After a couple of days back in the land of the long white cloud and hunkering down under the weight of winter storms Martin and I join forces and head back to the regular runabout in the Waitakeries come what may on the weather front.
We start the regular loop and at the top of Lower Kauri have a decision to make – right to the gnarly Upper Kauri and on for the wider loop or run the standard 8km circuit? With gloomy rain clouds covering the top of the ridges and both of us pretty tired and beat up we decide to head on the more covered, shorter route. As we do so I have a brain wave – how about a quick out and back down the old rail line.
Let me tell you about the rail line in the Waitakeries. 2 years ago when I was first running trails more regularly a group of us decided to hit the Waitakeries circuit. In those days when you came down to the dam around 6km in there was a wider loop which followed a bush railway. Hardly used it was a fun trail leading through a tunnel and joining the main trail bringing you eventually back to the Auckland City Loop. We’d run it a few times before and this day decided to head down there as usual. All was fine until near the end of the track there had been a slip and now about 8 feet of rail just hung in the air above a 30 foot drop onto rocks and debris. So we started shuffling across – biggest dude first and then me followed by 2 others in our group.
The big guy ( a friend of a friend) cleared it easily. Me I was a few feet in hanging onto a tree limb hanging down when I realised I had to let go of the branch and freestyle across the tracks to the other side. Down below the rocks looked pretty menacing and I realised I was in a pretty stupid position and there was a good chance of death…. luckily the big guy reached back and grabbed my hand and helped me across. Whilst I wasn’t freaking out or suffering vertigo I accepted the fact that I had just had a brush with a sharp exit from this life and promised myself not to die stupidly. Sure i’ll take risks – that’s a big part of the rush of trail running in deep bush – but they’d be calculated ones. Not dying because we couldn’t be arsed heading back and doing shorter track.
Since that day i’d not been back down the track and often thought of it as the 1 time in my life i’d been truly scared of dying. I’d been in a pretty serious car crash when I was 18 and a been beaten up a couple of times when I was younger but those happened startlingly fast so it was only afterwards that you reflected on how close you’d been to getting into serious trouble. That day on the rails was going in eyes open – fully aware that one wrong move was pretty fatal.
And so here we were – too beat to do a long cold run, too keen to run to not have an adventure so we went for a quick out and back. I’d forgotten the views back up to the reservoir/dam with a great waterfall and views out over the valley and ridges that we know so well. Through the tunnel and I think Martin was enjoying this new track and adventure. In my mind it was all hazy but I recalled a water crossing.
We got to the damaged section and low and behold it had been fixed up and recently. A shiny new handrail gleamed in the rain. I was able to run those few feet to the other side in seconds. The excitement of realising the trail was open and we had another route to mix into the wonderful stew of Waitaks trail was exhilarating… across a small waterfall we carried on through the bush on the trail – clearly hardly anyone had been here and there were some lovely drop offs and technical downhill which I adore running. Then we came to the water crossing and it was bracing and way more than the little trickle i’d remembered.
Soon we were on the familiar tack and back to the carpark beaming. Here we are again – 30 minutes from my door in the depth of the bush and having another mini adventure. In the US you’d have to drive a very long bloody way to get landscape like this – we are lucky in NZ and I really hope the Kiwis get it and we hang onto the bush as much as we can – not easy as the city sprawls and the population makes more demands.
As the saying goes – you don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it. Most of my life I’ve lived where it’s already been lost so I hope us runners can keep celebrating and encouraging others to get out of the house and get into a scrape with this lovely muddy messy land.
photos and nifty satellite image courtesy of Martin M