Visiting one of my happy places, the Waitakere Ranges.

Sunday 27 March 2016 – Auckland, New Zealand.

Breaking with a long held, and slightly ridiculous, tradition I am going to post some photos taken over a few days, but in the same general location. Over the four year history of this blog I have pretty faithfully stuck to writing in chronological order. This vexes me mightily on occasion; especially when I have a photo I want to post ‘right now’ but there is a backlog of older things to write about so I can stick to my self-imposed fascination with chronological order.

This process change is a bit of annoyance as I had written a whole load of text over the past few days that followed the right order of things, so now I am going to hit delete and get rid of it. I am going to rebel against myself. Maybe this will be the start of something new – non-date based blog posts, change is good right ?

Mum, El and I had arranged to meet my daughter Mel and her partner DIckie at the Arataki Centre in the Waitakere Ranges. The ranges are pretty much entirely forest (or bush as we call it in NZ) and form the bulk of a regional park running along the western edge of the city of Auckland, separating the city from the Tasman Sea. The ranges are why I love Auckland, I lived on the fringes of the forest before I went travelling and moved to London. The Arataki Centre is the information hub for the ranges and quite a tourist spot, with some lovely views out over the national park.

El and I visited the centre when we last came to New Zealand, but this time we are going to do the 1.6km nature walk. I haven’t done the walk since the kids were small and we had a horrible experience dragging small children up a steep path amongst some trees – they hated it, and made sure we did to. I was hoping for a lot more now I am doing the walk with adults, even if one of those adults was originally one of those kids.

I have always had a love of trees, but this has become a bit of an obsession over recent times, especially the naked winter trees I see in England. New Zealand native trees are primarily evergreen, so seeing tree skeleton forests in wintery England is something I am really fascinated by. There would be no tree skeletons today. Early autumn in the Waitakere Ranges means a sea of green; there are very few colours in a northern NZ forest!

The nature walk is on the other side of the road from the information centre and there is an underpass to get there. This sign was at the entrance to the tunnel. A message we need to think about as cities expand into wilderness areas and we deforest our world in the name of growth.


The thing that stood out for me the most in the walk was the kauri trees. They are my favourite NZ tree and get to be very big over time, the largest remaining kauri in New Zealand is Tane Mahuta and I am planning on seeing it when El and I take a trip up north in a few days time. Tane Mahuta is somewhere between 1200 and 2000 years old, this tree is about 600. Stupidly I forgot to note its name, thinking the internet would supply it for me when I got home. It appears the internet cannot.


It is a magnificent tree, but looks to be suffering. The Waitakeres, and large areas of other native forests are inflicted with Kauri Dieback, a fungal disease which is killing both young and old kauri. Once a tree has been infected there is no cure, and a number of un-logged kauri groves have been devastated, it is terribly sad. The kauri is a tall, straight hardwood tree and covered the Auckland and Northland regions. They were hugely popular with European house and ship builders when they arrived in the 1800s, which resulted in almost all the forests being wiped out by loggers, with only a few ancient trees remaining across the northern part of the country.IMG_3462

It is a really nice walk, quite steep in parts, but it is short so overall it is not too strenuous, we took the small detour at the furthest end from the car park to the kauri knoll to see a few, much younger kauri trees. Not all hope for these trees is lost!



Dickie, Mel, me and El


There are a few other interesting things to see, perhaps if we had walked along the trail with tree names I would know what this rather interesting plant is called.


The New Zealand bush in the north island is sub-tropical, it is predominantly evergreen, and is pretty much entirely green in colour, there are very few plants that have bright flowers or berries.


The rata tree is an exception with lovely red flowers.


It was a very nice walk, and given we were outside for only a short time and it was not particularly sunny, it was all a bit hot and sweaty!


A couple of days later El and I had moved to stay at my sister’s house in Titirangi, she has only recently moved in and has renovated extensively, it is a lovely space to live, and is surrounded by immature kauri trees.


These three kauri are right outside the back door and the deck is built around them.


After the family had left after a very nice lunch El, my sister and I went for a walk around the block. (I will sneak a quick after lunch Mason photo just because I can. It is my blog after all)


A walk round the block where my sister lives is nothing like a walk round the block where El and I live in suburban London. There are some houses, she is very close to the city after all, but there is plenty of not-houses as well. Exhibition drive is a flat, gravel road that runs from the edge of Titirangi out towards the dams in the Waitakere Ranges. It is about 3.25km long, is closed to all motor vehicles and was a very regular running track for me. It is popular with walkers, and forms part of a good loop to walk from my sister’s house.

The road is used for service vehicles that monitor the pipes that run water from the dams to a nearby water treatment station.


The pipe runs fairly straight so there are lots of short tunnels on the way, when I was young you could walk/crawl through them, health and safety means they are all blocked off now.


The path is through a very scruffy, and regenerating part of the forest, it is a lovely walk, especially on a sunnyish day like today – and especially after a large lunch!


As the large trees were cut down a long time ago the lower level trees and scrub have taken off here and there are a large number of nikau palm and punga trees all along the walk.



I was looking for a bit of flare action through the nikau palm leaves.


I am fascinated by how the palm fronds appear to interlace with each other, forming patchworks of shadow and light.


I really like these roots, I think they are from an old macracarpa tree. I have photographed them before, may years ago, and I was pleased to see they were still intact, popping out of the bank below the tree, merging with the rock and the hard old clay.


We cut down a steep, and considering it is the end of summer, surprisingly muddy track down to a newer pipeline, and short cut back home. Not many people know about this section of pipeline, I found it years ago, when I was looking for short tracks to ride a mountain bike in this semi-urban area.


We were soon back at my sisters after another really enjoyable walk, in one of my favourite forests, and time for a glass of pinot gris before dinner.

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Wannabe writer and photographer. Interested in travel and place. From Auckland, New Zealand.