The track goes over Mt Tamahunga (437 metres) the highest accessible summit between Auckland and Whangarei. It’s named for Te Kiri, a Ngati Wai chief who in 1864 rescued 180 Waikato prisoners from Governor George Grey’s nearby Kawau Island estate and brought them here, beyond reach of the British military.
The Government demanded that the escaped warriors, many captured at the battle of Rangiriri, give themselves up. Government negotiators were met with the reply: “How many birds, having escaped from the snare, return to it?”
From the Bathgate Road-end head up steep farm pasture 2.5 kilometres to the ridge, and the Rodney Road-end there. If you want to avoid this quite rough and tiring start, then you can start the track at the Rodney Road-end instead.
The track then crosses farmland, then bush, before a final climb up to the summit. The final climb encounters a ‘Hillary Step’ with a foothold hacked out of stone. Immediately above the step is a lookout with views north back to Bream Head. An old helicopter platform at the summit makes a good lunch platform, but you’re enclosed by bush here, and there’s no further view north. You do get views south from lookout spots once you start descending the mountain. The track is often steep on this last section, exiting finally across a private farm, onto Omaha Valley Road.
Keep an eye on the Te Araroa website, as negotiations are underway to obtain a route down the south-western ridge, going past the weather radar station that sits like a huge golfball just below the summit, to exit on Matakana Valley Road. This new route, once in place, will eliminate the 14 kilometre road detour that south-bound Te Araroa long walkers presently have to endure before they link to the next off-road section at Dome Forest.