Lake Wainamu, Waitakere Ranges- Auckland

I’m not a New Zealander. I’ve spent enough time here to grasp some of it’s quirks though, and having a Kiwi partner for many years has meant that I’m lucky enough to now live here and have visited multiple times in the past. I’ve seen a lot of the country and walked through spectacular scenery. One thing that never gets old for me, though, is the sheer quantity and diversity of the landscapes within this cluster of islands in the South Pacific. Nature seems to be on steroids in this part of the world. You don’t have to travel for long before you’re confronted with some sort of mountain, gorge, volcano, beach, lake, cove, glacier, fiord, hot spring or waterfall. My recent trip to a popular and relatively local walk recently reminded me of this.

Although much of the walking tracks west of Auckland are closed due to Kauri Dieback, I thought that I’d still make the most of the tracks that are still open. One such track that has remained open is Lake Wainamu. Less than 40 mins from Auckland CBD, it was an obvious choice for a relaxed day walk.

A real contrasting landscape of different textures and colours. It would be the second time I’d visited the Lake- the first time nearly 5 years ago. I remembered the expanse of black sand dunes and impressive lake, but at the time I didn’t know about the track that skirts the edge of the water. So, Elishea and I would do the route that would take us over sand dunes and around the lake’s edge.

Piwakawaka (Fantail) introducing us to the area

Parking at the car park on Bethells Road, we were pleased to see spaces and that the walk would be relatively quiet. From the car park, we followed the stream for a short while before beginning the section across the dunes.

These dunes are seriously big. Created over the last 4500 years, they have gradually hemmed in a series of lakes, of which Wainamu is one. It’s an interesting landscape that you don’t come across everyday. In the centre of these dunes you’d be excused for thinking you were in a desert. They have the rolling wave-like look of the arabian deserts in films. Although, once we made our way over the crest of a large dune, the lake came into view. The stark black sand is in complete contrast with the other sides of the water. All around the lake is a vivid green, made up of nikau palm, kanuka and manuka bushes, while the direction from which we came is void of colour.

Once we’d walked to the lake’s shore, we began the track that leads around it’s edge. It’s a nice and easy amble along a fairly well maintained path. Every now and then, glimpses of the lake are framed by foliage.

I was expecting the rest of the walk to be similar until we reached the sand dunes again. But, because this is New Zealand, the walk would have another trick up it’s sleeve. Once we arrived at the opposite end of the lake, we were greeted to a waterfall that I hadn’t clocked on the map. Waitohi falls is a series of cascades, that after much rain I can imagine are quite impressive. Our visit, being after a particularly dry spell, meant the falls were modest, yet still relaxing and a lovely quiet spot to stop for a while.

Overlooking the falls is a Maori pou- a beautifully carved post that portrays the ancestor Kowhatukiteuru. Kowhatukiteuru was a skilled pa (fort) builder, who belonged to the Te Kawerau a Maki, the iwi of this area. He built some of the last remaining examples stone pa that sit above Lake Wainamu.

We ate our lunch in the good company of Kowhatukiteuru overlooking the falls. With lighter backpacks we said farewell and continued our circumnavigation of Wainamu. More manuka and fragrant kanuka trees were lining the sides of the path back to the dunes.

Once we approached the dunes we could see them from a different angle. No longer on top of them, from this perspective, walking towards them was like heading towards a giant tsunami of sand. A wave frozen in time just before it breaks.

Back at the dunes edge, with the wall of sand towering over us, we decided to follow the river back to the car instead of heading up and over. What a good decision it was. Following the river really accentuates the contrasting colours and textures that sit side by side. The river creates the border where sand stops, and grass and trees begin. On our left, a formidable wall of sand. On our right, a small farm surrounded by bush. To the left sand. To the right green. The only thing separating them, the small river bed we walked along.

It’s not long before the river led us back to where we began our walk. A walk of contrasts, colours, history and natural beauty. A walk where elements meet and make vivid distinctions. A walk that surely could only be done in Aotearoa.

On Foot

Route

Map Used: NZTopo50-BA30 Helensville

History of the Te Kawerau a Maki Iwi

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Goldie Bush Walkway and Mokoroa Stream Track- Waitakere Ranges, Auckland

A waterfall is a bit of a staple for a walk in NZ. With over 280 named waterfalls and rapids, it’s hard to pick a walk that doesn’t come across some form of tumbling H2O. Luckily, living in Auckland, there are quite a few just within an hours drive- some even in the city! It may rain a wee bit in NZ, but it has it’s up sides.

A waterfall that I’d yet to visit was Mokoroa Falls. At the Northern edge of the Waitakere Ranges, this waterfall and track (unlike many of its neighbours), was open after a closure period due to Kauri Dieback. DoC (Department of Conservation), who manage the Goldie Bush Scenic Reserve in which the falls sits, have reopened it after they improved the tracks to stop the spread of the disease.

Beautiful Koru

The plan was, for myself and my partner (Elishea), to head to the Goldie Bush Car Park, then take the Goldie Bush Walkway and the Mokoroa Stream Track to the waterfall. Then, just a short ramble along the Mokoroa Falls Track back to the car. It looked to be a fairly short, but varied route. 6 km in total. It turned out to be constantly interesting, engaging and beautiful.

From the car park, the work that DoC have done in the area is evident. An extensive Kauri Dieback cleaning station and lots of information for visitors to learn about their role in preventing the spread. After cleaning our boots, Elishea and I began walking down a shaded and well laid track. On such a hot day, we were grateful for the cover of the bush from the sun. A real diverse and interesting mix of plant life passed by as we walked.

Rimu and kauri trees gave way to nikau and ponga, and then back again. Every now and then, there were stick insects making their way across the track in their awkward and comical way. It was just great to see and hear a place so alive. Tuis called above in the canopy, but barely audible over the deafening cicadas.

Before long, we’d come to the end of our section on the Goldie Bush Walkway and were ready to switch to the Mokoroa Stream Track instead. To signal this change, there was another NZ staple. The swingbridge. Suspended high over the Mokoroa Stream, we made our way across and down to the stream and began heading almost back on ourselves. The swingbridge is always a great addition to any walk. It gives you an excuse to stop for a while and a platform to take it all in from. Also, being above the canopy, a different and higher perspective too.

So, after the swingbridge we dropped down to the stream, where we would follow it upstream to Mokoroa Falls. The track is easily followed, but you do need to keep an eye out for the orange markers that point where to go next. As with any walking track, there are places where people have either taken a wrong turn, or tried a short-cut. These all leave their trace and it’s important to not make the same mistake as others and look ahead to where the orange markers are.

There are a couple of things to mention about this track. One, you are most definitely going to get your feet wet! The track crosses the stream many times on the way to the waterfall and try as you might, you’re not going to make it all the way without getting soggy toes. That being said, it’s advised not to do the track after periods of heavy rain as the stream may be too fast flowing. The final thing is that the track does require a good level of fitness. There are small scrambles up and slippery rocks to manoeuvre. DoC describe it as an ‘Experienced tramper’s track’, so just be sensible.

After many crossings of the stream, seeing a kingfisher or two and some stunningly serene pools, we arrived at Mokoroa Falls. Not just a dribble, this is beautiful cascade measures nearly 11m high. Although we’d had some very dry weather just recently, it was still quite a sight.

A great place to stop, have some lunch and empty some of the stream out of our boots. Ahead of us was still a short walk back to the car which involved climbing a set of steps up to a viewing platform.

A lone shag that was feeding in the pool below the falls

Fueled up and ready for the last leg, we ascended the steps to the platform. From the edge of the viewing platform the view was even more impressive. It showed the lush valley in which the stream sits and the full extent of the falls. Eventually though, we had to tear ourselves from this watery scene and make our way along the Mokoroa Falls Track, back to the car.

It was a short amble back to the car from the falls. I can honestly say, I didn’t want it to end. It was one of the most diverse, engaging and exciting walks I’d been on in a long time. A real feast for the senses. For a hot day, I can’t think of a better walk than the one we did. Shaded by bush while cooling off in the stream. Also, with a waterfall, swingbridge, a few scrambles and a bundle of wildlife- all in under 7 km!

All of this, only 38 mins from our front door in Auckland City. The Waitakere Ranges have done it again. Auckland’s wild west proving that you don’t have to go too far to get in touch with nature or have a little adventure.

On Foot Note

Map Used: NZtopo50- BA30- Helensville

Route

DoC Track Update
Goldie Bush Walkway
Mokoroa Stream Track

Kauri Dieback Information