2 January 2013
Like Onepoto Domain across the way, Tuff Crater is also filled with diverse birdlife but unlike Onepoto I didn’t really expect that, I mean, it’s so open and isn’t it just a mangrove swamp? Read along and let me prove that wrong!
I don’t know how many times in my life I’d passed right beside this volcano and not known it was there (I suppose it would be in the thousands). All you can see from the road is what looks like a tidal estuary full of mangroves and The Warehouse Ltd headquarters.
Once I realised this place is actually a volcano I was relieved to find there appeared to be a walking track in places. For the full experience, I decided to park my car in Heath Reserve at the end of Exmouth road. There were no signs yet but I figured it was just a matter of turning left and cutting across the grass as many had obviously done before.
I rounded the bend and stopped to read the Forest & Bird signpost taking note of the invasive plants to look out for and wishing that the proposed footbridge was already in place.
I heard this tree all a-twitter before I got close enough to see what all the commotion was about.
It’s a straightforward easy walk and flat for the most part. Just follow the path and you can’t get lost. The it’s mostly gravel except where the ground is prone to get boggy.
I’d made it all the way around on the flat and now was really wishing there was a bridge here but since there wasn’t, I decided to take a slightly different way back. I turned left again to see how far up The Warehouse slope I could go. All the way as it turned out. I rounded some bushes and gave a pukeko the fright of his life as he squawked and flew straight up to land in a manuka tree.
I continued ambling along on the ridge for barely 5 minutes when I came across the top of a newly installed flight of stairs. A bit further along is where I think the old storage tanks used to be and the origin of the alternate name of Tank Farm. I took some quick photos then descended the stairs and found they joined up to the same path I’d been on only minutes earlier.
A few minutes from the steps I heard a rustle in the bushes and stopped to listen. I crept closer… and closer. I heard a peep-peeping sound. I saw a flash of tawny-grey and tiny bundles darting through the thick undergrowth. I’d kept birds in an aviary before and I knew these mystery birds were a covey of Quails -but what kind? I leaned in closer, didn’t see the ditch, and may have tripped and got myself covered head to toe in biddy-bid, velcro weed seed pods. I never found out what kind of quail they were as they were strangely quiet after my performance. I suspect they were Californian but those of you with keen eyes should walk this track and see for yourself.
Look closely and you will see these poles frame Mt Victoria in the far distance.
Instead of returning to my car I decided to exit Tuff Crater at Bailey’s Reserve which would take me up to Exmouth road and on to my next conquest: Onepoto Domain.
I would recommend this walk for anyone wanting an easy walk on an unpaved surface. There is a very basic play ground at Heath Reserve consisting of 3 swings, a slide and a see-saw. Also at Heath Reserve is a pedestrian access to Shoal Bay. One of those major signs spanning the motorway is actually a bridge. There’s not much room to do anything on the other side but you could dip your toes in the water if the tide was in, which it wasn’t for me. I did see something I’d never considered before: Shellfish living in a tree. Oysters casually hanging out in a mangrove tree.