Advanced Ultra Extreme Bushwalking in Waitakere

Waitakere Travel Blog

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On Sunday Rod had arranged for us to go bushwalking with two friends of his.  When Sam and Ange came to pick us up, they seemed like very nice people and I happily noticed that Ange was wearing jeans, a cardigan and some sneakers.  I thought, "hey!  this trail can't be too hard if she's dressed like that".  In my mind, this was an excellent sign seeing that Rod and I got back home at around 5am that morning and we were still suffering from the last lingerings of a hangover.

After driving down the motorway for a time, chatting away and commenting on how lucky we were that it had finally stopped raining yesterday, Sam says that they needed to stop off at their flat for a quick sec.  They had been visiting family further up north and hadn't been home yet that day.  Hmm...

Ten minutes later Ange is re-suited in several layers of work-out clothes.  She had changed into some proper shoes for the hike and had filled up her bladder backpack (you know, the backpacks designed to carry just water).  They loaded extra clothes, shoes and socks into the car and then we were off.

I should have taken that as the first warning.

When we arrived at the start of the trail in Waitakere, Sam told us that we would be heading down through the valley and follow the stream to the marshlands which open to the beach.  From there we'd walk the rest of the way on the beach to the other parking lot.  The plan was for Ange to split off onto a different trail right before getting to the marsh lands where she'd circle back to the car and meet us at the second parking lot.  The whole hike should total about 2-4 hours.

Sure.  Okay!  I was game.  It sounded like it would be heaps of fun and the weather was so perfect today.  Not like yesterday where it rained buckets for hours. 

Should have thought about that point more....

So we head down through the valley trying not to slip on the muddy trail.  It wasn't too bad, we just couldn't rush it.  We figured that once we got back into the sun, it wouldn't be that muddy, right?

We quickly found the stream and gingerly hopped across the rocks trying not to get our feet wet.  Rod started to move ahead on the trail when suddenly Sam stopped him.  "Actually, we're not taking that trail" he says.  "We're taking that one" and he points to a tiny dirt path along the water's edge.  "What trail?" I asked.  He assured us that he'd hiked the small trail before and knew his way.

Sure.  Okay!  I was game.  So I was about to get a little dirty.  No worries.  He must like that trail if he wanted to do it again.  I figured that the path would open up a bit once we got past the dense foresty beginning.  Of course, I figured wrong. 

At some point early on, Sam pulled out the map to show us the trail.  The map had several broken lines tracing the many trails in Waitakere including the beachside path we planned on finding at the end. 

"I notice that we're not on one of those lines" says Rod.  "We're not on a regular trail are we."  It wasn't a question.

Okay.  So it was pretty fun.  Challenging? Very muchly so.  The trail snaked around the stream forced us up and down muddy banks.  I lost count of how many times we needed to cross the river to find some hidden trail that continued on the other side.  As the stream got wider, we found the rocks turning into boulders.  Sometimes we needed to hug these boulders and shuffle around to the other side just so we didn't have to walk through the river.  At some points, we were full out bouldering.  Then we noticed the muddy trail start to plunge down.  And down and down we had to climb, hanging onto tree roots so we could lower our bodies down to the next slippery foot hold.

Then came the waterfall. 

"So we have to climb down these rocks and then follow the river to the beach" says Sam.  The river WAS the rest of the trail!  It wasn't a high river.  The water was low so most of the rocks and boulders were exposed making it easy for us to stay dry.  Well, in theory that is.  But first we had to climb down the side of the waterfall.

I thought, it's just like rock climbing right?  But this time I had to climb DOWN.  And all the holds were wet.  And there was no harness.  Yes, that was a good thought to have just then!  We must have been about 5 meters above the rocky bottom.

It took a little time, but we made it back safe and sound.  At some point to reached the end of that trail... or rather the beginning.  It was marked with a big sign: "WARNING. THIS TRAIL IS ONLY SUITED FOR EXPERT HIKERS".  No shit.

In the end, I managed to keep my feet fairly dry despite the many river crossings, but this turned out to be useless once we came across the last part of the river that was almost knee deep with no stepping rocks to be found.  All that careful balancing wasted!  Should have just waltzed through every river crossing from the start!  Would have saved us some time.  Which we needed since we made it to the second parking lot a little after dark.  Yep.  Stars and all! 

It took us 5.5 hours to finish the trail (including only two 10 minute breaks).  In retrospect, it was a good time.  It was a great work out.  It was a great challenge.  I don't want to do it again any time soon!

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photo by: Pobster