Cathedral of light
A short road walk from the car park along Otau Road leads to the suspension bridge above the unnamed stream that drains the Hunua Range’s Wairoa Reservoir.
The bridge is a highlight – one of two that bookend the easy Suspension Bridge Track in Auckland’s under-appreciated Hunua Ranges Regional Park.
After crossing the slightly bouncy, creaking bridge – maximum three people at a time – the trail climbs some steps to a kauri dieback cleaning station. The Hunua Ranges remains free of the disease, perhaps because it is a less popular walking destination than the Waitakere Ranges, which is riddled with it.
The track, rooty in places, ascends to a broad ridge with open tree cover. After climbing some more, the ridge narrows to not much more than the width of the track with glimpses of the surrounding countryside.
There appears to be abundant birdlife, with birds chittering and chatting for the length of the track – Auckland Council funded a 1080 drop in the ranges in 2015, and a follow up is planned for later this year. Fantail and tui seem particular numerous, with around eight of the latter seen on this trip. At a lookout with a bench seat offering views into the interior of the park, I sat and listened to the birds for a good five minutes.
This lookout marks the beginning of a series of undulations in the ridge where a short, sharp descent is matched by an equally sharp ascent. In the depressions, sections of track have turned to mud.
A flight of steps marks the last climb and a little further along is a viewing tower, reached by climbing a ladder. The view here is of densely forested hills and valleys on the eastern side and the Clevedon countryside on the western side.
Not long after, the Wairoa Cossey Track junction is reached. The Suspension Bridge Track drops to the right, culminating at Wairoa Reservoir.
Compared to the bright and airy ridge, the descent is dark and gloomy as the forest cover becomes denser.
Just before emerging at a viewpoint overlooking Wairoa Reservoir, another highlight of the walk is reached. Emerging from the dark of the forest, the track paces through a stand of young kauri creating an impression of entering a cathedral of light. Ferns grow at the base of the trees with no other understorey to block the light. It’s spectacular.
From the reservoir, the track forms a loop by continuing down Otau Road, but rather than walk this metalled trail, I chose to return via the ridge. The lure of track and birdsong far outweighing the prospect of a dusty road walk.
- 4.3km return via track
- Total Ascent
- 2hr return
- From a car park 100m along Otau Road