Colourful in Autumn

The best short walk ever? My best short walk has always been around the “Mount” – Mt Maunganui.

By Judy Simpson
But perhaps this walk is even better, 20 kms out of Tauranga, up the Kaimais is McLarens Falls Park.
Leaving the main highway you round a corner and there the rushing, racing waters of the two rivers make a spectacular picture and a great picnic spot but we mustn’t stop as the Park and Autumn calls.
The short drive to the first car park is through an avenue of huge plane trees. They tower above and the brown, yellow leaves cover the tarmac and make a crisping sound under the tyres.
Conveniently, no pun intended, there are excellent toilets, a large story/map board and a small indoor display/information area plus an excellent café, The Falls Retreat. Shut today (Monday)
We like to begin our walk from here as it gives us a longer short walk. Down the steps to the lake, this morning still and reflective. Yea! No wind.
It’s very noisy as the tuis and fantails chat overhead and on the lake the ducks chatter to each other. We wondered what they were saying as they scrabbled across the water.
Lots of swans too but they were silently and elegantly dipping and diving for breakfast.
At every turn we oohed and aahed and the camera clicked and whirred.
We’d missed the best of the colours, the leaves probably ravaged in the last rain storm. Maybe the gingkos are more delicate than the sturdy liquid ambers.
Oh, those liquid amber trees—the leaves so red they looked like raspberries. The path is brilliant. Wide enough for two to walk together and chat and no need to constantly watch your step for tripping roots.
Our short walk follows the edge of the lake closely with bridges and the odd gate to keep the sheep from straying.
The golden bronze of the Swamp Cyprus glowed in the sunshine. It’s strange to see such beautiful trees growing straight up out of the water. Why don’t they get waterlogged and drown?
We stopped to watch a group from a playcentre delightedly toddling around, chasing the ducks and gathering up the bright leaves. Mums, and a Dad too, bravely giving the littlies freedom to run. Phones catching the moment.
What a wonderful sound the swans make as they land on the water and why do the paradise ducks always stay on the other side of the lake? A congregation of noise.
Further on the liquid ambers drape into the water and the flax bushes make a hiding place for the little black coots. Across the lake the paddocks turn into a forest of pine trees. Their reflections looking like a spill of huge matchsticks.
The track narrows and the walk slips through a wetland where the pukekos fluff their white bottom feathers at you and dive into a hidey hole in the swamp.
The path leads into stand of native bush. It’s damp and mossy and much cooler in here. Steps up give you a good cardiac workout. (you can avoid these by taking a short cut up through the freedom camping ground).
Along the road a little way and over a cattlestop and then it’s “choices.” Climb up more steps on the right for a longer walk, views and a chat with the sheep or amble along the road for a short distance and rejoin the lakeside track.
Funny how everything looks different on the homeward journey. You always seem to see something you missed.
On a weekday morning, with few people about this is a magic walk at any time of the year. The coffee shop open would be icing on the cake.
A short walk to share.
McLarens Falls Park is managed by the Tauranga City Council. It is 20 kms from Tauranga on SH 29.