49. Ash Hill

Visited 28 February 2015

Ash Hill truck park. We visited the green space by the Oak Road cul-de-sac

Ash Hill truck park. We visited the green space by the Oak Road cul-de-sac (Thanks Google Maps)

There’s a little irony behind the name of this volcano; first of all it’s not a hill, the swampy, mud-filled crater being about 30 metres below ground level. I usually talk with such passion about the volcanoes of Auckland but I’m pretty sure my friends wondered why I was taking them to a litter-filled industrial area. Much like Styaks Swamp, this is definitely one to just tick of the list. It’s not your Sunday afternoon picnic kinda deal.

It took me 5 seconds maximum to climb to the top of Ash Hill

It took me 5 seconds maximum to climb to the top of Ash Hill

View from the top :-)

View from the “top”

This shallow crater spent only a few decades as a recognised and recognisable volcano before it was flattened by industrialisation. It is thought that the site has no Maori name and was first called Ash Hill after the nearby Ash Road but, get this, the road wasn’t named for volcanic ash but originally for a row of ash trees growing there!

Slight grassy slope of

Slight grassy slope of Ash “Hill”

Truck park from the (top) of Ash Hill

Truck park from the “top” of Ash Hill

Signs of an explosive past are all around us -we just have to notice them. These volcanic rocks are on Ash Road

Signs of an explosive past are all around us -we just have to notice them. These volcanic rocks are on Ash Road itself

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54. Boggust Park

Boggust park

Boggust Park (thanks Google)

I got so lost just trying to find this one (had to pull over about 5 times to check the map) but once I arrived I found everything all laid out in front of me. Like Cemetery Crater and the Puhinui Craters, Boggust Park doesn’t appear in Hayward’s Auckland Volcanoes -The Essential Guide as it was only recognised as a volcano in 2011 the exact same year the book went to print and a mere one year after I originally devised a vague plan to explore all the volcanoes in Auckland.

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My starting point

I parked right by this blockade on Otago Place and set out for the crest. It didn’t look very high at all from back here.

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A gentle rise -only 8 metres at the highest point

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Looking south-west, taking in the lay of the land

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Basic playground on the north side of the crest

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What’s that? An old tree stump?

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The only bird life of note, not that it is or was ever alive

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Pretty flash signage for a not very flash park

Down the hill I came and only then did I see this fancy sign. I’m glad I didn’t see it first or I would’ve been expecting to see some real proper birds (but what bird has that silhouette anyway? A quail?)

I would say there are no toilets here but now I can see a blue cubicle in the distance -it may not be a permanent fixture though.

47. Crater Hill

Pukaki "Lagoon" (left), Kohuora Park (upper right) and Cemetery Crater (obliterated, but lower right)

Crater Hill (centre), Pukaki “Lagoon” (left), Kohuora Park (upper right) and Cemetery Crater (obliterated, but lower right)

Crater Hill is one out of the box. Thousands of people pass it each day on the Southern motorway but how many know of it’s existence? The name Crater Hill may not be thaaaat original (that’s like calling a volcano Ash Hill) but it adequately describes what it is: A crater inside a hill.

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(Excuse my non-existent panorama skills)

We called this our “Middle Earth” for it’s awesome, untouched, other-worldly quality. It sure was a sight to behold and we felt privileged to see it. Part of it is still a working quarry ๐Ÿ˜ฆ so the gate was wide open, not that we took that route.We took only photos and left only footprints, so no harm done.

North slope of Crater Hill seen from Tidal Road

North slope of Crater Hill seen from Tidal Road

We’d just been to Pukaki Lagoon and were finding our way through the back blocks of Papatoetoe when we caught sight of our next destination and I just had to pull over and snap a picture.

 

The dumping tree

The dumping tree

We found the end of Portage road, yes, that busy link road with all the businesses, yeah, it ends here. Maybe someone lives here or maybe it’s just a convenient place to dump stuff? It is pretty shady though and we ourselves loitered in the shade before tackling the hill, which is more of a gentle slope really.

The ascent started from under the dumping tree

The ascent started from under the dumping tree

Trig and water tower

Trig and water? tower

Conquered! We made it :-)

Conquered! We made it ๐Ÿ™‚

Okay, okay, enough of the sight-seeing, lets talk about the actual volcano. For starters, that Island in the middle of the lake is actually a heap of basalt boulders, not dumped there by humans but the remnants of a crust that solidified then crumpled in on itself when the underlying lava drained away. There was a cone of scoria built up on the Eastern edge but this has long since been flattened by quarrying. Size wise, it’s pretty impressive, the tuff ring measuring about 800 metres in diameter.

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There's a cave somewhere in there

Caves, maybe?

There are supposedly a couple of caves in the basalt on the south side of the lake. Selfs lava cave named for a prominent family in the area after which, I presume, nearby Selfs Road is also named. And Underground Press lava cave which you can read about on the radionz website. As the NZ Herald reported on 5 September 1940 “The chance adventures of three boys led to the discovery of a duplicating plant and communistic literature in a deep cave on a farm about three miles from the Papatoetoe township.” Yes, the Communist Party of New Zealand had been forced to take their People’s Voice publication, quite literally, underground.

Aeroplanes: a typical sight from the many South Auckland volcanoes.

Aeroplanes: a typical sight from the many South Auckland volcanoes.

 

43. Cemetery Crater

cemetery crater

Approximate location of “Cemetery” Crater covered by houses around red marker (Crater Hill on left)

I’ll be honest with you… I don’t even know exactly where this one is! This volcano isn’t listed in Volcanoes of Auckland-the essential guide as it only officially made the grade in 2011 (previously discovered & named by Ernie Searle in 1964 then discounted from 1968 onward). I hadn’t visited my grandparents’ grave for over a year so at least I had a good reason to be snooping round the Manukau Memorial gardens.

First stop (and in all honesty, the most likely target) the park on Hillside Road -it’s so small it doesn’t even have a name!

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Mysterious concrete circle in the park on Hillside Road

Could this be hiding the place where the stream emerges? Or is it a subtle hint as to the volcanic crater that once lay here before the bulldozing, contouring and development of this suburb? I don’t actually know. Maybe it’s just a flat place to bounce a ball or set up a BBQ?

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Gentle slope to the left of the playground

What kind of dirt is that? Ash? Nah, I’d be fooling myself if I thought that.

The remainder of this post is only vaguely related to this volcano and is more just a record of my observations and thoughts about the area.

There wasn’t much to see here at all, so I headed to the cemetery for which this volcano is named and on the way I saw this…

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A choice position from where to sell headstones

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This is a place where correct disposal procedures are taken seriously

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that just a lump of concrete? -How silly

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Fancy new bridge

Ok, so I don’t remember this “new” bridge. Maybe I actually haven’t been here since 2010 -bad granddaughter!

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The gully on the North (left) side of the bridge entering the gardens

Above are rocks in the gully on the South side of the bridge but they don’t look very volcanic to me. Probably just brought in for the purpose of bridge construction.

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What’s that hill? Crater Hill (not visible) behind

The land naturally undulates all around the area so that what I would’ve said from memory was flat, I now see is actually not so level after all.

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My Grandparents’ headstone -no need to clean the back, right?

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“…but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet…”

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The original sign has gone to the birds

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The South-Western Motorway viewed from beneath the above sign

Cemetery Crater is just across the motorway somewhere. It was so named for it’s proximity to this cemetery but now the motorway has split between the two and what takes a crow barely 1 minute to fly took me about 5 minutes to drive (traffic lights & right-hand turns, okay?).

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Definitely in a flight path

Since I’d seen so many aeroplanes overhead I figured the airport was quite close and I should go watch a few taking off. I turned right out of the Memorial Gardens onto Puhinui Road (very busy; take care!) and found the observation bay a few hundred metres down on the left.

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A good spot for plane spotting

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For aircraft safety

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Cheeky Pukeko hanging around to not be fed

So would I recommend visiting this volcano? Let me put it this way… Do you like wandering about in suburban South Auckland by yourself? There are way more impressive and/or natural volcanoes in the area: Crater Hill, Kohuora, the Puhinui Craters & Mclaughlin’s Mountain and even the previously undiscovered Boggust Park.

44. Waitomokia/Mt Gabriel

Waitomokia

Image credit to National Library of NZ

I knew I was in for a look see around a winery which was a bit awkward seeing as I don’t drink wine but this place is wonderful: an oasis of viticulture in a desert of industrialisation.

Mt Gabriel

Entrance to Villa Maria Estate from Montgomerie rd (right) and eastern slopes of Pukeiti (left) (thanks Google)

This was a fairly quick stop that didn’t involve much effort on my part, it was basically my afternoon tea break my 4th volcano for the day to be followed by Mt Eden. I started by taking photos from Oruarangi road on the northwest side of the tuff ring. But first I turned my camera northwest to Puketutu Island across the Manukau Harbour.

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Harrier hawk in flight above the Manukau Harbour

Obviously I respected the No Entry sign and didn’t go any further but I took some photos of the tuff ring from here. Oh yeah, there used to be 3 rather large (~30m high) scoria cones and you shall see a little later what is left of them.

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Naughty Agapanthus being all invasive

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Oruarangi road runs along the top of the tuff ring here

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Remains of tuff ring can be seen looking east from I H Wedding & Sons

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I knew weddings were held here!

Now around to the front of the Estate.

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Might look well protected but I saw a pukeko duck under the netting to reach up and pluck a few grapes

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First glimpse

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In other words, turn left

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Looking over barrels to the slight hill in the northwest

I didn’t take a photo of them but just along from the barrels here were the best toilets I’ve encountered on my whole volcanic journey and not just because I was well in need of a rest stop. They’re quality AND clean.

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One of the best chai lattes I’ve ever tasted

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View from my table looking east

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Fake Harrier Hawk

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Looking southeast to the tuff ring

Fortified by my hot drink I braved the drizzle and chill to follow this dead-end road up to the top of the tuff ring.

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Standing near the top of the tuff ring behind Villa Maria

After that I drove back out and along Montgomerie road and spotted a few things I’d missed in my haste to enter the winery.

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Volcano waz here

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Beauty and the Beast (hiding just behind the scoria mound)

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I’m surprised thereโ€™s actually any scoria left

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Looking west from Montgomerie road through a break in the trees to Puketutu Island

This would be a great volcano to visit if you didn’t want to get sweaty from walking but just want to bask in volcanic ambience. Villa Maria run guided tours of the winery at 11am and 3pm each day.

 

34. Orakei Basin

Visited 31 January 2015

Entrance to to walkway down by the boat ramp

Entrance to the walkway down by the boat ramp

At first glance this might just seem like a flat walk around a lake. But take more glances and you will see there is more to this walk than meets the eye. Firstly, theres the real steep section up to and down from Lucerne road (consisting of quite a number of stairs going up and, if it were possible, even more coming down), then there are hints in places of the volcanic origin of Orakei Basin like near the Northwestern edge, just below the pa site, the stratification of ash layers has been exposed beside the walking path.

Near the top of the steep walking track by the pa site

Near the top of the steep walking track by the pa site

Then there are the grassy slopes of Kepa road on the Northeastern side, prime real estate with amazing views you might think, but no, there is a reason the hills support cattle and not houses. Here the ash blanketed the slope but didn’t form a tuff layer so any heavy rain is more than likely to cause land slips.

Typical water-edge with rocks at the start of the walk (near the stone wall)

Typical water-edge with rocks at the start of the walk (near the stone wall)

I did this walk a little differently than I expected to by starting out from the carpark and heading in a counterclockwise direction but before going very far at all I came upon the aforementioned path leading up to the pa site. So, of course, I had to go up and investigate…

From there I wandered down to Shore road to see something of interest from my next planned volcano visit (Little Rangitoto). There is a lovely newish boardwalk around the mangroves to avoid busy Orakei road so I took that and came across some art installations by the local children. I crossed the busy road to a path which quickly lead down to join a boardwalk alongside the railway line.

Looking down on the cycle/footbridge from Orakei road

Looking down on the cycle/footbridge from Orakei road

Now I was circumnavigating the Basin in a clockwise direction and at quite a good pace until I was distracted watching the wake boarder and terns diving into the wake.

A view from the bridge beside the rail line looking South(ish) to the footbridge crossing the creek.

A view from the bridge beside the rail line looking South(ish) to the footbridge crossing the creek.

A little further around the path winds through a patch of bush before descending to a footbridge bridge spanning the creek? There the remains of some fallen pines provide a perfect perching spot for a bunch of shags.

Shag roosting post

Shag roosting post

The Kepa road slopes to the Northeast

The Kepa road slopes to the Northeast

Looking at the edge of the basin from the footbridge

Looking at the edge of the basin from the footbridge

Crossing the bridge I was immediately faced with a seemingly never-ending flight of stairs and part way along there is a time capsule (or something?) buried here. The stairs do eventually end in the cul-de-sac of Lucerne road where I crossed the road only to descend back down to water level again. Even in the height of Summer I found these shaded steps to be slippery.
So many leaf-framed views like this

So many leaf-framed views like this

Happy Summertime memories were made here I'm sure

Happy Summertime memories were made here I’m sure

The track is virtually waterfront from the water ski club back to the carpark. I came across many pretty vistas framed by trees and most houses on the rise above have their own private access join with the main track. Part way around there is a sculpture called ‘Strata’ that child-me would’ve climbed.

'Strata' Balau hardwood 1986-87 Peter Nicholls A gift of the family of John Gellert

‘Strata’
Balau hardwood
1986-87
Peter Nicholls
A gift of the family of John Gellert

I saw a surprising number of bird varieties. Flocks of silvereyes, flitting in the bushes whenever the path went through a patch of undergrowth. Greenfinches and goldfinches making the most of the self seeded grasses beside the railway. A few blackbirds and thrushes fossicking for tasty morsels in the leaf litter. One thrush was perched on a branch so close that I didn’t see it until we were eye-to-eye and staring at each other (I’m not sure who got the greater fright).

The Sky Tower can even be seen from the East side (get your magnifying glass out)

The Sky Tower can even be seen from the East side (get your magnifying glass out)

Gazing across the flat waters of Orakei Basin I can see why it’s the perfect place for the Auckland water skiing HQ. The Orakei sea scouts also have their base on the shore near the boat ramp & carpark. NOTE: there will be road works in this area to stabilise and upgrade the road to the boat ramp from mid February 2015 for about 16 weeks.

38. Maungarei/Mt Wellington

Visited on 14 & 15 February 2015 because once around this crater was not enough (actually, I’d forgotten to charge my camera battery)

This was my Volcanic Valentine ๐Ÿ™‚ and a special one it was too. It was quite the happening spot on Valentine’s afternoon. Couples strolling and picncing everywhere.

Stonefields Archaeological Reserve is just left of centre and Kartsport Mt Wellington in upper right (Thanks Google Maps)

Stonefields Archaeological Reserve is just left of centre and Kartsport Mt Wellington in upper right (Thanks Google Maps)

Mt Wellington was quite the spewer, it’s lava basically filling the valley of the present day Ellerslie-Panmure Highway. It stretches from a little tongue in Glen Innes across to the Great South Road at Penrose, turns Southish and reaches slightly into the Manukau Harbour.

Approaching Mt Wellington from the aptly named Mountain Road

Approaching Mt Wellington from the aptly named Mountain Road. These pine trees were planted after 1967 when quarrying of the Southern slope was stopped.

Maungarei, Maori for ‘the watchful mountain’ is co-named in English as Mt Wellington after the Duke of Wellington.

Entering the domain. Almost past the point of no return. One-way traffic only -Phew!! As it gets pretty narrow in places.

Entering the domain. Almost past the point of no return. One-way traffic only -Phew!! As it gets pretty narrow in places.

Both times I drove to the car park, found a shady tree to lunch under then ascended the stairs behind the car park.

Finally got my hands on some liquid gold and what better place to taste for myself what all the LRC hype is about?

Finally got my hands on some liquid gold and what better place to taste for myself what all the LRC chocolate milk hype is about? In the background: Purchas Hill and the new Stonefields subdivision created in the hole left by what was Auckland’s biggest quarry.

Upon cresting the hill the relative peace was broken by the zooming of go carts from nearby Kartsport Mt Wellington driving home the point that we are in NZ’s largest City and not some isolated little spot in the country. From the crater rim I could also see aeroplanes regularly taking off and typically heavy Auckland traffic rumbling through well worn arteries.

Male yellowhammer hopping along the crater rim track

Male yellowhammer hopping along the crater rim track

Maungarei is pretty barren in terms of tree coverage so I didn’t expect to see any birds of note but I did manage to spy a yellowhammer and further on a hawk circling in the air currents rising from the crater.

Looking to the North-West across the crater from the South-East

Looking to the North-West across the crater from the South-East

 

Panmure Basin as viewed from the Southern side of Maungarei's cone

Panmure Basin as viewed from the Southern side of Maungarei’s cone. I thought this would be my next volcano to visit but ended up going to Purchas Hill first.

Once you reach the top of the stairs it’s a fairly leisurely stroll mostly downhill back to the car park. The South side of the crater is the highest point so naturally there’s a trig point and there’s also a significant landmark location guide which is worth stopping at if you’d like to get your bearings.

Rangitoto, the Northern cone and main/central crater

Rangitoto Island, the Northern cone and main/central crater

 

The reservoir installed in the Northern crater

The reservoir (flat rectangle) installed in the Northern crater

 

Looking to the South-East. See the same tree as in picture #

Looking to the South-East. Note the same tree as in picture #6 of this post

 

Juxtaposition central!

Looking West from the lowest point on the crater rim it’s juxtaposition central! Industrial, grasslands, rock face, wetlands, residential, volcano slope and Stonefields Archaeological Reserve (the raised, brown, triangular patch on the left) all mashed together.

 

A mysterious hole

A mysterious hole

 

Cow-pat bombs fused together

Cow-pat bombs fused together

 

Is it just me or does this ash layer look like the Puma logo?

Is it just me or does this ash layer look like the Puma logo?

 

The rabbit track I followed down from the "gorilla head"

The rabbit track I followed down from the “gorilla head” viewed from the reservoir

 

The crater floor as viewed from the reservoir

The crater floor as viewed from the reservoir

 

Starling on a row of basalt boulders on the way out of the domain

Starling on a row of basalt boulders on the drive out of the domain

 

Maungarei viewed from College Road/Purchas Hill

Maungarei viewed from College Road/Purchas Hill

I recommend this walk for… well, I just recommend this. It’s a surprisingly stunning walk and pretty easy-going. I feel my photos don’t really do it justice so I encourage you to put this one on your list and go experience it for yourself! Pack a cool drink though as I found it rather scorching even on an overcast day.