Saturday 17 November 2018

Waiheke Walking Festival - Onetangi to Man O' War Private Land Stunner Walk

Today is the start of the 2018 Waiheke Walking Festival, its ninth year of operation and evidently going from strength to strength. This year there are almost 60 different walks on offer, all over the island, with varying themes, levels of strenuousness, and locations, so that there really should be something for everybody. It's the first time I've been able to take part, and I'm doing it for work, having chosen a selection of walks to try to get a feel for the whole festival.
The first one started this morning on the beach at Onetangi, a two-kilometre stretch of sand between bush-clad headlands, and this morning it looked splendid as we gathered near a yoga session to be checked in, and have our shoes scrubbed and sprayed to prevent the spread of kauri die-back disease (not yet on the island, and let's hope it stays that way). The sun was shining, the sea was blue and everyone was eager to get cracking. It was a big group (I was #100) so it took a while, but finally we were all headed up the road and into the bush.
The great appeal of this walk is that its two halves cross land normally closed to the public. The first section began above gorgeous Piemelon Bay and took us through Rorohara, which is private farmland. It belongs to Bruce Plested, very unassuming in his shorts and old shirt, who has been assiduously planting natives for years, thousands of them from flax to totara. He was candid about the mistakes he had made, and it was interesting to see the different rates of growth according to how close the trees were planted, and the aspect. Mainly, though, it was just so lovely to walk through so much green lushness, especially a beautiful nikau grove with the sunlight slanting through. It was a sheer delight.
We passed through to the road on the other side and walked along to Waiheke Station belonging to the Ngati Paoa iwi, where Morehu Wilson talked about the history of the land from the Maori perspective. To be brutally frank, though the information was interesting, his delivery was a bit dull - but the walk was lovely. We passed Tequila the goat, followed the farm track under the gaze of a herd of Herefords temporarily yarded while we went by, and then climbed up and up and up to a fabulous lookout over the sea to the Coromandel, Little Barrier and Great Barrier Islands, and the other islands further north. 
Then, to everyone's relief, we went down and down and down again and fetched up finally at Man O' War vineyard where we thankfully sat down at tables with our complimentary glass of very nice rosé, and, eventually, got to eat our delicious pulled pork rolls. Which we really felt we had earned, after walking more than ten kilometres, from one side of the island to the other. Excellent day.

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