Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

A view near Huia

Manukau Heads Lighthouse

Manukau Heads

Arataki Visitors Centre

A view before the rain storm

Arriving at Pihu in the rain

Sylvia’s Comments

Before driving off this morning we worked out a route around Auckland and to take us to the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. Our decision to by pass Auckland at this point is based on the fact we will probably finish up here to fly out, so hopefully will be able to spend some time in the city. Our route sorted, SH 20 which would take us over the Mangere Bridge, on to SH 15 to take us to SH 24, identified as a scenic drive. Once out of the suburbs we drove on the Huia Highway along the north side of the Manaku Harbour.

We are now driving in the Waitakere Ranges National Park, one of 21 regional parks around the Auckland region, all within 13 to 56 miles from the city. Several of the parks are on the coast close to swimming and surf beaches and many with camping facilities, like the one we camped in a few nights back. The Waitakere Ranges, 18,000 hectare wilderness area, once supported kauri forests until logged to extinction in the 19th Century. A few strands do remain along with other mature trees in the regenerating bush. Bordered to the west by the wildly beautiful beaches on the Tasman Sea, it also has some rugged terrain and deep sided valleys and over 156 miles of walking tracks.

Our journey took us to Little Huia, where we were able to look across the Manukau Entrance to our former camp site at Orua Bay and the light house at the heads. The road continued on from here to Whatipu at the entrance to the harbour but we had been told it was a very narrow gravel road. As the weather forecast is not good for this afternoon we decided we would not attempt this trip so turned around and retraced our route back to SH 24. A short distance along this road we came to the Arataki Visitors Centre. This centre provides all the visitors need in information and also a display of Maori carvings, including a large one standing at the entrance depicting the ancestors of the Kawerau iwi. The centre is also very child friendly with lots of touch and feely objects to get involved with. As we arrived a school party was just leaving so we did not have to fight with the children to get involved with the activities. There was also a display of NZ gecko’s in glass tanks which were in the process of being cleaned by one of the rangers. When he had completed the task it was feed time for them so he emptied a small jar of over 50 flies into the tank. It wasn’t long before we saw a ‘kill’ and it happened so quickly that if you blinked you would have missed it.

After watching a 20 minute video of the park and its wildlife we returned to our van just as the heavens opened and the rain came down in buckets. We decided now was a good time to have some lunch and hope it would soon pass over. It was not long before the car park was looking like a lake, must ask if the drought that NZ was suffering from a couple of months ago is over. Once lunch was finished the rain had eased, so off we went again. The small costal town of Piha is 10 miles off the scenic drive and the view of the coast as you drive down the hill is quite spectacular, with the 331 foot Lion Rock dominating the beach. We found the camp site and booked a in for the night, the lady managing the site told us that tonight the bowling club are open for meals and we would get a good feed if we wanted to walk along. As we were setting up the van, a gentleman on the site also made a point of coming over to tell us about the bowling club meals. So with two recommendations we felt we just had to go. We waited for a break in the rain and then dashed across the park to the club house were we ordered a nice big steak, got a drink and sat by a lovely big wood burning stove.

A couple of ladies sitting on the next table got talking to me and one asked how long we were staying in the area, commenting about our bikes on the back of the motorhome. I asked her if she had been in one of the cars that had followed us down the hill until we could find a place to pull over to allow them to pass. No, it seems she lives on the hill and nothing entering or leaving gets passed her, well you do pass her but she has you clocked. We had a lovely meal for the price of £7 each, with drinks at club prices, and then waited for a let up in the rain to make the dash back again. We put the weather forecast on to find that tomorrow is going to be fine in the morning with the showers for the afternoon.

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