Mercer Bay Loop

In which a consultation with staff at the Arataki Visitor Centre pays off in a walk of the Mercer Bay Loop.

You can view the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

The “Walk of the Week” was still the Waitakere Dam Walk, for something like the fourth week in a row – but staff at the Arataki Visitor Centre were ready with their best suggestion yet.

The Mercer Bay Loop Walk only takes about an hour, but there are one or more ways to extend it.  I’ve been on many walks that are part of the Hillary Trail, a four day hike through native forest along the coast of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, and the Mercer Bay Loop Walk is another.  I went off of the loop to follow the Hillary Trail for a short distance, but it quickly got much more muddy and unstable then the relatively dry and well-drained Mercer Bay Loop.

There are some interesting old radar station structures at the carpark, from the second world war if I recall correctly.  From there the trail descends through some nice bush.

Mercer Bay Loop Walk
Mercer Bay Loop Walk

This walk is all about coastal views, all from the tops of the cliffs.  The first views look north over Piha Beach.

Piha Beach
Piha Beach

Very quickly though the views are looking to the south, and Whatipu Beach is visible in the distance.

Coastal cliffs, Whatipu Beach in the distance
Coastal cliffs, Whatipu Beach in the distance

Interestingly enough, although Karekare Beach is somewhere between these lookouts and Whatipu, but I wasn’t sure that I could see it.  This great vantage point didn’t offer me any helpful insights into walking from Karekare to Whatipu.  Mercer Bay Loop Walk is actually located in Karekare regional park.

A closer look at Whatipu Beach
A closer look at Whatipu Beach

There are many more coastal views in the gallery below.  I enjoyed a lunch at one of the lookouts with nice benches.

Another coastal view
Another coastal view

For the return to the carpark, the trail goes up and away from the coast.

Mercer Bay Loop Walk
Mercer Bay Loop Walk
Pou
Pou

From the plaque near the pou above:

This carved pou symbolises the manawhenua, or spiritual guardianship of Te Kawerau a Maki, the local Tangata Whenua. It also recognises that this is a special place, one of the oldest settled parts of the Waitakere Ranges.

This Pou specifically relates to an early Tupuna, Hinerangi, a chiefly young Ngaoho woman named in honour of a renowned Turehu ancestress.

Because of her beauty, skill and descent, many young rangatira sought her as a partner. Eventually Hinerangi chose a young chieftain from Karekare and settled there in his village and lived happily until an aitua or tragic accident.

At the southern end of Te Unuhanga o Rangitoto or Mercer Bay was a famed fishing spot known as Te Kawa Rimurapa (reef of the bull kelp). One day Hinerangi’s husband and two others went fishing there and were overwhelmed by a large wave and tragically drowned.

Distraught, Hinerangi climbed to this headland and scanned the seas of Waikarekare, longing for her husbands return. Inconsolable Hinerangi sat on this headland for days until she too died of a broken heart and set off along Te Rerenga Wairua (journey of the spirits) to join her beloved.

Her disconsolate face was forever etched into the rock face of the headland on which she sat. It became known as Te Ahua o Hinerangi (the likeness of Hinerangi) and can still be seen today from the cliffs high above the southern end of Te Unuhanga o Rangitoto (Mercer Bay).

Following the Hillary Trail a short distance gave me views of a small beach not visible from the Mercer Bay Loop.

Small beach visible from the Hillary Trail
Small beach visible from the Hillary Trail

You can view the full gallery of 16 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Waitawa

In which Miles finds Waitawa to be a very well developed and maintained multi-use regional park.

I’ve had problems again with the gallery, you can view most of the images below, to view the full gallery of 35 pictures on imgur, click here.

I had another close look at the Auckland Regional Parks page on the web, and found a regional park on the southeast coast of Auckland that I had not yet visited.

Waitawa Bay
Mataitai Bay

A carpark is located right at Mataitai Bay, and you can start all of the walks from there.

Waitawa Bay
Mataitai Bay

There is a very nice bathroom building here also, with fountains for drinking, and even fountains specifically for filling water bottles.  I saw a good number of people come here to take in the view and just park and take a break.

Waitawa Bay
Mataitai Bay

I chose the longest walk, the Puweto Loop.  All of the paths climb away from the beach and diverge around the top of the nearest hill.  I spent a lot of time looking back at the changing views of the bays.

Wairoa and Waitawa Bays
Mataitai Bay and Waitawa Bay

Karamuramu Island has been mined almost away for red aggregate for driveways and pavers.

Karamuramu Island
Karamuramu Island

The picnic area shown below offers a good overview of the bays and Tamaki Strait, with info boards identifying the various islands and land masses and providing other info.

Mataitai and Waitawa Bays
Mataitai and Waitawa Bays

Not far from the view above the path descends into some bush.

Waitawa Bush
Waitawa Bush

After emerging from the bush the views tend to feature the other end of Waitawa Bay, and Kawakawa Bay beyond.  Some of this descent was steep and muddy, but I didn’t have much trouble staying on my feet.  Most of the pathways were very stable.

Waitawa Bay, and Kawakawa Bay
Waitawa Bay, and Kawakawa Bay

A campground is situated right next to a Waitawa Bay beach.  It serves as a stop on Te Ara Moana, ‘the sea-going pathway’, a self-guided five day sea kayak tour along approximately 51km of Auckland’s south eastern coastline connecting five of Auckland’s Regional Parks.

Waitawa Bay Campground
Waitawa Bay Campground
Beach near Waitawa Bay Campground
Beach near Waitawa Bay Campground

I then ascended to a hill covered with pastures.  I made a diversion to Pawhetua Pa, once a Maori fortified village.

Pawhetua Pa
Pawhetua Pa

Invaders would need to cross the low ground below to access the pa.

Strategic trench on Pawhetua Pa
Strategic trench on Pawhetua Pa

Like many I have seen, the sides of the peninsula are steep enough to defend, but still provide access to the coastline for access to seafood.  Crops were grown on the expansive hills of the peninsula.  The pa also offered residents great views.

Pawhetua Pa
Pawhetua Pa

There is at least one more pa in Waitawa Regional Park.

Returning across the pastures I got a bit lost, but I had photographed a map, and was able to find my way to an info board that allowed me to get back on track.

The pic below shows a section of the path that is banked and curved and graveled for interesting mountain bike riding.  Most of the trails also accommodate horse riders.

Waitawa mountain bike track
Waitawa mountain bike track

I saw a few of these fixtures and assumed that they were for feeding livestock, without much thought.  Signs with numbers finally made me realize that I was seeing the “holes” of a disc golf course.

"Hole" of a disc golf course
“Hole” of a disc golf course

The trail takes in more pastures and more bush and more great views before returning to the picnic area overlooking Wairoa, Mataitai, and Waitawa Bays for a descent back to the car park.

Waitawa-Auckland-DSC_2664

Waitawa-Auckland-DSC_2679
Black fern trees

Waitawa-Auckland-DSC_2672

Waitawa-Auckland-DSC_2688

You can view most of the images below, to view the full gallery of 35 pictures on imgur, click here.

Upper Nihotupu Dam

In which a visit to the Arataki Visitor Centre leads to another dam walk, this time to the Upper Nihotupu Dam.

You can view the full gallery of 24 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

The Walk of the Week worked out for me the last time the weekend caught me with no plan, so I went back to the Arataki Visitor Centre to try again.  Unfortunately it was still the same as it was two weeks ago – the Waitakere Dam Walk.  Fortunately, a staff member was ready with another option.

I mentioned that I appreciated the fact that the Waitakere Dam Walk seemed to have been recommended for the fact that the track followed a gravel road, and so it was not at all muddy in spite of the wet winter conditions.  He said that while this is good for hikers, it also helps reduce spread of the kauri dieback disease that is killing the huge trees.  He was quick to recommend another walk, to another dam, the Upper Nihotupu Dam.

The start of the trail, at the edge of the carpark, is very inviting.

Start of the Upper Nihotupu Dam Walk
Start of the Upper Nihotupu Dam Walk

The trail was only a bit muddy at the start, with no steep hills to make things slippery and dangerous, and the bush is green and lush.

Upper Nihotupu Dam Walk
Upper Nihotupu Dam Walk

After a short time the trail meets the gravel road to the dam, which follows a stream with a couple of waterfalls.

Upper Nihotupu Dam Walk
Upper Nihotupu Dam Walk

Views over the Upper Nihotupu Reservoir reveal the dam in the distance.

Upper Nihotupu Reservoir and Dam
Upper Nihotupu Reservoir and Dam

The dam seems smaller than the Waitakere Dam.

Upper Nihotupu Dam
Upper Nihotupu Dam

The far end appeared to be a dead end, but a closer look revealed a small track with a sign recommending that only very experienced hikers take it.

Upper Nihotupu Dam
Upper Nihotupu Dam

There is an easier route available to extend the walk, leading down to a picnic area and service tracks to the dam itself, and steps up the face of the dam.  A sign at the top of those steps indicates that it is forbidden to walk down them, but walking up is permitted.

Looking down the steps up the dam face
Looking down the steps up the dam face

This track is also a gravel surface.  Near the picnic area is a small building that apparently houses a small service train.

Tracks to the dam
Tracks to the dam
Tracks to the dam
Tracks to the dam

From this point you follow the rails to the dam.  They meet with another set of tracks that emerge from a gated tunnel, along with the pipeline for drinking water from the dam.

Tracks to the dam
Tracks to the dam

It doesn’t take long to arrive at the base of dam.

Nihotupu Dam
Nihotupu Dam

You can’t miss the stairs.  They’re steep, but not bad going up.  When I turned around to take pictures though, I suddenly felt like I could be easily blown off of them, and I understood why it is only permitted to go up them.

Stairs up the face of Nihotupu Dam
Stairs up the face of Nihotupu Dam

The stairs are quickly closed in by vegetation as they hug the face of the dam.

Stairs up the face of Nihotupu Dam
Stairs up the face of Nihotupu Dam

The stairs move away from the dam at the top.

Stairs up the face of Nihotupu Dam
Stairs up the face of Nihotupu Dam

The Waitakere Ranges have many more beautiful walks, but this is enjoyable and scenic enough for a day when I had no track in mind.  It is also a good choice in the winter when conditions are very wet.  It was also interesting to see another of Auckland’s dams.

You can view the full gallery of 24 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Pakiri

In which Miles visits Pakiri Regional Park to conclude his tour of Auckland’s northernmost regional parks.

You can view the full gallery of 10 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

When I arrived at Pakiri I looked around for information about walks.  I found none, so I asked a member of what looked like a walking group.  It was.  They had walked along the coast from Goat Island Marine Reserve to the south.  I was told that there were no bush walks, but the beach stretches a great distance from the carpark to the south, and even farther to the north.  So a beach walk it was!

Pakiri Beach looking north
Pakiri Beach looking north

The 52 hectare Pakiri was purchased in late 2005.   It includes includes 900 meters of sandy coastal foreshore.

Pakiri Beach looking south
Pakiri Beach looking south

The park is closely bounded by private property at the back, and signs remind you not to trespass.

Private property near main beach entrance
Private property near main beach entrance

The surrounding landscape is tempting.

Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach

There are apparently a number of stands of pohutukawa trees, so December, when they are in bloom, would be a great time to visit Pakiri.

Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach

I saw tuatua, a type of shellfish, lying half buried, or unburied, all over Pakiri Beach.  I would assume that there are many more beneath the sand.

Tuatua
Tuatua

On my way in I saw couple carrying bags full of muscles.  The limit for tuatua is 50 per day per person in Auckland, 150 elsewhere in New Zealand.  I believe it is the same for muscles.

Tuatua
Tuatua

Pakiri Regional Park is all beach, but it is a large, remote and quiet beach, and pristine and beautiful as well.

Pakiri Beach
Pakiri Beach

You can view the full gallery of 10 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Te Arai

In which Miles explores Te Arai, Auckland’s northernmost regional park.

You can view the full gallery of 18 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

In August 2008, the Auckland Regional Council purchased nearly 50 hectares of new parkland in the north east of Rodney. Highly sensitive dune lake ecosystems, wetlands, coastal broadleaf forest and regenerating forest cover the majority of the land.
Auckland Council site

Te Aria Beach
Te Arai Beach

Te Arai’s main features are a couple of long white sand beaches.  The northernmost beach has some very photogenic rock features at the south end.

Te Aria Beach
Te Arai Beach

This beach is very popular for surfing, and there were a few surfers at the other beach as well.

Te Aria Beach
Te Arai Beach

A track leads up the hills to the south, offering nice views over the beach and Pacific Ocean.  I found a website that provided info about walking at Te Arai – info not provided on the Council site.  It was helpful, but I had to be very careful not to get lost among the various branching trails.

Te Aria Beach
Te Arai Beach

There is some nice pasture land and some bush.

Te Aria
Te Arai
Te Aria
Te Arai

The track connects with a road that leads to the southern beach.

Te Aria
Te Arai
Te Arai
Te Arai
Te Arai
Te Arai

I climbed back over the hills and enjoyed the view while descending to the carpark.

Te Arai Beach
Te Arai Beach

Te Arai is over an hour drive from central Auckland, so I crossed into Northland and stayed the night at Riverside Holiday Park in Mangawhai.  It is a nice campground with free unlimited WiFi and a nice view of the river.

Evening view of Mangawhai Harbor
Evening view of Mangawhai Harbor

The Mangawhai area is apparently something of a resort town, somewhat quiet in the winter.

Morning view of Mangawhai Harbor
Morning view of Mangawhai Harbor

The next day I visited the next most northern regional park in Auckland, Pakiri.

You can view the full gallery of 18 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

Cascade Kauri & Waitakere Dam

In which improvisation leads from the 1 hour Waitakere Damn Walk to the 4 hour Montana Heritage Walk through the Cascade Kauri area.

You can view the full gallery of 22 picture below.  To view on imgur click here.

The Arataki Visitor Centre is a great gateway to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, with lots of helpful people providing information, maps, and even a small museum, great lookouts with fantastic views, a short boardwalk walkway, and various short walks that start from that location.  I didn’t have a plan, so I decided to visit the centre and see what they had chosen as their Walk of the Week.  I got the info and maps I needed to locate the start of the Waitakere Damn Walk.

It’s downhill on a service road to the dam.  Very early on there’s a short side track to a nice big old kauri tree.

Kauri tree
Kauri tree

There are nice views over the Waitakere Ranges.

View from Waitakere Dam Walk
View from Waitakere Dam Walk

The dam itself offers great views of the ranges and the reservoir.  This is one of several reservoirs in the Waitakere ranges that provide drinking water for Auckland.

Waitakere Dam
Waitakere Dam
Waitakere Reservoir
Waitakere Reservoir

Near the far side of the dam is an information board for the Montana Heritage Walk.   Montana Wines is New Zealand‘s largest wine company.  I thought, since a corporation’s name is all over it, and it has corporate sponsorship, this should be a well formed and maintained track.  I was 95% right… but this is still New Zealand.

I chose to start the loop while also continuing to the lookout recommended as part of the Walk to the Week – therefore walking the Heritage Walk in a clockwise direction.  It followed the reservoir for some time.

Waitakere Reservoir
Waitakere Reservoir

After the track entered the bush I came to an intersection that was a muddy mess – but the ground was level, so it was no big problem.  Then, soon after, I came to this intersection.

Unmarked intersection
Unmarked fork in the trail

I checked the photo I had taken of the info board, with a map, and the other map that was given to me at the visitor center.  They showed no fork in this area.  I chose what appeared to be the main trail.  Eventually it became the mudslide shown below.

Montana mudslide
Montana mudslide

There were a lot of footprints as you can see.  I proceeded as carefully as I could, but it was inevitable that I would fall eventually.  I actually stayed on my feet past this mudslide, but encountered several more.  It was lucky that I only fell once, was able to fall to the side of the trail, and not hurt myself, or get very muddy, and was able to keep my camera from hitting the ground.

I walked past the point where the side trail rejoined the main trail.  Soon enough I came to another intersection, this time with a sign.  There were one or two more of these.  It became clear that tracks around hazardous sections of the trail have been provided, and most of them signposted… just not the first one I had encountered.

Signposted diversion around mudslides
Signposted diversion around mudslides

The trail passes through nice New Zealand bush, but it gets really interesting when it starts to pass through the kauri forest.  The track itself becomes a boardwalk, because part of helping kauri trees avoid kauri dieback disease involves keeping people off of the roots.

Kauri
Kauri

There are many impressive kauri trees, including the group of young kauri below.

Group of young kauri
Group of young kauri
Kauri tree
Kauri tree

There is a lot of very steep climbing.  It helps that a lot of it is on boardwalks with stairs.

kauri trees
kauri trees

If I recall correctly, the tree below is a kahikatea tree.  Without a sign identifying it, I would have guess it was a kauri.

Kahikatea tree
Kahikatea tree

The steep uphill climbs were exhausting, but I always like to feel like I’ve earned the scenery.  The evening light lent a nice color to the landscape around the reservoir.  The uphill walk back to the carpark was nothing compared to what I had just done.

Waitakere Reservoir
Waitakere Reservoir

You can view the full gallery of 22 picture below.  To view on imgur click here.

Northland

In which Northland proves rainier than Auckland, but still offers enough clear weather to enjoy some of the sights.

You can view the full gallery of 14 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

I was heading north toward Auckland’s northernmost regional parks.  I spontaneously decided to just keep driving.  I knew of a campground with free unlimited WiFi near Bay of Islands, so I headed there.  I did not check the weather.

Auckland was having a spell of nice weather, but the Bay of Islands area was not.  There were moments, and even a late morning and afternoon in which I could go for a walk, but there was just too much rain, so after just a few days I drove back to Auckland.  A resident of Paihia told me that the whole summer in the area had been a very rainy one.

I have never seen this beach in Paihia look anything less than beautiful though.

Beach in Paihia
Beach in Paihia

I took the opportunity visit Aroha Island.  I had a nice, although short, walk.  The island is very small.

Aroha Island
Aroha Island

The nice lady at the visitor center told me that they have four resident kiwi, which are very used to people, and various kiwi that visit the island (which is linked by a causeway to the mainland).  It sounds like a walk there at night is a good opportunity to see kiwi in the wild.

Aroha Island
Aroha Island

The campground on the island looks like a nice one, and a great way to enjoy the island, and to see and hear kiwi.  It didn’t suit my purposes on this visit, but I’ll keep it in mind for the future.

Aroha Island
Aroha Island

On my way back to Auckland I stopped in Kawakawa to visit the Hundertwasser Toilets.  Above the toilets flies the flag that Hundertwasser designed for New Zealand.

Hundertwasser Toilets
Hundertwasser Toilets

Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (December 15, 1928 – February 19, 2000) was an Austrian artist[1] and architect who worked also in the field of environmental protection. His real name being Stowasser, his pseudonym Hundertwasser (by which he is known worldwide) comes from sto in Slavic languages, meaning “hundred”.

He stood out as an opponent of “a straight line” and any standardization, expressing this concept in the field of building design. His best known work is considered Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, Austria which has become a notable place of interest in the Austrian capital characterized by imaginative vitality and uniqueness.

In the 1970s, Hundertwasser acquired several properties in the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, which include a total area of approximately 372 ha of the entire “Kaurinui” valley. There he realized his dream of living and working closely connected to nature. Beside other projects he designed the “Bottle House” there. He could live largely self-sufficient using solar panels, a water wheel and a biological water purification plant. Also his first grass roofs experiment took place here.[3]
Wikipedia

Hundertwasser Toilets
Hundertwasser Toilets

Hundertwasser lived in Kawakawa from 1975 until his death in 2000.

Hundertwasser Toilets
Hundertwasser Toilets
Hundertwasser Toilets
Hundertwasser Toilets

Across the street is a local attraction in the Hundertwasser style.  Due to repairs only part of it was open, and so payment was voluntary, and I decided to have a look.

Local attraction in the Hundertwasser style
Local attraction in the Hundertwasser style

You can view the full gallery of 14 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.