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13 December 2006

Lookout Track

(See also Edwin Mitchelson Track)

The Lookout is a wooden platform of the improved Cave Creek variety, set at the edge of a cliff overlooking Muriwai Beach. We hit it just before sunset one evening, looking for a fine west coast sunset. Aussie bush fires have lately improved the quality of these some.

You can get to it up a steepish set of steps from Motutara Rd about 50 m back from the shop, then along Domain Crescent and up a short bush track, or you can approach it from the top from Oaia Rd via Edwin Mitchelson Track, or from Waitea Rd via the Quarry Track.

I haven't checked the Quarry Track yet, and my antipathy towards steps is well documented, so it is the second option I am dealing with right now.

We parked the van at the top of Edwin Mitchelson Track on Oaia Rd, just next to #243 Oaia Rd, and ambled down to the junction. The twenty minute time allowance is overly generous - it took us just 11 minutes on the way back, going uphill. Fatman time.

Miranda stopped for some cliff pictures on the way down. For some reason her camera has a tendency to boost yellow content, and the results nearly always have a life mine being more bluish in cast often lack. This time she excelled herself and her rendition of the "Sulphur Cliffs" at Muriwai could turn them into a major tourist draw if widely published. I'll give you just a small taste:

photo by miranda woodward

Another pause for a preliminary sunset shot.

photo by miranda woodward

We turn right near the bottom of the hill. The track, which has been comfortable two abreast width all the way down, narrows to about 2/3 of this, still generous, and is graded and benched with no vices. The pics which follow are flash-assisted, taken at dusk. They are also taken on the way back up the hill....

It's mostly lightweight scrub and regenerating coastal bush - and having said that, when it's not invaded by exotics I think our native scrub is as attractive as any I've seen.

"Scrub" has a technical definition: " closed-canopy woody vegetation dominated by stems less than 10 centimetres diameter".

Likewise "shrubland": scrub with an open canopy, where shrub cover is less than 80 percent.

Scrub becomes forest when the dominant stems forming the canopy are more than 10 centimetres diameter at breast height.

acknowledgements to

An occasional big tree remains from earlier days.

About a minute or two down, we pass the junction with Quarry Track, which heads on out to Waitea Rd. We carry on.

Young nikau line the track for a while. I am curious as to why these are almost completely absent from Woodhill Reserve when they are such a strong feature of regenerating bush elsewhere, and especially in areas exposed to the westerlies

Film makers love New Zealand. I have even watched them setting a South American jungle scene in our bush. (They'd need to turn the sound off here though as the tuis are pretty deafening at times.) But there's something about the looming quality, especially around dusk and a little later that can be quite impressive.

We head on down. The path has a gentle grade and a firm surface, which might be a touch slippery in wet weather, but right now is fine.

The Lookout Track proper heads on down to Domain Crescent. Again the time allowance is overly generous. Miranda and Alice explored it and were back in 10 minutes or less. The Lookout proper is about 25m down a small sidetrack from here.

The wirewove scrubby Muehlenbeckia lining this small path is just coming into flower. (In my teens, I used to sleep on this on the sand dunes above the Coromandel beaches.) It's poor light for closeup work but I do what I can. I'll look out for this elsewhere when it's bright sunlight.

As we emerge into vegetation directly exposed to the salty Muriwai westerlies everything takes on a sculptured easterly lean.

The pohutukawa are just hitting their straps. I still think one of Rex Fairburn's most lyrical moments was when he described them in Passover terms as "... like blood sprinkled on the lintel of the land...", forwarding the myth of "God's own country", preserved from the evils that beset other nations. Why not?

The light does not do them justice. I'll have to remedy this later on, too.

The sunset has its moments but tonight, mostly, it is obscured by cloud.

photo by miranda woodward

We head back up to the van at a leisurely pace, and then on down to the gannet colony to catch the very last of the light.



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