|Stairs climbing towards the skyline on the Paekakariki Escarpment.|
Over the last couple of years, when heading north from Wellington, I'd noticed a track wending along the high escarpment that towers above the road and rail corridor between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki. Where did it start, and where did it lead to? A bit of research showed that it was the Paekakariki Escarpment track, part of the Te Araroha trail, and intended to connect Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay, but currently only completed about half way from the Paekakariki end.
So this morning I'm taking advantage of retirement and my newly acquired Gold Card to head up to the place of the colourful kakariki parrots, and check out the route.
Ames road out of the Paekakariki settlement leads to an ingenious "Ames Spiral", looping across the rail bridge, underneath, and through a planting area of new native shrubs. For a while, the track bobs up and down close to the rail line, as if hesitant to break away from Wellingtons lifeline. Squadrons of tiny larks practise high speed tree hugging manouevres through the bush. At a bridge, I chat to a couple of volunteers armed with weed eaters, about to clear space for some more native plantings. "We're getting some feedback that we need to put in handrails, some people are complaining of vertigo".
After crossing the outlet of a slip prone gully, the track gains courage and starts climbing steeply on a relentless series of stairways. Near the top I pause for a muesli bar. A guy comes the other way " how far to the top?" I ask. "325 meters" he replies. The precision of the reply is explained by the GPS he's clutching, and that he's a geocacher, searching for objects left in wild by other enthusiasts with the coordinates listed on a website.
For the prescribed 325 meters, the track sidles along, with certainly some narrow sections, and long steep slopes leading to the transport corridor 200m below, but I avoid any vertigo. Soon I'm at the "under construction" signs that indicate the current trail end. It's a heavenly view, the snow of Tapetueranga showing to the south, the bulk of Kapiti out to sea, and the Kapiti coast arcing north into cloud.
|Current end of Paekakariki Escarpent trail, looking south to Pukerua|