Auckland Airport Road Walk

Puhinui Stream Track

A decidedly mixed day yesterday. I split it in half like I did the walk through Hamilton city – in the morning  got myself dropped off at Totara Park, and walked down half the Puhinui Stream Track into Manukau for lunch. Was very impressed with Totara Park: beautiful area, well-maintained trails and clear, informative signage. I made really good time and thought I’d be home early, mid-afternoonish.

Come afternoon, that turned to custard.

I got the bus out to the airport, and finished the other half of the previous day’s Auckland Airport Road walk. Noisy, and very windy, but it wasn’t too bad even if a lot of it was along the verge of the main airport road. It was still interesting to see the planes coming in and out, and there were a couple of surprises, like the tiny memorial for the Erebus crew, and a really cool looking mini-fun park with the most awesome rope course. I’d go back and try it, but I’m leaving Auckland today. Also, am terrified of heights, so it’s a bit of a pipe dream really.

Meandered my way to Puhinui reserve, where I promptly fell foul of OJ’s Rule of Ambiguous Tramping. I can safely say that this was some of the most awful signage I’ve seen in my life – it was getting on to Southland levels of bad. I have a degree in botany, but even if I hadn’t the “this is farmland, this is trees” representational map (entirely lacking scale, trails, directions or a “you are here” button) is something I think I could have figured out on my own. I wandered this bloody farm for three hours, often literally knee deep in mud, trying to find my way out. Eventually I found it – right at the beginning of the reserve, and it took ten minutes to escape. The problem was what looked like the likely (unmarked) route was behind a gate saying “No Public Access”, and so, mindful of Te Araroa’s pleas to obey landowner’s lest permission be withdrawn, I thought “that can’t be it”. One little TA sticker sign would have saved me all that!

So I found my way across and continued walking up the Puhinui Stream Track to meet myself in Manukau. By this time I was filthy (had fallen down more than once in the mud of the Reserve), tired, grumpy, and had been chased by a vicious pit-bull that had gotten out of its cage, only to find I had missed the last bus back to sister’s place. So she came and picked me up and we went to get some Indian food, before going home for a bloody well-deserved drink or five.

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Mangere Bridge and Foreshore

No pictures again, because I’m chronically incapable of remembering to charge the batteries on my camera, and I left the charger in Wellington. Well done me. I’m in Auckland briefly, house-sitting for my sister and looking after her myriad pets. She’s back now, with only one pet fewer than before, so I thought I’d spend a couple of days on easily accessible Te Araroa stretches. I could have done it earlier, but I would have had to take the sister’s dogs, and they’re just too annoying to walk with – always getting underfoot.

I started at Onehunga Bay Lagoon, where I finished the Coast to Coast last I was walking in Auckland, and wandered round over the little old Mangere Bridge. Only pedestrians and cyclists are permitted here now, and the local fishermen take advantage of a good spot – I think several of them had a few fishing rods each!

On down to Ambury Regional Park, where I deviated from the trail a bit. TA here goes through some paddocks filled with farm animals, but because it’s spring and the paddocks are filled with calves and lambs, the fences were decked out with big signs saying, essentially, “It’s Family Time – please do not disturb the animals”. So I didn’t, and kept to the park pathways instead.

Getting on to what TA calls the Mangere Foreshore Track, but which also seems to go by the name Watercare Coastal Walkway, I made my way along the coast past the lagoon and the treatment plant and down past Oruarangi Creek to the Otuatua Stonefields, and it was here everything turned to custard. I am not an experienced track-maker, in fact I’ve never made so much as a metre of walking track in my life. Yet neophyte as I am, there seem to be two simple rules that are oft ignored. Rule One: if the track suddenly stops in the middle of nowhere, you need a sign. Rule Two: if there is a fork in the track, you need a sign. This isn’t rocket science. Ignore these rules at your peril, unless you wish to stumble across a third: OJ’s Rule of Ambiguous Tramping, which states that on any unmarked fork, the tramper will invariably take the wrong one.

And so I did. I got hopelessly, horribly lost in a great overgrown section, and eventually followed my nose uphill into farmland, to try and get my bearings. Found a farmhouse, with a lovely, helpful couple (and Woody, the world’s most disobedient dog, who happily followed me for nigh on a kilometre while its owners tried to get it to return home) who sent me the right way. I’d way overshot, and gone too far… but what do you expect with unmarked tracks and OJ’s Rule of Ambiguous Tramping?

Eventually I made my way down Ihumatao Road, and turned off to the airport shopping centre. Technically this last bit was half of the next section, the Auckland Airport Road Walk, which is about as exciting as it sounds. I’ll do the other half tomorrow, weather permitting.