As promised, we went for a day trip to the west of Auckland on Sunday. Several of the west coast beaches looked appealing, but we decided to go with the most famous one, Piha Beach. The road to Piha winds its way through the Waitakere Ranges, a park preserving a large area of mountainous native rainforest. We stopped at the Arataki Visitor Center on our way to the beach to explore this incredible wilderness.
The road to the visitor center was narrow and winding, but the views were spectacular. The building itself was also quite nice, built out of native wood and with a Maori pou out front, invoking the protection of well-endowed ancestors.
Inside, the center had displays about the native flora and fauna, as well as helpful park staff who directed us to the short nature trail loop across the road. This track was wide, graveled, and only about a two kilometers, so definitely not as challenging as some other trails we’ve done, but it was a wonderful little tramp through some thick rainforest.
At the furthest end of the loop stood a group of kauri trees, probably 500 years old. These trees have beautiful wood, and so white settlers of New Zealand quickly established vast logging operations. Most of the north island was once covered in rainforest and kauris, but in their desire to make NZ look as much like England as possible (and also eat, I guess) the rainforests were cleared and the kauris cut down. Now, this native terrain is limited to protected areas and even within these areas, mature kauris are rare.
As always, we kept an eye out for birds on our hike, not that they were too hard to spot! We saw some eastern rosellas, a type of parrot, bouncing around in the kauri grove. Tuis constantly called from the bush, announcing their presence even if we couldn’t see them, and New Zealand pigeons flapped overhead. We were happiest to see some smaller birds that aren’t found in the city: the New Zealand tomtit and the grey warbler. Both of them were too quick to get a picture of, especially the tomtit who landed directly in front of us on a branch then flew off before we could even move for the camera.
Of course, the tuis weren’t as camera-shy.
After our walk, we headed to Piha Beach. Part II is coming soon!