Piha: Falling for the past

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright traces a well-worn path to the Kitekite Falls, with a history lesson along the way.

Children play in the water at the foot of the Kitekite Falls. Photo / Supplied
Children play in the water at the foot of the Kitekite Falls. Photo / Supplied

"Mummy, we're late for an adventure," says our seven-year-old son as he races from the crowded carpark at Steadfast Park, a short drive from Piha township.

He doesn't get far, stopped in his tracks at the very start of the walk by a super-sized stump, a reminder of Piha's milling history. It's hollowed out in the middle and a dozen children are running in and out, as well as climbing up its side.

We finally convince him this isn't the adventure we're looking for and follow the signposts through Waitakere bushland towards the falls. Along the way, there are historic spots, such as remnants of a railway line, where six full loads of logs were hauled up and over the hill to Karekare each day, at the mill's peak.

Nearby is a bridge and if you walk across it, you'll see lovely old black and white images of men chopping kauri trees by hand, as well as a bush ball in the Piha mill hall where men stand to attention, women sit with hands folded on laps and one boy covers both ears with his hands. If only old photographs had sound.

Back on the main track, we come to a crossroads and take the Knutzen track (named after Piha mill manager, Hans Peter Knutzen).

It's a very steep walk and when our 4-year-old spots a big dog coming down the hill she says she needs an "all-of-the-walk cuddle", which means I carry her the rest of the way.

It feels as if we're walking through history, and the views across the ranges are spectacular from the height, but the lack of big old kauri trees is noticeable.

The shade from the smaller trees is welcome relief and we listen for the rushing water of the falls. Instead, it's so noisy with people, it sounds as though we're about to enter the local leisure centre for a swim.

Heading down the last few pebbled steps, we watch water bursting down the rocks and feel its cool comfort on our hot feet.

A little girl nearby tells us: "The water is super-cold, nearly as cold as an ice cube."

Although the watering hole is very crowded, not many are swimming, apart from a few brave souls under the veil of the waterfall, cheering themselves on.

You can almost taste the feeling of aliveness they must be feeling in the invigorating water. Next time we will bring our togs.

Today, we watch in wonder at the three-tiered waterfall dropping 40m via six drops to the pool where they shiver below.

At the top of the falls, a dam was once used to drive logs over the falls down to the mill, but only once, as all the logs smashed with the force of the water.

The name Kitekite is thought to be a mis-spelling of ketekete. In an attack to avenge the murder of his father, a man named Tamaro signalled a surprise attack on a group of visitors from South Kaipara by clicking his tongue - ketekete - hence the name of the falls.

Despite the inhospitable origins of its name, Kitekite Falls is an awe-inspiring walk through the Waitakeres with impressive height and views, culminating in a spectacular waterfall at the mid-way point. Every Aucklander must do it at least once, but just don't expect it all to yourself.


Enter the Kitekite Falls track from Glen Esk Road, Piha. Afterwards, stop at the Piha Store, a local institution opened in 1945, for Nice Blocks, organic Fair Trade ice blocks, pies, pastries, coffee and soft drinks. Hours 8.30am to 5.30pm, 26 Seaview Rd, Piha.

- NZ Herald

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