Centennial Highway

I actually walked this part of Kapiti Coast two or three weekends ago, but I forgot to update this blog, and I can’t remember the actual date so it’s going under today’s instead. What I do remember: it was sunny. I got burnt. It might be time to get a higher factor sunscreen in order to protect my lily-white self.

Anyway, it was quite a short walk – just a couple of hours along the coast, filling in the hole between two sections I’ve already done. Most of it was along State Highway 1, which as usual does not thrill me, but the view on the other side more than made up for it. Of all the highway sections I’ve seen in NZ, this is one of my favourites. The steep cliff on one side, and on the other the blue, blue Tasman Sea, with Kapiti Island in the distance… it’s just lovely. I basically walked along the coast up to Paekak as seen here:



The prettiest part of the walk was near the beginning, down at the beach at Pukerua Bay. I’m going to drag my flatmate M. out on a picnic there sometime this summer if it kills me. She’s tough to persuade – doesn’t like the beach, thinks the sand squeaks like cornflour when she walks on it. Suck it up, I say. And wouldn’t you, for this?



Northern Walkway 2

AKA Climbing Mt Kaukau (That Which Gifts Us With The Idiot Box).

Back in March, I made my way one sunny afternoon along part of Wellington’s Northern Walkway, before abandoning climbing to the tv transmitter at the top of Mt Kaukau in favour of ice-cream and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Who wouldn’t do the same, I ask you? Today, on the one sunny day we’ve had after what feels like a month of endless bloody rain, I did the rest. Who knows when the opportunity will arise again… it’ll probably start raining again tomorrow.

I started where I left off walking from Porirua to Johnsonville, at the end of Old Coach Road. From there it was an easy walk up along the hilltops to Mt Kaukau. Despite the sun, it was windy and muddy but not hair-raising – which is good as my hair needs no help in that respect. There were a few people out walking their dogs, and one mad couple out running theirs, poor creatures. (Running is even less fun than going uphill, I can never understand why people do it. Are they masochists?) There were stunning views at the top, though – down one side was the city, and down the other a windmill-strewn vista looking out over Cook Strait to the South Island.



From here, I left the NW to trot along the Skyline Track, wandering along the ridges, as while Wellington’s Te Araroa section goes mostly along the NW, it diverges in places and this is one of them. I was glad to spend some extra time up there as I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Most of that enjoyment, it must be said, was due to the kn0wledge that I was walking in the easy direction and it was all down hill from here, down Bell’s track and through the suburb of Ngaio to the local railway station, where I stopped last time I was on the NW. While it’s true that walking up hill and walking down hill both have their own special horrors, down is better than up any day in my book, and looking up at the tower from halfway down Bell’s track, I was smugly glad that I didn’t have to slog all the way up to it.


Paraparaumu to Paekakariki

And it’s another pictureless blog entry today, because although I did take my camera, and there was no fog, the batteries were dead. Yes, again. How can one little camera use so much power? Those batteries must be the worst ever invented. And there were so many interesting things to take pictures of as well…

Anyway. It was a fine day, for once, in the perpetual rain and wind that is a Wellington winter, so I headed for the beach at Paraparaumu. Along with every man and his dog, or multiples thereof. I think there were actually more dogs than people! Which slowed down my walking time considerably, as I can’t resist stopping to pet a doggie when one crosses my path, all furred and slobbery.

So I dawdled down the beach until I came to Queen Elizabeth Park. And I hope Her Majesty appreciates science, because this was no manicured lawn. The QEP is more a sand dune reserve, with all the grassy, shrubby vegetation that implies, doing its best to prevent erosion. (It might help if they got rid of some of the rabbits.) Anyway, I thought it very interesting, until my attention was distracted by the yellow plane getting in some acrobatic time over the park. Loop the loops and screaming vertically towards the ground – the whole hog. It was very cool to watch – the pilot must have been practising for an air show or something similar. I took a break to watch him before ambling into Paekakariki for an ice-cream and the train home.

It’s supposed to rain again tomorrow, so getting out while I could seemed like a good idea!


Porirua to Johnsonville

Now I must be very slow, because it took me most of yesterday to do what the Te Araroa website claims I should be able to do in only several hours. However, I claim a handicap. We’ll get to that shortly.

Leaving Porirua centre, I walked up towards Colonial Knob, the high point of the surrounding area. There was a well-made path going up through forest, but I was very tired of steps by the time I finally broke past the treeline. Five minutes later, fog rolled in, and lots of it. One minute I saw ragged little plumes blowing across my path, and the next I couldn’t see anything. Alright, that’s a slight exaggeration. I could make out a five metre radius, but that was about it. Then it started raining. Needless to say, I was going very slowly, not wanting to lose the track or, you know, take a header down the hillside. The sensible thing to do would have been to turn around and head straight back down, but that would mean hauling myself back up all those steps next weekend, and I’m just not that bloody keen.

The fog was so bad that when I got to the radar station, I could barely make it out even with my nose pressed against the fence. The view from the Knob is supposed to be spectacular, but of course I couldn’t appreciate it; I didn’t even bother trying the camera.

So I crept along in the rain and the mud, freezing and unaccountably putting off putting on my waterproofs (I’m paying for it today, feeling all chilled and awful). It got easier once I was down in Spicer Forest, and that took me down into the Ohariu Valley Road. And if you’ve been reading this blog, you know how I feel about road walking – but this was only about 6 km or so. Eventually I ended up on the Old Coach Road, now a track through farmland heading over the hills. And then, miracle of miracles, at the top of the old road just a few minutes away from my end-point in Johnsonville, the sun came out. For about five minutes, before it went dark. Instantly the landscape looked more lovely. I made sure to get a good shot of it before finishing the day’s walk and going to stand under a hot shower until I thawed out.




Waikanae to Paraparaumu

What I really like about the Wellington stretch of Te Araroa is all the on/off points. I don’t have to walk for 30km if I don’t want to – I can just go for a couple of hours, starting at one railway station and ending at another. That’s what I did today.

I started in Waikanae, and walked along the Waikanae River to the coast. It was a really pretty little path, with lots of access points to the local roads. I was pleased to see that heaps of people were out using it – walking, cycling, swimming, with their families and dogs. And the vegetation was particularly interesting: at first there were heaps of wild flowers, in all shades of purple. And yet as I got closer to the coast, the plants began to change – instead of flowers, there were layers upon layers of flax, toi-toi, and my favourite tree, the cabbage tree.

Towards the mouth of the river, I entered into the estuary, keeping very carefully to the boardwalk (as instructed by both Te Araroa and DOC), because apparently there’s quicksand there and I don’t particularly want to be sucked to a nasty death.



After getting out of the estuary, all limbs intact and none hacked off and left behind to the greedy ground, I wandered down Paraparaumu North beach and into the township, ready to get an ice-cream and head back home after a very enjoyable and desultory walk.