Tunnel Gulley

I don’t think I have ever properly introduced you to my two best friends. They are the best kind of bestie’s you can have. The small, fluffy kind that are full of love and always happy to see you.

Meet Frank and Ed

Photo by Stu Corlett Photography

Frank (yes Frank the girl, Daniel named her) is a 5 year old poodle/bichon/westie cross. Her little brother Ed is a 3 year old poodle/shih tsu cross and they are the joy of my life. I love taking them out on adventures.

It’s a dreary, grey, rainy day but I am eager to get out for a walk with them. We decide to brave the weather. Our favourtie walk is Tane’s Track, at a place called Tunnel Gully in Upper Hutt. Although it is raining, this walk is mostly in the forest, so I think we will be ok.

As I turn onto Plateau Road, Eddie stands up, looks out the window and starts making his excited little squeaking noise. Even Frank starts joining in which is quite unusual. They know where we are heading and they are excited.

The road into Tunnel Gully is narrow and twisting. The mist is clinging to the hills. The park is green, lush and so inviting. Even in this weather.

We arrive at the car park and I am surprised to find we are not the only crazy ones who have decided to go walking today. Frank and Ed leap out of the car, they are raring to go.

I love this walk for many reasons, the first one being it’s dog friendly. There are lots of great walks in Wellington, but trying to find ones that are off lead dog friendly is a bit of a challenge. Tane’s Track is an easy 1 hour loop walk on a well maintained track. It goes through beautiful forest, has a waterfall, a picnic area, a tunnel to explore, native birds and streams.

There is so much to enjoy here. It’s quiet, peaceful and the perfect place for a little adventure.

It’s raining but we are not getting wet. The tree canopy is protecting us from the elements. Instead there is the gentle, soothing pitter patter of rain hitting the forest above us. Everything is dewy and glistening. The air is cool and fresh. Piwakawaka (Fantail) flitter through the misty branches, making their distinctive cheeping sounds. Tane’s track is a delight for the senses.

The forest here has many layers; large, ancient looking trees, covered in moss and vines. There are punga, palms and ground ferns and lots of examples of epiphyt here too. The forest is different to that which I was swooning over on the West Coast, but unique and beautiful in it’s own way.

The walk is mostly through quite dense, closed in forest, but at a couple of points, there are clearings which look out across the canopy. Looking out into the distance, all you can see is green, how great is it to be this surrounded by nature?

At several points the track takes you over or alongside a stream. There is one particular spot I always like to stop at. If you move a couple of rocks, sometimes you can find fresh water crayfish. I didn’t find any on this particular trip, but have done so several times before.

I also love to stop at the waterfall and listen to the sound of rushing water.

There is really only one part to this walk that is not in forest. Depending on which way you go, it is about 5 minutes into the walk (or from the end) It’s a large grassy area with eucalyptus trees scattered about. I kinda feel like I am in Australia at this part. There are picnic tables here and it’s often a nice place to stop for lunch (although not today) In summer the place is alive with chirping cicadas. In Winter it is a sleepy haven.

Before heading to the car, we take a short detour down to the tunnel, the feature that gives this park it’s name. Mangaroa Tunnel was built between 1875 and 1877, is 253m long and was used to connect the Wellington/Wairarapa railway. Although no longer used (it was closed in 1955 when the new Remutaka Tunnel was opened) you can still walk through the tunnel today. I didn’t go all the way through, but I do enjoy listening to the echoing sound of dripping water inside it.

We arrive back at the car and after an hour of exploring, I have 2 tired, muddy little pups who look like they have had an excellent time, but are also ready for a nap!

A Walk with the birds at Zealandia

It is a perfect winter’s day.

A day where the air is cool and crisp, the sky is blue as far as the eye can see and there is not a breath of wind.

Today I am off to Zealandia. A 225 hector, fully fenced sanctuary that’s home to a variety of native birds, reptiles and plants.

Within minutes of arriving, there are 2 things I become very aware of. The first being the stillness and silence. Not silence from noise altogether, the birds are rather loud. I am talking about silence from man made and city noises. There is something very energizing about being surrounded only by sounds of nature.

I am also aware of the variety of bird song I can hear. I have been in the bush many times where the birds are chattering away, but this is different. Being in the sanctuary, the variety of birds singing is awesome and the melody they produce together is wonderful.

Is this what it was like for our ancestors who first arrived to the shores of New Zealand? What a magical, untouched place it must have been.

Our walk begins along the lake. The water is so still and flat, creating some awesome mirror effects.

At the wetlands, we see a small group of shags. One is nesting, another is drying its wings in the sun.

I have put the zoom lens on my camera today. I am hoping to get some great bird shots. While taking photos of the shags, I notice how my zoom lens is dwarfed by the lenses on the camera’s next to me. I feel a bit embarrassed. One of the guys next to me joking tells me I will need to get a bit closer. (Any closer and I would be in the water!)

I am on this walk with Daniel today. He always likes to take the hardest, steepest routes. So up we go. He wants to see the upper dam. I am huffing and puffing away, but on the plus side, not as many people take these routes, so the peacefulness of the forest comes with us. When we reach the dam, we are rewarded with views across the canopy.

We see a number of different birds including piwakawaka (fantail), tieke (saddleback) and toutouwai (North Island robin) all or which were so hard to photograph, they move so quickly. This is the only photo I got that wasn’t just a big blur.

I did manage to get some good shots of the Kaka though (actually, Daniel did). A large brown parrot with orange under it’s wings. We saw several of these, they were quite easy to spot due to their size and the amount of noise they make hopping from branch to branch and gnawing on bark.

Next time I will be sure to check out the Tuatara Research Area. On warm sunny days you may see one basking on a rock, catching some rays. These ‘living fossil’ are relative of the dinosaurs and pretty unique looking.

Zealandia is a a nature lovers paradise. There is so much to explore, to see and to hear. I am grateful for places like this that allow us to get a glimpse of what untouched New Zealand might have been like.

There are many walks and routes you can take here. We only really scratched the surface of it, but even then, were rewarded with some beautiful forests and lots of birds.

Zealandia is currently free until the end of June. If you are local, I highly recommend checking it out. There is also a special on their year’s membership pass at the moment. For $50, I couldn’t resist.

Have you been to Zealandia before?

The Northern Loop Walk

I love being in nature, surrounded by bush, listening to the birds or on a beach with the sound of the ocean, so on my second day on Waiheke Island I decided to get out to explore the island a bit.

Waiheke has a number of different walks suitable for a variety of fitness levels and ranging in length and time.

I chose the Northern Loop Walk, an 8.5km walk with difficulty level rated moderate. Usually you would start the track from the Matiatia Bay ferry terminal, but as it was a loop track, I started on the other side from Karora Road where my accommodation was located.

Very convenient!

The black dot is Matiatia Bay where the track starts

The first part of the walk led me twisting and turning along the hillside, around a vineyard and past olive trees. The whole time I kept thinking, I could be in Tuscany right now. It reminded me so much of Italy. I went to Tuscany mid last year in search of the romantic, dreamy, picture perfect shots I had seen. I never realised that it also existed here in New Zealand.

A little bit further and I came to a clearing offering the first of many spectacular views.  I am sure I added on at least an hour to my walk from all the stops. There were so many amazing photo opportunities. (And so hard to choose which shots to include in this post!)

The track lead me along the top of rugged cliffs and then down to a quiet, secluded bay. It was the perfect place to stop for a rest and a bite to eat. Continuing on I headed past flax bushes filled with Tui and reeds that were dancing in the breeze.  Cicadas were going about their day, their happy chirping filling the air.

Back into the forest, I was followed by curious Piwakawakas (Fantails) flittering around the trees. They like to follow humans as we disturb the leaf floor and stir up all the bugs and grubs for them to eat. There are lots of seats along the way to stop and rest and enjoy the view, to be still, listen to the birds and the ocean.

I decided to take a detour up a hill through the forest. With Tui’s darting overhead through the canopy, the cool walk was a welcomed change to the heat of the day. The 10 minute detour took me to Cable Bay vineyard. I arrived hot and sweaty wearing sneakers and active wear. I thought possibly they wouldn’t want to serve me – I certainly wasn’t dressed to match the beautiful setting, but I was quickly welcomed in.

Before long I was enjoying  a light lunch and (if I do say so myself) a well earnt glass of pinot gris. The Zucchini salad was creamy and delicious, I ate it slowly, savoring each mouthful. With Post Modern Jukebox playing in the background the atmosphere was chilled and relaxed.

Just what I needed.

Hydrated, refueled and legs nicely numbed after the pinot gris, I set off for the last leg of the walk towards home, but not without making one last detour to Oneroa village. Shopping isn’t really my thing, but if it’s your vibe, you will find some cute little boutique shops here well worth visiting. The draw card in Oneroa Village for me – Island Gelato Company . A funky little gelataria with a delicious and creative selection of flavours.

I was spoilt for choice.

Basil & lime, burnt caramel coconut, strawberry and balsamic – I sampled a few and I can assure you, whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. I settled on yogurt lemon thyme shortbread gelato – creamy with such intense flavour.

Oh my. It was amazing!

After a rest in my tent at Fossil Bay, I made my way back to the village to Too Fat Buns, to grab a take away burger for dinner. Fresh and tasty, they have a great menu catering for a range of dietary requirements including vegan and gluten free. 
I ate my burger on Oneroa Beach, watching dogs enjoy their salty playground and reminiscing about my time on Waiheke.

Tomorrow I must leave Island time behind and head back to my 9-5, but not without first promising myself that I will return.

On Waiheke, you truly feel a world away from everything.

What a little paradise I discovered

The Details

The Northern loop walk apparently takes around 2-3 hours. It took me about 5 hours. I did however make many stops for photos and took a detour to the winery. I also came across a couple of closed sections of track, but the detours are well marked.  I have a pretty poor sense of direction. If it’s possible to get lost then I will, however, I had no trouble navigating my way around the walk, even with the detours.

Make sure you check the tides. Part of the track is tidal (Matiatia Bay, where you actually walk along the beach) I didn’t realise this and had to take another detour (sign posted) up a rather steep hill which added more time to my walk. Best to try and time this for low tide!