I’m going to really enjoy this one because of two things. Firstly, it involves an annotated map and it isn’t every day you get to annotate a map. ‘Annotate’ / aneteit, (vb), to put a couple of arrows on a jpeg like a pro cartographic type. Secondly, well, imagine the unbridled excitement of revealing photographic evidence of a rarely seen but often heard beast. A UNICORN!? No, not today, must have just missed it, the chap unicorn is usually down on the rocks chasing tail, the scamp. A John Jensen goal!? No, something much more elusive. I bet Abel Tasman wasn’t this excited when he ‘found’ New Zealand several hundred years after the Polynesians.
Circumnavigating Park Point takes somewhere between the ‘Greatest Hits’ package of a national treasure (ninety minutes) and an RSI-curtailed prog rock live album (two hours), depending on who you believe, what you’re doing and which way you go – I reckon you could run it in about ‘Searching For The Young Soul Rebels’, if you sought young soul rebels badly enough, went anti clockwise and your knees weren’t a bit fucked.
In theory, a circular journey should have as many ups as downs and, ultimately, leave you back at square one whether you go clockwise or anti-clockwise. Although this universal constant obviously applies to Park Point, which is a relief as we were just out for a walk and not intent on bending space-time or any gravitational laws, there is a minor reason why there is a right and a wrong way to approach Park Point.
Short-term energy consumption. If you go anti-clockwise you face some gentle ascents and descents and a couple of moderates but, as you approach Te Wharau Bay, there is a big drop down half a dozen flights of stairs. Ergo, clockwise you have 5-10 minutes of huffing and puffing near the start before relaxing into your promenading. Your choice, not a big one.
The best place to start this walk is at home, looking across the bay, and then getting in the car. It’s a nice view, after all.
But the other best place to start is at Walter Frank Drive, which I like to think of as a get-away instruction rather than a street name, and its’ junction with Cable Bay Lane – parking spaces, you see. Exit car, or tether your unicorn, depending on how you got there, and walk down the Lane to Cable Bay.
Cable Bay was named because that was where the first cables bringing light and heat to Waiheke came ashore in the 60s, as Greg the cabbie told us when we arrived. He came from Leeds, well you would, wouldn’t you. He said it was a culture shock moving from metropolitan Leeds but, even with kerosene lamp living, he was thankful at not living in Yorkshire anymore.
Cable Bay is pretty non-descript as a bay but decent for the great view of the evocatively named rock ‘Crusoe Island’ and its’ little spit of sand reef, deadly to the distracted sailor. But we continue rambling and gamboling down the coast, just hoping for more. And there is. Beyond are the tantalising stretches of pristine beach on Motuihe Island and, behind that, the (dormant but not extinct) volcanic peak of Rangitoto, as impressive a back drop you’ll get so close to a million-strong city.
As you gently undulate south down Park Point’s western edge, the distant and elegant city-scape of Auckland hoves into view. It’s a pretty and not unwelcome sight from this distance, considerably more attractive than it is up close and personal – not that it’s burn-it-down ugly but it is only functionally interesting.
You’ll mostly be gazing out to sea but behind you are rolling downs, around you is bright yellow gorse and beneath your feet frightened rabbits take cover – you could easily be in Sussex if there weren’t Kiwi Christmas trees everywhere (Pohutukawa) with their striking red flowers. The beach rocks here are different to many of the other beaches we’ve been on. The jagged rock and seams of iron ore have dwindled, replaced with slate coloured granite pebbles – they hold the sun’s heat beautifully and a palm-sized ovoid of this rock is a comforting hand warmer in the occasionally chilly sea breeze.
As you near Te Roreomaiaea at the tip of the point the terrain gets more craggy and some steps appear to aid your way, some up, some down but never lengthy. Away from the point you begin to think of Te Wharau Bay and its longish, shallow beach of smashed shells that make you feel like you’re walking on Corn Flakes. You occasionally see it through the trees or around a point and become slightly baffled when you appear to be ascending over the top of it.
Through some bush it happens, we turn a corner and the familiar clicking starts, it gets louder, raising to a cacophonous hiss as each small insect alerts another to our presence. And, as we round another corner it stops, like a stereo in a (not uncommon on Waiheke) power cut. Before that we see it, falling out of a tree from the clumsy clutches of a Minah bird’s beak, right at our feet. A big, big, fly. No, not a fly, a cicada! It’s only a bloody cicada, the noisiest beast known to holiday-makers. The Scissor-Grinder Cicada no less, this one, we named him John. Probably, John is no more, given he was drowsy or injured and the Minah bird was waiting for us to leave before taking lunch.
Flora. Mighty flora. Just me? Underwhelmed at lack of unicorn?
The descent into (or ascent out of) Te Wharau Bay beach isn’t anywhere near as bad as the earlier hyperbole but it does take a while to zig-zag your way down the alpine bends. It’s only testing if you are recently recovering from having accidentally smashed your knee several times into concrete objects – and then repeating the smash just as it’s nearly healed. And then doing it again. FFS, clumsy oaf.
For us, though, Te Wharau Bay (and it’s neighbour past Maunganui Point) is notable as pretty much the only place on the island from where we can see our house, nestled perfectly in Takirau Bay in prime location for the regular cold Sou’Westerly winds. For this reason alone, Te Wharau will hold much less interest to anyone else except those who like watching the Sealink ferries going past. No one. It’s a bloody good walk though, currently ranked no.2 in our Waiheke Walk Top 10.
1. Oneroa Circular via Owhanake
2. Park Point
3. Matiatia Headlands
Many apologies to Kevin Rowland.