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.

 

3. Takarunga/Mt Victoria

Visited 15 December 2012

Mt Victoria with Mt Cambria Reserve on the right. The Devonport power station is the large building opposite Cracroft Street

Mt Victoria with Mt Cambria Reserve on the right. The Devonport power station is the large building opposite Cracroft Street (Thanks Google Maps)

Takarunga can be translated as ‘the hill standing above’ and at 87 metres above sea level, it’s easily the dominant feature on Auckland’s North Shore much like the reign of Queen Victoria (for whom the mountain was named) in the great age of industrial expansion.

Apologies in advance if my photos here seem a bit overexposed. My camera made friends with the sea water later on today as I was going around North Head. It’s a long story but I’m lucky that I have any evidence to show for this little outing at all!

NZ flag proudly flying over a typical garden sanctuary inspired by the volcanic landscape

NZ flag proudly flying over a typical garden sanctuary inspired by the volcanic landscape

We parked on Church street opposite Cracroft street intending to take a short-cut up the side of the hill. However, finding no obvious short-cut and foolishly passing not one, but two roads on the right, we found ourselves on King Edward Parade (aka Devonport waterfront) with no mountain in sight. I figured if we just kept taking right turns we should end up where we actually wanted to go. At some point along Mays street our destination loomed in to view. We turned left onto Kerr street and then right past Devonport Primary school. We’d had a good warm-up before tackling the slope ๐Ÿ™‚

Shortly we came across this lovely restored villa and stopped to read the information board.

The track behind the Michael King Writers Centre

The track behind the Michael King Writers Centre

It being a rather hot day we opted to take a short-cut under some shady foliage which effectively cut off the loop in the road. It’s just as well we did or we wouldn’t have found this…

Discarded shells in the ground

Shells buried in the ground now exposed via erosion -evidence of a past Maori pa site

After joining back up with the road for a bit we saw a track through the grass up on the right and being all adventurous of course we took it! It quickly led us up to the top and to… a car park. Who knew that we could’ve just driven here? Now I got all snap-happy and took all kinds of photos, some of which have since mysteriously disappeared, but maybe not that mysteriously.

Auckland City looks so nice from here

Auckland City looks so nice from here

I can see my work from here! Mangawhau/Mt Eden is behind Judges Bay/Ports of Auckland. There's even a Fullers Ferry departing the Devonport wharf for the Auckland waterfront.

I can see my workplace! Mangawhau/Mt Eden is behind Judges Bay/Ports of Auckland.

Evidence of Takarunga's volcanic past. Looking East to Maungauika

Evidence of Takarunga’s volcanic past. Looking East to Maungauika

 

Looking East to Maungauika across Devonport Village from the paved roof of the bunker on Takarunga's South-East slope. Look out! There's a bit of a drop.

Looking East to Maungauika across Devonport Village from the tar-sealed roof of The Bunker on Takarunga’s South-East slope. Look out! There’s a bit of a drop.

 

Takapuna's iconic Sentinel behind one of Takarunga's iconic toadstool vents

Takapuna’s iconic Sentinel behind one of Takarunga’s iconic toadstool vents

There’s a grid of 18 similarly decorated vents… There’s a story behind why they are painted red with white polka dots. I can’t remember where I read it but it goes something like this… One night, under the cover of darkness, an artist (or vandal as it was first suspected) painted the normally plain air vents in their now distinctive red & white toadstool fashion. The following morning it brought a smile to the faces of the locals. The council was quick to paint out this vandalous act but soon it happened again; the fresh white paint was mushroomified and the balance of whimsy was once again restored. This happened a few times. Most people agreed it was a pleasant “disguise” for the vents so the council left the mushrooms alone. But the story doesn’t end there. The Mt Victoria mushroom vents became something of a local icon so then the council became responsible for their upkeep.

This from Watercare’s own website: “Watercare is preparing to refurbish the mushroom air vents on the Mt Victoria water reservoir… The โ€œcapsโ€ will be repainted using the same red and white pattern, while the โ€œstemsโ€ will be painted a light cream colour. Work is set to commence… and is expected to take about a month to complete.”

Rows of "Toadstools" on Mt Victoria (Thanks Google Maps)

Rows of “Toadstools” on Mt Victoria (Thanks Google Maps)

In the circle on the left is the “disappearing gun” installed in 1889. The structure on the right is now fully automated signal station there to guide ships from the ports of Auckland out of the harbour.

Just in case you were wondering

Just in case you were wondering

 

Some welcome shade looking North-West towards Ngataringa Bay

Some welcome shade looking North-West towards Ngataringa Bay

From the top we could see the approximate location of where my car was parked so decided to slide down the hill in that direction. Yes, butt slide! SO. MUCH. FUN!!! Apparently its a thing to do on Mt Victoria as evidenced by the flattened boxes discarded at the base.

Looking back at the track I made on the North-East slope

Looking back at the track I made on the North-East slope

Once composure was regained a track could be seen heading off to the right so, of course… we followed it. And when another track zig-zagged off to the left and down some steps… we followed that too. It came out at the end of what looked to be a driveway but when we followed it down we ended up on Church Street mere metres from where my car was. Metres I tell you! I don’t know how I missed that one. It’s definitely a strike against my observational skills.

Signpost reads: Flagstaff Lane (no exit) Walkway to summit

Signpost reads: Flagstaff Lane (no exit) and
Walkway to summit (Thanks Google Streetview)

Oh yes, prior to it’s “Victoria” name Takarunga was called Flagstaff Hill

This is where we parked to get as close as possible to Mt Victoria -hahaha!

This is where we parked to get as close as possible to Mt Victoria -hahaha!

The Devonport power station has a history all of it’s own. It was built it the free classical style around 1915, had a bit of a rough start so was closed in 1928 to be used as a welfare kitchen in 1932/3 then spent the majority of it’s years as a laundry but has subsequently been converted into apartments. You can look here if you want to see how the inside has been developed in recent years.