It pays to know what you’re doing in the Waitakeres. Even though we’re less than an hour from the city, this chain of hills runs for 25 kms and is covered in native bush. To the west, the ranges slope down to the much loved black sand beaches of Karekare, Piha, Te Henga (Bethells) and Muriwai and the turbulent Tasman Sea. To the east, suburban Auckland finally gives up its attempt to claim the steep terrain for more housing development. In between, over 16 000 hectares of native rainforest is criss- crossed by over 200 kms of walking tracks.
Today we set off on the Auckland City Walk - an hour long loop walk on very well maintained tracks which conveniently passes close to one of the oldest (and biggest) kauri trees in the area. We, however, are made of sterner stuff and launch into a much bigger loop cobbled together from many of the other tracks by my experienced companion. We climb through bush thick with regenerating kauri enjoying the stillness that is only occasionally broken by a fluttering of a fantail or the slow beating of native pigeon wings. In some places the young kauri are so close together that it can only end badly for some. Only the fittest will survive and only if they escape the fatal fungus known as kauri dieback disease which is slowly killing kauri trees throughout this area.
Our route follows the descriptively named Upper Kauri track, Long Road and Fence Line track to the Waitakere Dam where we stop for lunch. It’s a peaceful spot with fabulous views and today we have it to ourselves. Then we’re off again, following the Waitakere Tramline which was built to enable the construction of the Waitakere Dam and the pipeline that carries the water that feeds the city. At the weekend, a train still runs along the track crossing bridges and viaducts and passing through tunnels and making access to the Dam easy for those who don’t want to walk.
It’s fair to say that the Waitakeres receive their fair share of rain and this can wreak havoc with the tracks. However, a lot of work has been done to upgrade paths and provide raised boardwalks and graded steps which, make the tracks tracks surprisingly (and welcomingly) mud free.
There is a complex network of tracks (147 in total) within the Waitakere regional park and something for all abilities. Sign posting is good but it pays to take a good map of the area, and to carry appropriate supplies and equipment. Jandals are definitely not recommended !
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