Yesterday, I made my way to the wild west coast of the Auckland region and decided to do a more challenging hike than the previous weeks. Of course, in doing the Hillary, I will have challenging days, so I decided to pick a trail that is would match one of the more strenuous days of the Hillary. Since most of the tracks in the Waitakeres are relatively short, I use NZtramper.com to find a good challenge. I found, the Inland Piha Loop.
I got to Piha a little earlier than expected. I generally try to start after 8am, but yesterday, I ended up getting to the parking lot about 15 minutes till 8am. So I decided “why not! this is a long trek!”
The weather was forecasted for trouble, with light rain for the morning getting a bit heavier around 12pm. My goal was to try to end by 1pm.
On the good side, the weather, for the most part, stayed away. I only had 2 real periods of rain, and it wasn’t that bad overall. The downside was my belief I could smash the route out in only 4 hours.
Starting from the parking lot, I made my way west to the first incline. This was the first of two major elevation inclines of the walk. The trail was immediately different from the other trails I had taken so far. Unlike the Montana Heritage Trail and the Fairy Falls/Old Coach trail, this trail was smaller, narrower, and less kept up. This means some fallen trees, so brush across the trail, and later on… lots of mud.
I made my way to McKenzie Junction, this is a small clearing where 5 or 6 trails meet up. In my pre-trip planning, I was considering a deviation from NZtramper, but on the day, I decided that with the muddier conditions, a little time on the road wouldn’t be too bad. So I I decided to keep to the original course and walk up to Anawhata Road. The Pole Line track was actually really nice. It was more in line with some of the other walks I have done, and it was a bit drier there. From there, I walked along the road until I hit the Centennial Track. Now, the Centennial track is kinda amazing. It got REALLY narrow, and it hugged some cliffsides to show some amazing views.
Then, the track began to slow down a lot. The decent for the Centennial track is definitely some of the more challenge walks I have done. There were some washout points, as well as a lot of fallen logs, and trees. It was here when I was thankful that I had two walking sticks instead of one. This may become my standard moving forward. The fact that I could anchor myself which traversing mud and steep steps without losing my balance too much.
The biggest challenge of the walk came with the next three tracks; The Home Track, the Marguerite Track, and the Kauri Grove Track. These tracks had obviously not seen much human interaction in the last few days. Spiderwebs crisscrossed the track, and debris, trees, and mud were rampant. My first 2 hours, I did 8 kilometres, after that, I slowed down a lot in this section. This was also when the rain started. slowing down mighty, I trudged through these three tracks methodically, stopping a couple of times after a slip, or an after a huge incline. This was also where I felt my energy shift. Similar to the Montana walk, I just felt my body switch into a new mode of burning. I slowed to about a 2.5kms an hour pace, but I had my pace. The second incline was really tough, so I am going to have to figure out how I am going to approach those late day inclines so I can keep my motivation, and speed.
The trail was muddy but gorgeous, and soon the rain stopped and I was still making my way back to my car. I ended up heading towards Kitekite falls. The way to the falls was pretty cool. I ended up crossing some headwaters in several places, and as I walked along the Kauri Grove Track, I could hear the water coming down and collecting into the stream. The water was so gorgeous. Cold and with a blueish/turquoise tint, the water was so inviting, and I can definitely see another trip to enjoy the water when things are a bit warmer, and dryer overall.
Now up to this point in my walk, I had met no person on the trail. With the exception of seeing a biker on Anawhata Road, I hadn’t seen another tramper on the trail. There is both a thrill and a worry with that throughout the day. For the most part, I loved the solitude. Being out in nature on your own is great, and you get to do what you want, and there is time and space to think and contemplate things in your life. Conversely, it is a worry, because knowing how little these tracks were being used, and how narrow and potentially dangerous some of the parts were, I was worried that if I got hurt, and being out of Mobil service range, I could be stuck for a while. The good thing is that with this blog, as well as my manic planning skills, people should know where I am generally to find me if anything were amiss.
But the thought did cross my mind a time or two.
I made it to the top of Kitekite calls at around 1:15pm, about 525 hours into the hike. This is much longer than I anticipated. My overall walking rate came to about 3.5 Kilometers and Hour, and that is pretty good, but I will admit, I felt a little bad with not maintaining a 4km pace. That being said, I did do a much harder tramp than ever before, so I need to keep that in mind.
It was here I saw the first people on the tramp of the day. Three people were just finishing a quick swim in the pool area right before the falls. As a side note, it was not warm yesterday. I was wearing my walking coat, tramping pants, thermals underneath, and I was still cold. Maybe it was because I was warm and cold, sweating throughout the tramp, and then go through rain and mud. Luckily up to this point, my feet were still dry.
Being really tired, I took a break and then crossed the falls. Now, I could have gone down the side and walked around the falls, but I was quite tired at this point and took the path of least resistance. I did wash my face briefly in the water, and OMG, it was so gloriously cold and refreshing. This is definitely a place I want to stop again and spend some time there. From there, I descended the rest of the way to the parking lot. Towards the bottom, I had to ford one more stream, There were rocks crossing the stream, and as I had before during the day, I started hopping from rock to rock.
And there, I slipped on a slick rock and my foot plunged into the refreshingly cold water. However, it was no longer refreshing. My hiking boots are waterproof… to a point, and unfortunately, water just dumped into my shoe. The last 500 meters or so were quite squishy and cold in a not good way.
I got back to the parking lot, to see that it was full, with more people heading off into the tracks. The weather had cleared in the last 15 minutes, and the skies were now clear. But I was done. Checking my phone, the 15.3-kilometre track advertised turned into a 17.9km walk for me. I don’t know where the extra distance came from, and I wonder if there is a GPS program that is more accurate than my phone. I did the whole track at 6 hours, which, looking back is a good first effort for a first medium difficult track. I ended up doing about a half hour longer than NZtramper, but that being said, I may have walked further than they did.
One last thing, the elevation of this walk was more strenuous than my other walks. I did two main climbs, and the first one was rather easy, but the second one was my struggle.I think it was the up and down, and of course, the depleted energy likely played into it. But it was a good for me.
Overall, I enjoyed this track, but one I will not do again for a while. walking nearly 18kms in the bush is longer than any point on the Hillary Trail, and while I want to train up, I don’t want to overdo it. Next week will be a shorter tramp I suspect, and maybe an easier one as well.
With that, thanks for reading, and see you next week!