New Zealand, it turns out, has a vast array of waterfalls of all shapes and sizes and we plan to visit as many as we can in our time here. First on the list was Kitekite falls, near Piha on the west coast. Heading towards Piha, but veering off inshore when you reach the coastal road, will bring you to the start of the Kitekite track. Our first tramp (hike for all you non-kiwis) since we arrived in NZ. Usefully, all the tramping tracks and routes are on the Department of Conservation website along with any tips and warnings.
We headed off from the car park through a beautiful Kauri forest. Kauri are well protected in NZ these days, one of the tallest and longest living species of tree they were used by the Maori to make the waka (canoes). However, when the first Europeans arrived the Kauri were heavily forested for their strong tall trunks, used in ships masts and construction. The much diminished forests are now largely found in the warmer humid areas of Northland, around Auckland and the Coromandel.
Continuing along the trail with the river to the side of us we meandered through the forest, with the heat and the smells of the flora Guy commented it was a bit like, “a real life Eden Project!” (Bless him!).
Gradually the gradient increased and we left the river heading up in line with the tree tops and enjoying glimpses of the canopy as we walked, before heading back downhill where we reached the bottom pool of Kitekite falls.
A huge five tiered waterfall, Kitekite is not fully visible in its entirety, from the bottom we could only we the lowest three tiers. The water runs down the rock faces leaving a gleaming, algae covered face which looked surprisingly attractive in the sunshine. On a glorious day the pool was pretty busy with people but we popped our bags down and waded into the plunge pool to cool off, the effect was instantaneous as it was pretty chilly!
We managed to stay in long enough for a swim and paddle before having to get back out to warm up. Back on the rocky sides of the pool we enjoyed the sunshine and spotted some gigantic eels swimming around in the shade of the rocks. There were about four or five lurking in the shadows each about half a metre or longer, and we were suddenly pretty relieved we hadn’t seen them before we went swimming!
Once dry and warm we set off again taking part of the nearby Knutzen track to the top of the falls, it was only a short, steep bit of extra walking but was well worth it for the views back down over the forest blanketed valley. At the very top there were a number more pools for swimming. You could also stand on the very edge and peer over to the tiers we couldn’t see from the bottom.
The top tiers were easy rocky slopes to scramble down, at the bottom of which we ventured to a huge plunge pool with a great rocky lip so you could swim right up and peer down over the edge. Once we had finished scrambling around the waterfalls we took the alternate route back to the car over bridges, streams and boulders, equally as scenic, and a successful first tramp for us.