At 398m, Te Ahumata may not be the highest peak on Great Barrier Island but this plateau shaped hill with its distinctive ‘white cliffs’ has certainly had its fair share of attention over the years all thanks to… gold. Supposedly, there’s over 4 billion (yes, BILLION) dollars worth of gold and silver buried in that there hill just waiting to be mined but, unsurprisingly, this seems to have resulted in some arguments between the locals, as is usually the case when money and conservation collide.
Of course we knew nothing of this when we decided to climb to the top of Te Ahumata, and the only gold we were chasing was the golden glow of a spectacular sunset. With the weather closing in and the top of Mt Hobson (the island’s highest point) playing hide and seek with the clouds, we figured Te Ahumata was the next best place to be given that it’s just an hour climb to the summit and we knew we’d be heading back down in the dark.
The route to the summit of Te Ahumata is via a path that gradually makes its way up from a junction with the Te Ahumata Track. This cycle-friendly track follows an old mining road between Whangaparapara and Blind Bay roads but we only walked the first 30 minutes from the Whangaparapara Road end to get to the well-marked junction to the summit path. For the most part this path is well formed although fairly rutted and potholed at the start where it obviously turns into a small stream when it’s raining. It only takes another 30 minutes to the summit and along the way we were treated to views of some of the island’s southern bays as well as the northern tip of the Coromandel Peninsula across the Colville Channel.
Apart from the communications tower and it’s small solar powered hut along with some remains of what we assume was a trig beacon, there’s not much else on the summit. The views of this southern half of the island are however excellent with Little Barrier Island to the west and the distinctive outline of Mt Hobson to the north. The path does in fact continue on for a little way past the tower to a spot with views of Kaitoke and Medlands beaches. We did notice on our topo map that there’s a disused mine up there as well but didn’t see any obvious signs of it and thought it best not to go blundering through the bush. But then, we had other things on our mind, the sunset.
As it turned out, the sunset wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for although we were rewarded with a few moments of magic light. But that perfect shot of a blazing orange sky with the sun going down behind Little Barrier Island eluded us this time and we called time as the light began to fade. After a quick 40 minute ‘jog’ down the hill, headlamps lighting our way, we arrived back at the car feeling pretty windswept but happy, having spent a good first day on Great Barrier Island.