28 July 2007
This track is one out of the box. The ARC has almost completed a Montana-type remake of it, and apart from a few hundred metres still to be finished and still a touch muddy, it's a benched, drained, compacted gravel surface through some exceptionally lovely bush. (I've done a series of tracks recently where every step demanded my attention. The luxury of a track like this took me by surprise. I relaxed and enjoyed it.)
It runs from the Old Coach Road Track, just up from the ranger's house, across to the Fairy Falls Track.
I suspect if I had walked it 18 months or more back I might have found it somewhat daunting, judging from a few areas of old track that still exist beside the new. No question, it's steep in places, but no more difficult even in those areas, than any multi-storey building in which you choose to take the stairs. The makeover is simply wonderful.
In an earlier track report, I suggested that the most sensible way of doing the Fairy Falls/Old Coach Road circuit was to start at Mountain Rd, head clockwise down to the Falls and up to the Old Coach Road turnoff and back to Mountain Rd via OCR. That still stands, if you're doing the full circuit.
But I would now recommend, ahead of the full circuit, a route which, again, begins at Mountain Rd, heads up Old Coach Road Track, turns left onto Goodfellow Track, then turns left at Fairy Falls Track and returns to Mountain Rd.
That part of the full circuit between Goodfellow Track and Scenic Drive offers much less of interest (to me) than the shortcut across Goodfellow Track, and if you're doing it from September of this year on I would imagine the ARC would have completed the Goodfellow make-over, and you can leave your feet to their own devices and concentrate on the scenery.
Doing the circuit counter-clockwise (OCR > Goodfellow > Fairy Falls) means you have a couple of fairly steep descents, on stairs that are even and comfortable to use, combined with somewhat longer, but more gentle ascents. If you want to give your heart a workout, vice versa.
On this particular morning, I started early (for me) and walked up Sharp Bush Track and back for a gentle warmup, followed by morning tea, before setting out up the Old Coach Rd Track around 11.30 am. Miranda has been at a birth since 2 am, so it's just Alice and me again. With a 15-20 minute lunch break at the Falls I am back at the van in 3 hours, fatman time. No need to hurry if you are enjoying yourself. ( A week or two later when Miranda and I revisit the circuit with minimal photography, we complete it in a little over 2 hours.)
The initial section, up Old Coach Road, is unremitting uphill, on a somewhat water-sculpted clay surface, and I am pleased I took a little trouble beforehand to get properly warmed up. On the edge of the track I spot a kumarahou (Pomaderris kumeraho) in bud, a month or two before I would normally expect to see it.
[I'm still not sure of what conventions govern the translation of Maori names into Latin. Corokia cotoneaster and Korokio are another pair of such names]
A warning sign indicates possible difficulties. I decide to check it out anyhow.
[Note: (13 August 2007) Warning signs are now gone. The Goodfellow track is complete and immaculately surfaced throughout.]
And here we are, still within tagging distance of the main road.
I place a tentative boot into the middle of it and find firm ground not too far beneath. Onwards.
They changes are a deal more than cosmetic.
There's been some serious excavation along here.
I edge past. This reminds me of the road menders on the Heaphy Track a few years back, and I reflect on the effort that goes into creating as seamlessly as possible these narrow ribbons of relative safety and comfort through an environment that can be and often is otherwise quite demanding or even hostile.
We keep going and meet a couple coming up who tell us there's about a 150 metres of mud and after that you can take your granny on it.
Given the direction they have come, that's a fit granny, but the surface is certainly wonderful when it arrives.
A gadget for compacting gravel. Probably about 50-80 kg. What pedestrian is going to waltz off with it, walking right in front of the ranger's house as (s)he does so. Still, it is Auckland. Can't be too careful, can we? It's small enough to be heaved over a bank by some macho graffiti artist.
These steps, unlike those perpetrated by DOC, are user friendly. Where possible they are built en bloc, with consistent treads and risers all the way along. ARC are also, on the whole, more cognisant than DOC of the total stupidity of using roundwood for track building or repairs.
I am beginning to become aware of a valley off to the right which is wide and extremely deep. Great crowns of kauri are visible at eye level about 20-30 metres out from the track. I have something about a descent around huge bluffs in the back of my recall.