Posts Tagged ‘kauri trees’
Titirangi. I named this blog Titirangi Storyteller after the village I call home. It’s part of Waitakere City, considered one of the ‘rougher’ areas of Auckland – but the way I see it, that rep keeps the house prices down and snooty folks who work in ‘firms’ rather than for companies’ away from the place. They’d clear the trees and put in lawns and swimming pools. There’s enough places in the world like that already. Gimme trees any day.
Located at the edge of the Waitakere Ranges, Titirangi means ‘fringe of heaven’ in Maori. Perfectly named, the English pronunciation titty-rang-ee never fails to get a rise from the menfolk back in New York.
The week I arrived in New Zealand, shell-shocked from leaving everything and everyone I’d ever known 9000 miles away – we went for a ride. Not sure how we meandered this way, but driving through suburban Auckland, we ended up out west and came up the famous Fungus sculpture in the middle of the roundabout at the edge of Titirangi village.
We continued west and found ourselves winding through lush bush: kauris, rewarewa, tanekaha, putawetaweta, totara, manuka, kanuka – trees I had never imagined, interlaced with ferns and palms, so dense it seemed you would need a machete to get through them. There were houses in there. Ordinary people’s houses… not strange hillbilly huts or millionaire mansions – at least not all of them – most of them were fairly ordinary one or two story, three bedroom homes. Out of Hansel and Gretel they seemed – and I determined that I was going to live there one day.
It took a few years – but a few years ago that dream finally came true and I got my house in the trees. Little glimpses of the harbour from the kitchen and two of the bedrooms. Tuis and wood pigeons playing in the trees. There’s a stone bus shelter nearby and two beaches within walking distance.
To me, Titirangi IS heaven. Back in the US, anyone living on a half acre of woods with beaches this close and a major city half an hour away would have to be very well off. Here there’s beneficiaries, working class families with young children, middle class and also some wealthy folks – each tucked up in their corner of the woods. No, it’s not like that everywhere in NZ, but there’s something wonderful about living in a place that’s not divided along socio-economic lines, a place where people know their neighbours.
For the last half century, it’s been home to some of this country’s renowned artists – the Colin McCahon house is on the next ridge over and the tiny village is full of galleries and cafes, with Lopdell House, the only building over two storeys tall, housing a prominent art gallery and live theatre. There’s a thriving music scene with live music in a couple of the cafes on the weekend, a folk music society and an annual music festival showcasing Waitakere talent. I live just down the road from Lopdell House – and the walk home is breathtaking. Hard to capture in a photo – but there is an incredible bougainvillea
that has grown nearly 100 feet tall, supported by a kauri tree. In summer it is a wall of shocking pink blossoms. It’s summer now, so I was able to get this shot of it today. Try walking past that without a massive grin.
While the flora here is unlike anything else on the planet – the fauna is even stranger. Wood roaches are just plain icky. They look like common roaches, but fatter and slower. And yes – a few will come in the house. Fortunately, they make their nests outside, so you would never have an infestation.
Then there is the weta. One could easily mistake it for a massive spider – and reason enough to get off this island immediately. But it is related to grasshoppers and crickets. This weta’s body is about 2 inches, or 5 centimeters long – add feet and feelers and it’s over a foot long (30cm). This one was lounging on the side of my house when I got home one night. They are completely harmless and will never wander inside. They’re still good for a fright!
But my favourite spot is my garden. It’s all trees, no lawn, and if I sit just right, I have a view across the Manukau Harbour – to the airport. I sit out there in the cool of the evening, watching the planes take off and plan my next overseas adventure. I’ll leave from there… and always, always, always come back here.
I was last in Queen Elizabeth Square last summer, around Christmastime. It was buzzing and beautiful, with giant ornaments, reminiscent of Jeff Koons installations, placed here and there. Near the waterfront with the ferry docks and cargo ships nearby, a real hub of activity a spot in Auckland a visitor shouldn’t miss.
My newly formed photography club went on our first outing today – what I’ve dubbed a ‘speed field trip.’ Leave your desk at one, dash down to QEII Square and photograph whatever you can see from the square – and back at your desk at two. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from my office, walking at a decent clip. We arrived, and the charming square from 6-7 months ago, was now chokka with construction – everything was in chaos. But a brief is a brief is a brief… so we started photographing.
Of course as soon as the pigeons saw the camera, they were all over me – and I had a parade of poseurs. Seriously -
They were trying to outdo each other, fluffing their colours, cocking and strutting – when along came a white babe with all the right stuff. And she was making moves, showing off all her angles, moves and generally kicking up quite a fuss. I could tell the others were not impressed with her antics – but actually when it came down to it – they were all streetwalkers, looking to see what they could scrounge up.
The square is not that large, yet right next to the contruction is a water feature – it’s sort of lost its sparkle amidst the barriers and metal fencing, so I rather like this view. It’s decorated with some lovely Maori carvings, but they are best viewed some other time.
I found the bicycle rack rather charming – at least, I think it is a bicycle rack. I think the woman approaching is also uncertain.
The best place to look was up. Looking up, it’s so easy to be clever.
An urban Kauri tree
My favourites though is this reflection off a glass building. Maybe a little cheesy, but I love it when the clouds come to the party.
And then of course, the mandatory shot of the waterfront. I am especially fond of these red gates. The port is right in the middle of downtown, part of the heart of the city, which is one of the things I love about Auckland.
So Queen Elizabeth Square didn’t really blow me away in the dead of winter. Still, I’m sure when I come back in a few months, it won’t be the same.
Too often we overlook our local Roadside Attractions – leaving them to the tourists, school groups and… in this case our local Photographic Society to organise an expedition. For years I’ve been meaning to ride the Watercare Rainforest Express through the Waitakeres. It departs virtually on my doorstep, from Scenic Drive in Titirangi but year in and year out, we haven’t gotten to it – until today.
No matter, soon we were lined up, given the safety lecture – keep those heads and limbs in the train and no throwing rubbish off the train. Yip, yip – got that. There was a bit about controlling children, but we didn’t bring any, so no worries there.
The Rainforest Express is a narrow gauge rail, built to help construct the Upper Nihotupu Dam, which forms the Upper Nihotupu REservoir which provides 6% of Auckland’s water. This water, propelled by gravity, flows down an iron pipeline that runs alongside the train. Built in the early 20th century, the train is still used to maintain the dam and the pipeline. It’s been making Sunday excursions with passengers since the 80′s.
The day dawned a typical winter day in the Waitakeres – blustery, cold-ish, bits of clearing, occasional sun, occasional downpour – dress for everything and hope for the best. I wore lots of layers.
We settled into our seats, discovering our knees were in a jumble and needed to be freed – a bigger task than you would have expected, but soon, we were on our way, with the train chugging up hill, something slower than it’s maximum 17 kpm. Still, it was a bit of a blur.
We were straight into a 400 metre long tunnel. There were ten of them on the trip – all carved at at the turn of the century – with pick and ax – no drilling equipment. They are quite small, room for the train and the pipe carrying that 6% of Auckland’s water and not much more.
Soon we were in the midst of the densest bush you could imagine. At times, most of the time even, it is very dark, little light manages to penetrate the canopy of manukas, kanukas, rimu and young kauris’. But from time to time there is a break, and you can feel the intensity with which things grow and rot and overgrow in the bush. It is always cool or cold there.
Every year foolish trampers are caught unaware and unprepared. One of those things that baffles me – the bush does not feign benign-ness.
The vast majority of kauri trees were cut down between the mid 1800′s and early 1900′s. There are few giants left, and it is such a delight to see young ‘mature’ trees breaking free of the canopy. These were too young for those loggers to bother with, finally coming into their own.
Kauris can reach heights of 50 metres diameters of 5 metres or more – and live for over 1000 years. While there are numerous varieties of the species, the “Kauri” only grows in the northern part of the north island in New Zealand. These days they are very protected. There’s one growing perilously close to my house… I’m hoping it gives me a little space for a few more years. I am sure it will be there centuries after I am gone.
We continued through the bush until we arrived at Quinn’s Viaduct. This was quite impressive – 18 metres above the rushing stream. It’s only rushing this time of year. In the summer, there might be a slow gurgle, or nothing at all.
I was completely fascinated by the network of ladders and walkways that seemed to vanish into the bush.
The path along the track was littered by history – a coal bin – though no coal was ever taken out of the Waitakeres, replacement parts from the odd ‘explosion’ of the waterline – and the exploded bits.
There were also numerous train tracks that disappeared into the bush, some still in use, others left to decay.
The spill was breathtaking! And only happens during winter. In the summer there is so little rain, the reservoir levels drop – but today, it was full to overflowing.
Invigorating – the wind was fierce – and a little bit scary as you walked along the dam.
For more information on the Waitakere Rainforest Express, or if you think you might give it a go yourself, click here, for the Watercare website on the train trip, where you can find booking information.