22 July 2007
Upper Huia Dam Track
I was attracted to this track by the ARC notes, which I have to say are in some respects deceptive. It's been as wet as hell in Auckland over the last week or two, with an occasional fine day for walking. I wanted a track which, given the potential for Waitakere tracks to muddy up in wet weather, wasn't too steep or otherwise demanding.
This track, say the ARC notes, follows the route of the old tramway built to transport materials to the Upper Huia damsite. Work was completed here in 1929. I figured on something a bit like Ridge Road, or perhaps Donald McLean Track. Gentle grades, generous width, benched, etc etc.
It wasn't until I reached the start of the track on the Piha Rd that I saw the "Experienced Trampers Only" sign. ARC notes have no indication of the kind. Probably a useful addition to their notes.
Now I knew that the Ian Wells track, which also carries this label, is a doddle, apart from a couple of stream crossings which invite wet feet, and I knew there were several stream crossings on this one, so I figured, given easy grades, I would probably be fine if I just took my time — as I was on the Ian Wells track, and as I have been on most tracks.
I hadn't figured on a recent virus attack which had confined me to the house for a week, and which I thought I had beaten. About an hour and a half in, fatman time, I began to feel a bit watery. Not only me. Somehow or other, a small patch of condensation had found its way onto the inside of my main camera lens. Everything I pointed the camera towards appeared to be shrouded in a kind of green mist. This phenomenon only became apparent after I'd been walking and shooting pictures for a bit over an hour — and had gone by the time I reached the van again.
However, the combination was enough. Probably another 45 minutes ahead of me to the end of the track, lunch, maybe feeling better, maybe not, and then back, and then 90 minutes....
I'm not into doing the heroic stuff if I can't take pictures to prove I've been there, and in any case I wanted to get the camera into the hot water cupboard as soon as possible before something critical started to rust. I assumed the camera bag must have become damp, and the camera, left in it, had absorbed enough moisture to cause problems.
So, back to the van. Finish it another day....
The track begins on the Piha Rd about 2.5 km past the Upper Nihotupu Dam carpark towards Piha. There's ample parking and very little windscreen glass to be seen. From here it makes its way 4km downhill to the Upper Huia Dam. Then you've got a comfortable (waterworks) gravel road all the way down to Huia, or you can set out along the Nugget Track, onto the Huia Ridge Track and all the way down towards Whatipu Rd. It looks a bit hilly for ideal winter walking, so I'll probably check that out later in the year.
(I am resigned for much of the Waitakeres network to a walk-in-walk-back plan and that's what this will be today. It's a total of about 8 km)
It looks a bit steepish, but nothing to worry about — especially compared with something like Fletcher or Karamatura Tracks. There are no scrambly bits, no huge steps upwards or downwards.
The biggest problem along here for the elderly and stout is the surface of the track, which is probably the stiffest with tree roots I've seen in a long while - mainly rewarewa, as far as I could see, but given the boggy and slippery conditions, you need to watch every step, quite literally, or your feet will disappear sideways.
We begin shortly after 10 am. The signs point 90 degrees to the left of where they need to, but common sense still has some value.
Early indications are not all that promising
It's an extraordinarily wet track, not just underfoot, but reflected in the vegetation which gives me some of the more luxuriuant ferns and mosses and lichens to be seen around the area. Here, rata (M. diffusa) and lichens mix it on a punga.
Again, not a track with much mahoe, but alseuosmia (karapapa) - below - fills in most of the gaps where I would expect to see it. Rangiora and kawakawa also conspicuously absent. Lush saplings of huge-leaved Coprosma grandifolia are constants most of the way.
Up ahead, there's a largish fallen tree and a beaten track around it.
As I said, luxuriant moss.
Several wiry twigs of rewarewa emerge from the horizontal trunk of an otherwise completely dead looking fallen tree.
Roots. Good music, uncomfortable walking.
More moss and fern. The sheer lushness of it has already grabbed me well and truly.
A rewarewa hosts a climbing thread fern (Blechnum filiforme)