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.

 

6. Tuff Crater (Tank Farm)/ Te Kopua o Matakamokamo

2 January 2013

Thanks GoogleMaps

Aerial view (Thanks GoogleMaps)

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.

View from State Highway 1 (Thanks Google streetview -because no one takes photos whilst driving.)

View from State Highway 1 (Thanks Google streetview -because no one takes photos whilst driving.)

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.

A path in the grass

A path in the grass

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.

Looking across the "neck" of the crater to The Warehouse Ltd HQ with Takapuna's Sentinel in the background

Looking across the “neck” of the crater to The Warehouse Ltd HQ with Takapuna’s Sentinel in the background

 

The second of many path shots

The second of many enticing path views

I heard this tree all a-twitter before I got close enough to see what all the commotion was about.

A pear tree + a flock of starlings = avian heaven

A pear tree + a flock of starlings = avian heaven

 

Tide on the way out, maybe?

Tide on the way out, maybe?

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.

The board walk at the foot of Bailey's Reserve

The board walk near the foot of Bailey’s Reserve

 

A pair of Eastern Rosellas

A pair of Eastern Rosellas

Now we hit the new path: some gravel dumped in a line (Auckland City in the distance)

Now we hit the new path: some gravel dumped in a line (Auckland City in the distance)

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.

Obligatory Sky Tower shot

Obligatory Sky Tower shot

 

Looking back into the crater you can see the main drainage channel (tall tree on the right towers above the new stairs)

Looking back into the crater from up near The Warehouse you can see the main drainage channel

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.

Lonesome Lobelia clinging on for dear life

Lonesome Lobelia clinging on for dear life. I should’ve uprooted it but I didn’t have the heart to. I’ve no idea where it came from as there was nothing like it around.

 

A pair of Diamond Doves

A pair of Diamond Doves

 

Cul-de-sac at the end of St Peter's Road

Cul-de-sac at the end of St Peter’s Road (about half way round on my way back)

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.

Looking North-East down through Bailey's Reserve and out across the mangroves (thanks Google street view)

Looking North-East down through Bailey’s Reserve and out across the mangroves (thanks Google street view)

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.