Just East of the city, right off the motorway, is a hill and a park. The name…is a little complicated. Fair warning, I’m going to start out this post with some boring geography nerd stuff that you can skip if you just want to see the pretty pictures :)
Naming things in New Zealand is a bit tricky. Many places and geographical features have Maori names dating back hundreds of years. Often, these places will have been given completely separate names by European settlers which also date back hundreds of years. As New Zealand embraces both its Maori culture and heritage and also its European culture and heritage, official place names are decided in conjunction between the New Zealand surveyors and gazetteers and the local iwi (Maori tribal governing bodies). As a result, many features and locations have official names both in Te Reo as well as in English (for example, the official name of One Tree Hill is Maungakiekie / One Tree Hill — maunga means mountain and kiekie is a native climbing vine).
Which brings us to Mutukaroa.
(I don’t actually know what Mutukaroa means. The scant research I did says that mutu is a type of snare set for a bird and karo or karoa is a verb meaning to evade or dodge, evoking the meaning of a bird escaping or evading a snare. Not sure if that’s the intended meaning, but I like it enough to provide it here in a parenthetical).
The hill itself is officially named Mutukaroa / Hamlin Hill and colloquially named Hamlins Hill (New Zealand, as I believe I’ve mentioned previously, has adopted the trend of dropping apostrophes from place names). Fair enough. But the hill exists within a park named by the Auckland Council, and they can’t seem to figure out what they’ve named it. The website calls it Hamlins Hill Mutukaroa, but as you can see above the sign calls it Mutukaroa Hamlins Hill Regional Park. Not ones for attention to detail, are the Auckland Council it seems.
Anyway, whatever it’s called, I went there.
The carpark is pretty blink-and-you’ll-miss-it and features all of six spots, which to be fair is probably sufficient almost all of the time.
The gravel track and nice signage (complete with color-coded trail blazes) suggest that these trails will be well marked and maintained. Suggest incorrectly, as it turns out, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Pretty much all these photos are taken with the 35mm, so prepare yourself for some lens flares.
I caught a flare when taking this photo, re-took it, and still caught a more subtle flare that I didn’t notice. Sigh.
Anyway, you can see the lush green grass and that the previously wide gravel track has already dwindled to a mere strip (it’s actually two strips, one for each tire of a vehicle).
The Hill Track is about 70% under tree cover. As you enter the gate, a sign reminds you to not break branches. I’m sure none of my readers would engage in such ill-mannered behavior, though to be fair (as you will see) the condition of the track might tempt people to break branches for use as walking sticks. Still not a great reason to mutilate a tree, though; try to find already fallen branches to use as a stick.
Though it’s Winter, the bare trees still form a pleasing archway over the path. I really like tree tunnels!
The pathway here is still well-paved and there are stairs when the elevation changes (gravel paths and hills do not mix particularly well, so stairs are important to prevent all the gravel from winding up at the bottom).
There’s even a wooden footbridge over the stream. So far, big props to the council!
I will quibble that the path could be better-marked though. There are points here where it splits, with no indication of which fork to take.
The path I took led me to a
mystical portal exit from the trees.
Hamlins Hill lacks the height of say Mt. Eden or One Tree Hill, but there’s a nice view or two even so.
You can also see plenty of muddy grassland. And speaking of One Tree Hill, there it is in the distance!
And there’s the airport and Mangere Mountain.
(Mangere Mountain does not, to the best of my knowledge, have an official name. I believe the Maori call it Te Pane-o-Mataoho, but I haven’t researched it.)
There is a nice picnic bench here, getting some of the afternoon sun. Can’t say I’d consider Hamlins Hill for a picnic location, if only because I prefer not to get muddy on my way to eating.
Moving back under the trees, there’s a supply shed here. Probably used to store bait for pest traps and the like.
The trails in this forested area are much worse. They meander all over the place, split and rejoin with no markings, rhyme, or reason, and sometimes just disappear into mud pits without warning.
If you find yourself having a wander around here, this random metal object / possible crashed UFO is a good landmark.
Wander enough, and you’ll find your way back to Great South Road!
Once you’ve had enough of wandering and of mud, back into the portal you go to
find Totoro return to the carpark.
To be honest, I do not think on my trip to Hamlins Hill with great fondness. I went there not just to do a hike but to do some birdwatching, but I found no interesting birds to photograph. The trails were meandering and muddy, and while I was there a minor emergency cropped up via text message that distracted me from my walk and robbed much of my enjoyment of the moment.
Even so, I have to say that although Hamlins Hill is definitely an also-ran compared to most of the other hills in and around Auckland, it’s a pleasant enough place with charmingly suburban appeal. Perhaps I’ll visit again in late Spring, turn my phone off, and sit at that picnic table and see what birds show up.
In the meantime, back to Auckland.