Shaggin’ in Northland

Okay, so how many of you were afraid to click on this one? That’s what I thought – get your minds out of the gutter.

On our last morning in the Bay of Islands, we decided to do a short walk to Haruru Falls from the nearby Waitangi Track trailhead in Paihia. The trail was thickly forested for just about the entire 3 miles to the falls, winding alongside the tidal Waitangi River. About halfway down the track, a wooden bridge crossed a swollen tributary, and an angular boardwalk wove through a serene mangrove forest. While we found the walk to be quite beautiful, and once again with very little foot traffic, we were fairly underwhelmed with the touted highlight of the walk – the falls. We could hear the crashing waters of Haruru Falls several hundred feet before we could see the cataract, and I think we had both envisioned a towering, secluded wall of water in a shaded canopy, lined with tree ferns and broad-leafed succulents. Mmmmm, not so much. While there was certainly was a good volume of water tumbling over the horseshoe falls, the water was kind of a murky brown, quite a contrast to the saturated green hue of the river downstream. Better still, not 50 meters from the rocky overlook to the falls, there was a parking lot… with a giant coach bus parked it in. Not quite the isolated wonder we were hoping for, but an enjoyable walk through the woods nonetheless.

Though the waterfall was disappointing, we were treated to an unexpected surprise along the trail – a cluster of trees along the riverbank that was teeming with pied shags. The gnarled branches were laden with giant nests; large adults, throats vibrating with fish that were still struggling to survive, perched around the nests as babies and juveniles of varying ages pleaded persistently for their lunch. As we watched, it reminded me of when I was younger. My mom would arrive home from work and I’d sprint into the kitchen, “When’s dinner ready? What are we having? Can I eat now?! I’m star-ving!” How she restrained herself from clubbing me over the head is beyond me, because looking back now, that had to be really friggin’ annoying. Oh, who am I kidding? Now I just do that to Stephan. Anyway, Mom, at least you can be thankful that I didn’t aggressively rip food from your throat, as the video below shows (at least not that I remember).


Total distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation gain: 398 feet


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