Auckland Baptist Tramping Club

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The Waitakere Dam area, as with many other parts of the Waitakere Ranges, has always been a favourite with the Club. The Club’s first unofficial trip, on 25 April 1979, was to this area, and the Club has visited it many times since then with this occasion drawing about 25 people.

We left The Bracken soon after 8am and picked up more trampers at McDonalds in Lincoln Rd before going on to Pukematekeo for our “warm-up” walk. Pukematekeo summit is an easy 5-minute walk from Scenic Drive up a road no longer open to public vehicle access. From the summit we had an excellent view looking out to Auckland and the Waitemata Harbour with Rangitoto Island behind in the early morning sun; southwards we could see the Waitakere Dam, and to the west the Tasman Sea.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s one could drive up a narrow one-way road from Scenic Drive under the down-road bridge to the summit, then drive over this bridge returning to Scenic Drive by a second one-way road. Eventually the wooden bridge became unsafe through rotting, and by the 1980s the original down road was widened to become a two-way road providing vehicle access to the summit, and the up road open only to pedestrians and cyclists. Thanks to undesirable “hoons” you can now visit the summit only on foot or push-bike. The remains of the old bridge are still there.

We got back in the cars and drove the short distance along Scenic Drive to the start of Filter Track and donned our boots ready for our tramp. Filter track starts as a very gentle drop which then becomes very steep. We passed several large kauri trees on the way down to the Waitakere Filter Station, which filters water piped from the Waitakere Reservoir.

After a rest and toilet stop on the lawn outside the filter station we went on to the Swanson Pipeline Track. This drops down to go through an old tramline tunnel following the pipeline from the Waitakere filter station.

Once through the tunnel the Peripatus Track went off to the left almost in the opposite direction, dropping down to cross a lovely little stream before starting a long steep uphill grunt. Before coming out onto Scenic Drive the ascent became more gradual. Those who were first out on to Scenic Drive took shelter from the blazing sun in the bush at the start of Anderson Track while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.

The last people to arrive had been slowed down by one of the group who had a health problem and was finding the Peripatus grunt very tiring. The leaders thought that this lady could amble back to the cars with one or two of the others, but when she arrived she felt much better and decided to carry on with the rest of us as we dropped down to the Waitakere Tramline at the western end of the long tunnel under Scenic Drive.

The Waitakere Tramline was built in 1901 and originally went through to Swanson to join the main railway north of Auckland. Downhill from the Waitakere filter station the line had been taken up and is now Christian Road; uphill from there the line is still in use - Watercare uses it to service the pipeline, and the Waitakere Tramline Society runs passenger trains for pre-booked groups.

We followed the tramline to a picnic area about one-third of the way to the Waitakere Dam, which was to be our lunch stop. There was already a group from the Auckland University Tramping Club already lunching there - they were doing a weekend pack-carrying tramp to their road-sign-decorated hut at the head of the Anawhata valley. That night they were planning a concert of skits at the hut, and a tramp out to Piha next morning to cool off in the surf.

Our group had lunch on the other side of the tramline from the varsity group.

As we were settling down to eat, a train arrived carrying a maintenance gang ready to tidy up the area and mow the grass. The gang started working at the far side of the picnic area allowing both groups to finish their lunch unhurried.

Afterwards we carried on along the tramline through a short tunnel, then on up the valley where we could look across to the dam and the rock face below which was a spectacular waterfall before the dam was built.

From near the end of the tramline (which was closed off by a high fence and locked gate) we climbed up a long series of steps to come out to the top of Waitakere Dam, where we could see the completely full water supply reservoir.

Some of us took another series of concrete steps leading down to the top of the cliff face at the foot of the dam. Originally a raging waterfall, the cliff face has been used by commercial abseiling tour companies, but there was no-one trying this out - in fact a safety fence had been built right across the top of the face.

Our original intention was to do the Fence Line Track-Robinson Ridge Track loop but we were running behind time, so we made do with a walk along the Fence Line Track to a small earth dam along the side of the reservoir that had been made to increase the capacity of the reservoir.

Some of us carried on a short way along the Fence Line Track uphill, but there was nothing to see but bush. As we began to turn back, the university group came along - they were on the way to their hut. We continued on up the Waitakere Dam Road (closed to motor vehicles) and we back at our cars by 3:30pm, ready to try the delectables offered by the Swanson Railway Station cafe and/or the nearby icecream shop.

COST: $4