Mahina Bay – Wainuiomata M
Saturday 9 August
Our party was tiny and equipped for the worst, as you would expect with rain and snow forecast to 200m, propelled by a southerly. We walked from the bus stop up Mahina Rd and Richmond Rd, then entered East Harbour Regional Park via the unmarked public access which also provides access to nos. 4 and 6 Richmond Rd. Immediately we were in regenerating coastal forest, in a steep valley which drops 320 m in less than one kilometre from the Main Ridge Track to the harbour. Club member and local resident, Alan Bagnall, says the zigzag track was built in the early 1900s by Dr Walter Fell, a physician and surgeon who lived in the bay. Alan and other residents maintain the track.
Once inside the bush edge, we passed the pipe of the residents’ former water supply. In the 1940s, Alan says, they man-handled a galvanised iron tank up the gully, then concreted it in place. The system was replaced in the 1960s. Soon we crossed a stone bridge neatly built by David and Kate Hector. The track’s zigzags led up the true left side of the steep, deeply-incised, well-forested valley, through indigenous shrublands and mature black beech and hard beech forest. This is a ‘mast’ flowering and seeding year for beech, so we saw areas of dense, centimetre-high, beech seedlings, shaped rather like tiny butterflies. Thanks to the intensive control of rodents by Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and by volunteers from the Mainland Island Restoration Organisation (MIRO), few beech seeds must have been eaten by rodents this year, hence the abundant germination of beech seeds.
Below a sign directing trampers to “The Springs”, we continued up the zigzags into open beech forest. Forty-five minutes after leaving the bus, we reached the Ferry Road Track and shortly stopped for a cuppa and scroggin. As we packed up, the second, and last, very brief sleet shower arrived - our storm gear was barely needed. Along the Main Ridge Track, after we had yarned with a local out exploring, Lynne photographed the remarkably contorted trunk of a hard beech. At Lowry Lookout we chatted with two women from the Kaumatua Tramping Club enjoying the view and a thermos. Soon we stopped in a patch of sun near Lowry Trig, 373 m, for lunch, and to choose which route to take down to Wainuiomata. Along Rātā Ridge Track, none of the large, fallen beech trees blocked the track, and any that might have done so had been cleared by GWRC staff. One tree had brought down to eye-level the magnificent blooms of the autumn-flowering scarlet rātā / akakura – wind-falls are not all bad!
Our choice of Fern Gully Track down to Wainuiomata was a good one. It passes through regenerating forest with impressive groves of ponga/silver fern (see April 2014 Tramper), has some delicate fungi on the banks, a colony of mountain hard fern and a rather humanoid five-finger epiphytic on a tree fern. Twenty minutes after emerging in suburbia we were on a warm bus then on a warm train back to town. Lynne reckons this might have been the shortest-ever M-grade trip – about four hours from ‘go to whoa’. CH
- Party members
- Chris Horne (scribe).