Most people associate New Zealand with the snow covered mountain ranges with populate the South Island. While true, a large part of the North Island is also covered by coastal bays and densely forested hills, with the biggest city in the country, Auckland, located right in the middle. Only forty minutes from Auckland is an amazing one day/overnight hike. It is in the Waitakere Ranges, and part of the longer Hilary Trail, a trail that enraptures the sense of adventure of Sir Edmund. The tramp journeys through subtropical forest, across streams and deep gorges, upwards over headlands and down into caves, all whilst being punctuated with great views and scenery. Jessie and I loved this tramp, the trail was fun, the characters we met were good people and the coastal breeze was always welcomed.

That tramps begins at a tiny coastal village called Karekare, before heading south through the dense vegetation to the start of the Zion Hill Track. It rolls over the undulating ridges before settling in a gorge with a river crossing involved. It was such a hot day, and a good chance to cool down in the water. The weeks leading up to this tramp were filled with rain, and because of this the ground was very muddy, with some small falls. Our pace had to slow, but it just gave more time to enjoy the day. Once across the river, the trail heads high again, with a section involving chains to cross a rock wall.

I found the valley striking. It was if pyramid shape volcanic rock had once covered the landscape, and now it was filled with a green forest floor and multitudes of plants that thrive in a warm, wet climate. Lagoons and wetlands lead towards the coast. It was a place I could imagine dinosaurs being comfortable in, like a scene from Jurassic Park.

After a few hours the trail descends into Whatipu, the halfway point. Here there are campgrounds to spend the night and caves to venture into, but we were a bit low on water and decided to keep on going. The coastal walk back to Karekare is across black sands and seemingly endless dunes. For a beach walk, it was full of action. The waves were pounding into the coastline, winds were strong and forceful, and birds circled, all whilst following the huge forested cliff faces we had only been traversing that morning.

Time has a strange sense of flow, and the second half of the tramp went by too fast. It was almost like it never happened. This happens frequently with hiking. At the start it is always painful to break into a rhythm, your body is fighting the activity and the mind is busy with thoughts. Then after hours everything falls into a natural state. There is no realisation that it has happened until it is over, but the legs step forward and the mind is in a world of its own, blissful and content. This is one of the states that make hiking powerful experience.
If you are near Auckland, do this tramp! Karekare to Whatipu by the Zion Hill Track, then back to Karekare following the coastline. I am not sure of the distance, but a full day would be possible by most.