Today was the day for our first trip along Kapiti's new Escarpment Track - we had been deliberately holding off walking it so as to include it as a logical part of our TA journey. Belinda was teaching her usual Monday morning Qigong class so we couldn't start until lunchtime. We drove down to Paekakariki and started walking just after 12 noon on a spectacular day. The GPS data for the day's walk is here. We ended up walking to Porirua Railway Station (to catch a train back to Paekak), about 24.5km - so not a bad warmup to test our bodies! We carried our Z-Packs packs with a light load each.
Once across to the eastern side of the rail line we were onto the actual Escarpment Track. One feature of the track is the good signage along the way that lets you know about the local history as well as the geological basis of the escarpment along which the track runs. The track is mostly fairly narrow and on steep terrain. You pass through a couple of stands of mainly kohekohe but much of it is through scrubby vegetation - although lots of effort is going into helping re-establish trees along the way. The climb up to a maximum elevation of just over 210m takes the first hour or so - this is a mixture of steady uphill paths and some fairly steep sets of steps (you can easily pick up the first set of steps on the GPS track after about 3.2km as we do our first zig-zag up a hill-face)! Having said that, when we saw the "down" steps as we progressed along the track, we decided that, on balance, doing it SOBO would be preferable to NOBO, in our opinion!
Having reached the "top" it is still quite a long haul along the escarpment to Pukerua Bay, with a few ups and downs along the way - as well as a couple of beautifully constructed swingbridges across two gorges. As noted earlier, some of the down steps actually made us glad we were heading south, not north.
We entered Pukerua Bay alongside the railway line and then it was through the streets (Belinda's family lived here for a few years when she was a kid, so a trip down memory lane!), over SH1 footbridge and up to the dairy for a well-earned ice-cream, drink and jetplanes (sugar fix!). From here the next phase is the Ara Harakeke trail, which takes us a further 9km to the Paremata Railway Station. The final stretch is another 6km or so through to the Porirua Railway Station. From Pukerua Bay to Porirua is mainly on sealed paths and footpaths and relatively flat after the initial downhill from Pukerua Bay. We did, however, get our best ever look at Taupo Swamp (usually driving past at 100km/hr!!).
Having crossed the Paremata road bridge and viewed the old Bright Building Supplies site from the footbridge over the highway, it was down past Aotea Lagoon and the Police College, up through Gear Homestead and Adrenalin Forest high ropes course and then down the hill, over the SH1 off ramp bridge into Porirua and finally along a path beside Porirua Stream to the rail station. The next train arrived just as we got to the platform - I had insufficient cash for tickets but luckily had a Paraparaumu-Wellington 10-trip ticket that I could use rather than get tossed off the train for non-payment!! With the weight off our feet it was a relaxing half hour train ride back to Paekakariki to pick up the car - finally arriving hone about 7 p.m. A fantastic day for a "gentle" walk all in all :-)
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!