One Tree Hill
I’ve been counting my footsteps here in New Zealand. It takes me 701 steps in about six and a half minutes to reach Cornwall Park from where I stay in Auckland.
Next to Cornwall Park is One Tree Hill Domain on Manukau Road, which is from where I enter when I walk from home.
From this entrance, one has two options. One can either turn to the right into Cornwall Park or head left for the Domain and the top of One Tree Hill.
My favourite route-for no real reason- is to turn right, pass the Centenary Walkway, down Twin Oak Drive, go around the roundabout and up the Olive Grove, then enter the Domain and finally go up the summit. Every time I come here I’ve seen cows, sheep and pheasants. If I’m really lucky, I’ll see wild rabbits running around. It’s all very Watership Down.
After spending a few minutes on the hill, I go down again and exit via Manukau Road. If I feel that I deserve a Cookie Time, I’ll drop by the convenience store at the corner and get one there.
The name One Tree Hill comes from a solitary tree that used to grow on the peak (183 metres) at the time of the first European settlement in Auckland around 1840. Before the Europeans came, the hill used to be the site of a huge Maori pā or fortified village where thousands of families lived. The Maori referred to the hill as Maungakiekie, which means ‘mountain of the kiekie vine’, but by the time the Europeans arrived, the villagers had deserted the pā and a single totara tree stood on the summit. The hill also became known as Te Tōtara i Āhua, ‘the totara (tree) that stands alone’.
There are no trees on One Tree Hill now. Instead, an obelisk erected in 1940 to commemorate the contributions of the Maori people stands alone.
Chances are you’ve heard the words ‘one tree hill’ in that song of the same name by Irish band U2. It’s not a coincidence- that song was referring to Maungakiekie in Auckland. Bono and crew were touring New Zealand when they met a Maori man named Greg Carroll, whom the band took an immediate liking to. Carroll had worked with local rock bands before so they took him in as part of their team.
Carroll ended up working for U2, following them on overseas tours, until tragedy hit a year later in Dublin when he died in a motorbike accident while running an errand for Bono. Carroll had brought the band members up One Tree Hill on the first day he had met them, and the song was U2’s tribute to him.
It takes me about an hour and a half to walk to the park, complete the route, then go up and down One Tree Hill and walk back home. I clock in 8,089 steps on a good day to the park, more if I take a longer route. One of the simplest joys for me nowadays is to put on my shoes, fill up a water bottle and head out. A giant cookie after all that works well, too.
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