Mangakara Nature Walk
This is an easy loop walk, listed as an hour, but more like 3/4 hour, in Pirongia Forest Park. We stretched it out to an hour and a quarter by exploring an adjoining tramping track for a few hundred metres.
We were driving from Helensville to Wanganui that day, setting off around 5am to beat the Auckland rush hour so it was not long after 8 am when we arrived. The early hour, combined with the height of the canopy in this pristine forest meant that light was not always adequate for many pics and using the flash changed the appearance of objects quite dramatically. Accordingly, many of these pics have had to be edited somewhat to provide adequate detail.
The forest, the walking track apart, is reckoned to be in almost pristine condition, untouched by land clearing or timber-felling. Certainly, nowhere have I seen so many tall trees, so many trunks of so many different species, going straight up until they disappeared in the light above.
To reach this walk, leave SH39 just south of Te Rore, or north of Pirongia. You won't miss it if you blink, but avoid sneezing if possible. Pirongia Forest Park is well signposted. Turn right at Te Pahu Rd, cross the river and then left into Hodgson Rd and left again into Grey Rd. Continue to the end of Grey Rd where there is a large parking area, toilets and an information shelter
The track is spoonshaped - a shortish handle and a large loop track on the end. We went round the loop anticlockwise but it's much the same either way. Our way did probably save the best until last, though. There are a couple of bridges crossing the Mangakara Stream, and a good deal of boardwalk, especially round the big kauri. The track is excellent, benched and well-surfaced. You could walk it in a suit without too much trouble. (The tramping track leading off it near the far end of the loop is quite a different matter.)
The first part of the track winds downhill past the toilets. The first indication we have of the size of everything generally is the base of the punga boles. They are getting on for 500mm, some bigger, and the fronds against the sky are a long way up.
The scale is enormous.
It's as though everything here has raced straight up in a battle for the light.
The forest is simply lush.
We reach the first of two bridges across the Mangakara Creek. As with the rest of the walking track, it is well constructed. Again, the lushness of the bush is obvious.
I've always marvelled at the clear water in South Island streams, but these are at least as clear.
The rocks are dark brown to black, however, rather than white.
Wherever it is damp, parataniwha flourishes. It is a close relation of the nettle, but, fortunately, does not sting.
Rata is also a feature of this forest, but down here, it's the vines we get to see. The flowers and leaves are a long way up
Here by the track is an unusual twin kauri, two trunks coming from the one base.