Monday 04 April 2016 – Auckland, New Zealand.
Like most bloggers I also follow and read a few other WordPress blogs and sporadically randomly read a few others. I like to see what is out there, what other people are seeing and doing and maybe get ideas about writing and photography for my own use. I recently read a post by a youngish guy, I think he was English, who had just left Auckland. He was moaning about how boring, expensive and unfriendly he thought New Zealand and specifically Auckland was. In between his moaning he described what he did in Auckland. Pretty much nothing, he never left the city. No wonder he was bored.
I, on the other hand, always get out of the city, and today was going to be one of those out of the city days. I had yet to see my good friend Vicki on this trip, there just hadn’t been time so far to fit enough time in, but I had kept a day up my sleeve just in case. Vicki and I usually catch up over a walk or a run somewhere in the hills, as I did not have a huge amount of time we decided to keep it semi-local and go to one of my favourite places in the whole world – Karekare Beach.
Karekare is on Auckland’s west coast, it has no shops, few houses and a toilet block was only built there in the last few years. It feels remote, yet it is under an hour from the centre of the city, less if there is no traffic on the very winding road. It is a magical place and I have been here to run, walk, swim and photograph many many times.
There was not going to be much running today, I am woefully unfit and Vicki is very very fit and would leave me for dead on the trails, but we had lots of gossiping to do so a good walk was definitely in order. We started walking along the black sand beach – following where we could find them, the trail markers for the Hillary Trail.
I have mentioned the Hillary in previous posts, it was created in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary, and is 75kms of interlinked trail traversing the Waitakere Ranges from South to North (or Vice Versa). When it was first created it was a rugged and gnarly walk using old hiking trails. Over the last few years, it is slowly being ‘dumbed down’ and made easier and safer – though it was never dangerous. This is to cater more for the walking tourist who may not necessarily want to get their boots dirty, well that is how it seems to me. This section along the beach did not exist when I left the country, the trail was back in the hills then.
Back in the old kauri logging days there used to be a train line running along this section of the coast, ferrying the great logs to Whatipu where ships used to take them into Auckland, the train line is long gone, but the old tunnel at Tunnel Point still remains, as does a rusting hulk of a cylinder.
I stopped to take a few photos of the small lake that has long been here, stuck between the sand dunes and the cliff face, over a rainy winter this whole area can flood as the water comes down from the hills and finds nowhere else to go.
One of the things I really love about New Zealand is, apart from some people, there is nothing dangerous, too bitey or poisonous living here. Wading barefoot and legged through a swampy flooded lake might not feel good on the feet, but at least no animal is going to try and kill you. Being the end of summer, there was no flood, and no need to wade barefoot through anything at all. The only life we saw were a couple of black swans.
We turned inland past the lake and headed up the start of the Pararaha Valley. The first hundred yards or so cuts through reed beds and the track is a low boardwalk. Designed to allow 365 day access to the area, though I have walked up here before when the boardwalk has been submerged as well.
And then it was UP ! Buck Taylor was always one of my least favourite tracks on a long run or walk, it is steep ! But the view back down over the entrance to the valley is always worth it.
I was surprised by how much mud there was when we got to the ridge line at the top, there wasn’t huge amounts, but I was surprised to find any at all, given that it is the end of summer. It was good to see the tracks here are still proper hiking tracks with mud and roots uneven steps. Just how I like it.
We followed Zion Ridge Track, it is pretty flat and a real joy to run on, the bush up here is really nice too, with lots of manuka, kauri and puriri trees leaving layers of crunchy leaves on the trail.
We came across this big old puriri tree, slowly being taken over by the vine like rata. It is a massive tree, ancient and twisted. Lovely.
Very soon we were on the cliff top overlooking Karekare Beach where we started. Looking back down the beach towards Pararaha Valley.
Now you can see why this is one of my favourite places ! Beach, surf, hills, mud, trees, wilderness. What is there not to love about Karekare.
It was a great couple of hours out and about, Vicki is good company, a not too old friend, but one of my best friends and it was great to catch up. Vicki is the editor of Kiwi Trail Runner magazine and is very enthusiastic about anything trail and trail running. She gave me a couple of issues of the mag to take home with me as I was not quite up to date !!
She also stores my trail shoes at her house, to save me carting them back and forth from England. Now that is a true friend !