Friday, February 26, 2016

Karamatura Falls - Tramping around Auckland

The Karamatura Falls are located in the Huia Regional Park which is about an hour's drive from Auckland.

About Huia and the only Huia Store:
"Huia - Just like Hawai but only cooler"
Huia is a quaint suburb in Western Auckland. It has just one store - The Huia Store - which serves up delicious food and also serves as a general store. It celebrates its 130th anniversary this year(2016). The store is a must visit - it retains an old world charm. It has a small corner where books are up for sale. We had a cauliflower and broccoli salad as a pre-hike snack. They have salads in portions of 8$, 12$ and 16$.
A regular coffee is 4$ and a large costs 5$.
The ultra cute Huia Store

130 years of Huia

Search for 1320 Huia Road, Huia. This leads to the Huia Hall. Opposite the hall, there are two roads leading to the right - one to the Ranger's Office and another is an unsealed road. Get onto the unsealed road and drive to the car park.

Time to get there : 
An hour from Auckland by car.

What to wear :
Sturdy boots as the track can be quite muddy and slippery in some places.
Most of the walk is inside the forest so it can get cold depending on the time of the year so carry a layer of warmth.

Things to carry :
* Sufficient Drinking Water
* Lunch and snacks
* Garbage bag - you must carry away all your rubbish
* Swimming costume and towel

Karamatura Falls:
Type of falls : Horsetail
Karamatura Loop Track
The Karamatura Falls

Karamatura Loop Track and diversion to the falls:

At the start of the track, there are camping grounds.

Go past the camping ground and follow the Karamatura Loop Track. This track is supposed to take 1hour return. I recommend doing this track in an anti-clockwise pattern cause otherwise you would end up tiring yourself climbing up the wooden steps.

In the first couple of minutes, you come across remnants of the timber milling days. After about 20 minutes of walking, you come across a sign which directs you to the left to follow the Karamatura Loop Track. Ignore this and head on straight a couple of meters and follow the next sign to the Karamatura Track. This will be the diversion to the falls. Follow along this track until the next sign post which takes you to the falls. A small stream crossing is required but is easy with lots of stones to step on.

Once at the falls, one could also get down into the water and then get onto the huge stone to finish some reading and packed lunch.

On the way, there are plenty of places to get down to test the water and for photos or a relaxing read. 

Return via the same route to the Karamatura track and then complete the Karamatura Loop Track which is mostly downhill and easy. 

The whole walk took us about 90 minutes with about a 20 minute break to dip our feet in the water.

Huia Regional Park
View from Huia Point
Other things to do in the area:
* Visit the Huia Dam
* Twin Peaks Track - gets you to the highest peak
* Lower Huia Dam Road - 1 hour return - one to do when the lake is overflowing (possibly after the rainy winter)
* Mt Donald McLean Walk - 30 minute return - on a clear day, can view Mt Taranaki
* Whatipu Caves - 50 minutes return

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A visit to Tiritiri Maatangi Island

The island is a pest free scientific reserve and is home to many native species of flora and fauna as well as birds. It is one of the most successful conservation projects in the world and is also referred to as the "Treasure Island".

Time to get there : 
A  little over an hour by ferry  - Fuller's 360 Discovery
The ferry starts at 9am and returns at 3:30pm on the same day. There is an option to stay the night, which will require a booking at the bunkhouse.

Cost : 
70 NZD for return fare for a person on the ferry plus extra for coffee and snacks. Add on the cost for lunch. We carried a home cooked meal.

What to wear :
Comfortable clothes depending on the weather. Layer up would be my recommendation. It gets a bit cold on the ferry and when exposed to the sea at the beach in winter/spring.
Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes - can get slushy in some parts especially if after a rain.

Things to carry :
* Sufficient Drinking Water - there is water available at the store
* Lunch - packed in a sealed container - to deter rodents and other pests
* Snacks
* Garbage bag - you must carry away all your rubbish
* A rain jacket
* Sun hat
* Sunscreen
* Good camera
* Binoculars
* Sunglasses

 If staying overnight, ensure to pack more food.

Things to do :
  • Walking
In this post I will cover the walking tracks as this is what we went there for. Along with walking, we managed to do quite a bit of bird watching as well.

The walks are suitable for all kinds of walkers and are not strenuous. There are parts which have a few steps but you can always do it at your own pace. There are numerous spots to have a wee bit of relaxation and watch the birds enjoy the birdbaths in place. There are a multitude of short walks which can be connected together to make a longer walk.

This link mentions all the walks.
  • Wattle Track - Wharf to Lighthouse - under 30 minutes. There is an option to do this on the road
  • Hobbs Beach Track - Wharf to Hobbs beach - under 10 minutes. Take in the beautiful views of Rangitoto and Auckland. Don't miss the penguin nesting boxes on the left hand side
tiritiri maatangi views
View of Rangitoto Island from Hobb's Beach

  •  Kawerau Track - Hobb's Beach to Ridge Track - under 40 minutes. A scenic walk with loads of opportunities to view some birds like saddleback, tui, wood pigeons, rifleman
  • Ridge road/track - connects from Kawerau track to the lighthouse - under 30 minutes. Most of this is on gravel road.
  • East Coast Track - about 90 minutes. This is a very scenic track with a few steep sections.  
If you have some extra time you could combine these walks for a longer walk.
  • Wattle Track - Lighthouse - Wattle Track loop track - about 1 hour
  • Hobbs Beach Track - Kawerau Track - Ridge Track - Wattle Track -  loop track  - about 3 hours

  • Kayaking 
  • Diving and Snorkelling
  • Bird watching
  • Relax on beach/Swimming
  • Shop at the store
  • Enjoy a free tea/coffee
Other things to note :
Since the island is pest free, you must ensure that all your gear is free of rodents and other pests. Brushes are provided before getting onto the ferry as well as at the concrete landing to free any lose particles on shoes.

Do try to avoid dropping food and doing your best to pick up what does fall.

History :  
Originally cleared for farming, the island was known for the light house, Tiritiri light. As years progressed, a foghorn was installed.  After more than a decade, the pastoral land has been eradicated of all pests and native trees were replanted. This helped reintroduce native species too.

east coast track
View from the East Coast Track

tiritiri light
Lighthouse area

tiritiri maatangi island walks
Another view from East Coast Track

view of rangitoto island
View of Rangitoto Island
tiritiri maatangi views
View of Rangitoto Island from Hobb's Beach

crystal clear water
Crystal clear calm waters

lighthouse tiritiri
When the clouds imitated the macrocarpa tree

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Auckland Street Eats 2014

Social media was well taken advantage of to promote this already hugely popular event. Reminders about the event started showing up on my facebook feed a month before the event.
Unfortunately, "Fabric-a-brac", another event that I was interested in was on the same day. I thought that we would be able to make it to both places, first to fabric-a-brac and then, to the street eats, but hunger got the better of me and the queues at Street Eats took up all the time, that I had to miss Fabric-a-brac.

There is no wonder why this event is not already a monumental success. The food did not fail to please, except for a few let downs. Some of the food is not really "street" food, as in, you need to use both your hands and may be look a mess as well. All of the vendors serve their food in eco friendly bowls and food cones and there are friendly people willing to come help clean away the empty bowls, though there was no lack of dustbins at the venue.

We tried the "Lamb Pita" from Ima Cuisine which was a huge let down. It was our first buy and it definitely was not worth the wait in the huge queue. The team struggled with delivering orders.  Priced at 10$, the lamb was a bit undercooked for our liking. They did have a 7$ vegetarian falafel option as well, though we did not try that one. I have heard a lot about their Shakshuka but that was not on offer at Street Eats.

Our next stop was the Belotta stall, where we had Piquollo Peppers, which was absolutely delicious and had our spirits up again. Priced at 8$, we got two pieces of peppers stuffed with delicate, delicious seafood filling topped with a smooth tomato based sauce.

From the time we had entered the venue, I knew I had to visit the Food Truck Garage. So, we next ran to join that queue downing our beers, as we were not allowed to take the beer out of Shed 10. The Beefroot Slider and the Redergize Salad were amazingly delicious and worth the 5$ each. Well worth the wait in the queue with the hot NZ sun toasting our backs. I am definitely going to buy quinoa when I am at the supermarket next to try my own version of the Redergize salad.

Our final stop was Orleans for their Key Lime Pie(lets)(5$ for two) and Fried Chicken with Waffles in a Food Cone(8$). This was just the end we needed to our lunch. Slightly sweet waffles with crispy chicken nuggets served in a food cone. That pleased the Indian in me - symbolic of the food cones made of newspaper in which we could buy roasted peanuts or the dry Indian Bhel. This queue was the largest but we ate a slice of Toto's pizza as we waited.

It was really crowded and so we booted out giving Urban Turban, Merchants of Venice, iVillage, Mexico, The Grill by Sean Connelly, Thai Street, Y Not, amongst others, a miss.

There was a DJ playing some pretty good music, face painting and an inflated kid's play area. This one happens annually and should not be missed. It gives you a chance to sample the food from some of the restaurants on the waterfront at a nominal price.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Following the father-in-law's footsteps - a movie review

A comedy drama worth watching once if you are a hard-core Dhanush fan or are missing the yesteryear Rajinikanth.

Directed by: Velraj
Amala Paul

I fell in love with Dhanush after I heard "Why this kolaveri di", though '3' failed to impress me.  However, as I started watching more of his movies and listening to more of his movie songs, including those which he has lent his voice to, even before kolaveri happened, I sensed repetition. And after seeing all the raving about Vellai Illa Patadhaari on the internet, I reluctantly agreed to watch it for our weekend movie. Listed below are what I liked and what I did not like about the movie. 

  • Comedy
  • Awareness about organ donation
  • Awareness about the sad state of affairs in the country where engineers from all other fields are forced to take up an IT job.
  • Catchy music
Dislikes :
  • Repetition - have seen most of what Dhanush had to offer in most of his other movies.
  • Repetition - have seen most of this good guy always succeeds through hardwork in almost all of Rajinikanth's movies
  • Dhanush is trying to follow in his father-in-law's footsteps by introducing a lot of "style" 
    • When he speaks out the entire dialogue about how real people struggle to climb up the ladder and are crushed by the rich kids. 
    • When he gets his cigarette lighted up from the very guy that he beat up
  •  A scrawny Dhanush beating up a group of people, including when he takes off his shirt 
  • The same Dhanush who could remember that the next door girl lied about him lying drunk on the street can't remember that the same girl had said that she liked "Raghu" to "Karthik".. Aaargghhhh!!
  • Music seems repetitive too though it is catchy