City to Sea

First off, the date of this entry is incorrect. I did the City to Sea (Wellington) section of Te Araroa either three or four Thursdays ago – have forgotten which – and haven’t got around to updating before now. I did take the camera, and even a couple of photos, but the walk left me so unenthusiastic that I really can’t be bothered to post them

Suffice to say, I was not impressed.

Now it’s true that I’m not a fan of going up and down hills simply because the developers of any particular walk have a sadistic streak. So part of my bitterness at this hideous experience may have been down to this (I seriously cannot figure out how a walk starting in Kelburn and ending at sea level manages to go uphill so bloody often) but that’s not the real problem here.

It’s fairly obvious that the City to Sea walk is a late addition to Te Araroa. It’s only appeared on the website in the last few months, although that can be explained away because the trail entire is not yet complete. But at the beginning of the walk, at the top of the cable car, there is a plaque that marks the southern terminus of TA in the North Island. I know – I photographed it when I did that section of the walk last year.

Yes, it’s a little irritating to have extra bits tacked on here and there, partly because it reduces the already tiny likelihood of my ever completing this walk. But – and here is my main issue – I could live with that if these late additions actually did add something to the TA experience. City to Sea does not. A really quite dull walk through the back hills of Wellington city, it might be perfectly adequate on its own, directed at enthusiastic local hikers. As an addition to a major trail, it is dreadful.

TA prides itself on including all sorts of landscapes – mountains, farms, river walks, bush walks etc. Presumably this is so it caters to all types of walkers. Here in the capital city of New Zealand, the best they could offer to anyone with the tinest grain of sense, is a city walk similar to those going through Auckland and Hamilton. The Auckland Coast to Coast is a particularly fine example – the walker travels through the city centre, up to the museum at the Domain (a fine lunch stop, with opportunities to see the latest exhibits) before passing by such famous landmarks as One Tree Hill and Mount Eden. In contrast, City to Sea does its level best to stay far, far away from the most interesting and attractive parts of Wellington city.

It would have been so easy to do this right – to walk from the cable car down past the Beehive, along Wellington’s stunning waterfront to Te Papa museum, up Mount Victoria (looking for the Lord of the Rings filming site on the way – who hasn’t wanted to be a Nazgul at some stage?) and through Newtown and the zoo to Island Bay. (Brooklyn windmill could even have been included if Not-Enough-Hill Syndrome caused the TA committee to break out in hives.) This would be an absolute highlight for non-Wellington walkers, but no. TA has decided that it doesn’t cover enough scrubby hillsides in its national wander, and that city walks are alarmingly over-represented.

Of course they haven’t really decided this. It’s very clear what has happened. The top of the cable car was always intended to be the natural terminus, and then some bright spark said “Lo! Fellow walkers, have you seen what pointless extension and wasted opportunity we can slap on here?” And everyone went along because why not, really? City to Sea was already there, the work had been done, and so what if it was a carbuncle on the Wellington section of this carefully planned national trail. It was extra ground, and that’s all that mattered.

In honour of this stunningly idiotic decision, I spent the hours of this walk bored out of my skull, composing alternate, more appropriate names for it. In deference to tender ears, these are the family friendly ones.

City to Sea: see the community sports-fields of Wellington

City to Sea: see where you could have been walking instead

City to Sea: nothing to see up here

City to Sea: you could have been washing your hair

City to Sea: we haven’t made you climb every hill (we left the interesting ones out)

And my personal favourite:

City to Sea: don’t you wish you were in Auckland?

Gentle readers, I have never wished that before.