To Kitekite Falls on a Manicured Track to Protect the Kauri

In the modern world of 7.7 billion humans, and growing, sometimes we have to make beautiful wild places slightly less wild to protect and preserve them for future generations to enjoy. Kitekite Falls near Piha is very popular spot due to the beauty of the 40m waterfall and the easy 35 minute walk to get there. As part of the New Zealand government program to reduce the spread of Kauri Dieback disease, which is killing many of the remaining Kauri trees, the tracks to the falls were extensively modified in 2018 so that they are all either packed gravel or a raised walkway, and tracks leading deeper into the bush were closed off (and some of the local residents are unhappy).

I can understand longtime residents not being pleased about no longer being able to hike throughout the Waikatere Ranges, but sometimes short term sacrifices are necessary for the long term health of the forest. We were just happy to have such a fine track to the falls even if our sense of contact with the forest was somewhat less intimate than we are used to.

During the intensive logging that decimated most New Zealand forests in the late 19th century, this area was almost denuded of vegetation and all the large trees were cut down. The now dense forest, with many young trees, is a hopeful indication of just how quickly this ecosystem can start to recover.

Halfway to the falls the track forks and we continued on the right, a longer route to the base of the falls which goes somewhat higher and, when partway there, offers a great view of the falls from top to bottom, a view you do not get when taking the shorter route.

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Once at the pool at base of the falls after taking that longer route, it is possible to cross the outflow of the pool and continue on. However you are likely to get wet making that crossing and in winter the water is higher (and colder).

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We elected to turn around and go back to the fork in the trail, from there taking the shorter route to the base. But just before arriving at the base from that direction we took a turnoff that leads up to the top of the falls. Here is the view of the top just before the water goes over the edge, and then looking up the relatively placid stream.

I discovered later that there is a local outfitter, AWOL Canyoning, that is licensed to take people abseiling (what is know as rapelling in the US, a rope-controlled descent) down the falls! Another example of the many outdoor adventure thrills that New Zealand is famous for. We just like to walk in the forest; that is thrill enough.

From the top of the track we returned to get a close look at the base of the falls. No doubt in the summer months many people enjoy a swim there!

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We saw quite a few Kauri trees, all no more than about a meter in diameter, especially on the upper slopes of the valley. Some had signs of Kauri Dieback disease and a few were dead. But most looked healthy.

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The photo below on the left shows the “weeping gum” characteristic of the disease.

There is so much to see in these subtropical rain forests. Tiny vines that grow on some of the trees with leaves that look like ferns. A “fern vine”?

It’s easy to identify the slightly smaller silver tree fern from the larger and more famous black tree fern; position a frond so that the underside is turned toward the light.

The kilometer of trail closest to the parking area offers many beautiful views of Piha Stream: after awhile I had to force myself to stop taking photos.

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