Day Trip - Sunday 21 April 2013
After the long hot summer the weather finally turned during the week preceding this tramp and it was wet day after day. The Metservice forecast for Sunday indicated showers with the possibility of some heavy ones during the day.
Sunday morning and the weather seemed rather promising from where I live in Birkenhead so I headed off over to the Club garage in Sandringham Road feeling rather optimistic that despite the forecast we would stand a pretty good chance of making the descent down to the Bay.
|Descendng to the Beach|
I had made it clear from the outset that there could be no guarantee that we could get down the cliff to the beach so I was rather pleased to see 25 trampers prepared to take the risk that we may have to abort this and just do Karekare tracks.
First up around Mercer Bay Loop and out to the lookout at Te Ahua Point for some great views and photo opportunities. From here a bit further around the loop to the section where the unofficial 'track' descends to the bay below. A quick check indicated that the clay surface would probably not be too wet and that it was a goer.
|A Cave Chimney|
I must say that I was suitably impressed that all 25 trampers wanted to go down to Cathedral Cave.
The purposely slow descent down the 160 metre high cliff took the best part of 50 minutes to get everyone down to the beach. There were three rope-assisted sections to negotiate areas of bare rock face, with the remainder of the track generally having enough bush roots and flax bush for everyone to hold to slow their descent to a safe pace.
From the beach it was into a 100 metre sea cave that narrowed down towards the middle, becoming pitch black and with no clear view of the other end. As we reached the end the tide was sweeping into the cave mouth and getting progressively deeper with seawater reaching over the bottom of our shorts and sometimes surging above this level.
|Emerging from the Depths|
A compulsory wade around the next corner of the rocks brought us into Cathedral Cave, a cave with a 200- metre plus ceiling with a partial roof collapse with sunlight streaming over a rock face partially covered with green and yellow growth.
This is quite a unique cave that is rather majestic and one that well justifies the difficult cliff access required to reach it. A compulsory group photograph here with extra time to marvel at just how beautiful the cave was.
By now the time was 11.30 am just a few minutes short of low tide so it was time to retrace our steps back through the sea cave before the sea level changed to an incoming tide. There is only a very limited time access to safely go through the sea cave without risking being washed out to sea. The climb back up the cliff took around 25 minutes to get everyone to the top where we had a well deserved rest while we ate our lunch.
On then to where Mercer Bay Loop track meets with Ahu Ahu track then a few metres further to the Comans track junction.
Down Comans track which continues around the cliff top and down to Karekare Beach. A number of excellent lookout points along the way including one facing northwards and providing a great view of the 'track' we had descended to Mercer Bay on.
Then it was a short 250 metre climb up Cave Rock track from where there was a good view of the waterfall at the base of Taraire track on the opposite side of the road. From here about an hour's climb up Ahu Ahu track including a choice of two routes back to the club bus parked at the end of Log Race Road.
|The Intrepid Cavers|
Of the twenty five trampers seventeen were members and eight were non- members. Only about five had been down to the bay before. For the remainder it was a new experience that all agreed was well worth the effort and one that was a tramp with a difference that they were glad they had not missed.
There is some good video footage on Google/YouTube under 'Auckland's Mercer Bay' and other headings so take a moment to check this out if you did the trip or to see what you missed by not coming this time.
Given the degree of interest shown it may well be worthwhile repeating this tramp again later in the year or early next year so those that missed out will have another opportunity to see this amazing cave.
Leader & Scribe: Ian W. Morris