Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mangawhai and Whangarei

How not to go hiking in NZ, Mangawhai Heads, 10 June
We wanted to get going early as it was another beautiful day , so we may have been in a bit of a hurry I suppose, but that’s really no excuse. Mike made sarnies, the picnic was packed, and we’d written the route down to key into the Satnav. In the car, ready to go and we’d left the route in the flat. Decided we could manage without, but it wasn’t till we arrived and started putting our boots on that we realised the rucksack containing lunch was nowhere to be seen. So we’d left that behind too, and quickly realised we didn’t have the camera either. Couldn’t believe how daft we’d been.

We had earlier stopped at the local i-site and learnt to our dismay that the walk we were planning to do was only possible in its entirety 3 hours either side of low tide. It’s a circular walk along cliff tops, then returning on the beach which is cut off at high tide. So we had already decided we would just do the cliff tops, as we’d come this far, and return the same way. In fact it’s necessary to walk across a couple of beaches at the very beginning of the walk before climbing to the cliff tops, and we were concerned seeing how high the tide was that we wouldn’t be able to make it at all.

Strange honey comb rocks on the way to start of the climb
From the cliff tops looking through the Nikau palms, back the way we'd come

As it turns out we were able to scramble over rocks and across the top of a beach to reach the start of the walk proper. It’s a new pathway created by DOC in 2008 and starts with a fairly steep climb up steps to the cliff tops. We immediately get a shower and a beautiful double rainbow and continue on our way. The path is literally cut into the hillside and there’s a very steep drop in some places right down to the beach. The sea is beautiful shades of green, turquoise and blue depending on its depth and so very clear you can see all the rocks and seaweed beneath the surface. We’re practising taking photos with Mike’s phone, just hoping we’re able to load them onto the PC back home. The walk is pretty level with great views across to various islands dotted around to the east. Pretty hot walking with only a minimum of shade provided by the odd pohutukawa and nikau palm, would be tough going on a hot Summer’s day. After about an hour we reach the beginning of the descent. Looks like a long way down flights of steps, but not much point in going down as the tide’s way up high and there’s no chance of getting round the base, so all we can do is return the way we’ve come.

17-18 June
We plan to travel up north again and stop over in Whangarei, the largest town on this north-eastern side. As this means passing Mangawhai Heads again we decide to complete the walk we only half did last w/e, as both tides and weather are perfect for it today. This time we make sure we take everything we need including water and lunch. Weather fabulous though the sea’s a bit rougher as there’s a bit more wind about. We’ve got the binoculars and can see fishermen out in their boats and large flocks of sea birds way out to sea.

Looking straight down from the path, with beautiful clear water below
This time we head on down the steps at the far end. It’s quite a steep descent but levels out towards the foot of the cliffs as the path leads us on board walks through nikau palms. We eventually come out onto the rocky beach and almost immediately spot a large group of dolphins close to shore. We think at first they’re whales because they’re pretty large and they aren’t frolicking about like the dolphins we’d seen in Queen Charlotte Sound, but just breaking the surface with their fins. Must be about 20 of them and, blow me, if, just when we think they’ve all gone, they don’t turn around and come back past us again. After this wonderful show we set off through a huge rock arch and back along the cliff base, making our way over rocks and pools.

Approaching the arch

We pick our way over the rocks

Takes a lot longer than the cliff top walk that’s for sure, as we’re picking our way over boulders and wadingthrough deep pebbles. It’s quite hard work and tough on the ankles. Eventually it gets easier as we pass a few sandy coves and soon find a nice sheltered spot for lunch. Continue our way past sandy bays and little rocky coves until we reach the beginning of the walk.

Nearly back at the start, looking back the way we'd come

From here we drive onto Whangarei stopping at the i-site on the way. We take a look at the town basin area beside the Hatea River which has restaurants, bars and the famous clock museum which we visit for half an hour. We’re staying at the Pilgrim Planet, which is run by a kiwi/Canadian couple who did a lot of work on the house themselves. It has 5 bedrooms and a large kitchen and sitting area for guest use, a good set-up. Whangarei is home to ‘A Deco’, Northland’s best restaurant apparently, which is a beautiful Art Deco building but turns out to be fully booked. Probably just as well: apparently portions are tiny and it’s very expensive. We end up having a good meal in the town basin. Very cold night.

There’s a heavy frost outside in the morning and we set off to take a walk around the A. H. Reed Kauri Park. It’s a fabulous morning with mist rising off the fields and we walk through bush to the canopy walkway. Very dark here but there's a lovely green mossy stoned river winding its way through the reserve.

Very cool, dank and green, the river below the canopy walkway
We then follow the signs for the waterfall walk which takes us through frosty fields beside a beautiful deep green river and over a swing bridge up to the impressive Falls at Titipunga, with a 26m drop to a deep pool below. Stop for an early lunch back in Whangarei, then drive on around the harbour coastline towards Whangarei Heads where we plan to climb Mount Manaia.

Walking beside the river towards the Falls
Whangarei Falls at Titipunga on the Hatea River

There are 5 distinct stone fingers on the rocky summit of the mountain and a Maori legend explains the story behind them. It’s a steep climb up through native bush, about 500m above sea level and mostly climbing good DOC-built steps. Although it’s a sunny day we’re steadily climbing up through deep shade, with lots of nikau palms, supple jack, and ancient puriri trees. About half way up I spot a parrot on the branch of a tree. It’s dark greeny-brown, quite large, and very busy ripping up bark with its hooked beak, presumably looking for insects. We’ve seen kakas before, flying overhead in Zealandia, shame it’s too dark to see clearly. We’re hoping he’ll come close enough for a decent picture but he’s too intent on finding food, and ignores us completely.

Mike on the look-out with Whangarei Harbour behind

A bit further on we follow a side path leading to a terrific look-out where we rest. Amazing views across the harbour, and over to the rocky outcrops on Bream Head, the southern tip of this peninsular. We continue upwards and soon come to a wooden ladder that takes us to a flat rock and that’s as far up as it’s possible to go.

This is as high as we get

The rock fingers of the summit are hidden from view unfortunately, but we see a crazy couple making their way up towards them. No ropes or any special equipment; I can hardly bare to watch. From here we can see over to the southern end of the Tutukaka Coast which leads up to the Bay of Islands. We spend quite a while resting in the sunshine and chatting to another English couple who’ve made it up here, then we head back down, which, believe me, is a lot quicker than climbing up. Drive straight back home in less than 3 hours.

Crazy kiwis trying to get to the top. She's even carrying a handbag up there

1 comment:

  1. Some more great pics!

    Gotta admire the madness of them Kiwi's trying to climb up there! I assume they made it okay and was no reports of injuries or anything on local news! Braver than I am as wouldn't even think of trying it! :o)