The weather has been a little cooler this week, but the evenings are still fine for jogging. This week I decided to visit another of Auckland’s volcanic cones – Mt Saint John.
This panorama was taking looking East(ish) over Epsom and Remuera. The hill on the left is Mt Hobson. Towards the right is Cornwall Park topped with the monument on One Tree Hill. Off in the distance about a third of away across the image you can see Mt Wellington (about 6km away)
This is Mt Eden, as seen from much the same spot. In the foreground you can see the size of the crater. Mt Saint John is not one of the premier volcanoes around the city but its eruption is responsible for the lava field that eventually forms Meola reef several kilometres away so it must have been a big deal back in the day. I rate it a solid 7 out of 10 Wilberforces on the Volcanic Cone Appreciation Scale.
Yet another perfect day in Auckland, and yet another track in the Waitakere Ranges to explore. This time was the ominously named Destruction Gully Track, a short but fun track that descends from the Whatipu Road just after Little Huia.
Although not very long as the crow flies, Destruction Gully Track is quite steep as the cow plummets and is not one of the best maintained tracks. At a couple of points near the bottom the track is augmented by some helpful garden hose that has been fastened to the rocks. By no means is it as scary as the Mercer Bay “Track”, but a certain level of fitness is required.
At the bottom lies Makaka Bay, a nice little rocky beach that still has a few signs of what I think was a logging tramway back in the day. There are a few good views of the Manukau Heads across the water as well. Makaka Bay is not well visited so you will have nothing to disturb your calm except the skitter of crabs and the thought of the climb back up.
“Do you guarantee this is safe?”
“It is not one hundred percent fatal, I’ve done it before.”
And with those reassuring words we were off for the first trip out west for the summer. This time to Mercer Bay, a rustic little spot just around the coast from Piha. In fact it is so rustic there isn’t actually a proper trail to get there. You can’t walk around the coast either, but there is a goat track that drops down what turned out to be something between a cliff and a steep bank. Somebody has helpfully tied knotted ropes in the really steep parts, which makes the descent a bit easier. I wouldn’t want to do it in the rain though.
Once down, we investigated the really unique feature of Mercer Bay – the sea caves. Armed with a tide table and flash lights, we plunged into the caverns. The longest drives straight into the cliffs and pleasingly comes out at another little bay about 30 meters away, it even forks at one point. Another cave opens up into a large space with an open roof. There are surprisingly large crabs in the caves, but they skitter away at your approach.
Even at low tide the caves are still pretty damp in places and we ended up splashing through waist deep water during a badly-timed dash between the waves. The climb back up is easier than coming down, and we returned to Auckland alive and only slightly damp.
Update: David (a fellow compatriot on this adventure) has posted his own account of the trip with some fantastic pictures.
I hadn’t been to Muriwai for a while. It’s not that far away from Auckland, and the extension to the northwestern motorway has made the drive even easier.
(click to enlarge)
Most interesting part of Muriwai beach is the gannet (Tākapu) colony, where hundreds of the birds hang out in a surprisingly orderly settlement. With so many birds around you would think taking photos would be easy, but most of mine looked a little drab when I imported them into iPhoto.
But it is not just gannets, this fur seal (arctocephalus forsteri, or kekeno) appeared on the rocks below the colony for a quick rest in the sun. They seem pretty ungainly, but this one managed to climb some pretty steep rocks without too much trouble.
Continuing in my quest to explore the various parks in Auckland, I returned with a friend to Mangere to investigate the volcanic crater of Mangere Mountain. It doesn’t look like much from a distance, but it is actually one of the more impressive volcanic cones in Auckland I have seen so far, with a wide crater and a well defined lava dome in the middle.
It makes the perfect venue for flying remote control quad-copters. I only mention it because we met two guys from the Northern Helicopter Modellers Club who were doing just that, with remote viewing glasses and everything. Well it is not quite perfect, since the surrounding high trees provide ample opportunities for quad-copters to get stuck. Luckily, one of them was also a member of a rock-climbing club and could climb up retrieve his vehicle.
(This is the view looking down on part of Ambury Regional Park, where I took some photos a few months ago)
Even without the quad-copters, Mangere Mountain offers fantastic views of southern Auckland and some interesting geological features. I should have come here years ago.