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 😦 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 🙂

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.

 

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 🙂 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.

17. Mt Saint Johns/ Te Kopua

Visited on 18 May

It’s been raining, and I mean really raining. The Summer drought only came to an end a few weeks ago with a week of torrential downpour. It’s been overcast and drizzling all this week and last night we had another downpour. This makes it perfect conditions to witness the existence of Mt. Saint John’s “ephemeral” crater lake. This lake (or I should say “pond”, as I was soon to discover) only forms after heavy rain and disappears/drains away a day or so later. The lake is composed of 3 metres of clay which has built up in the floor of the crater and supports a layer of peat which helps to hold the water. So this crater lake was what I specifically wanted to see for myself.

I took the Market road Exit headed right over the motorway and right again onto Mount St John Ave. So far so good and sooo easy to get to. I knew there were three entrances to the mountain so figured I’d just drive around it in a counterclockwise fashion until I came across one… that is until I found myself turning onto Mount St John Ave again. Time to stop car and consult el mappo. Turns out I was virtually parked right in front of the main entrance! Next time I would park at the end of Belvedere Street which leads to a very overgrown walkway (so overgrown that when I had first passed the other end from the road I thought it was someone’s unkempt property) which leads into the lowest side of the crater.

The entrance off Mount St John Ave

The entrance off Mount St John Ave

About to enter the park. First glimpse of the crater rim.

About to enter the park. First glimpse of the crater rim.

Right, so, where was I? At the beginning. For such a lovely mountain I was surprised to see this as the entrance. I guess I should be grateful for the rubbish bin and the wooden steps, too.

Halfway up to the rim

Halfway up to the rim

Judging by the well worn track in the red scoria this place is obviously used by people for their morning runs but now by late morning the place has an eerie deserted feel to it. Judging by the huge and numerous cowpats strewn about there were also cattle lurking somewhere and although I didn’t see one I was constantly on the look out for a bovine ambush.

Multiple kumara storage pits

Multiple kumara storage pits

The only formal plaque I could find, in the edge of a pit

The only formal plaque I could find, in the edge of a pit

When I reached the crater rim I chose to walk counter clockwise, descending to the lowest point then rising up past all the kumara pits to finally reach the summit with it’s view over the motorway of Mt Hobson and in the other direction, One Tree Hill.

More pits on the summit. Mt Hobson in the background.

More pits on the summit. Mt Hobson in the background.

Jogging track along the summit. One Tree Hill in the background.

Jogging track along the summit. One Tree Hill in the background.

What I especially noticed and appreciated about this volcano were the sizable volcanic blocks dotted around the place. Even just right in the middle of the path.

Lava bomb in the way? No worries, just build the step around it.

Bomb in the way? No worries, just build the step around it.

Interesting texture on this block of scoria just inside the domain, like there were little chunks of rock all stuck together with more rock.

Interesting texture on this block of scoria just inside the domain, like there were little chunks of rock all stuck together with more rock.

Land slip/rockfall. Mostly composed of scoria

Land slip/rockfall. Mostly composed of scoria

What follows is a series of photographs of the crater lake from different angles.

First proper view of the crater, er, "lake"

First proper view of the crater, er, “lake”

Crater lake from the lowest lying side of the rim

Crater lake from the lowest lying side of the rim

View of the "lake" from the summit. Mt Eden in the background.

View of the “lake” from the summit. Mt Eden in the background.

I only spent a short while here, half an hour perhaps (though one could easily walk the crater rim in under ten minutes, possibly five) and saw no one until I was about to leave then there was a jogger and a hiking couple. I definitely get the feeling you have to know about this place and go there with purpose. It’s not the sort of place one just stumbles across. Mt. Eden, Mt Hobson and One Tree Hill being much more obvious (and higher) targets in the region if you’re looking to climb something.

Recommended for the feeling of exploring a private volcano all to yourself. Many types of native trees. No facilities.