Fri 22 January – Day 70
Today is a treat as I have a walking partner. Kelly has taken the day off and we’ll do the escarpment track plus continue on to Porirua together. We park the car in Paekakariki and will return by train once finished – the convenience of efficient public transport, so lacking in most of New Zealand cities. The track officially begins just south of Paekakariki. A gravel path skirts the railway lines in between and like yesterday the Kawakawa have ripe fruit that we munch on. The first person we meet hands us a super gold card. He believes it belongs to a couple who are walking in front of us, so we pocket the card in the hope of delivering it to its owner. After emerging from the trees the track begins to ascend slowly. It’s all quite easy really, but having done the track back in 2017 I can remember the stairs we descended upon, so it must be soon that we start climbing with far more vigour. Sure enough we hit the first set of stairs. They rise in sets. Each set is about 20 stairs usually with a short flat piece of track before the next set. Some particularly cruel sets continue in succession. Without the weight of my pack, I have a small day bag, I find the stairs fairly easy to climb without overly panting. After a couple of months on trail I would certainly hope my fitness has improved yet often the inclines remind me too well that fitness is earned. Regular photo stops help a lot too. A little time to catch the breath before climbing again. Kelly is doing wonderfully with the climb but I’m aware to be cautious and not push on too hard. We climb quickly and are soon at a rest area where we reunite the super gold card with its owner. From this point we can see the stairs and inclined track heading towards the high point. They look daunting. Dry rocky and steep. Onwards and upwards. Lots of stops to take photos and soak up the views. The weather has completely changed from the hassle winds and showers of yesterday. Today we enjoy a blue sky, the sea has dropped and the wind is a refreshing breeze. We can see for miles up the Kapiti Coast and have a peek of the pointy bit of Mt Taranaki plus the blue hues of the south island are beckoning. Not long now until I’m on your shore Te Waipounamu. At the high point at 220m we admire the views and lament that the muffin seller is not here like last time. Maybe it’s a weekend thing. Far below the vehicles and trains look like toys and this gives a feeling of accomplishment plus we know that it’ll be mostly downhill from here. We may have had to put in the hard slog to get here but we are feeling pretty pleased with ourselves knowing easier times last ahead. In fact we descend stairs from hell that those coming in the opposite direction must climb. Feeling good. But don’t trip. Could be disastrous! We bounce across the swing bridges, admire the information boards along the track and take refuge from the sun in the coastal bush that is more prevalent on the southern end of the track. The last bit of the track is through Pukerua Bay housing then pops out at the railway station. We complete the 3.5hr walk in 2.75hrs and deserve refreshments at the local dairy before continuing on towards Plimmerton. The tarsealed track is more like a small road, shared between walkers and cyclists. It’s downhill all the way and passes the harakeke swamp enroute which is the largest remaining in the region having been harvested severely in the past. At Plimmerton we stopped for a delicious lunch at the Dutch style Kafe Oranje. The Dutch custard square was a standout. Refreshed we continued along the Mana walkway past the beach, over the Paremata estuary bridge then the station footbridge. Not far to go but it seemed an agonising eternity when we could see the Porirua train station and knew the end was in sight. I bought my train ticket to Paekakariki and also my ticket to Wairarapa where I am travelling to tomorrow. Usually the single fare would be over $28 from Paraparaumu to Wellington and out to Woodside (Greytown) but the helpful guy in the ticket office suggested a day pass for $25 – I got a bargain.. Tonight we had dinner from the food trucks in Paraparaumu and celebrated Kelly’s exam success with bubbles.
Tomorrow – to the Wairarapa