We decided to follow up our long day yesterday by finishing off the final 14km stretch to TA's North Island southern trailhead at Island Bay. Belinda teaches her class on Monday morning but we were able to catch a train that got us into Wellington about 1230, which would still give us time to do a shorter day. The GPS data for the day is here. We did just over 14km in 4 hours today - not too bad, we thought, considering the hard day yesterday! Surprisingly to us, we also had about 450m of ascent and descent today - mainly due to Mt Victoria and the hilly bits in behind Kilbirnie and Melrose, before dropping down to Houghton Bay.
We headed off up Lambton Quay amongst the lunchtime crowd of "suits" - surprisingly I didn't even see anyone I knew!! Near the top of Willis St, we stopped for B to get a Tank (juice) and I popped into Shoe Clinic to see if there was any update on the new season's Hoka shoes. Then it was past the Library and over the pedestrian Bridge to Frank Kitts Park. We passed the newish waka house and headed along towards Te Papa (in almost 8 years working for the seafood industry I walked this stretch - from the rail station to work near the Basin Reserve - literally hundreds of times!!). Then it was along the waterfront around to Oriental Bay, heading off-road up paths and tracks, towards Mt Victoria, just before Carlton Gore Rd.
Initially it was a steepish climb up a series of asphalt paths to get into the green belt below Mt Victoria. Then it was up and down along tracks past the Lookout (we didn't go up to the Lookout as we've been there many times before, but I would recommend it for TA walkers who are not locals - a well-signposted, short detour from the TA). From here right through to Houghton Bay, there was surprisingly little road walking. if you look on Google Earth it is pretty easy to see the green stretch of ridge all the way - between Haitaitai and the suburb of Mt Vic (including over the top of the Haitaiatai tunnel) and through Melrose. We carried on here and dropped down to cross Constable St, Newtown by the roundabout junction with Crawford Rd.
Then it was back into the green belt, passing Truby King Park (historic home and gardens built by the founder of Plunket Society - now owned and maintained beautifully by the Wellington City Council). A brief stint on Melrose roads led us across Melrose Park which is situated on the southern boundary of Wellington Zoo - so we got to look down into the baboon enclosure for a while!!
Heading up another scrubby hill took us to the new Melrose Reservoir and on to another 2km or so down through green space and roads to Houghton Bay.
From there it was less than 2km of road walking around the coast to get to TA's southern North Island trailhead at Island Bay. By now it was approaching 1700h and the wind was fairly "biting", which didn't improve my humour for the last couple of kms!! A quick detour through Shorland Park got us to the plaque marking the trailhead - we also shot across the road for a selfie on the little pier that juts out into Island Bay opposite Shorland Park. For through-hikers this is a major waypoint - for us, it felt a little different as we still have Taumarunui to Otaki Forks (over 500km including Wanganui River section) to do to finish off the North Island. There was, nevertheless, a sense of achievement and a feeling that it was a good warmup for that next stretch starting on a couple of weeks or so!
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"!!