Auckland Botanic Gardens, part 2 (ft. Totara Park)

I paused last time in the beautiful Auckland Botanic Gardens. Let’s resume the tour!

Every botanical garden I’ve ever been to has a geography and geometry all of its own. Perhaps the paths meander and cross over each other to force visitors into a slower, more contemplative pace. Or maybe the paths are more of an afterthought altogether, and that’s why they wander in odd directions. Either way, make sure you have plenty of time and are willing to endure quite a few detours on your way to see various exhibits!

There are quite a few tracks that take you through the undergrowth — this particular one features three different varieties of ferns, all very common when walking through New Zealand (many official New Zealand entities and agencies use the silver fern as their emblem. This plant, which colors the hills silver when the sun hits just right, is one of the most recognizable and iconic bits of local flora).

There is also a small stream which runs through the wooded area. This stream comes from the same source that feeds the large ponds.

As you walk along the trails, they lead out of the gardens and into Totara Park via the Puhinui Stream Forest Trail. This trail includes a quite decent lookout point which gives a southwestward-looking view over the gardens.

After the lookout, there was a sign that said “Waterfall Trail” with no distance markers or corresponding trail marks on the map. But I’m a sucker for a waterfall, so I took off along the trail.

Everybody swoon in awe at the majesty of the waterfall I found. I wasn’t sure if this was the waterfall or not, but it was the only waterfall I found along the Waterfall Trail so I assume it was.

Here’s another shot of the raging torrent. If I’m going to walk all that way, you’re going to get two photos of the waterfall, no matter how unimpressive :)

So there you have it. The Auckland Botanical Gardens and Totara Park. I should note that Totara Park is much larger than portrayed here — easily twice the size of the gardens themselves — and I covered at most a fifth of the trails available for walking.

I know you’re all anxious to see more photos of Auckland City :). Don’t worry — there will be plenty more in the next couple of posts. Posting might be sporadic (that is, more so than usual) as I’m flying to Australia tomorrow for a week. I’ll make it up to you with some (hopefully) nice photos of my trip upon my return!

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Auckland Botanic Gardens, part 1

One thing I’ve learned in my travels: if you’re ever in a new city and either at a loss for what to do or just needing a calm, relaxing break from the stress of traveling, look up the city’s botanical gardens. Ever since I had such a lovely time spending my 30th birthday walking through Kierstenbosch, the botanical gardens in Cape Town, I have had a soft spot in my heart for these gardens, scattered throughout the world and dedicated to the display and preservation of the flora unique to each region.

The Auckland and Wellington gardens use the older form “botanic gardens”; both are equally correct.

These gardens also tend to have interesting sculptures scattered around, as seen in this photo where I demonstrate my camera skill by completely botching the exposure:

We’ll pretend that I meant to do that as a study in contrast between the sky and the building. Anyway.

The Auckland gardens are located out East, near Manukau, and run adjacent to Totara Park. Although it was Winter when I visited, Auckland’s temperate climate means they can have outdoor displays on year-round. But I will definitely have to come back in Spring once the Roses are in bloom!

I do love this pond; it is very nicely sculpted. There’s one lone duck in this shot too! As I walked across the bridge he informed me via some very vocal quacking that I was encroaching on his turf.

The gardens are free to enter, and provide a nice tranquil spot to just walk and meditate. I’m sure during Spring and Summer the place gets mobbed with visitors and school groups, but the day I went it was mostly just small groups of tourists. And it was a fine August day, with largely clear blue skies.

The flora around the Auckland region features palms very heavily, which is reflected here in the gardens.

The Winter plants section also features Magnolias very strongly. We have Magnolias in the Southeastern US as well, though different species from the Magnolias here in New Zealand.

They do still produce quite pretty flowers, though!

These are Camellias, which I don’t think we have in the States. They’re native to the Philippines and Southeast Asia, but obviously also thrive here.

It’s a testament to the fantastic climate here in Northern New Zealand that the Auckland Botanic Gardens have no indoor exhibits. Even the Wellington gardens have an indoor greenhouse.

There’s also a fantastic large pond. Truly such a peaceful, gorgeous place.

This post has already gotten a bit long; I have way more photos than I thought! I haven’t even gotten to the bush walk photos yet, and I also did some hiking in Totara Park that I have pictures from! So I’ll end this post with the above picture of the pond above, and next time we’ll see some trails!

Hunua Ranges and Cosseys Dam

In the last post, I showed you Hunua Falls. This post is from the same trip. After walking around the falls (it’s not really even proper to call it “hiking” since it was probably a little over a kilometer of walking all told), I took to the trails. I wanted to hike to Cosseys Dam (it appears that the proper name is Cosseys Dam but Cossey Track. Kiwis seem to be fairly lax about spelling and grammar sometimes, but I’m replicating here what is written on the signs).

As a side note (I wish I had been able to get a picture of this, but it was too difficult to frame without a wide-angle lens), the trail splits at one point. The Cossey Track and the Massey Loop run concurrently for part of their journey, and you get to decide which side to take. I took the one with the steep incline, on the theory that getting the incline out of the way at the beginning would make for easy walking near the end. I don’t think this worked out for me, since the direction I chose was a ton of very steep climbs and then some nice, gradual descents. But there is a reason why I was glad I took the way I did, which I will get to in a minute. But first some photos.

Walking away from the falls, you still get one more glimpse through the trees.

Oh, I must have been mistaken. Here are the real Hunua Falls :). This tiny little waterfall is all part of the same river system that feeds the big falls as well as the reservoir I’m hiking toward.

Here’s a vertical photo of the tiny falls.

This river is running downhill, but I’m climbing. I know it’s called Hunua Ranges, but I didn’t think I’d actually be going up a mountain!

The climb was worth it, though, because here was my first glimpse of the Cosseys Reservoir.

Here I am, much closer. Just kidding! This photo is from the same place, I just zoomed the camera in :)

This is Cosseys Dam. It’s an earthen dam, and there’s no flow control or inlets because the other side of the dam is dry.

Here’s the other side of the dam. It’s terraced, and there are some sheep keeping the grass nice and trimmed. I made a “baaaaa” noise at the sheep, and I swear one of them glowered at me. I must have said something rude in sheep language.

Sadly, climbing around was discouraged. Normally I’d be over that fence and scrambling around both sides of the dam in a heartbeat, but I was obedient.

I haven’t quite been able to find information on what the purpose of Cosseys Dam is. Probably to provide more land for sheep to wander around. But the reservoir certainly is pretty!

The water of the falls is a murky brown since the river flows over a lot of loose, soft ground. After the reservoir, though, I did find some interesting green-hued water.

I don’t know what sort of mineral composition causes the water to turn this color, but I think it’s really pretty!

After hiking most of the way around the loop, I came to a ford with no bridge! I was surprised there were no signs warning of this. Maybe the river isn’t usually this high, or maybe Kiwis just assume that if you’re up for a hike this long, you can ford a small river. In any case, I was wearing sandals and cold water doesn’t bother me, so it was a pretty easy crossing. I was just glad I had taken the upper path so this was at the end of my hike rather than the beginning; 5km or so in wet sandals is a good recipe for blisters!

There you have it! That was my trip to the Hunua Ranges! I have a feeling this might not be the last time I head out that way, as I would love to make it to the other side and explore Waharu. But that’s it for now; hope you enjoyed!

Hunua Falls

I have to confess; I am a total sucker for waterfalls. You can get me to go on a massive hike if you just tell me that there will be a waterfall at the end of it!

The Hunua Ranges lie to the East near the coast of the Firth of Thames, which is the body of water separating the Auckland region from the Coromandel Peninsula. It’s about a 45-minute drive out from the city, much of which is absolutely lovely rural roads with a recklessly high speed limit. If you have a sports car and a love of mountain driving, the road to Hunua (cleverly entitled Hunua Road) will give you all the thrills you could desire. But that’s neither here nor there. There’s also some good hiking.

I had to decide whether to make two short posts or one kind of long post, so I chose the former. This post covers the picturesque and amazing Hunua Falls and the second one will cover the hike out to Cossey Dam.

Sharp-eared listeners can hear the falls from the carpark; it is not a far walk. There’s even a nice frame built into the pavement so you can take a cute picture of the falls.

Walking up to the falls immediately gives you a sense of their magnificence. These are far from the largest or most powerful falls, even in New Zealand, but just look at that water.

In characteristic fashion I managed to scramble up some rocks to get a better vantage point. This is the pool that the water falls into.

There’s also a trail (a bit less than 1km, so not exactly an arduous hike) which will take you around to the other side of the falls. This is as close as I wanted to get, as I wasn’t keen on getting wet!

You really get a sense of the power even a small waterfall like this can carry. I’d love to come back in the summer and go for a swim, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy going under the falls! Maybe in the summer when it’s been raining less they’ll be a little tamer.

The hike around the falls includes a bridge, which itself offers a nice view.

Awww yeahhh. Waterfall. Rainbow.

This may be one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken so far. Add this one to the rainbow going into Waitemata Harbor and Auckland on the pier. I’ve been showing this photo to everybody when they ask me what I’ve been up to on my days off.

Anyway, that’s the gorgeous and magnificent Hunua Falls. The real reason why I split this post into two is because the hike and the dam are really cool too, and I didn’t want them getting eclipsed by the waterfall! See you soon for part 2.

North Head, part 2

Last time, I posted pictures of North Head. This time I’ll be posting pictures I took from North head of the surrounding area.

In New Zealand they like to say you get four seasons in a day. I promise all these photos were taken on the same day, but you’ll see everything from blue skies to gray skies to some pretty intense rain!

I like this photo because it looks like Auckland is sitting on the pier. Yes, I like taking photos of Auckland. Moving on….

This is Rangatoto, a volcanic island in the harbor. I climbed Rangatoto last year when I came here on vacation. Maybe if I start running out of material to post from this trip, I’ll go back and post some photos from my past excursion :)

I wanted to post this Rangatoto picture just to show the difference in weather. Yes, that is rain. Yes, it is heading my way. I spent some time exploring the tunnels while it poured outside!

And after the rain comes…a rainbow! There are some leprechauns with scuba gear down in the bay, methinks.

Oh, wait, looks like the gold moved to Mission Bay! Not too surprising; last time I was going through Mission Bay I saw an Aston Martin and a Bentley.

New Zealand. Yeah, it’s pretty nice.

I didn’t post any photos of Auckland last time, and that made me sad. Here are two more to make up for it.

That’s all from North Head. I’m glad the weapons there were never used in war, and that now instead of being a place of fearful vigilance it’s a public area of peace and beauty. I truly do treasure the time I spent there, and if you’re ever in Auckland I recommend you take a day to stop by Devonport and North Head to experience it for yourself.

And who knows; if you’re really lucky, you may even get a rainbow :)

North Head, part 1

North Head is just a short drive from Devonport. It was a military installation back in the late 1800s designed to protect the British colony against possible invasion by the Russians after the hostilities in Afghanistan. Fortunately, none of the guns or lookout stations were ever used in battle. The whole area is now a reserve and much of it is open to the public. There are some nice hiking trails, and the more adventurous or historically-minded can also explore the tunnels and remaining military emplacements. One of the (now non-functional) big guns is still there for visitors to gawk at, though I didn’t take a picture of it because I much prefer scenery to military hardware.

As with pretty much everything in New Zealand, North Head is an extinct volcano.

With all the tunnels and burrows built into the hills, the area has a weird Hobbitish feel to it, though Tolkien’s Hobbits would turn their noses up at these structures. This seems like the sort of thing Saruman would have built in the Shire after he took over. Luckily the four adventurers returned in time to stop it!

There are also some slightly more Hobbitish looking holes.

The path along North Head is only indifferently marked, which I actually prefer. I would much rather blaze my own trail anyway! There are three major trails around North Head: one which goes to the summit, one which goes through the tunnels, and one which goes down to the shore. I switched between these trails based on which ones looked the most interesting, and I’m pretty sure sometimes I wasn’t on any trail at all.

As mentioned above, there is a quite extensive network of tunnels in North Head. They make for some really neat exploring.

I don’t have a lot of pictures from inside the tunnels because there’s not a lot to see. Fortunately I always carry a flashlight! Not good for those who are claustrophobic.

Not all the cool features of North Head are underground, though. I really like staircases carved into stone leading dizzyingly upward. Not that I’m keen to climb Cirith Ungol anytime soon!

But interesting as North Head is, most of the photos I took were from North Head, not of North Head. The next post will be photos of various things that I took from the hillside. Spoiler alert: I even managed to catch some rainbows!

Devonport

I deeply love Devonport. It’s a gentrified suburb on the North Shore of Auckland. It’s also, as the name suggests, a port town. You can even get there via ferry if driving around the harbor isn’t your style! (And let’s be honest; when aren’t they doing road works on the harbor bridge?)

There is a pretty neat little park right near the wharf overlooking the harbor. The weather was pretty overcast on the day that I was there, as you can see.

When I was here last, they were building a new library building (the library had been temporarily relocated to the i-Site). But now the new library is built! Apparently the Danish Agency for Culture has nominated the Devonport Library as a contender for public library of the year — one of only five nominees. We find out soon whether it wins or not!

I’m stoked to see the Devonport library honored like this and I hope they win…but I’m also a little annoyed because New Zealand seem to value form very highly in their libraries but…er…don’t actually seem to have a very large number of books. I would honestly not be surprised to learn that my parents’ house has more books than the Devonport library.

But it’s still a pretty neat place. Here’s some kids listening to a read-aloud. I spent an hour or so in the library just hanging out. I have tons of great memories of library trips when I was a kid, and I’m glad to see another generation getting the same experience.

This is Mt. Victoria, which is really just a hill right smack in the middle of Devonport. It’s got a neat observation platform at the top so you can look out over the harbor if you are so inclined.

So there you go! That’s Devonport. I actually super cheated with this last photo, since it’s from my previous trip to NZ in 2014. I didn’t bother to climb Mt. Victoria this time around…because instead I climbed North Head, which is that hill in the distance in the above photo (and where the photo of Mt. Victoria was taken from). My next post will be photos from that climb!

City life

I’ve never really lived in a city before. Auckland is by far the biggest city that I’ve lived near, and I actually live in a small flat downtown in the city center.

The view out my window is a majestic view of the hotel next door.

If you go out to the balcony, you can get a glimpse out into the street. Still not exactly a commanding view, but it’s home.

Auckland’s most noticeable feature is the Sky Tower, shown here. You can see a glimpse of my apartment building between that scaffolding in the foreground and the weird hexagonal tower in the background.

(That scaffolding is actually a support for the ride which I call the Bungie Slingshot of Death. You get in this metal circle with seats in it and get catapulted up into the air on those bungie cords. It looks terrifying.)

There is a very ornate Catholic church called St. Patrick’s (it has a much longer name, and one in Maori as well, but I can’t be bothered to remember it) right down the road from me. I think it’s pretty cool. There’s also a liquor store, a strip club, and a hookah bar right down the road from me in the other direction. Welcome to Auckland.

I like living in the city. There’s a lot of energy here. It’s hard to describe, really, and I understand that it might not be for everyone, but I can dig it.

I love taking pictures of Auckland. I think it’s one of the most photogenic cities I’ve been to. And I love living in Auckland too. If you get a chance, I highly recommend coming to visit!

So, a month ago I moved to New Zealand

As usual, I didn’t really think things through. But I’ve been here a month, and it seems like a solid enough decision so far.

I’ve been very sporadic about sharing stories and pictures from my trip. I don’t want to be like the proud father, pushing photos of his new child on everyone he meets. But I do like to tell stories and show pictures. So I created this space where I can do that without feeling like I’m pushing them on anyone.

Feel free to come back if you enjoy.