“To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miracles”
It’s not until you take a walk through the ancient Kauri forest that you’ll understand what gratitude means for you. I’ve been on many tracks in the Waitakere Ranges but this one is special, it wakes me up.
Kauri trees are the home for New Zealand’s native bat, native orchids and the epiphytic plants (hitch-hikers) that hang from the branches. Its own diverse ecosystem is happening right in front of us, yet we often don’t notice when walking.
It breaks my heart to know that Kauri trees are in danger of extinction due to dieback disease. A tiny spore in the dirt can kill these giants and we can stop spreading by cleaning our boots at each wash station. I really wish people would take the time to understand conservation and why it’s so important to us as a human race.
Upper Kauri Track starts at the end of Falls Road and heads up through the Kauri Forest. This tree is dying so I give it a hug and say I’m sorry. It’s a steady incline most of the way with many places to enjoy the views and listen to the birdsong.
I take my time in this area, its a place to reflect I guess.
To Māori, kauri are kings of the forest and a taonga (treasure) that connects them and their spiritual world, via the following process: In the beginning, out of nothingness Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatūānuku (the Earth mother) were created. Rangi and Papa clung together, trapping the children they had made in a land of darkness. The strongest child Tāne mahuta (the god of the forests and creator of the forest creatures) pushed his parents apart to bring light to the land and allow his children to flourish. The Te Roroa iwi, whose rohe includes the Waipoua Forest, believe Tane’s legs were the giant trunks of kauri. (1)
The Kauri had various uses for Maori;
On special occasions, the giant trunks of kauri were used to carve out large waka taua (sea/war canoes) Kauri gum also had many valuable functions. It was burned as an insecticide in kumara plots, wrapped in flax to make torches for night-fishing and used as a chewing gum (kāpia). Kauri resin was also burnt and mixed with fat to create the ink for the moko (facial tattoos) of rangatira. (2)
Boardwalks have been laid out to protect the Kauri roots. You’ll see an abundance of native trees such as Totara, Kahikatea and Rimu. The Tuis and Bellbirds are very vocal first thing in the morning, the Kereru are often sitting in the trees above. In several places, the Rangers have placed information boards about the birds, trees and the settlers. They are interesting to read, this is where I learned that we have a native bat and they eat mosquitos. Need more bats, save more trees.
There is a main junction about 1hr from the start and if you have some extra energy and time I suggest taking a detour along Sisam Track. Its more for the hardier hikers if you don’t mind getting your feet muddy and climbing steeper sections, you will be rewarded with beautiful bush scenery.
I love this part of the track, it’s more rugged. After an hour or so I arrived at the main track junction and head down Fence Line Track. An easy walk all the way to the Waitakere Dam.
This is one of Auckland’s water supplies, I don’t think some people in the city realise their water comes from a natural rainforest. (Although the water does go through a treatment plant).
I’ve sometimes come out here in heavy rain just to watch the water pour over this waterfall.
There are various track options, you can continue on through Fenceline Track which will take you on a pleasant walk all the way back to the car park. I suggest taking the Waitakere Tramline Track and Anderson Track.
The tramline track is flat and there are often Kereru sitting in the Cabbage Trees. Up until recently there was a little train that took people along here, but that was before I arrived into Auckland. I love walking but a train wouldv’e been a great way to view the ranges.
There is a short tunnel to go through, you can use a phone torch if you need to. Or take your own torch to see what’s living in the dark.
From here I turn left onto Anderson Track and follow it all the way back to Auckland City Walk. There is one stream crossing and if it’s been raining you will need to get your feet wet. This will take you back to the car park.
Overall, I’ve walked through this area many times now and it’s very special. The ancient Kauri forest, the wildlife and just getting outdoors is worth it.
Time: Varies depending on which track you do. The track I recommend below is approx 4-5hrs. If you cut out Waitakere Tramline and continue through Fenceline it will take about 2.5hrs.
Difficulty: Mostly this is easy but if you add in Sisam you will need a good level of fitness. It also takes a while to do the loop so ensure you have lunch and water!
View Ranger Download: http://my.viewranger.com/route/details/NTQwOTE=
Other tracks in the Waitakere Ranges:
(1,2) Reference to Maori stories and Kauri dieback disease: https://www.kauridieback.co.nz/