Monday 23 September
Mangere to Manurewa (23.5 km)
Starting at the Oruarangi Road Bridge, we followed the last section of the trail along the beach towards the Otuataua Stonefields. The area is archaeologically significant as the site of an ancient Maori settlement. We did not know enough to appreciate the place fully; we needed a guided tour. When placing our hands on the volcanic stones, we noticed, to our surprise, that they were slightly warm. As this was early morning, we surmised the stones were still holding the heat from the previous day. Later, looking up details, I read that the Maori extended the growing season of their vegetables by planting them here in stone-warmed sections. There is more than one way of creating a greenhouse.
Beyond the stone settlement, the connection trail veers eastwards again, traversing rather depressing areas and requiring road margin tramping for much of the way. Such dull stretches, including industrial sections, are inevitable when crossing a major city, so we simply tramped briskly and found what pleasure we could in whatever details arose during the day.
I discovered the 21st century’s answer to the Otuataua Stonefields: the Mangere Tyrefields. With the slow decomposition of this material, the mysterious rubber settlement may be here almost as long as the stone. Meanwhile, Hannah put in her earphones and listened to the deathcore group, Thy art is murder. A bit more of that and her entire cerebral cortex will be sizzled like a sausage. We’ll save thousands of dollars in tertiary education.
Near the airport, we had a good laugh. There is an entertainment centre called Butterfly Creek, which gets full marks for an imaginative mini-golf course. It has a pirate theme, and the water sections that wind around the greens are patrolled by a motorised shark fin. Aarrrrr!
On the Puhini Stream Track I had another creepy encounter with an electronic public toilet. My first experience was five years ago, at the airport, as an exhausted immigrant arrival. Given the choice between a proper flushing toilet and a bush, I prefer the toilet, of course. But when the toilet is automated and tells me what to do, the bush becomes very much more attractive. When we started this walk, I was a mere 50 years old. I am now 51. However, I am neither too puerile or too senile to ablute unaided. The scary thing is when the electronic voice tells you that the locked door will open again after you have washed your hands, and you can’t work out how to activate the electronic tap! Luckily, the toilet door opens automatically after 10 minutes. You have to cling to the hope that your bladder and/or bowels will have opened in that time. If your equipment is prone to stagefright….
Also when we started this walk, Marius began writing a song about it. Like most artists, he has a problem with deciding when the work is finished. There is always something more that can be tweaked in the lyrics, instrumentals, arrangement or production. So here we are, a few hundred kilometres south in Manurewa, and the “90-Mile Beach” song is finally done. To listen to it, click below.