir up to the first overlook.

Lookout over the reservoir
Lookout over the reservoir

While we were enjoying the view, a biplane appeared and flew around the reservoir.

Biplane over the reservoir
Biplane over the reservoir
Biplane over the reservoir
Biplane over the reservoir

This is at least the second old plane that I’ve seen flying around park areas of New Zealand.

Someone told me that the air force used to train pilots on these old planes.  He said that the air force has no planes at all now, just helicopters, which they use mostly to assist with various emergencies, such as natural disasters in the South Pacific, or dropping hay to livestock after heavy south island snows.  Note that I haven’t researched or confirmed any of this.

In August and September 2015, a 1080 (sodium fluoroacetate) program) was carried out in the Hunua Ranges area. Hunua Falls was excluded, however visitors were warned about taking certain precautions if hiking in the Hunua Ranges.  I guessed that maybe this kind of plane was used for spraying – but I have not confirmed that in any way.  If I recall correctly this is done to deal with certain invasive species, such as the possum – but again, I have not researched or confirmed this.

Hunua Ranges Regional Park is one of the larger in Auckland, and offers many more tracks to explore.

To view the full gallery of 11 photos on imgur, click here.

Mahurangi and Scandrett Regional Parks

In which Miles visits not one but two of Auckland’s northern-most regional parks.

To view the full gallery of 23 photos on imgur, click here.

Visit the Auckland Council site for more info on Mahurangi and Scandrett Regional Parks

Mahurangi Regional Park consists of three peninsulas at the mouth of the Mahurangi Harbour.  One of these is accessible only by boat.  I wasn’t clear on all of the details while researching this park, so I headed for nearby Scandrett Regional Park instead.  But when I saw a sign directing me to Mahurangi Park I made a quick decision to check it out.

Car park and pier at Mahurangi Regional Park
Car park and pier at Mahurangi Regional Park

This part of Mahurangi Park includes the historic beach-front Scott Homestead.

Scott Homestead
Scott Homestead
Beach right in front of Scott Homestead
Beach right in front of Scott Homestead
The island at the end of the beach is apparently it’s own reserve; Casnell Island Scenic Reserve.
Coast of Casnell Island
Coast of Casnell Island
I had a nice walk around the rock shelf around Casnell Island, then continued on my way to Scandrett Park.
The Lisadian family home is preserved at Scandrett Regional Park.  There are a number of red-painted buildings, including a barn and boat shed, and a nice garden behind the house.
Lisadian family home
Lisadian family home

I walked the Mullet Point Loop track which takes in most of Scandrett Park, including the picturesque Mullet Point.

The peninsula on the right leads to Mullet Point
The peninsula on the right leads to Mullet Point
Trail to Mullet Point
Trail to Mullet Point
View from Mullet Point
View from Mullet Point
View from Mullet Point
View from Mullet Point
Scenery along the Mullet Point Loop track
Scenery along the Mullet Point Loop track
View from Mullet Point
View from Mullet Point
View from Mullet Point
View from Mullet Point

With spring approaching I’ve had more opportunities to get some good pictures of local birds.  Who can identify this resident of Scandrett Park?

DSC_5136

Lisadian Farm and Mahurangi Harbour
Lisadian Farm and Mahurangi Harbour

Scandrett Regional Park is a small park with a remote feel, a little over an hour’s drive north from central Auckland.  With the long beach, pasture land and beautiful coastal scenery it is a very pleasant day out.  I passed no other visitors along the Mullet Point Loop track.

To view the full gallery of 23 photos on imgur, click here.