Mangere Mountain

Mangere is a region to the Southeast of the city. It’s probably best known for being the suburb that houses the Auckland airport. And of course, it’s home to an extinct volcano.

Funny story: as I’m driving to the carpark, I pass a group of schoolchildren out on some sort of field trip. I have the top down, and I can hear one child say “look! It’s a race car!” to which a few others said “oooooh”. I am apparently quite cool amongst the elementary school set.

There are two craters on Mangere Mountain; this is the larger of the two. And it’s quite large!

It’s also ringed with trees, including one very definitively vibrant pohutukawa.

The other crater is less massive but steeper.

To get to the summit, you can either walk around the crater or take a short but pretty steep path right up the center between the two craters. I elected to walk around.

Before getting to the top I took a short rest under this tree and ate my lunch. Mangere Mountain is a very small area so the rest wasn’t strictly necessary, but I had brought my lunch with me and this seemed like a nice place to enjoy it.

Upon reaching the top, I got an achievement!

I took an achievement selfie. I chose the disaffected look to show that I’m way too cool to care about stuff like this.

Which is too bad, because there’s actually two of them! One for each “peak”.

Between the two is one of these things. I love it when lookout points have these “what am I looking at?” displays, even though they do tend to be vandalized by hooligans and miscreants.

The two achievement points are very close; here’s a picture of one from the other.

While I was standing there, I also got to see a plane landing in Auckland airport! (Airplane is in the upper-left quadrant near the tree line, for those who don’t like playing “Where’s Waldo?”.

After this, I walked back down the mountain. But I realized that I had forgotten to take a photosphere from the peak, so I headed back up. I took this opportunity to go up the other, steeper way.

Made it :)

Here’s One Tree Hill.

And here’s a random heart-shaped island. You can see the island on Google Earth, but it doesn’t show up on the map and I’m not sure what it is. It may be related to the nearby water treatment plant, but I really have no clue!

Here’s the Mangere Bridge with Rangitoto peeking up in the background.

And speaking of peeking up, here’s the Sky Tower!

And here’s Puketutu Island! It would be really cool to get to explore that island. Maybe like two posts from now? Stay tuned and find out :)

Point England and Tahuna Torea

Last post, we explored the Panmure Basin. If you’re already there by the Tamaki Estuary, you really owe it to yourself to head just a bit North to Point England.

(A pox on the house of whomever vandalized this sign…).

Point England starts out in a nice park with a well-paved walking track running along the shore. The nearby schools mean that there are often kids and young adults playing or hanging out nearby.

There are also, as is typical, pohutukawa trees around. Being summer, the New Zealand Christmas tree is in full bloom :)

The walk never gets particularly strenuous even as you leave the open area. I had plenty of energy left for admiring these flowers.

(While proofreading just now I asked myself “how much energy does it take to admire flowers?” but I decided to leave that phrase in for the amusement of the masses).

To the North, the reserve narrows and creeps along between the shoreline and some neighborhoods.

In true New Zealand fashion, if you want to get to Tahuna Torea you’ll have to walk through some peoples’ backyards. Don’t worry; it’s still an official walking track. (In true Nathan fashion, I was more interested in photographing the stairs).

If your backyard has a view like this, you can probably expect people to go tramping through it sometimes :)

There’s also a well-built footbridge. There’s one part where the trail does get a bit confusing because it splits off in a few different directions. If you go the wrong way I think you just end up on a residential street, so you can turn around and go the other way.

When I go out on these walks I usually download the park map beforehand onto my phone, so I consulted it and actually went the right way for once.

The track eventually takes you out of Point England entirely and up to Tahuna Torea.

The carpark area has so many ducks and pukeko that even I can get a moderately decent shot.

Tahuna Torea is a wetlands area culminating in a large sandspit jutting out into the estuary. If you plan on hiking along it, be aware of tides.

There are also some cool birds here.

Here’s a photo of the tip of the sandspit. I like how you can see it curving out into the water in this photo.

At this point I have to take a break in the photo narrative because I stopped taking pictures. As I walked out to the end of the sandspit, I noticed the tide was coming in. There are two ways to get out here: the long way up along the tidal lagoon, across the weir, and down; and the short route straight across the lagoon. The short route is only accessible on low tide. While I was taking these photos, the tide was coming in.

I attempted to return via the low tide route, but I found it impassible. The lagoon had already started filling to the point where I would have to wade in some pretty deep water. But even more distressing was that the mud underneath was very soft and was effectively sucking my feet down as I was walking into the water. I decided to bail out and walk all the way back around the lagoon.

While I was walking back, feeling mildly annoyed and somewhat damp, I noticed this funny little rope swing. Thank you for cheering me up, little rope swing :)

It’s a little hard to figure out exactly how many kilometers this walk is, but I think out to the tip of the sandspit (going the long way) and back to the South entrance to Point England is probably 10-12 km. In any case, it’s an absolutely lovely walk, and I recommend part or all of it to anyone looking to see a bit of nature in the Panmure area!

Next time we’re going to stay out East. It’s time to check out another volcano!

Panmure Basin

Panmure is a suburb of Auckland slightly East of the city bordering the Tamaki Estuary. To the South is a smaller estuary called Panmure Basin, formed by a volcanic crater.

Being a geologist in Auckland must be an amazing job.

I headed out to Panmure a bit before noon intent on walking around the basin. As I got there, though, the weather was looking threatening. And sure enough, shortly after I started walking the skies opened up.

I am not so easily daunted, however, and I know the wiles of New Zealand’s weather. So I sat down underneath a tree and ate my lunch.

Sure enough, after a leisurely lunch the weather had blown through and there was even some blue peeking out from behind the clouds. What luck!

The path meanders alongside plenty of greenery.

Panmure Basin is fed from a few places, it seems…here’s one small stream which looks like it could become a larger river if the conditions were right!

There’s a solid little bridge over the stream, though, so even if it were much larger pedestrians could still pass.

I’m not sure where the other end of that pipe is, but I don’t think I want to know what would cause it to spew so hard the stream fills up! I’d guess it’s fed by storm drains on the side of the road.

At this point I’ve reached the other side of the basin. Apparently there’s a water slide on the side I started from!

On the deeper side, there’s a small jetty where a rowboat or similar small craft could be docked. The stairs go under a pohutukawa tree, known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree since it blooms in wintertime.

Here’s another little stream, which flows into a small pond / reservoir. I have no idea what this is all trying to accomplish, but it looks pretty cool. The water, though, is not an attractive color at this point.

This is the reservoir-ish thing. Ducks must not be fed.

There’s a pretty neat bridge too! The water here is a nice contrast to that sludge from the last couple of photos.

The bridge takes you to the last bit of the track, which loops around to the first bit.

From this part of the trail, we can see Mt. Wellington. I haven’t been up that one yet, but perhaps sometime….

And that was my walk around Panmure Basin. I’m quite lucky that the weather cleared up in time for me to enjoy it!

We’re not quite done with the Tamaki Estuary though. Tune in next time for more waterfront exploration!

One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park

Ahh, One Tree Hill. The first place I visited in New Zealand. Well, I suppose technically the first place would be the airport, then Jordan and Brendon’s house, where I was staying, then One Tree Hill. But it’s the first outing I took. Anyway, you know what I mean.

One Tree Hill is a (you guessed it) volcanic cone presiding over Cornwell Park, a large park in the Auckland suburbs.

Recently, Brendon and I took a trip back to One Tree Hill to relive the memories of my first New Zealand trip. Although that makes it sound more dramatic than it actually was; I and my friends have been to Cornwell Park many times because it’s close to a lot of peoples’ houses and has plenty of space. But in this case I decided to take some photos so I can post about this great place.

Also, cool story: our friend Tyson proposed to his girlfriend in Cornwell Park! Wouldn’t be the first proposal to happen there, as we will see.

More like Cow-well park, amirite?

I am right.

You don’t see a lot of stonemasonry walls in the US, at least not where I’m from (with the exception of the wall around Duke’s campus, I guess).

One Tree Hill actually has many trees, but the One Tree is no longer there (it’s a long story). I hear they’re actually planning on replanting the one tree at some point! Anyway, you can see the iconic monument on top of the hill. Mt. Eden may be the tallest hill in the area, but One Tree Hill is the most immediately recognizable thanks to its large obelisk!

These stairs are pretty cool. It kind of reminds me of the image I have in my mind of the stone altar where they sacrificed Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a scene which neither the Andrew Adamson monstrosity nor the much more faithful BBC adaptation got particularly right, in my humble opinion.

Man, I’m like digression central today. Moving on…

There are many bunnies out and about in Cornwell Park as well!

This burnt-out husk is not (nor was not) the One Tree (to rule them all). But you can climb inside the burnt out trunk, if you don’t mind your hands getting a bit black from the charring.

Your options are either winding around the hill at a gradual ascent or going straight up the side. You can guess which one we chose! Straight up it was.

The hills — and even the volcanic cone and smaller dips — are very lush and covered in the trademark vibrant New Zealand greenery.

Once you get up to the top, you can see that writing messages using the many stones lying about is a popular activity. I wonder how many Kims got a fright (or how many boyfriends to Kims had to hurriedly explain it wasn’t for her).

The base of the monument.

The spire. With the clouds so dark it looks quite ominous indeed, as though it should be struck by lightning, or perhaps split in two like the House of Usher.

On a more cheerful note, hey! Another bunny!

Hanging out with some sheep!

And some chickens!

And a…uh…pheasant? I guess? Taken with my usual acuity for avian photography.

The bunnies and the sheep seem to not be bothered by each other. Perhaps its a sort of kinship amongst prey animals. I sent this picture to a decidedly carnivorous friend with the caption “food and other food eating food”.

Anyway, enough of my wildlife photography. Here’s the view from the top:

Auckland’s vast suburbs.

Mt. Eden.

More suburbs…but what’s that peninsula off to the left and the island behind it? That would be Mangere (specifically Ambury Park) and Puketutu Island. We will be going there a few posts from now :)

Let’s Zoom and Enhance the Mangere Headlands to whet your appetite!

Our old friend Rangitoto.

And, of course the world’s most photogenic city.

I hope you enjoyed this look at One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park! This place is special to many Aucklanders, and it’s always good to spend a peaceful moment here among the cows, sheep, rabbits, chickens, pheasants, and lush greenery!

Next time we’re going to explore another part of the Auckland suburbs: Panmure. See you then!

Muriwai Beach

I love it when people give me suggestions on where to go on my weekly excursions. By this point I’ve seen a lot of the “obvious” stuff, so I’m sort of the exploring version of that friend who’s hard to shop for, but there’s still plenty of cool little places I find out about just thanks to tips from friends. And I’ve had lots of people tell me I need to visit Muriwai. I kept putting it off and putting it off…and then over the course of a week I wound up going there twice. Funny how life is like that.

This post will cover both of those trips. The second trip was with a group of people from church, but we ended up seeing many of the same things I saw on my previous trip.

Muriwai has a few trails, though some of them require you to walk along the road at a few points and others (in New Zealand fashion) take you through peoples’ backyards. This trail map is among the more useful of the ones I’ve found here, though the Lookout Track still requires a bit of guesswork at one point where it joins the road.

I walked along the Lookout Track to the Quarry Track, then took that to the road. I then walked down the road to the Gannet Refuge Walk, walked along that to the beach, walked along the beach for a while, went for a dip, and then circled around back to my car.

When climbing the Lookout Track, there’s a point where there are some really cool stairs fenced off behind a “No Access” sign. I obeyed, but only begrudgingly.

The trail map definitely does not tell the topographic story very well. The Lookout Track takes on a lot of elevation very quickly, so it’s a bit of a climb. This should not be a surprise, since you can’t really have a lookout at sea level!

The Southern part of Muriwai Beach. Sadly, you can’t see my car from here.

And here’s the rest of the beach!

What a cool little island! Let’s Zoom and Enhance.

I think it’s called Oaia Island.

Here’s more of the view…back over the trees toward the mountains.

And then here’s the other direction, off into the distance.

The sky is on its best behavior…I definitely have the best luck! Would you believe that in about two and a half hours it started raining?!

OK, so now we’re starting to descend a bit toward the beach. But before we hit the beach, we need to visit some friends. Specifically, several hundred friends with wings!

Muriwai Beach is home to a massive Gannet colony! These Gannets are nesting right now, and under most of those birds is a little baby bird!

I don’t think my photos are doing justice to how many birds there are here!

I wonder if these birds appreciate at all what a great view they have? Probably not.

Coming down the other side, there are some bits of trail that are no longer…trail.

At this point in my solo trip, I changed into my swimsuit and went into the water. I left my phone and my camera in my backpack, so I didn’t get any pictures of this bit.

New Zealand protip: the Western beaches have some of the fiercest rip tides you will likely ever encounter. Even strong swimmers can wind up getting carried away. Lifeguards will put ropes and buoys around areas which have been deemed safe for swimming on any particular day. If you want to go for a swim, find the ropes and stay in between them, especially if you’re by yourself.

I, of course, did none of these things.

But at least I’m smart enough to know what I am and am not capable of. After wading into the water and feeling the tide, I knew I would not be swimming that day. So I made sure not to go anywhere that my feet couldn’t touch the ground. Even so, I nearly wore myself out walking back to the beach against the current. Always make sure to play it safe, especially when traveling solo.

For my next visit, we saw a few things I didn’t get a chance to see the last time. We walked down to see a part of the rock called the “blowhole” where water shoots up when a wave comes in. The blowhole can be seen right in front of the lapel of my friend’s jacket.

Here’s a shot of the blowhole right after disgorging its contents. Naturally I’m not enough of a photographer to try and capture the hole in the middle of blowing.

The weather was even better than my previous trip! The warm sun had the Gannets smelling even more…Gannety than the last time.

So that’s Muriwai in a nutshell. I really like this photo because it’s kind of Muriwai in a nutshell too. Foliage, Gannets, surf, beauty.

The next few posts will have us a little closer to home. I’m actually really looking forward to writing them, because even though they weren’t epic adventures or exploring some remote location of New Zealand I still really enjoyed those trips. See you next time!

Mokoroa Falls

Ahh, the Western beaches. Black sand, lovely mountains, and good hiking. Because I work for a US company, I got American Thanksgiving off. I drove out to Muriwai Beach, and on the way, I stopped off in the Goldie Bush Scenic Reserve to check out a waterfall.

The trail out to the falls is very short; perhaps 1km or so.

There are some palms, some ferns, and even some kauri trees lining the well-marked path.

Even if you are the world’s most leisurely walker, it will not be long before you see this:

Now that’s what I’m talking about! It’s not a torrent, but it is a proper waterfall.

There’s some stairs (huzzah) down to the base of the falls; this particular area is also tree fern central!

The stairs describe a gentle, gradual descent. Nice on the knees, but it means you pop out a bit downriver from the falls.

The river — stream, really — flows on at a slow pace.

A couple dozen meters or so and the falls are in sight again! Note the sketchy-looking river crossing there for those who don’t mind the risk of wet feet.

Not quite so evident from the upper lookout is that there’s also some auxiliary falls to the right of the proper ones! This waterfall is less impressive, but I think it looks cooler!

These falls are a bit of a combover if we’re honest, but the whole area looks cool enough that I can forgive a certain amount of patchiness.

There’s this really cool rock with these footholds leading up to the top. I…wish I could say I climbed it, but I was not feeling confident in my scaling abilities that day and vertigo got the better of me. Perhaps next time.

In the top right of the bonus falls, you can see the upper lookout. That does give you an indication of how high these falls really are, despite the slightly threadbare appearance.

So that’s Mokoroa Falls! Next post we’ll take a look at Muriwai Beach. See you then!

City life and other randoms

This is going to be a more random post of things I’ve collected that don’t really fit anywhere else. Sorry about that.

The many colors of the Sky Tower

The Sky Tower, as previously mentioned, gets a new color approximately every month or so.

Right now, it’s a Christmas Tree. (OK, right now it’s not a Christmas Tree, but it was when I wrote this post).

After the tragic incidents in Paris a couple of months ago, the spire was the French Tricolore in solidarity.

The many strange things seen on the streets

Joel Spolsky once said that “New York is the kind of place where ten things happen to you every day on the way to the subway that would have qualified as interesting dinner conversation in Bloomington, Indiana, and you don’t pay them any notice”. I’m not cool enough to not pay these things any notice (and Auckland is also not New York City), but I have noticed that living in the city you just see some weird stuff.

This guy was dressed like a devil, for no discernible reason.

Buskers are fairly common. A Christmas-themed brass trio is slightly less common.

(I think the unstated rule is that if you take a photo of a busker, you also make a donation. Just FYI. This seems reasonable to me.)

Cars

I’m a big car guy. I see a really cool car at least once a week in Auckland. Usually I don’t take a picture because who’s got time for that. Sometimes I do.

Lamborghini Aventador waiting for a traffic signal (my phone utterly refused to take a properly-exposed picture of this car).

This Tesla owner thinks he’s the coolest thing ever.

Other stuff

At this train station, you are allowed to:

  • Be a train
  • Spy on people
  • Walk a tightrope
  • Become The Flash

Meanwhile, you are not allowed to:

  • Dance
  • Smoke
  • Ride a bicycle
  • Drink wine
  • Be a dog
  • Pretend to be an airplane
  • Be Jon Bon Jovi

There’s this kind of cool area near my apartment. You cross Fanshawe St. and go down some random stairs (yusssssss). This puts you under the Hobson St. Bridge (which is called Lower Hobson even though it’s to the North; I guess because it’s lower in elevation?).

There’s a place there called the Tepid Baths, which sounds kind of gross actually but is apparently fairly iconic.

There’s also this really cool street art there.

While hiking in Muriwai I found this weird baggie containing a piece of paper reading “2 O Offering = Worship”. I don’t know if this was some sort of spiritual lesson or what, but it’s tied to this tree very intentionally. I really have no idea what’s going on here.

On Mangere Mountain, which unless I change the posting order I haven’t posted about yet, I found what appears to be a sculpture of poop. I also have no idea what’s going on here.

Well there’s a warning sign I can obey.

Also in the category of warning signs, this one made me laugh a lot. People bringing their dogs into areas with ground-nesting birds is actually a problem.

When I drove out to the Okura Bush Walkway (post coming one billion years from now), I arrived at about the same time as a couple and their dog. The woman said “oh, there’s a no dog sign here. Drat.” and then they drove away. It was very clearly posted on the website that dogs are not allowed, so I felt bad that they hadn’t checked beforehand. But I respected them for obeying the sign.

This whole massive crowd are here to see the new Star Wars move (The Force Awakens). This is midnight opening night (which was fully two days before America got to see it).

This escalator was, of course, not on (if it were the carnage would have been immense). As I got to the top of the escalator, I realized three things. One: the photo doesn’t show it, but you’re actually three stories up at that point. Two: There are a lot of people on the escalator. Three: As people move around, the escalator rocks back and forth quite a bit.

I am not in the best of times a fan of heights, and I could just see the headlines: 20 dead in Auckland escalator collapse. Fortunately that did not happen, and also fortunately the line moved uncharacteristically quickly while I was on the escalator. I probably only spent 5-7 minutes in that part of the line, which I was grateful for.

Have you ever seen something where you simultaneously do and don’t want to know the story behind it? That’s sort of how I felt about this.

And, finally, here’s a shot of Santa being put up over one of the larger intersections downtown (Victoria St. and Queen St.).

Thanks for tolerating the randomness; back to our regularly scheduled hiking next post!

Shakespear Regional Park

Not too far North up the motorway on the Hibiscus Coast is the beautiful Whangaparaoa Peninsula (Whangaparaoa, as with many Maori words, looks more intimidating than it is. Fong-uh-pah-ruh-oh-uh will get you close). The town of the same name occupies the Western bit, while the more seaward Eastern bit is home to Shakespear Regional Park (a family called Shakespear purchased the land from the Maori over a century ago).

Though less than an hour from the city, the park offers amazing views of green, rolling hills as well as some lovely beaches. Surrounded by water on three sides (as peninsulas generally are), you can look in pretty much any direction to find lovely sea views.

It’s also the site of a military facility, so tread lightly.

I parked up in the Northwest part of the park, off of Army Bay.

Army Bay is a smallish beach mostly used for fishing and the launching of boats. There are also some great sea views there, making it worth a stop even though it’s not the normal place to park.

I was blessed with a fantastically clear day. You can see for miles!

Once I’d taken in Army Bay, I walked down the road to the waterfall carpark, which is the more traditional place to start one’s journey. By now, you probably know what opinion I have of tradition.

The entrance into the park is controlled by this airlock-type thing. There are two doors, and only one door will open at a time. The park is home to a number of threatened native species, so this system plus the surrounding fence helps to keep predators out.

The first bit of track is wide and well-marked, and is thankfully under cover. I say thankfully because the Summer sun in New Zealand can be especially brutal. If I’m going to spend all day here I would rather not get toasted right at the start!

When the time comes to cross the river, they even have the kindness to give you a bit of bridge.

The tiny falls here do not appear to have a name (at least, not one that I could find). This area is called Waterfall Gully, a name which I suppose extends to the falls themselves. I was annoyed at these falls, not because I’m biased against a smaller waterfall but because I found it devilishly hard to photograph. The water reflecting the sunlight overexposes some bits, and the shadow underexposes others.

I even tried with my little Canon but didn’t fare much better!

At any rate, let’s move along so I can cover the whole park with one post. Have some stairs :)

My plan was to take the Heritage Trail up to the lookout, then take the Tiritiri Track around the Eastern and Southern portions, popping onto the Lookout Track to take me back up to the Heritage Trail, which would loop me back around to the carpark. The trails here are pretty well marked, even though you’re sometimes walking through an open field with no actual trail in sight! Keep your eyes peeled for these colored posts and you’ll do fine (unless you’re incompetent like me, but we’ll cover that slightly later…).

My trip up the hill was rewarded by this lovely view! I feel like if I provide adequate commentary for every picture then I’ll be spending half the post gushing about how amazing each one is. Even my repertoire of breathless superlatives feels inadequate to describe the views here in Shakespear!

The lookout is Shakespear’s party piece, as evidenced by the fact that pretty much every trail in the park leads here.

You can see Rangitoto from here!

And it was such a fantastically clear day that…wait for it…with sufficient Zooming and Enhancing, I could even see Auckland! That’s a laugh; it’s the better part of 25 km away as the crow flies. But there it is!

This view is looking West down the peninsula at the suburbs of Whangaparaoa.

I could probably spend an entire post just on photos taken from the lookout, but time to move on. I also met a nice British lady here in the antipodes visiting her grandchildren who let me use some of her sunscreen, as I’d already sweated most of mine off.

The Tiritiri Track involved plenty of livestock, as well as one pukeko who I guess was guarding the sheep.

This sheep and I stared each other down. She didn’t believe me when I told her I was photographing the bird behind her.

Also, note that as I’m now on the Tiritiri Track the blazes have gone to red.

This beach is on the South side of the peninsula. Yes, I walked all the way around! Well, at this point I’ve only walked about halfway around, but I’m still going.

The trail runs along the beach here, which is the most confusing part. The key is to trust that they will give you a marker when it’s time to turn off. I met my friend from the UK again right around this part where she had gotten slightly turned around.

She and I decided to walk together for some time. I was too busy photographing cows to pay attention to the signs, so instead of following the Lookout Track as I had intended, we ended up going around the Southwestern quarter of the Heritage Trail. Both would take us back to the carpark, but I felt the Lookout Track would have been more scenic. Oh, well; that’s just an excuse to come back again sometime :)

Off the tip of the peninsula is Tiritiri Matangi Island, where the Tiritiri Track got its name.

And one benefit of going back the way we did is that we found a WWII lookout post. New Zealand were quite afraid of Japanese invasion during WWII and built a number of lookout posts; we’ve seen some on Rangitoto and Bastion Point, as well as the massive emplacements on North Head.

And the path did in fact eventually return my genial companion and I back to the carpark. But photos of carparks are boring, so here’s one of the last bits of the Heritage Trail with Rangitoto in the background.

Thanks for sticking with me in this extra-long post! WordPress tells me I have written over one thousand words, and I’ve also posted 25 pictures, over a third of the 70 that I took. This park definitely stands out in my mind as one of the outstandingly beautiful places even in this outstandingly beautiful country. I wholeheartedly recommend visiting both the country and the park :)

Next time, we’re going out West to see a proper waterfall!