If you are going out of town for the day, whether to the beach, the
bush or location-hunting, there are some hazards to beware of.
Some of these relate more specifically to the Waitakere Ranges and the West Coast, which are the most interesting areas around Auckland (in our opinion).
Just to put it in perspective - it's safer than many countries!
The only poisonous spiders are the 'katipo', a small spider found under
dead wood at beaches and similar places. They don't seem to be common,
people very rarely get bitten and their bite, though unpleasant, isn't
|The beautiful big Avondale spidahs featured on Xena are completely harmless. You'll be lucky to see one quite this big in the bush, though.|
The biggest animal nuisance in the bush is wasps - ordinary yellow wasps with the usual painful wasp sting if trodden on.
The most alarming creature to encounter is the weta, a huge clumsy insect
looking like an oversized locust, with big spiked back legs and a fearsome
head with huge (for an insect) jaws. It's non-poisonous, but can
give you a nip if you absolutely insist on feeding it your finger. Found in
caves and under loose bark, it's guaranteed to startle the living daylights
out of nervous people and is as dangerous as an angry mouse.
There are a few spiky plants, mostly introduced, like gorse and brambles,
but these are found mainly on cleared farmland.
|The most common plant hazard is sawgrass, such as the attractive-looking feathery toitoi grass and its relatives. The leaves have sharp saw edges. Be very careful when pushing your way through it.|
first encounter with toitoi grass
|This lady wasn't careful enough!|
No, the real hazards are more elemental than these:
And this is just 1/2 mile from civilisation.
|No kidding either. In the bush you can't see ten yards and every ridge
looks like the next. Though the Waitakeres are only ten miles across, people
regularly get lost in them and have to spend an uncomfortable night waiting
for a search party to find them. Make sure somebody knows where you're
going and, preferably, go with a friend who can go for help if you slip
and break an ankle. And don't underestimate the time it takes to cover
even a short distance if you lose the trail. Specially if you end up in
late afternoon on a crumbling hillside covered in sawgrass and undergrowth
too thick to see what you're standing on, that steepens into a sheer drop
somewhere below. (Yes we've done it and won't forget in a hurry!).
On the other hand, if you stick to the more popular formed paths and don't try to take 'short cuts', you'll be perfectly safe.
However, as of 2018, this may not be relevant since most of the bush tracks have been closed on account of kauri dieback disease. (Google 'Waitakere closed tracks' for more information.) In fact if you are spotted by officialdom in the bush, being convincingly lost may be the best excuse.
If you can read maps, the 1:50000 Land Information NZ 'Topo50' maps are reasonably accurate and useful. Map Q11 Waitakere of the old series used to cover the ranges quite nicely; unfortunately the sheet lines have all been changed and four maps are needed. The good news is, they're free for download (if you can handle up to 80MB TIFF files). See the West Coast page for details.
||You can easily become fish food two ways. One is swimming in the wrong place at the wrong time. The West Coast beaches are very flat, have powerful surf, and very strong currents and dangerous 'rips' where the water heads out to sea (often the calmest part of the beach). If lifeguards are on duty, swim between the flags. If they're not on duty, and you really want to swim, it would be advisable not to go deeper than thigh deep and watch for any strong currents. If you're a 'surfie' this doesn't apply since surfies are immortal and expendable.|
standing just to the left and behind the wave
|The other way is to be standing on the rocks a little too close to the water's edge when a bigger-than-usual wave arrives. Every year a few surf fishermen help to feed the fish.|
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