Thursday, October 29, 2015

One Tree Hill, Auckland, New Zealand

Its Maori name is Maungakiekie, the mountain of the kiekie vine. I didn’t notice any vines growing there. In fact, what struck me at first was the nearly complete lack of vegetation other than the closely cropped grass even on its steepest slopes. The reason for this was just as obvious. Sheep dotted the grass throughout the park, widely dispersed in some areas, clumped into small herds in others.

I’m trying to recall ever seeing a similar scene in an urban park. But I can’t.

There are trees in the park, but the native one (pōhutukawa, in Maori) that gave the hill its English name is long gone, victim of an act of vandalism by a white settler in 1852. Most of the non-native pines planted to replace it didn’t survive. Maori activists attacked the last remaining pine with chainsaws in 2000 as a protest against perceived injustices by the government. So, One Tree Hill bears no tree.

With only two days to see as much of Auckland as possible, we drove most of the way up to the summit. With more time and better weather I would have enjoyed the hike. We walked the last quarter mile in a light drizzle, sheep ambling out of our way as we approached. The cloud cover hung little higher than the summit itself when we reached it, which, along with the rain, limited the 360° panoramic views of the city and its two harbors.

One Tree Hill Domain, as the park is officially known, is one of a pair of conjoined parks (Cornwall Park is the other) that are situated near the center of the Auckland metropolitan region and the isthmus on which it’s located. Despite the inclement weather we were among quite a throng on the summit. In fact, there were many people throughout the large twin park landscape. I imagine it’s very crowded on beautiful days.

One Tree Hill is the remnant of an ancient volcano, one of 48 in the Auckland Volcanic Field. As we walked back down we noted the popular fad of using loose lava rock as movable graffiti down among the soft contours of the long-dormant crater. Without a few tiny sheep at the bottom it would be difficult to appreciate the size of the rocks or the scale of the mountain. Though far from a wilderness, One Tree Hill is a highly satisfying urban park experience.

This post is the second in a series from Australia and New Zealand. To go to the first, click on Muriwai Beach.

To see more photos from Australia and New Zealand, go to my flickr album

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