Otuataua Stonefields

Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve

I discovered Otuataua Stonefields in the summer of 2014.  It is said that Auckland was born here; the local Maori tell stories of people settling in this area around 835 AD.  The reserve is waahi tāpu (a sacred place) to descendants of Te Wai-o-Hua and Waikato Iwi
of the Tainui waka (canoe).

Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields

Otuataua Stonefields is located on the Ihumātao Peninsula in the suburb of Mangere.  The 100 hectare reserve is full of volcanic rock, and features Māori stone garden mounds and Māori and European dry-stone walls.  I immediately recognized similar rock and stonework at Ambury Regional Park, about 7km away along the coast.

Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields

Otuataua Stonefields Historic Reserve is located on the Manukau Harbor near the Auckland Airport.  Sandy beaches on the coast here combined with the fertile volcanic soil, making this a desirable place to live for centuries.

Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields

It was a hot day in the summer of 2014, and I sought out the shade of some forest remnants along the long dry stone wall near the southern edge of the reserve.

Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields

My feelings about graffiti in a reserve, especially one of great historic significance, are mixed at best – but this is some pretty cool graffiti.

Graffiti near the coast
Graffiti near the coast

The pictures above surely look pretty green compared to many parts of the world, but by New Zealand standards, the summer of 2014 was apparently a fairly dry one – compare with the pictures below, taken in the wet March of 2017.

Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields

I was surprised at how much I found myself adjusting the saturation of these pictures downward in order to make them look real.  The grass was probably a brighter green than you see here.

Otuataua Stonefields
Otuataua Stonefields

With a friend, I explored the southern part of Otuataua Stonefields as I had in 2014.  But this time, on the way out, we found the avocado orchard.

Avocado orchard at Otuataua Stonefields
Avocado orchard at Otuataua Stonefields

There were several families using very long sticks to get avocados from the trees.  I hoped that someone would leave a stick behind for me to use, but that didn’t happen, and I couldn’t be bothered to find a harvesting stick of my own.

Avocado orchard at Otuataua Stonefields
Avocado orchard at Otuataua Stonefields

I regretted not taking any avocados home with me, as I had never picked one from a tree.  So on my next visit in May, I visited the orchard first.

There was a wedding party taking pictures.

Avocado orchard at Otuataua Stonefields
Avocado orchard at Otuataua Stonefields

There were fewer trees with fruit in May, and the low-hanging fruit had long been taken.  It was a lot of work – the avocados weren’t ripe and didn’t come off the tree easily, and it took a while to find a branch that I could reach by jumping to pull the fruit down into reach – but I managed to collect my limit of 5 small ones.  I let them sit at home for weeks before they ripened, and when they did so, it happened very suddenly.  Fortunately the flesh stayed nice and green, and the seeds were the easiest to remove of any avocado I’ve had.  This summer avocados were as cheap as I’ve ever seen in New Zealand, but by May the price was again so high that I don’t even consider it, so these free avocado were nice to have.  I enjoyed them with lemon and salt.

My avocado harvest
My avocado harvest

The grass in May was an even brighter green.  This time I checked out the Puketaapapa Cone, the smaller of the reserve’s two volcanoes.

Puketaapapa Cone
Puketaapapa Cone
Puketaapapa Cone
Puketaapapa Cone

Puketaapapa Cone is part of the geology walk in the northeastern part of Otuataua Stonefields.  It offers some nice views of Mangere Mountain, another volcano closer to Ambury Regional Park.

Mangere Mountain
Mangere Mountain

One Tree Hill is visible across the Manukau Harbor; in the picture below it can be seen beyond the palm grove in the foreground.

One Tree Hill over Manukau Harbor
One Tree Hill over Manukau Harbor

The geology walk also visits the lava caves.  I only saw what must be the most obvious of the caves, which has bars mounted to prevent entrance.  You have to look closely at the picture below to see it (lower center).

Otuataua Stonefield lava caves
Otuataua Stonefield lava caves

Otuataua Cone is what remains of the reserve’s larger volcano.  It is located in the southernmost corner of Otuataua Stonefields.  The crater was once the site of a Maori pa, or fortified village.  It was quarried in the 50s, and some of the stone was used to build the Auckland Airport.  Partial reconstruction left the Otuataua Cone a shallow, grassy crater.

Otuataua Cone
Otuataua Cone

It took me 3 visits and some research online to feel that I had experienced most of what Otuataua Stonefields has to offer.  I recommend that you Google it before you go.  When you arrive, snap a pic of the info board for reference, and follow the various walks.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 22 pictures below.  To view on imgur, click here.

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