Hello Moms and Dads,
Siobhan O’Grady and myself took our group up to the Waitakere Range for an introduction to the North Island’s rainforest. Siobhan serves as a senior coordinator for Conservation Volunteers Auckland and knows the Range well. She will be doing most of the student check-ins for the remainder of the course with Jafa Dave stopping in to share travel tips.
Home to one of the last pockets of endemic kaori trees, the Waitakere showcases what the island looked like before the arrival of the Maori and Europeans. With some of these giants dating back to the time of Christ, they can tower up to 150-feet tall. A unique feature is their “sunburnt” appearance. With hefty lianas and epiphytes attempting to cling to every branch, the kaori evolved a rather ingenious solution—they shed their own bark. No matter the strangle hold, they eventually shake off the parasitic plants by sluffing off sections of their bark sending the mossy mats crashing to the ground.
At the Arataki Visitor’s Center we watched a fifteen-minute video introduction to the Range. Home to the famed Hillary Trek—named after New Zealand’s famed climber and the first person to conquer Mt. Everest—a world of walking opened up to the adventurous in our bunch. It takes a good 3-4 days to hike the full route, but some were calculating what they could traverse in a weekend.
Our crew completed a short hike to a promontory that afforded sweeping views of Auckland in the distance. The usually impressive sky tower was but a needle in a haystack of office buildings from our lofty vantage point. Next, Siobhan led them two miles down a heavily forested trail while I drove the van down a sinuous two-lane road. On cue, I met them as they exited the forest.
With hungry students in tow, we enjoyed a nice stopover at Titirangi. One of Auckland’s hippest little towns, Titirangi is known for its free-range chickens whose territory includes sidewalks and parking lots of trendy coffee shops. Twenty-five minutes from Auckland, Titirangi offers a jumping off point to the nearby mountains or an arid coastline. Siobhan and I had a quiet cup of joe while the others sampled the homemade meat pies and pastries. In sum, it was another fun day with your sons and daughters.