A Waikato wonder

The range of bush covered hills behind Ngaruawahia have always looked dark and brooding to me. That is until I walked up them and saw the wonders they contain. Kauri! Some of the most southern in the country and a surprisingly sub-tropical forest full of nikau and rimu as well as the stands of kauri.

This is the Hakirimata range, 10k north of Hamilton and just over the river from Ngaruawahia’s main drag. There’s a well designed network of tracks, carparks at each end, toilets and a tramping track right along the top of the ridge.

This is from the DOC pamphlet about the tracks.

My foray to the Hakirimata Range was just to do the Kauri Loop Track which is just to the north of this map. It was hard enough because to get a view you have to walk from river level to the top of the range but the summit track in the middle of the map is the hardest. There are a few lower level wanders you can do though. I have some pictures of the southern end where the main entrance is complete with carved portal.

Entrance to the southern entrance

The Kauri Loop track is steep – steps – but really good. You can see one giant kauri and a stand of rickers and some other quite big specimens.

Son and granddaughter try to show the width of this tree. Don’t do it justice. It really is an impressive tree.

From the Kauri Loop Track, you can walk up to a lookout with good views of the Waikato River. Didn’t know there were so many real lakes and coal min lakes around Huntly. Once again, Huntly looks miserable when you drive through on Highway 1 but when it is see from above with the river running through it, it takes on a new life.

On a gloomy day the view from the lookout was still spectacular. That is Huntly in the centre.

All new Weiti Bay walk

Real estate company’s photo of the development

I tend to take East Coast Road from Silverdale to Browns Bay to see my family rather than the motorway.  Since moving here in 2012, I’ve noticed a new road being formed to the left towards Okura. Eventually I discovered that it was the route into a new subdivision behind the previously unspoilt Karepiro Bay which is well known for the historic Dacre Cottage and its distinctive red barn.

View of Weiti or Karepiro Bay from southern end

Last week we christened the road, got as far as a security gate and were directed to a small car park up the road where a new graveled path winds its way to the beach. The present subdivision consists of huge houses and lifestyle blocks but apparently two villages of about 200 houses each will be built by the car park. It’s all scrappy, hilly country so far, some paddocks, stands of pines but by the car park a nice area of native bush and gum trees. The path would have taken us about 15 minutes. The rewarewa were in glorious bee-filled flower.

This is what we saw when we got to the beach (had to take shoes off and wade across stream). Godwits! They looked much more interesting in real life. Elegant but soft and quite delicate although not as delicate as the fussy little dotterels who ran in ones or twos in front of us as we walked along. I don’t blame them for being skittish, of course, because they were nesting on the beach and they’re mighty endangered. All the nesting sites on the top of the sand were roped off but they didn’t know that, did they? No pictures of them because they are so well camouflaged and my skills and patience are not good enough for a good shot.

Godwits

A walk along the beach taking care not to disturb the dotterels, godwits, oystercatchers and terns doesn’t take long and at the end of the beach you can walk out onto some rocks for a better view of the area.

Grannies on rocks

The track to Okura is closed at the moment but after carefully picking our way back along the beach we climbed the track at the other end which goes over the headland to Stillwater. There and back, just to the top and along a bit to enjoy the spectacular puriri and nikau forest. Here is one of the giant, gnarled old puriri.

Classic puriri

I didn’t time the walk but it is a good one for bush, beach and bird lovers.

And just to make this more of a visual record of the walk, here is a video Photo Gallery made for me without my asking.

A 90 minute walk with variety

A walk with long tail but no backtracking.

This Orewa/Eaves Bush/Hatfield’s Beach walk is a classic for walking groups on Hibiscus Coast but this post celebrates the fact that it is exactly 90 minutes if you walk from McDonald’s, halfway down Orewa Beach. You can walk to Eaves Bush on the footpath and come back along the beach so no retracing of steps is needed.

Eaves Bush off Old North Road is a real gem. A local group looks after it and stands of quite mature kauri as well as young rickers line lots of the paths. There is no kauri dieback but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closed any time soon – to protect the trees – so it’s now time to enjoy this loveliness. There is some delightful undergrowth with many quite rare native plants.

You go in a bit of a loop through the bush and then up to Hillcrest road where a steep walkway takes you down to the old Hatfield’s subdivision which look 60s ish – maybe 70s/80s in parts. Remember when PM Rob Muldoon was interviewed here every Christmas? He had a bach nearby. Anyway, it is a modest suburb with mature trees and gardens. Then it’s down another walkway to a little creek that winds to the other end of the beach. Then over the main road to beach itself.

Hatfield’s beach is great! It’s on a busy road and it’s a boaties’ beach but it’s usually quiet and there’s no housing, just grass and trees and wetland in this particular bay. It’s almost unspoilt with a bit of an estuary on one end and cliffs and rocks leading to Orewa on other, the south end, where a short walk takes you to some steps up the cliff. Great views from these steps and then a walk through a luxuriant, luxurious suburb to the main road again, Hibiscus Coast Highway. You don’t have to walk on the road though because there’s a path through some pines and then beside the road to the Orewa Beach lookout.

Fabulous views from roadside. Orewa and beyond. Sea galore. From the lookout even better. There is a short bit down to the bridge near Old North Road again and then you can walk through the Arundel Reserve to the beach and join the people and their dogs walking along it back to McDonald’s. A good 90 minute walk for average walkers on a Sunday morning.

A small flat white at the McCafe is only $2.50 so it’s a cheap date.

Event walking: 12 KM TRAVERSE

 

Here it is: the famous 12 K Bridge Traverse, something I’ve done two years running now (wish it was “running”). It’s part of the Auckland Marathon and starts at Smales Farm, Takapuna. You run or walk over the bridge and around Pt Erin, alongside the Westhaven Marina –  then wind through the waterfront area in another loop and down Halsey Street to Victoria Park.

Blitz the Bridge. Beginning of the climb.

For a walking event it is just great. Walking a half marathon on roads is a real slog when you used to run them in your middle age but an interesting 12 K walk is not such a drag. The bridge has meaning. It’s not just the view of our beautiful harbour but all the connotations of the bridge, the way it revolutionized the North Shore when I was a kid. I’m old enough to remember the wild and  woolly NS before the bridge when you had to get the bus to Bayswater and then the ferry to Downtown.

There’s other interest in the walk too. You walk down the busway to the bridge. I often chug along that busway on the Northern Express. Good to walk it – once again, the busway has been transformational for the North Shore. The Pt Erin loop is very pretty and there’s a lot to find interesting on the city’s waterfront. That last bit is a bit agonizing because you can see the trees of Victoria Park but have to wind around the streets when – if you are racing – the feet are beginning to hurt a bit. It’s only a walk but I love that inflated arch finish.

Up Shelley Beach Road. Well thinned out.

There were thousands doing the 12k. I don’t have the figures yet but there was a seething mass of humanity at Smales Farm. A human tide with four waves of starts. I was in the fourth and we started approximately 20 minutes after the official starting time. The clock said 2 hours 20 when I finished but I timed myself on my watch and I’m sure I got in in under two hours. Just.  It was a slow start and didn’t start to thin out until about a kilometer or so.

Waiting to start at the Smales Farm bus station.

Was the bridge steep? No. Definitely not. If you incorporate hills into your weekly walks – which you should do for fitness – you won’t find the bridge hard going. It’s gradual slope is just pleasant.  Going up Shelley Beach Road was a little steeper but that part where you pass the Pt Erin park and go down Curran Road and then under the bridge to Westhaven is the best bit – apart from the bridge.

There were a few glitches but all part of the adventure. We expected the Northern Express to get us to Smales Farm or near enough although some of the busway was closed. What happened is that a Dad’s Army type rounded up anyone who looked like a participant and made us get off at Constellation. Our bus driver couldn’t speak English, and doubting Dad’s Army we waited nervously a few minutes until a Takepuna bus did indeed turn up. After the event we thought we had to walk to Lower Albert Street to get the bus but while we were having coffee at the sadly depleted Victoria Park Market we could see people lining up for a bus. Turned out it was our bus (doh!) and we walked to Lower Albert unnecessarily. It was a good warmdown though.

Big Wheel sculpture (?) at Westhaven.

Why bother to do an event when we have plenty of good places to walk everyday? Well, the bridge is a huge factor. I walked it when it opened in the 60s and hope to walk the Skypath (?) if it’s built in my lifetime. Meanwhile there’s only the 12 KM Traverse. And achieving a physical goal is strangely satisfying. I’ve always found that. It’s more of a buzz than something requiring brainpower even though it is just brute force. There is something elemental about it.

Happy me at top of the bridge.

A proper walk at Long Bay

Walked from car park to end by Okura River. About 1 hour 20 each way.

We should probably have walked around the rocks from Long Bay to the Okura River because the tide was beautifully out but we’re old and we’re doing the Auckland Marathon (12k Bridge Traverse) next weekend so we avoided ankle twisting territory. Must go back and walk round rocks another day because most people were doing that and it looked tempting.

This satellite pic shows the development at Karepiro Bay. It’s actually called the Weiti Estate because it’s by the Weiti Estuary too.

So Long Bay Regional Park is a real beauty although it is now surrounded by (groan) development. You can walk up the grassy, partly farmed and partly planted reserve right up to the Okura River where you can look over to Karepiro Bay which is being developed above Dacre Cottage and probably already has access via a new road off East Coast Road. There is one mansion near the previously unspoilt bay already.

View over Okura River with tide out. The beach at Karepiro Bay is between the two bush covered headlands.

From the headland at the top of the map you also get a great view of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula: Arkles Bay and Gulf Harbour stand out clearly as well as Tiritiri Island near the end of the peninsula. With the tide out and the sky cloudy, the Okura River looked a bit glum but from our grassy seat at the end of the track we could see horse riders galloping along the sand. We sat with a German girl having a gap year in New Zealand, ate our lunch and enjoyed the peaceful scene. Until I lost my little camera and found it again!!!

The old mowed track is no longer needed because there is a wide, graveled track just out of the frame.

The track is excellent now – graveled and wide enough for cyclists and walkers. It winds its way past Granny’s Bay and Pohutukawa Bay (nudist beach but not on Labour Day) and is a perfect surface to walk on. My bad ankles didn’t hurt at all.

On the way back we flirted with the remains of the old track that hugs the cliffs more closely. They’re obviously trying to steer people away from the steep cliffs though, maybe because the last few rainy winters have done a lot of damage to coastal walkways.

Wouldn’t like to be that guy.

The views of the Hauraki Gulf are breathtaking. That sounds like hyperbole but it’s not. They are great views – not just of the sea and horizon but island after island, headlands and peninsulas. The Coromandel was visible in all its mystical majesty today but didn’t photograph well unfortunately.

Planting! Like most parks and motorways edges in NZ in the present day it has been planted with native shrubs and cabbage trees. All in flower at the moment, giving the gullies and hillsides a soft rounded look. The whau was in flower! I’ve never seen that before. Its not a particularly attractive shrub but is ornamental in bloom.

The whau is in flower.

On the way back the sun came out and views back to Long Bay were clear. This was a “proper” Kiwi walk – almost a tramp. Someone took a photo of us at Granny’s Bay. Appropriate name – elderly trampers.

At one of the bays.

Way back and sun shining.

 

View of Long Bay.

Anatomy of a walk

The perimeterof Millwater plus a bit. To the north is a path through bush on the banks of the Orewa River. We walked through the commercial area as well.  Millwater itself  is bounded by Wainui Road to east.

I’ve often talked of my love of walking. A local walk I’ve done a couple of times is around the perimeter of the new Orewa/Silverdale suburb called Millwater. It’s about 8k and has lots of interest in spite of the fact that we should really be walking on beach and in bush when we are so near to both.

Me by Arran Rd bridge before we go through gum forest. The bridge connects Millwater to the backwaters of Orewa.

I like having a nosy at the new suburban and commercial developments though and the walk has some bush and some spectacular views of the Orewa Estuary and the island-dotted sea. There is considerable elevation at the top of the walk too so you’re going from sea level to the highest point in the area – the Mighty Ape Warehouse. You’ve probably seen the green and white striped building at the top of the rise as you are heading north on the motorway. Anyway, a walk has to have hills to give you a good workout.

Aesthetically, Millwater is not all that pretty. The houses are white with grey roofs with the monotony broken up with some rows of nicely designed terrace houses. But there’s a strip of bush  to the south – gum trees with native undergrowth – and every little gully is planted with flaxes, grasses, toetoe, manuka and cordylines. As they mature, they soften and beautify the area.

Millwater is now a big suburb with it’s own magazine and a row of shops and cafes. When I arrived on the coast in 2012, it didn’t exist.

The Mighty Ape building by motorway north of Silverdale.

Above the residential area by the motorway, is a commercial/industrial area with Mighty Ape the first of what looks like lots of new buildings. Good place to stop to go to the loo. I ordered a wireless keyboard from there recently to have an excuse to go to the warehouse to pick it up. You cant see the contents of the warehouse but there’s a big foyer with games etc.

Diana P inside Mighty Ape with their mascot.

From Mighty Ape and the petrol station down the road you have a good view of the motorway cutting through the pleasant green countryside towards Wainui and Puhoi.

View up motorway from near Mighty Ape

The suburb is on the fringe of the rural parts of Silverdale and Wainui so you get green vistas which in spring are pretty good and there are even wistful horses looking over the fence.

The wistful horses of Wainui Road.

I used to disdain the locals’ tendency to stop for coffee after each walk. After all you’ve been socialising for over an hour. Why hang around any longer? But now I have been inducted into the habit and I agree that having a coffee provides the seal of approval for any well planned walk.

Cafe wisdom? At Roberts Cafe at start and end of walk. A very good place to begin … and end.

 

The power of walking

Doing Auckland’s Coast to Coast with a mainly old people’s walking group.

What would I do without it? I suppose I learnt to walk at two years old so I’ve been walking for 70 years. I’ve always been keen on it.

Feet are a bit sore now, have to wear orthotics, expensive running shoes and take the odd anti inflammatory but walking does seem to have stood me in good stead after numerous health crises and drastic surgeries, not just for the present cancer but for other issues too. I feel so lucky I can still do it.

After each surgery, I have 1) walked around the ward, 2) walked to an increasing number of power poles or letter boxes when I got home until I could walk around the block. Even now, if I let it slip for a few months, I can experience the pleasure of fitness returning after a few weeks of walking faster and doing uphill work. When I first came to the coast, walking the 8+ k around the estuary was difficult, now it is a breeze.

Walking and scooting around Orewa Estuary with grandson and his dog.

I’m not as fit and fast as I was a year or so ago when I was walking with a true power walking group, but that level of walking is probably a bit much for me. I’m doing the 21 k Walking Stars event with them and will have to pull back a bit halfway through and hope they’ll wait for me at the end.

Walking can be painful for me until my feet warm up or painkillers kick in but I  appreciate it too much to go for the alternatives like cycling or swimming, neither of which I’m good at. I love going for walks for the following reasons:

  • Nature! Walking on the beach, in the  bush, through garden filled suburbs, up Auckland’s volcanoes.
  • Being nosy. Love looking at what is going on in my  neighborhood or any area and wondering about the families who live in the houses, looking at gardens.
  • Transport. I can walk to vet, pharmacy supermarket, bus stop, cafes, a beach – all just 5 to 15 minutes away. On commutes across city it is no problem for me to have a 10 minute walk at stages of the journey.
  • Exercise for cardio fitness and strength. It feels good being strong in old age.  I like walking down stairs or a steep path and feeling my quadriceps tensing strongly. The feeling of able to float up a steep path  which a few months ago I puffed up.

Some people of my age have had to give up walking with heart, lung, limb problems and I know the ills of old age will get me in the end but so far I’m in. Walking is an important life tool for me.

If you can’t walk far I highly recommend a 15 minute walk – often a wander round the block or a stroll along the beach.  Another tip is to take a dog for a walk. Some people say they are the best personal trainers. You can always borrow a dog.

A nikau forest near Whangarei. In New Zealand we have heaps of beautiful areas to walk in.