- To summit, 1.5hr; To Rodney Rd, 3.5hr; To Matakana Valley Rd, 2.5hr
- From Omaha Valley Road
An accessible summit
We didn’t have to go far in our search for an alternative to our usual Waitakere Ranges stomping ground: Tamahunga sits just outside of Matakana, about an hour’s drive north of Auckland.
The route to the 436m summit initially runs along a gravel driveway through private farmland. With the rain coming down in a quiet drizzle, we followed the orange markers between the rolling hills, through a gate and up a grassy slope to a windbreak of pine.
Not long after, the terrain levelled out in front of the forested cloak of Mt Tamahunga. We entered the regenerating bush just as a patch of blue appeared in the sombre clouds.
The trail follows a fence line and burrows into a thick wall of nikau, after which the gradient starts to steepen, climbing a ridgeline through a narrow strip of bush between the paddocks.
The trail is well-formed to begin with and the track is lined with hangehange and hardy makomako, which tend to thrive on forest margins. Puriri dominated the bush canopy and grow progressively larger and more sprawling as the trail winds its way up the mountain.
While the trees and track were enough to keep us occupied, interpretation signs, which describe the history and biology of New Zealand conservation’s arch-foe, the stoat, provided additional interest. One sign detailed the exact dates and numbers released into New Zealand, and by whom.
The trail climbs steeply up a ridge to the summit. The path is well-worn and can be muddy after rain, but mostly it’s easy to navigate.
After about an hour, the track difficulty shifts up a notch and our arms were brought into play. Puriri roots made for excellent footholds, and before long the track had levelled out with a side path leading to a boulder and rudimentary viewing platform that usually offers a spectacular view across Omaha Valley, but on this day the cloud was too thick for us to see much.
We continued for another 10 minutes, passing the route to Matakana Valley Road, which connects with the main route to Pakiri to form part of the Te Araroa Trail.
Just round the corner is the summit. It is one of the highest points in the region and the historic site of Otamahua Pa – an extensive complex that once sheltered 200 escaped Maori prisoners from Kawau Island. All that remains now is a grassy clearing and a wooden platform.