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.

 

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.

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 thing  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.