339 Days on the Road
You can always rely on New Zealand for a good hike! It’s one of the best ways to soak in scenery and what’s more, it’s free! Whangarei, which has no shortage of hikes, has already treated us to a wealth of free activities so far in the form of a huge waterafall, gardens, caves and seeing native bird – including a kiwi – up-close. The hike we are doing today is said to give you the best views in Whangarei, as well as being one of the toughest short hikes. Today, we are hiking up Mt Manaia!
A dramatic entrance to Mt Manaia
The Mt Manaia Track is a 30-minute drive out of town (from our accommodation at the Bunkdown Lodge) along the stunning coast of the Whangarei Heads. Driving right alongside the still waters of the harbour is a treat in itself. Before long, we arrive at the easy-to-find Mt Manaia Track car park signposted just off the side of the Whangarei Heads Road. We get out of the car to a dramatic sight of the mountain shrouded in fast-moving cloud. Every now and then we will see the exposed rocky peaks and the very place we are trying to get to.
Views from the get-go
Even if there is too much cloud to get any views at the top, at least five minutes into the walk is our first viewpoint overlooking Whangarei Heads – that’s an option if you really can’t be a*sed to do a hike. But we can be a*sed so let’s go!
We spray and brush our shoes at a shoe cleaning station designed to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease. This also indicates that the forest we are about to enter is going to be pretty spectacular.
Stunning Mt Manaia Forest
Sure enough, the mixed native forest is teeming with thin-trunked tree ferns and nikau palm trees. It’s quite the contrast compared to the odd kauri tree that stands tall and wide in the forest. They are the largest type of tree in New Zealand. There are also these amazing trees that we are starting to see everywhere but we don’t know what the hell they are! Their thick branches seem to go on winding journeys through the forest, taking all sorts of other plants that grow on them for a ride.
So many stairs!
As we make our way through the forest, it quickly becomes evident that this hike is almost completely an up-hill climb… So many stairs! That’s why the Mt Manaia Track is considered one of the toughest short hikes around Whangarei.
The secret lookout
While we are huffing and puffing our way up the mountain, we come to an unusual section of the track which is a raised boardwalk. On one plank of wood, the words: “Look out this way ->” are faintly written. To our right, a bit of a track leads off to the side, which we follow to reveal a rocky edge of the mountain with the most amazing views! We get unobstructed 180-degree views of the coast: long beaches, peninsulas, Whangarei Harbour, Whangarei Heads, various islands and beautiful clear water. The unofficial lookout is also a good reason to sit and get our breath back before taking on… Yes, you guessed it, more stairs!
Wondering through the kauri forest of Mt Manaia
The final push to the top of the mountain
With this break in the middle, it doesn’t feel like long until we make it to the exposed rocky peaks that we only just saw between the clouds from the bottom. The last set of stairs take us to the top of one rocky outcrop with more awesome views and steep drops into the forest below – gulp! Although it was a gruelling climb, it only took us about 45 minutes when stopping to take heaps of photos to get these fantastic views.
Now for the fun part, the easy way down… Or at least, that’s what we thought…
Robin takes a tumble…
Here we are, enjoying our walk through the forest, pretty much skipping down all the stairs that we took, then all of a sudden, Robin slips on a wet wooden step and falls to the ground… hard. In order to save the camera he is holding, he lands on his wrist which has now started swelling profusely. It’s obvious straight away that Robin has broken his arm. Sh*t!
Second activity of the day: Whangarei Hospital
Thankfully, it’s not a super long way down the mountain so we march down a little more carefully this time and take a trip to the hospital.
So this is Robin’s third trip to the hospital during this 365-day adventure, but the nurses look after him, Laura entertains him, and six hours later Robin is leaving Whangarei Hospital with a cast on his arm. He has broken his wrist in two places – wahoo! Plus, the nurses project that it will take about six weeks to heal… At least the health care will be covered by ACC which is New Zealand’s national insurance cover for accidental injury. Both visitors and residents are eligible if they have been injured in New Zealand, so at least that is a load off our mind. For the rest of the costs, that’s covered by Robin’s travel insurance with OrbitProtect. Now, we just have to worry about how we are going to complete the 25 days remaining on this trip with one broken wrist in the mix?
The adventure continues with a broken arm!
Where there is a will there is a way, so we’re sure we’ll figure things out! But until then, tomorrow’s activity is going to be a little more mellow – checking out a quarry that has been transformed into some gardens. Easy. See you then!
Worth the climb, do you not think?
Why wouldn’t you? Get your eyes on these articles!
- Whangarei – Guide for Backpackers
- What is ACC and Employee Accident Cover?
- Medical and Travel Insurance for New Zealand
See you tomorrow!