A Taste of the Waitakeres: Hiking through Whatipu

We left off last time at Whatipu Beach, getting ready to hike the Kura Track to Omanawanui Track loop.

I wasted an annoying amount of time trying to figure out where the trail head was, but once I realized I needed to walk up the road a ways, I started off. You can see the road here in this photo.

There’s a gate, presumably to keep sheep from wandering onto the trail.

As the track progresses, the stream becomes wider. This will be significant shortly.

Hurrah, a ford! This is (spoiler alert) the first of four. I had actually worn my hiking boots rather than my sandals for this hike, which was a source of annoyance because here I’m less than half an hour into a 4-hour hike and I’m going to get my socks wet. Protip: avoid the temptation to hop along the dry rocks. They will betray you, as river rocks are wont to do, and you will get more than your socks wet. I just walked across the river bottom and hoped the gore-tex lining of my boots was up to the challenge.

The stream was very clear and pretty, with the nice greenish-blue tint that many New Zealand streams seem to have. It helped me be less annoyed at having to ford it multiple times.

Yes, this is actually the trail. I am, it must be confessed, not a fan of the Kura Track. It is both poorly marked and poorly maintained, at times almost dangerously so. The ground also gets extremely muddy in the winter, so despite the fords I was extremely glad to be wearing my boots.

At one point I actually missed a switchback and wandered a couple hundred meters into the woods. The trail was so poorly maintained I thought the bushwhacking I was doing was normal, until I got to a point which was effectively impassible. I ended up having to backtrack and hunt carefully for the actual trail.

After quite a bit of climbing, fording, and muddy scrabbling around, though, we finally get a glimpse of what makes this trail worth it.

I’ve seen a lot of pretty scenery in my life, but the Waitakere ranges hitting the Manukau Harbour just took my breath away.

Whatipu is the north side of Manukau Harbor, right where it empties into the Tasman Sea. I don’t know if this strait has a name, but I couldn’t find it. On the other side, pictured here, are the Manukau Heads. At extreme zoom I believe you can even see the old lighthouse and signal station!

Hey, there’s the beach! That’s…a lot of elevation for us to descend. But first….

…we have to go upward. At this point, the trail actually drops a bit and then goes back up along a rocky ridge. You’re basically scrambling up a bare rock face, but there are chains drilled into the side of the cliff for you to hold on to so you don’t die. Given how poorly maintained the rest of the trail was, I made sure to have a good foothold and didn’t trust the chain too heavily. I also completely failed to get many pictures of this part. It’s often the case that I don’t capture the most intense parts of hikes because I’m too busy focused on getting through them myself! C’est la vie.

You know you’re somewhere cool when you find one of these. I guess this would be marking Omanawanui peak? These things do need some sort of plaque explaining exactly what cool thing you have just done :)

More importantly, we get a glimpse of Paratutae Island, which I think is actually a peninsula and not an island at all. I took a fantastic picture of Paratutae, so if this post is seeming a little long at this point then there’s still some reward left to be attained :)

I also found this cool little cove! This strait is notoriously treacherous — New Zealand’s worst shipping disaster of all time happened right outside Manukau Harbour, I believe –so I suspect this cove will remain quite secluded. Would be good fun to check it out in a kayak though!

Over the next ridge, I was treated to a very encouraging sight: my car! You probably can’t see it, but clicking to enlarge and using Zoom and Enhance technology, I determined that my car was in fact still present. While this was heartening, there’s still a lot of elevation left to shed and meters left to trudge before I’m back down there.

And here’s what may be my favorite shot from the whole trip: Paratutae Island in all its glory.

The Road goes ever, ever on. This hike started in frustration and ended in fascination. These trails are not for the faint of heart, but the payoff is so worth it. I hope through my words and pictures I have been able to convey some small measure of the beauty and magnificence of the Waitakere Ranges and Whatipu Scientific Reserve.

We’ll be back to Auckland next time!

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