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.

9. Ohinerau/Mt Hobson

Visited on 4 January 2013

I met this cat on a hot basalt wall whilst making my way up Macmurray Road

I met this cat on a hot basalt wall whilst making my way up Macmurray Road

Mt Hobson is named after Captain William Hobson who was the first was the first Governor of New Zealand and co-author of the Treaty of Waitangi. This is the first mountain he climbed in Auckland. The Maori name is Remu-wera (from which the name of the suburb Remuera has been derived) meaning burnt edge of the skirt referring to an incident in the 1700’s when a young woman from Hauraki was killed and eaten at the pa near Dilworth College. Prior to this the mountain was called Ohinerangi meaning the dwelling place of Hinerangi.

2015 Edit: In September 2014 this Maunga was given the official Maori name of Ohinerau (goddess of whirlwinds) as part of the Treaty of Waitangi settlement with the Tamaki Makaurau Collective.

Some boys had been playing a game of cricket in the vacant section

Some boys had been playing a game of cricket in the vacant section

Just south of Newmarket, the closest entrance to Mt Hobson Domain was through a vacant section on Dilworth Ave -there was a turnstile and a fairly well-beaten track through the grass so I figured it was ok.

View from where I'd walked up looking out over the Southern Motorway and Macmurray road

View from where I’d walked up looking out over the Southern Motorway and Macmurray road

At 143 metres high it’s quite a visible volcano seen from the South Western Motorway and as such the northwestern slopes are often used by vandals. The flat-top appearance is not natural but merely the roof of a water reservoir installed in 1935

Mt Victoria, North Head and Rangitoto Island with Hobson Bay in the centre, bounded by Tamaki Drive and the Eastern rail line

Mt Victoria, North Head and Rangitoto Island with Hobson Bay in the centre, bounded by Tamaki Drive and the Eastern rail line

Even though it’s Summertime the grass is still fairly green and long, being fluttered about by a fresh breeze rippling up the slopes.

The Trig

The Trig

Isn’t this picture so vibrant and full of movement and energy? I tell you those clouds were fairly scudding and the grass was whipped into a frenzy of its own. We also seem to be on a flight path here and elevated so unusually close to the aeroplanes as they take off.

Looking down into the U-shaped crater (from the bottom of the U). One Tree Hill way off in the distance and Mt Saint John peeking round from the right.

Looking down into the U-shaped crater (from the bottom of the U). One Tree Hill way off in the distance and Mt Saint John peeking round from the right.

Mt Hobson has a U shaped volcanic cone from where the lava busted through the southwestern side of the scoria cone.

A couple of kumara storage pits nestled near the top

A couple of kumara storage pits nestled near the top

The mountain was used by the Maori as a Pa site and evidence of this can still be seen in the kumara storage pits, which I managed to locate even with the long grass flowing every which way.

My shelter bush

My shelter bush

Much as I do like the wind I seized this bush off the beaten track as an opportunity for a few minutes of peace. You can see it growing lopsidedly in the face of the prevailing wind and the difference either side is remarkable. I felt completely isolated on the mountain top and really thought I was until a jolly dog came gambolling along hotly pursued by his master.

Geodetic Survey Mark

Geodetic Survey Mark

The well worn track along the ridge evidencing Mt Hobson's volcanic origin...

The well worn track along the ridge evidencing Mt Hobson’s volcanic origin…

...where I literally stumbled across this flattened spheroid little bomb

…where I literally stumbled across this flattened spheroid little bomb

Descending down the well kept tracks on the northern side I came across this old Morton Bay fig tree and imagined how boys used to climb and play in it’s branches living the carefree life then growing up and joining the army, going off to fight in World War Two and never returning to their special tree.

The lovely old fig tree -pity about the graffiti

The lovely old fig tree -pity about the graffiti

This is how far I can run in nine seconds using self timer

This is how far I can run in nine seconds using self timer

Overall I was really impressed with this one… Interesting shape, variety of plantings, volcanic boulders scattered here and there, retaining a mostly natural feel, stunning views over all of Auckland, just enough height to feel you’d done good for the soul but not overwhelmingly steep. “All obstacles in life are mere opportunities”. One of many memorial benches Recommended for many memorial seats to rest and drink in the views and also the daffodil display in Spring (I think I’ve found an excuse to return).

Rustic sign calling me back in the Spring

Rustic sign calling me back in the Spring

7. Onepoto Basin/ Te Kopua o Matakerepo

Visited 2 January 2013

Maori for “the short beach”, it’s Auckland’s oldest volcano and used to be home to… you guessed it -a short beach. The base of the crater is 61 metres below the current ground level. Sediment shows that before the salt-marsh and mud-flats were drained in the 1950’s it used to be a fresh water lake, much like big brother Pupuke is now.

Onepoto Domain is situated between Tuff Crater to the north and Onewa road interchange to the south

Onepoto Domain is situated between Tuff Crater to the North and Onewa road interchange to the South

I was a bit tired after already having walked around Tuff Crater (and back) but decided a stroll in a greener place would be worth it and I wasn’t disappointed. This turned out to be more a tour of birdlife than volcanic landforms (you have been warned!).

I took the small path off Exmouth road. There’s an official proper sign with a map and everything but nothing much else to indicate it might be anything more than a vacant lot until part way down the slope…

The old sign

The old sign

I continued walking sideways on a grassy slope for a while thinking to myself “Mum would hate this uneven ground and no path”, then stopped to snap this picture…

First official glimpse of the basin floor (behind me) and a lonesome puriri tree

First official glimpse of the basin floor (behind me) and a lonesome puriri tree

I came to a fork in the path and headed off to the right to follow the banks of a stream to a little copse (that’s just typical me seeking shade again). Found a wee bridge to cross.

Talk about getting your ducks in a row!

Talk about getting your ducks in a row! Or does life imitate art? Does the song “5 Little ducks went swimming one day” ring any bells?

Had a bit of a look-see at the waterfowl around the lake. Mostly just ducks and such.

White-faced heron hunts lunch

White-faced heron hunts lunch in the shallows

I then headed out to the main entrance off Sylvan Ave/Tarahanga street, just to see what it would look like for most people arriving at Onepoto Domain. Pretty nice, as it turned out.

Are these not the most decorative pedestrian path protectors you've ever seen? Art Nouveau influence perhaps?

Are these not the most decorative pedestrian path protectors you’ve ever seen? Art Nouveau influence perhaps?

A little further round, past the car park, there is a playground for children that is a cut above the ordinary. It was getting a thrashing from about 30 children today, so no photos. It features all the fantastic stations expected of a modern playground plus more. “More” being a flying fox type thingĀ  and a scooter/bike cycle path with centrelines and roundabouts. Teach them how to be traffic aware and road safe at a young age. Yes, please!

Who knows the road rules?

Who knows the road rules?

 

Give way to Pukekos

Give way to Pukekos

 

Look! There goes one now

Look! There goes one now

I startled that poor pukeko well and good when he was just going about his business of foraging in some reeds in a ditch. He gave me a good idea: I left the play area behind and continued my counter-clockwise walk around the upper slopes of the basin floor. Before long I found the small track leading off to the right. I passed a few backyards, a clearing and then found myself in “bush” or more like under-brush. This part of the walk felt the most deserted of all. I could pretend, for a moment, that I didn’t live in NZ’s largest city, that I wasn’t in fact passing the overgrown backyards of well-to-do suburbia and that the sea was nowhere near.

Almost overgrown

Almost overgrown

I continued following the trail and was grateful when it became a mini board-walk. I say mini because if I had met someone walking the other way there most likely would’ve been muddy shoes, as the ground was getting rather squelchy underfoot.

A fledgling fantail was squawking about in the undergrowth demanding food, then with it’s stomach appeased it set about roosting with it’s folks on a high up twig. It was sooo cute to see this little family of fantails, about 6 of them, all squished together like a giant fluffy caterpillar balancing on a branch.

All good paths must come to an end. *Sniff*

All good paths must come to an end. *Sigh*

After a while of peacefulness the path started to rise and I could glimpse the same hi-vis orange fencing I saw when I entered the park and knew my journey would soon be ended. But not before trying to photograph a monarch butterfly flitting about -yeah-nah, that didn’t turn out at all well but I did hear a noise in the trees behind me and spotted this tui quenching his thirst.

Camo tui looking like a leaf

Camo tui looking like a leaf

This is a great place for children (but maybe not babies or toddlers due to all the water). My only regret is that I never got to take my nephews here whilst they were still living in Auckland.