Latest Posts

Tom Thumb Bluffs

Huia Tracks – Fletcher, Karamatura, Tom Thumb

It had rained heavily in the last 3 days making the tracks rough. Fletcher adds a bit more, it climbs up a steep spur then onto a ridge following the bluffs to Don McLean Track.  I’m following Fletcher – Karamatura – Tom Thumb Tracks in Huia.

The start of Fletcher Track

The start of Fletcher Track

The first section is a steep climb, moving quickly towards the ridge.  The rain had washed debris down the hill, completely disguising the track. I followed the markers for a good part of this ascent.

Fletcher Track.

Following the ridge on Fletcher Track.

It’s not a well-worn track, maybe in the summer but I’m walking in winter and I don’t expect to see anyone.  I do know that there is one other person is on the track because I could see his tracks (I knew he was male because of his boot size, bush skills I learnt from my father finally come into play).  I did catch up with him later, he’s from the South Island and needed some time out in the bush.  I related to this very well.

The track skims along the other side of the bluffs

The track skims along the other side of the bluffs

I reached the ridge and it ascends gently up along the bluffs.  Every now and then you’ll see Huia and Manukau Habour.  Closer to the top of the bluffs the track leads to the left into the thicker native bush, this is where I saw the Miromiro (Tom Tit).

Tomtit on log

Miromiro (Tomtit) photo by Department of Conservation NZ

No matter how many times I tried to take a photo, I couldn’t get a steady shot.  Thanks to DOC images I can show you what they look like.  I love them because they are like the fantail, darting in and out of the trees keeping a safe distance but enough to make me follow them.  This was a beautiful section, walking to the end of Fletcher and onto Don McLean.  All up this took about an hour and a half to reach the top.

Karamatura Forks

Karamatura Forks

Don McLean is an easy walk to the Karamatura Forks.  I’ve been at this intersection many times before coming from other directions.  Even though there are no views, it’s a great place to stop for the peaceful sounds of the local wildlife.  I headed down Karamatura Track which is part of the Hillary Trail.  It starts off with a nice easy descend then drops steeply.

Karamatura Waterfall

Karamatura Waterfall

The Karamatura Track continues down towards Huia, take the 2-minute side track to see the waterfalls.  There are a few waterfalls along the track to admire.  The heavy rain hadn’t turned the waterfall into a raging torrent, it had dropped considerably.  I was the only person here for some time before I crossed the stream and moved on to Tom Thumb Track.

Tom Thumb Track

Tom Thumb Track

I really enjoyed this track, its another track that isn’t well worn and the flora and fauna is untouched.  I heard the pigs and could see where they’d been digging for grubs.  I’ve never come across a pig in the Waitakere’s Rangers but I do hear them.  To the top of this track, it takes about 40 minutes on gentle ascend.

Tom Thumb Kauri

Tom Thumb Kauri

This is where I had lunch, under Tom Thumb’s Kaui.  It’s a great place to stop and listen to the noises in the bush.   After lunch, I returned to Karamatura track and out to the car park.  I really enjoyed this track for the challenge and the flora and fauna along the way.

Fletcher Karamatura Tom Thumb


Follow my ViewRanger app to download the track

Time: 4-5 hours (Winter)

Distance 9.7km

Difficulty: Medium/Hard

Surface: Rough, muddy, steep with one stream crossing

If you have any questions about this track, please let me know I’m happy to help.


Happy Hiking





A 2am arrival at the woolshed to have our blisters looked at.

How to get through the 100km Oxfam Challenge

Oxfam beach

My team and I walking the 19km leg along the beach.

For years I’d wanted to enter the Oxfam Challenge, not just for charity (because that in itself is a big motivator) but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.  I’m not unfit, nor am I very fit.  However, 100 km’s is a long way and I didn’t have anyone to do it with until one of my friends had to pull out of the event and I happily signed up.  I had three great team members who were encouraging, considerate and they’d all done this before.  I was the newbie.

About 5 minutes before the siren went off at the start line.

About 5 minutes before the siren went off at the start line.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep before the race, I was too excited and I wanted to be sick. Knowing that your going to be walk for the next 30 hours is daunting.  I’d gone over the route so many times in my head.  I’d learnt every part of the track, the altitude and the different terrain.  I studied the weather and knew that it was going to be humid (uncomfortable) and possibly rain.  Rain I can handle, I live in Auckland.  I prepped my own vegetarian meals, I had the exact protein/carbs/fat portions to give to my support crew.  I read every blog I could find on ‘Oxfam trailwalkers experiences’, some were funny and some scared me.

Oxfam Trailwalker 100km Track

Oxfam Trailwalker 100km Track

The worst leg of the challenge was the 19 km’s of beach (flat).  It was hot, humid and I hated it.  Give me a hill any day.  The checkpoints are a welcome site, in theory 30-60 minutes is a long time to be at a checkpoint but in reality it goes too quick. We had to eat, rest, replenish stocks, change dressings and prep the mind for the next leg.


Arriving at the halfway mark checkpoint, it felt good!

I really enjoyed the night walking.  It was cooler and exciting, I had no problem walking all night but after the 85 km mark I got blisters and they were painful.  I wanted to walk bare feet but the ground was too rough on my already delicate feet.  I’ve since found the best tape for blisters (see ‘blister’ tips below).


A 2am arrival at the woolshed to have our blisters looked at.

Our team expected to come in at 28 hours. We crossed the finish line in – 25 hours and 40 mins. Most of this challenge is in the head, and for me that was the last 15 km.  I had plenty of energy for the first 85 km even with the sun, sore knees and not enough rest I still had energy and I wanted to finish.

Oxfam finish line

Oxfam finish line 25 hours and 40 minutes.

I’m now going through the process of signing up for the 2018 Oxfam.  Here are some things that I’ve learnt from my very first Oxfam Trail Challenge.

(1) Support Crew

We didn’t organise our support crew until the last minute, don’t do this.  Our support team came from my team mates parents but hindsight we should have worked on this the moment we signed up for the challenge.  Their friends came along to help out too and they were great.  Your support team will be with your for the entire time, meaning they won’t sleep either (naps only).  They need to listen to your pain, they feed you and they support you.  Find your support crew and include them in everything including the training.  Please look after them.

(2) Training

Do not skimp on the training, start now and make sure you have different types of terrain. Mud, sand, gravel, grass, dirt, hills, streets etc.  The Oxfam page has loads of training guides to download.  Work out what you are capable of and pin it up on your wall.  I usually have 1-2 rest days a week, I find the light walking is gentle enough to call a rest day.

  • Monday – Walk 10km – fast walk different terrain, set your timer
  • Tuesday – Strength training at the gym (quads, hamstrings, calves)
  • Wednesday – light walk/Rest
  • Thursday – Walk 10km – big hills make sure your heart rate is elevated
  • Friday – Strength training at the gym (upper)
  • Saturday – Hiking 15km plus – find tracks and push yourself to the limit
  • Sunday – Yoga/Rest

Ease up on your training a month before the event or you will be too exhausted.  The last week before the event I did no training at all.  It was difficult to do this but I’m glad I did because by the time I got to the start line my body was ready.

(3) Nutrition – training

I’m a vegetarian, I eat really healthy and it helped.  The food I eat is non-processed and organic where I can.  Non-processed to me is anything natural or check the labels and it needs to have less than three ingredients.  I do go through stages of wanting junk food, which for me is usually cheese and crackers.  Cut the junk where you can and focus on nutritious food only.  Your body will thank you.

(4) Nutrition – 3 days before the event

I carb loaded 3 days before the event, I ate so much.  I drank loads of water too, and I mean loads of water.

(5) Nutrition – during the challenge 

I’d lost my appetite during the challenge, I’m not sure why.  Might have been adrenaline or maybe it had something to do with the large amounts of carbs I’d been eating the few days before.  At every checkpoint I did make sure I ate something.  I never ate while we were walking.

I didn’t go near sugar foods, I packed my own but our amazing support team made great protein and carb packed foods too.  We ate healthy sandwich bread with eggs and veges. Plenty of fruit and nuts.

(6) Blisters

Since walking the Oxfam 100km I’ve found a tape that is the bomb, its called Flixomull Stretch.  You can get it in supermarkets or chemist and in NZ its about $7-$11 a box.  It acts like another skin and doesn’t cause friction like other tapes.  I had to learn the hard way, after 85km I was down to raw skin.  This tape would have saved my skin and I spent about 2 months after the event fixing up my feet!


(7) Correct Shoes and Toe Nails

Even if you clip your toe nails you will still have a problem if you have the wrong shoes.  I have really good hiking shoes but my problem was not clipping my nails enough.  I wasn’t ruthless and the result was my toenail lifted and pushed back into the bone.  I ended up with an infected toe and almost resulted in plastic surgery.  My advise would be to wrap your most prone toes with the Fixomull tape.

(8) Vision

Doubt will go through your mind but always visualise you crossing the finish line, read the details and listen to previous entrants.  Then work out what you are going to do and mentally see yourself on each section.  I hated the beach section and knew it was going to be the worst for me but I still visualised getting through this part.

(9) Listen to your team

This is something I’m working on.  There are three others in the team and all are at different stages throughout the event.  We all go through moments when we want to quit and some people show this differently.  I’m that person that won’t say anything and will deal with those feelings internally.  Some people don’t, they will tell you how they feel.  Listen and encourage.  As I say, I’m still working on this.  It’s my weakness.



Feel free to add your experiences in the comments.


Karekare Waterfall

Mt Zion, the wetlands + a spectacular waterfall.

This loop track is another favourite of mine, the landscape changes along the way and the wetlands are filled with interesting birds.  It takes about 3-4 hours including stops to admire the west coast views.  The waterfall is near the car park and only takes a few minutes to reach. It’s definitely worth seeing but I like to leave it for the end of my hike.

Track details below. 

Karekare views from Zion Hill Track

Karekare views from Zion Hill Track

The track starts at the Karekare car park and I suggest starting early, every time I’ve returned from this hike the carpark is full and people are waiting for others to leave.  Early is 8-9am, any later and you’ll be looking for parks.

Zion Hill is a steady climb with some fantastic views. Keep an eye out for a well-worn track on the right half way up, there is a seat overlooking the coast.

Zion Hill track looking to Whatipu

Zion Hill track looking to Whatipu

Every now and then you’ll spot more well-worn tracks, check them out because often they will lead to something interesting.  The picture above shows the view out to Whatipu and the Pararaha Wetlands, the little hill on the flats is where I’m heading.

Zion Hill Track Waitakere Ranges

Mt Zion Junction

At Mt Zion Junction, you can turn left onto Zion Ridge Track.  This will take you to Buck Taylor Track and loop back up with this track or if you want a big hike then I suggest going Zion Ridge Track, Odlin Timber Track and Walker Ridge Track.  This time, I continue along Zion Hill Track.

Karekare track

Walking along Zion Hill Track

It’s a nice walk along Zion Hill Track, muddy but that’s just part of hiking.  In the summer this track is mostly dry.  There are views along the way and different types of bush to walk through.

Pararaha Stream

Pararaha Stream

There is one stream crossing and although it rains a lot I’ve never had trouble getting across. When reaching Buck Taylor track, I turned right down onto a short steep decent but nothing too difficult.  This will take you to the Wetlands.

Pararaha Wetlands

Pararaha Wetlands

I find this area really interesting, I’ve seen so many different birds here and I’m trying to figure out who’s who.  Every time I wished I’d taken a bird book.  At the junction you can continue along the track to the shelter further up, approx 10mins.  I turn right and head out along the wetlands to my favourite spot on this track.

Pararaha Wetlands relaxing

Pararaha Wetlands relaxing

If you lie here and observe, you’ll see many birds swim/fly past.  Its nice and warm and comfy right here.  I’m just off the track a bit so no one ever know’s I’m sitting here.

After I ponder some thoughts I head off along the sand dunes.  It takes about 10mins to reach the next interesting stop.  Tunnel Point Campsite.


It’s a nice campsite within easy walking distance from Karekare car park.  Maximum people up to 20 and to you can stay for 7 days if you wanted to.  It cost $8 a night, it has a toilet, a picnic table and it’s sheltered.  It’s also on the main Hillary Trail so I guess it could get quiet busy at peak times.


From here you follow the old tramway tunnel and track back to the sand dunes.

Pohutukawa Track

Pohutukawa Track

Follow the hillside and turn off along Pohutukawa track until you reach the tar-sealed road, turn right and follow the sign to the waterfall.

Karekare Waterfall

Karekare Waterfall

The Karekare waterfall is only a couple of minutes along the track, there are other little waterfalls to explore but this one is the most impressive.  The area is popular in the summer and great for swimming in.

Overall: An easy hike with many views along the way.

Track details:

Time: 3-4hrs including stops

Distance: 8km

View Ranger Download:


Pararaha Map

Pararaha Map including side detour to Karekare waterfall.

Other tracks in this area:

Walking amongst the giant Kauri

The highest point in the Waitakere Ranges

Lake Wainamu and a Putangitangi Duck.

Huia Tracks – Fletcher, Karamatura, Tom Thumb

Foraging in the Waitakere Rainforest

Happy Hiking



Waitakere Ranges Kauri Tree

Walking amongst the giant Kauri

“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.

Learn more about Kauri Dieback Disease

Cascades Montana Track Kauri Tree

This tree is dying, I give it a hug and say I’m sorry.

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.

Waitakere Ranges Kauri Tree

Admiring the Kauri along the Cascades track.

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)

Kauri Trees Waitakere Ranges

Gazing up and admiring the younger Kauri.

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)

Waitakere Tracks Cascades

Boardwalks to protect the Kauri

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.

Sisam Track

Mist passing through.

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.

Waitakere Dam Side

From the hills above I walk out into sunshine and not a cloud in the sky

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).

Waitakere Dam Waterfall

Waitakere Dam Waterfall

I’ve sometimes come out here in heavy rain just to watch the water pour over this waterfall.

Waitakere Dam Waterfall rain

During heavy rain at the overflow

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.

Waitakere Tramline Track

Waitakere Tramline 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.

Waitakere Tramline Track Tunnel

Tramline tunnel

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.

Waitakere Tramline Track unused tunnel

An unused tunnel at the end of Waitakere Tramline track.

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.

Track Details:

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.

Length: 13km

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:


Cascades Map

Cascades Map


Other tracks in the Waitakere Ranges:

The highest point in the Waitakere Ranges

Lake Wainamu and a Putangitangi Duck.

Foraging in the Waitakere Rainforest

Huia Tracks – Fletcher, Karamatura, Tom Thumb

Happy hiking,


(1,2) Reference to Maori stories and Kauri dieback disease:


Goat Hill Lookout Track

The highest point in the Waitakere Ranges

The challenge isn’t the height of this point, the challenge is how to get to this point.  It’s a damp rainforest with muddy tracks and often very steep terrain.  There are three ways to get here and we opted for the long way, 12.6km.  Refer to map details below.  

Te Toiokawharu Peak

Te Toiokawharu Peak

We started the track at 9am from the Karamatura Car Park in Huia (approx 40mins out of Auckland city).  There are several tracks leaving from here and they all take you up the hill.

Karamatura Waterfall

Karamatura Waterfall

Karamatura Track starts off nice and easy with a gentle incline to the popular waterfall, although this morning there was no one here.  From here it’s a steep climb most of the way up to the junction where it flattens out, slightly.

Karamatura Track Overgrown Walk

Karamatura Track Overgrown Walk

Trees have fallen onto the track and in some places, they have continued to flourish where they land. Mostly, we are hurling ourselves over or under trees.

Huia Track

Huia Track

At the junction, we head north along Huia Ridge Track.  It starts off pleasant but doesn’t take long before we’re in mud and skimming along the edges of the track trying to find sturdy ground.  It’s not that we are afraid of mud, it’s deep and we don’t fancy losing a boot to the mud.

We were so focused on where to put our feet that we often forgot to look up. At one stage I felt close to being knocked out I hit the branch hard.  Sunglasses are not a good place on your hat through here.

Twin Peaks Mud Track

Twin Peaks Mud Track

From Huia Track we turned onto Twin Peaks Track.  The track doesn’t get any better, it would have been the toughest part of the entire loop.  We have two peaks to climb and the first one is the highest.

Highest Point in the Waitakere Ranges

Highest Point in the Waitakere Ranges

It was a welcome sight to see this sign at the highest point, even though we know we are half way and still have a hard slog in front of us.  To note, my GPS says we are at 474 metres. It’s a small but significant note to point out.  After taking an evidence photo that we made it we head off down the hill and head to the other peak, then down again.

Tom Thumb Kauri

Tom Thumb Kauri

We reach the giant Kauri Tree and know we don’t have far to go.  For our lunch, we decided to walk up to Goat Hill Lookout.  Now had we’d know how steep this was we probably would have stayed at the Kauri Tree for lunch.

Goat Hill Lookout Track

Goat Hill Lookout Track

The steep walk to the top was made worse with hunger.  However it doesn’t take long, we reached a little grass clearing and views right out across Huia and to Auckland.  The sun was casting the perfect amount of rays and the wind was swirling around above us, it was the perfect place for resting and eating.

Tom Thumb Track stream crossing

Tom Thumb Track stream crossing

After refuelling, we head off down Tom Thumb track.  This was a lot muddier than when I was here last, it slowed us down but at least it was a steady descent down to the stream crossing.  From this part, it was an easy walk all the way back to the carpark.  We didn’t see anyone or any marks of other people on this track, it was a great feeling knowing we were the only ones way up in the hills.

Overall, this is a great track with great scenery and we are happy we did it. It took us 6hrs and we are fit hikers.

Track Details:

Distance: 12.6km

Time: 6hrs (Clockwise)


Te Toiokawharu Map

Te Toiokawharu Map

Other tracks in this area: 

Huia Tracks – Fletcher, Karamatura, Tom Thumb

Omanawanui – Gibbons Track – Walker Ridge Tracks

Huia Dam to Upper Nihotupu Dam

Happy Hiking,



Lake Wainamu and a Putangitangi Duck.

It’s hard to find a flat track in the Waitakere Ranges but this one is a delight if you’re looking for an easy walk and in my case, a rare encounter with a Putangitangi Duck.

Lake Wainamu Sand Dunes

Lake Wainamu sand dunes I walked over.

The track starts off following the stream for a few minutes until you reach the sand dunes. I head up and over but if you’d rather not attempt the dunes you can continue following the stream and walk the track clockwise.  I went anti-clockwise.

Lake Wainamu Old Wharf

Looking back to the sand dunes.

The track at the lake takes you into the open bush where you can see views back to the sand dunes.  There is an abundance of Kereru along the track, you can hear them snapping branches, a sign that they are eating well.

Further along the track I came across large Macrocarpa trees, I thought this would be a great place to take photos.  As I was setting up the GoPro, a Putangitangi Duck waddles past the camera and down to me.  At first, I thought I was near her nest but she was only interested in hanging out with me.

Lake Wainamu Putangitangi duck on track

My new hiking friend

We took some shots together and I have to say she’s very patient.  At one stage I was taking so long to set up my shot she started drifting off to sleep.

Lake Wainamu with Putangitangi Duck

Some small discussions and a couple of photos with the giant trees.

After taking my pics we walked along the track together for at least half an hour before she flew off.  I thought that would be the end of my wildlife experience so I continued along the track enjoying the scenery.

Towards the top of the lake, there is a turn off called Houghton’s Track, this will take you to the top of the hill and beyond if you wanted to.  It’s part of the 77km Hilary Trail.  I decided to take it casually and enjoy the flat for today.  At the top end of the track, I came across several waterfalls.

Lake Wainamu Waterfall

The first waterfall of several.

I was sitting up on the hillside enjoying the views and along comes my friend, I was really happy to see her.

Lake Wainamu Track and Putangitangi Duck

As I sit watching the water, my mate fly’s in.

She follows me most of the way back, walking and flying.

The track was easy from here back to the sand dunes, it is part of the Hilary Track so it’s been well maintained.

Lake Wainamu Track

Walking along the lakeside.

I didn’t mind the rain at all, I’ve always enjoyed hiking in it.  I guess if you have the right gear you don’t really notice it unless it’s raining sideways and temperatures are low.  Rain brings out beautiful sights to capture and it keeps most people indoors so the tracks are relatively quiet.  Sometimes I don’t see anyone on tracks in the rain.

Lake Wainamu Track wharf

Talking about the environmental impact humans have on our planet, climate change and the importance of conservation … she totally gets it and wants to see a change!

A few years ago I had a pet Putangitangi duck called Ernie.  He was so cool, our family loved having him around.  These birds are stunning to see in the wild but to have them up close and follow you is an amazing experience.

Lake Wainamu Track and Putangitangi Duck

It was time to say goodbye to my hiking friend.

You never know what you’ll see when hiking, every time I go outdoors I encounter something beautiful.

Track details: 

Download this track:

Approx 3hrs loop


Car Parking on Bethells Road, very popular during the warmer months so get there early to secure a park.  There are more parks across the road on the Te Henga Track.

Lake Wainamu Track Map

Enjoy and stay safe,


Foraging in the Waitakere Rainforest

I’m taking friends out on a guided hike today, they are keen to explore the Waitakere rainforest and I’m keen to show them how bountiful the bush can be if you know what you’re looking for.  We are hiking the Upper Huia Dam Track

Upper Huia Dam

Negotiating through the mud, branches and flora.

It’s been raining heavily the last few days, the track is rougher than usual.  We look like ballerina’s leaping through the bush, or maybe we look like monkeys swinging from branches trying not to get our boots stuck in the mud.   Above us we can hear the Tui singing and a Kereru watching us plot our way through the mud.  The Miromiro ahead of us darts back and forward guiding us along the track.

Upper Huia Dam

A sisters helping hand

It’s an advanced walk, even if you are fit it can still be challenging.  I met two groups of people turning back warning me that the track is too difficult and muddy.  This is true if you are unfamiliar with the Waitakere Ranges, some of these tracks will put many people off.  It’s not a track for sneakers, you need hiking boots, a rain coat, warm jacket and a change of clothes.  As one woman wrote in another blog, ‘this track is not for the faint-hearted’. We continue down the tack and I’m in search of some ‘tasty treats’.

Edible Kareao - Supplejack

Edible Kareao – Supplejack snack

I’m picking the Kareao (Supplejack) within arms reach of the track.  I watch my friends reaction as they eat these for the first time.  To their surprise, this brown furry stick is rather delicious. The taste is between a freshly picked cucumber and edamame beans.  A warning: I read an article about a guy who thought he was eating the young shoots of Supplejack but he was eating Tutu.  Tutu is deadly, he’s lucky to be telling the story today.  Only eat them if you can identify Supplejack.

Edible Supplejack Berry

Edible Kareao Berry

As we walk along the track I spot some Kareao berries on the ground, we look up and there’s a bountiful supply of red berries also in arms reach.  We each try the berries and I’m keen to hear what the judges think.  As expected, the presentation is enticing but unfortunately the looks don’t match the taste, they are very bland.  Recently I’ve been studying the benefits of plants in the bush and these do contain crude protein.  The seeds can also be eaten and contain fatty acid, which could be good in a survival situation.  I suspect you’d need to each large amounts of these to reach your protien and fat goals.

Upper Huia Dam Fungi

One of the many types of fungi on the track

I’ve never seen so many different fungi on a track.  How they manage to cling onto the log as people clamber over is outstanding, although I’m sure many are knocked to the ground accidentally. I’ve only identified one mushroom that I know is safe to eat in the bush, Ear Fungus. It looks worse than it sounds. This is my go to book when out hiking in NZ: A Field Guide to the Native Edible Plants of New Zealand, Andrew Crowe. 

Upper Huia Dam Track

Track flattens off for a while

We are so busy foraging that it may have taken an hour to come down the hill. After crossing a couple of streams the track flattens off and the mud turns to solid ground.  On either side of the track the flora changes to fresh edible ferns.

Edible Hen and Chicken Fern

Edible Hen and Chicken Fern

I pick a few shoots of the Hen and Chicken fern. It has a fresh celery taste and you’d need to eat in large amounts to get your nutrition but for now, I add a few shoots to my sandwich.  Hounds Tongue is everywhere too, its stringy to eat raw but nicer steamed.

Upper Huia Dam Cave

A cave on the side of the track

To the left of the track there is a small cave, a great reprieve for the animals during the storm.  There are sleepers at the entrance suggesting the people who made the dam were using this cave.

Upper Huia Dam Stream Crossing

Stream crossing

There are a few streams to cross and one which takes a bit more to navigate if the water is up.  The rocks are slippery and worse if they are slightly under water.  A solid walking stick is good for keeping your balance.  In the summer the water flows clear and it’s a nice place to stop.

Upper Huia Dam

Upper Huia Dam

For nearly two hours we’re in the bush knowing that the dam is on our right.  Every now and then we could see glimpses of it.   Finally we reach the dam, its a welcome sight and a great place to rest up before we make our return.

Upper Huia Dam Track

The Details:

Download the route on my ViewRanger:

Distance: 11km Return

Time: 3-4 hours

Surface: Very Rough, Muddy

When people ask me to take them into the Waitakere Rainforest, I always choose this one.  If you know what to look for, it’s an edible forest within arms reach.

Happy Hiking


Fresh water sharks and volcanoes – Nicaragua

Our plan was to enter through Panama and exit from Mexico travelling through Nicaragua, with $300USD.  You become very creative when on a tight budget, a $9 room, a $10 ride on a truck and a bag of rice will do just fine.  You become more adventurous too, meeting people at hostels who can tell you of the beautiful places they’ve been and your confidence builds to a level you’ve never experienced before.  If you are on a tight budget, don’t let it bother you, get out of your comfort zone and travel freely.  What you see and the people you meet will be with you forever. 


By the time Amee and I arrived into Central America we were happy to do whatever came our way and that just happened to be Nicaragua.  Although its the second poorest country in the west – after Haiti, it should be on everyone’s list of places to go.  I’d like to return to Nicaragua and explore every part of it.


Crossing the border from Costa Rica takes a while but once border control are satisfied  your not smuggling drugs/weapons or people they douse you in insecticide to protect their country from a Chikungunya infestation. (Chikungunya is a mosquito transmitted disease similar to Dengue – there is no cure.) 

Back on the bus and 30 mins later we get off at Rivas.  We meet a young guy who offers to take us to San Juan Del Sur in his taxi (his car), its another 30 mins away.  You should be able to get a ride for as little as $4USD each way especially if the driver has found other people to pick up.


San Juan Del Sur is a well known surfing village not far from the Costa Rica border.  We’re not surfers but after travelling in the Andes, beach life was appealing. This is probably the first time in a while we are in an area that is predominantly western travellers; long haired surfers with perfect bodies and a number of sunburnt tourist on the beach.


We met a guy called Rob as we were looking for directions to the Naked Tiger, he’s from New Zealand (Picton).  He’s also the only kiwi we’d come across in weeks.   Each Sunday in San Juan Del Sur there is a backpackers party at The Naked Tiger. This should be on your list of places to go, I’m not even going to say why just make sure its on your list.  All three of us jumped on the back of a ute and went to the Naked Tiger.  I like how business is conducted in these areas, if you have a ute you have a business.

The next day was rest day.

Map close up label

Rob suggested we go to Ometepe Island… so we did.  Ometepe means two mountains,  (two volcanoes). On the main island, Volcán Concepción erupted in 2010, which was pretty violent but the inhabitants decided to stay.  The other island Maderas Volcano and is said to be dormant.  That is the where we went.


Getting to the island wouldn’t pass any New Zealand health and safety approval.  As we walked onto the boat I said to the guy we’d stay on the top deck (where its at least safer), he pushed us all down to the lower deck… then he shut the door.  It only cost $2 NZD so no need to complain.


This is what it looks like from the outside.


Nicaragua lake is fresh water… and there are sharks?  The officials of the lake think all of the sharks have been fished out of the lake though.  They also thought the shark was a unique fresh water shark but when they started tracking them they realised they were in fact a salt water shark, swimming up the river to the lake.  A little disturbing but it didn’t stop me or the cows getting into the water to cool off.


Ometepe is a step back in time, although vehicles are on the island people still use horses to cart their goods.


Most of the locals on Ometepe Island don’t speak English, they smile a lot and are very friendly.


We didn’t go to the capital Managua, instead we opted to head straight for Leon.  This is where I went hiking up to the volcanoes and again we just enjoyed the laid back lifestyle.  Nicaragua really is a country worth visiting, next time I’d travel further but as we were passing through we only stopped in three places.


This horse was at the volcano, at first I was a little confused as to where his owner was… then I found him (the owner) later as the sun was going down.  He was sitting further around the mountain with a chilly bin selling beer… opportunist.


  1. Check out the Naked Tiger Hostel on Sundays
  2. Taxi drivers are often people with cars – there is no sign.
  3. A lot of the volcano’s are still active but worth the hike for the views and to see the volcano in action, up close
  4. While at Ometepe Island we stayed at El Caballito Del Mar – no air con but its cheap! The opening picture to this blog is the view from this hostel.

I hope to be back in Nicaragua very soon!


Sailing the Amazon River

Sailing the Amazon River – Peru to Columbia

The only reason we were sailing the Amazon river was because we missed our flight to Columbia then randomly met a Dutch man staying at our hostel who told us about the river.  I don’t even remember his name but I can see his face perfectly, he was an older man probably in his 60’s.  He was well travelled with many romantic stories about the women he’d encountered along the way.   He had lots of energy and was very white, its an odd comment I know.  If you’d seen the area we were staying in you’d see why it was strange to come across him.  I guess the universe wanted us to miss our flight, meet this one guy who insisted we sail up the Amazon river, cross the Columbian boarder and have a once in a lifetime experience… it was meant to be!

We said goodbye to our new Dutch friend and parted ways, we will probably never see him again.  Life is so bizarre sometimes.


There are many travel agents near Lima’s airport so we booked a cheapish flight to Iquitos for $110USD ($167NZD).  Iquitos is a large city in the jungle and its hot, a huge contrast from Lima.

We arrived late at night and finding a place wasn’t easy, we had to settle for a hotel $25USD ($38NZD).  It was 3 stars, most of our places were either 1 or 2 star… or no star.  3 star gets you a decent shower with fresh soap, in the unopened pack.   For a short moment we felt upper class.

We’d become friends with our taxi driver, he helped us find a hammock and took us to the boat dock.  There were several boats docked and we forgot which boat our Dutch friend told us to get on.  So we had to trust that our taxi driver was putting us on the right boat, it was a little scary because we didn’t know if we were being set up for something more sinister.


There are many things to consider while travelling, you have to quickly suss your surroundings and be decisive.   We were the only women at this stage and that was intimidating, there were no Gringos either.  But you can’t live in fear of the unknown so we agreed to board.  The Spanish men treated us well, the skipper and his crew looked after us.  Before the boat sailed more women arrived, and their children.  We were the only Gringos and loved it.


We paid 100s ($29USD – $44NZD) for a 3 day boat ride to Leticia – the boarder to Columbia.  We later found out we paid 10S more than others but hey that’s only $2.9USD extra we paid.  Our boat was called La Gran Loretana – it transports goods and livestock to villages on the river.  There are two decks for passengers where you can hang your hammock, first in first served.  Our taxi driver said to take the top level because its open so the breeze comes through.  He was right plus the view was amazing.


We were one of the first ones so we picked a good spot (two grey hammocks).  The skipper allowed us to put our backpacks in the crew cabin for safe keeping.  Food is supplied but the water is straight from the river so best you bring your own food.  Each port usually includes local opportunist selling their home cooked meals or chips etc.  There are toilets which were cleaned everyday.  You can’t flush paper down any toilet so it goes into a waste basket next to it, twice a day the cleaner throws this over board… into the river!


By the time we were sailing both upper and lower deck were filled with passengers and their hammocks.  At night more would come on and hammocks were strung up all over the place.  It became very cosy with strangers but we made friends with our closest neighbours.  Our light was left on at night and it attracted all of the Amazon’s bugs.  It wasn’t until the next night I asked the boson if he could switch it off and it turns out the light switch was on the light… I could have turned it off myself.   I had a good sleep, as the boat steams up the river all of the hammocks gently sway… often swaying us to sleep during the day too.


Its a slow journey, we stop many times and each time we experience life on the river.






Many of the village homes are on stilts for the rainy season.



Its disgusting how Coca Cola can distribute all of their sweets to these remote places and not be responsible for the pollution.   Fizzy and sweets being delivered to poorer communities.  They are uneducated about the destructive impact rubbish has on the planet.  I couldn’t believe how polluted the Amazon was, its filthy.  People throw anything into the river without knowing how much damage they are doing.  Big companies should take responsibilities.  The local governments should educate their people.  I could easily write about the impacts of western culture in remote Amazon areas.  This was the only downer on our journey, the rest of it was amazing


I watched these guys for ages, its a fax machine, retro!  It was stuck on the deck for at least an hour.  Although I’ve just been going on about western influence in these remote areas I did think a crane would have been handy for unloading.  But team work proved to be just as effective.


I envy the life style.  I’d like to build a sustainable home with waterfront views…. reality is, my house will look similar to this one.  I’d still be very happy.




That is a house on the river and this picture shows just how wide some parts are.


Its a huge river but in some places its so narrow only our boat could get through. We were fortunate enough to see the pink dolphins in this area, they don’t surface often but it was great to see them.


Our last stop was Santa Rosa.  This is where you get your exit stamp before heading across the river to the border – Leticia, Columbia.

This was an amazing journey, if you miss a flight on your travels don’t be too concerned.  Its probably a sign you need to meet a Dutch man and sail the Amazon river!


Flights and accommodation to Iquitos

  • We went to a travel agent close to the airport, $110USD ($200NZD) for our ticket.
  • Iquitos is a large city in the jungle, there are many hostels but it pays to book via Trip Advisor before getting there.  A lot of the hostels close to central were fully booked when we arrived in late.

The boat – La Gran Loretana

  • Get to the boat early, they sail at night.  Set your hammock up towards the bow on the top deck.  The views are grand from your hammock and the breeze is nice during the day.
  • Take your repellent, at night the bugs are busy.  If you are sleeping under a light turn it off as soon as you can – don’t attract more insects.
  • Talk to the skipper about leaving your backpack in his cabin, or he will give to the crew to put in their cabins.
  • You need to buy your hammock beforehand!! There was a guy who turned up selling them but you can get them anywhere in Iquitos before you leave.
  • The boats transport goods, livestock and pretty much anything they can get on board.
  • The boat is kept Peruvian clean, toilets usually have water thrown over them twice a day.  There are showers but we didn’t shower, the water is from the Amazon.

Crossing the border into Columbia

  • This port is heavily guarded due to drug trafficking but if you’re not guilty then you should be good.
  • Your last stop is Santa Rosa if heading over to Columbia.  Get your passport stamped in the little village of Santa Rosa, then jump on a boat taxi to Leticia.
  • Take a road taxi to the airport to get your entry stamp to Columbia… then you are good to stay in Columbia.

Safe travels 🙂





Omanawanui – Gibbons Track – Walker Ridge Tracks

This is one of my favourite loops in the Waitakere Ranges.  

Time: The times on the signs would suggest 7hrs.  If you are a faster walker you can do this in 3 – 5 hours of actual walking. Definitely allow more time for stops and time exploring the caves at Whatipu

Distance: 14.5km

Start & Finish: Mt Donald Mclean Road, Huia – Auckland

ViewRanger App Route:

omanawanui whatipu

Auckland city and head for Mt Donald Mclean Road – 50 minute drive.

Puriri Ridge Track – 2km.  This is a nice gentle start to an early morning, its mostly along the ridge and downhill. Once at the road cross over and head along Omanawanui Track.


Omanawanui Track looking down to Whatipu

Omanawanui Track – 3km.  Walking along the cliffs to see some amazing views of Manukau harbour and Whatipu.  This was probably one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve been on in the Waitakere’s because of the views.  Stunning! Some of it is steep.

Omanawanui track - Manukau Harbour

Omanawanui track – Manukau Harbour

Manukau Heads

Manukau Heads


Whatipu Camping Ground

Whatipu – Camping Ground.   This has all of the facilities needed and the scenery is magic. Handy to all of the walks.


Gibbons Track looking out to the Tasman Sea.

Gibbons Track – 3.3km.  Gradual incline.  Great views are out to the Tasman Sea. Track is nice and easy.

Walker Ridge Track – 2.8km.  This track isn’t part of the Hillary trail so its not as worn but still maintained.  Winter gets muddy in some places.


Donald McLean Track

Donald McLean Track – 2.2km.  Easy! This was a nice way to finish and to get out of Walker Ridge.  The tracks are wider and we knew we were close to the car.

altitude profile

Altitude profile




Stay safe 🙂