First of all, if you found this page via a web search and you’re looking for a map of the Huia area, here it is (click to make it big):
It’s not often that I get to provide a public service while also doing what I love. But when I was researching this hike, I could not find a truly good map of Huia, especially the area around Karamatura Stream. Which is odd, because the Department of Conservation obviously have a map (as seen above). In any case, I hope this helps out some hikers. And if you’re planning on hiking in this area, you might want to read on.
I intended to do a full loop. Starting from the carpark just beyond the ranger station, I planned to walk along the Karamatura Loop Walk down to the falls (not pictured). I would then walk back to the Tom Thumb Track, take it up to the Twin Peaks track, which I would take over to where it hits the Huia Ridge Track, turning South down to the Bob Gordon Track, then around, up a little bit of the Donald McLean Track, and back along the Fletcher Track to the carpark.
As to what actually happened, well…read on. I’ll warn you right now, this will be a super long post. Which is only fitting, as it was a super long hike!
Huia, as you can see from this heavily vandalized map, is situated on the South coast of the Waitakere Ranges, where they border Manukau Harbour. It’s less popular and famous than the Western beaches such as Piha and Muriwai, but it is home to some really cool stuff. It’s also super muddy, as we shall see.
The Monday after getting back from the South Island, I drove out to Huia to see what’s what. I wanted a fairly long hike, but as previously mentioned I couldn’t find a map or any reliable track information. So I went with a vague plan in mind and optimism in my heart.
The Karamatura Loop Walk is fairly well-traveled, and as such is also well marked and in fairly decent condition. Even the recent rainy weather had not made the track unsafe. Parts of the track are actually an old timber tramway, so it’s not surprising that the trail would be in reasonably good shape. (Can we also pause to admire how cool this photo is? I love the way the trees form a natural portal).
River crossings (of which there are many) are bridged with sturdy wooden bridges. So far so good! Compared to my travails on the South Island this should be a doddle!
This crossing does not have a bridge, but no worries. Even a short-legged explorer could step safely from rock to rock without getting a toe wet.
This mini-waterfall is slightly off the main track near the actual waterfall. It’s a cool little grotto though, so it’s worth taking a detour.
And further along the reasonably well-marked path is Karamatura Falls!
I climbed up a rock to get a slightly better picture of the falls. There were actually some folks swimming in the pool when I arrived, and some more swimmers showed up while I was eating my lunch. Seems like the locals enjoy the nice stroll out to the falls, and I can’t blame them!
Walking back to the Tom Thumb track, though, comes the first hint of something amiss. This sign reads:
Due to a slip, the section of Twin Peaks Track from the junction of Tom Thumb Bypass to Huia Dam Rd is currently Closed. Sorry for any inconvenience.
OK, not too bad. I wasn’t planning on walking that bit of track anyway. I do have to say, though, what was the thought process here? “What shall we use to convey this important safety message? I know! A whiteboard!” Sigh.
Tom Thumb track is where things start to get a bit dodgy. There’s some really old boardwalk along some of the track, which is as you can see in a woeful state of disrepair. The trail is that oh-so-unfortunate combination of steep and muddy that make it very slow going.
At the top, though, is the eponymous Tom Thumb: a large kauri tree!
I may write more about kauri at some point, but they’re properly large trees found in New Zealand and across the South Pacific. The New Zealand varieties are threatened by a parasite called kauri dieback, which is unfortunate.
At this point I took a detour up the extraordinarily steep Goat Hill Track. If Goat Island is an island only goats can live on, is Goat Hill a hill only goats can climb? Possibly, because despite feeling quite good at the top of Tom Thumb track, I was utterly winded at the top of the short Goat Hill track. The views, however, were worth it.
Most of Huia is under tree cover, but Goat Hill is a small lookout over the Manukau Harbour.
Because of where Huia is situated, we can see East across Huia Bay to Huia Point on the other side (and then out to the Cornwallis Peninsula) as well as South across the harbor where you can see the Awhitu Peninsula where I visited the lighthouse (a bit of the peninsula, though not the lighthouse, is visible in the far distance).
If you Zoom and Enhance this photo sufficiently, you can actually see the lighthouse! Cool, eh?
But this post is already getting quite long and there’s still plenty of hike left.
The trail does offer a bit more of this old boardwalk, which is nice, but plenty of the trail is…less nice.
Just look at this utter shambles. Up until the Twin Peaks track I had tried to keep myself relatively clean, with decent success. But at this point there was just no helping it.
It was not uncommon for a small pool to form in the middle of the trail. And of course at the bottom of the pool is the slipperiest, deepest mud.
Yep, not mud-free after all that. I’m actually glad I wore sandals for this hike, since feet wash off easier than hiking boots do!
Despite starting pretty high up, the Twin Peaks track just keeps climbing. I’m no perfect physical specimen, but I liked to think that after my time in the South Island I was in pretty good shape. But before too long, I discovered the reason why the trail climbed so much:
Oh, hey, I didn’t know that was here! Yep, this unassuming point (with absolutely no view) in the middle of this poorly-maintained trail is in fact the highest point in the Waitakeres! And since the trail starts off quite close to the coast, I reckon I climbed quite a few of those meters on foot!
The trail is still utter rubbish, though. As I turn onto the Huia Ridge track, there’s another problem: I’m starting to run out of daylight! Yes, my detours and dawdling plus the muddy conditions plus the lack of good information about how long the trails are have held me up so much that rather than handily exceeding the time estimates for each trail leg I’m barely achieving them! This puts me in the unpleasant position of having to push myself to go faster in these wet, slippery conditions. Unsurprisingly, I did at this point take a couple of spills in the mud. Highly unsatisfactory.
Fortunately, partway down the Huia Ridge track we come to a long, newish boardwalk. (I also really like this photo, even though I didn’t particularly like the circumstances under which it was taken).
Even with the slightly improved trail, though, it was an easy decision to turn off when I got to the Karamatura track. I estimate that this cut nearly a kilometer off my return journey even ignoring the Bob Gordon Track (which was closed anyway). Since as previously mentioned the Karamatura Loop Walk is in pretty good shape I was able to just barely make it to my car with the sun still up. Understandably, I didn’t stop to take any photos of this leg, so it’s all text. Sorry!
So that’s Huia! Even with all that, I’m glad I went. It was quite the adventure, but now I can say I’ve been to the highest point in the Waitakeres, and even more importantly I got to have what felt like a proper adventure despite being barely an hour out of Auckland. Yes, I don’t have to get on a boat or a plane to have an adventure, and it was good to be reminded of that.
Next post will be a trail log, which will hopefully help other hikers be more prepared than I was.