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21 March 2007

Lower Kauri Track

An earlier version of this page celebrated our expedition about half way along the track, after which, short of time, we headed for home. Today we completed the track, and can now, according to ARC regard ourselves as experienced trampers. Some of the photos which follow are part of the original walk, and some from today's walk.

photo by Miranda Woodward

Warning: Yes, I am 65, yes, I do have two metal hips, and yes, I am currently 118 kg - just under 19 stone.

On the other hand, I have been training for some months and I have just returned from several weeks' tramping in the South Island with a pack weighing up to 25kg. My blood pressure is currently 123/78, and the stabiliser muscles around my hips, knees and ankles are in good shape.

Do not attempt tracks such as this fresh from your Lazee Boy, and if you fall into the elderly and stout category I suggest you also contact your GP before beginning any training regime leading up to a walk such as this.

Walking and tramping will generally improve your blood pressure and often your cholesterol levels, and help reduce weight, but there are some hereditary conditions - familial high blood pressure, for example - which may indicate caution. Check with your GP.

There's nothing on this track that you won't find elsewhere — in small doses of 10 -30m. But, except for a section somewhat akin to the Marguerite Track, much of the second half of this track is slippery, steep and rootridden, with often not much choice about where to plant the next foot. It will test all your knee and ankle stabiliser muscles, and if you fall at all into fatman territory, you will find it hard going without sticks for balance and leverage.

The risk if you are not fit is that you will tire well before the end, to the extent that you risk stumbling and turning an ankle or slipping heavily. You need to pay constant attention in the second half of the track to where your feet are going.

I shall probably take a couple more turns at it before I have enough spare attention to see in any detail what's worth photographing, though there are some magnificent kauri here.

To reach the Lower Kauri Track you will need to begin at the Cascade Carpark in Falls Rd, and travel via the Auckland City Walk and the Upper Kauri Track. The Lower Kauri Track runs from Upper Kauri Track to Long Road Track, and you can loop back to the carpark either by

  • turning left along Long Road Track, and back via Upper Kauri Track and the Auckland City Walk or
  • you can turn right along Long Road Track and back to the carpark via Whatatiri Track.

Auckland City Walk, Upper Kauri Track, and Long Road Track offer benched gravel track surfaces, along with boardwalks. Whatatiri Track is more variable, but on the whole straightforward.

After a short, level beginning, we descend sharply by a root-ridden and muddy track to the first stream. Not too demanding. A short easy climb along a comfortable if somewhat eroded track brings us to some gentle rises and falls until we reach the big kauri. At this point, there is another sharp descent to the right, and a series of steepish rises and falls across several more streams. The track here is not so much a track as a series of places to jam your next boot and lever off it.

There is some gentle intermediary track not unlike the Marguerite Track, until another steep, slippery, root-ridden climb brings you once more to a benched track, still climbing steeply before you level off for the last couple of hundred metres to Long Road.

Good boots are essential, and sticks too if you are remotely elderly or stout.

So far it looks

easy enough.

However, just ahead is the first descent.

Take this section of track, just above, tip it reasonably steeply, scour out between the roots and form marshy puddles every metre or two, make some of the "steps" about 750mm, and you're just about there.

What it reminds me of is the uphill scramble on the St James Walkway, about 700 metres before Cannibal Gorge Hut.

Down at the bottom of this slope we hit the first creek

This section is somewhat scoured out - a bit like the Fenceline track on the way up to Simla - but easily managed, nevertheless.

A section of gentle up and down follows

and around a corner we come to a real beauty of a kauri. At this point the track hangs a hard right, and we have now reached to limit of our last expredition here.

We head on down.

and soon the track becomes considerably more demanding

This is a section of track I had attention spare to photograph. Steep, and slippery, and consisting mainly of boot-sized places to park each foot on the way up.

These conditions persist, with a section of intervening easier track, narrow, but more or less level, until we head up again via more steep and slippery clay until we reach a longish, steep but benched track which eventually levels off and deposits us onto Long Road Track.

Coffee and a snack.

Fatman time, allowing minimal time for taking photographs, 2 hr 12.

We return to the car via Long Road and Upper Kauri Track. Lower Kauri has given us a good workout for a number of muscles that otherwise get minimal use, and a hot shower provides exactly what these muscles need when we get back home.


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Track Reports

Annotated ARC



In the Steps of Jack Leigh


Fitness Building for the Elderly and Stout

Food for Tramping

General Advice:
Specifically oriented to the Heaphy Track but relevant to other long walks for beginners and older walkers

New Zealand Plants
(an ongoing project)

Links to Tramping Resource Websites