Day 77 (Mon 25 Jan): Waikanae to Paekakariki
Started 10.10am, finished 3.30pm, 16k.
Pain in the head status: Blissfully painfree today.
Word of the day: Deiprosophist, someone who is skilled in table talk.
After the rigours of the Tararuas, today’s coastal walk was like having a rest day. After walking along the Waikanae River and through the Waikanae Estuary, it was mostly an easy stroll along the beach, starting at Paraparaumu, through Raumati and alongside Queen Elizabeth Park, which was the only stretch not lined by houses. A battle against erosion was evident, with walls and barriers everywhere, but the sea was licking up against these even at low tide in places.
We broke the day up with cafe stops, checking out the coffee and scones at Two Fat Chefs in Paraparaumu and joining the throngs for lunch at Rosetta Cafe in Raumati. With the sun shining and a public holiday (Wellington Anniversary Day), the parks and cafes were bursting with people.
The strong northerly wind at our backs was a boon, blowing us onward. A kite surfer at Paekakariki was making the most of it, screaming out into the surf and flying airborne through the waves.
We stayed that night with trail angels Sue and Mike, although Mike was absent, having ducked into the Tararuas for the long weekend on some epic adventure. It was a lively evening with deiprosophist Sue and her family (and another TA walker who was invited for dinner), and a lengthy obligatory card game, which may have been Tony’s worst nightmare, but was rewarded with ice cream and blackberry compote for dessert.
Relief of the day: After washing our tramping clothes yesterday, for the first time in too long, we did not have to inhale the heady fragrance of sweat-infused merino or experience the cardboard-like texture of socks hardened with sweat, dirt and skin flakes.
Day 78 (Tues 26 Jan): Paekakariki to Porirua
Started 7.40am, finished 3.40pm, 27k.
Pain in the head status: No pain today.
Word of the day: Facile, easily achieved, effortless.
For the first time, today’s walk felt facile, as we blatted along Centennial Highway, breezed up the hill to Pukerua Bay and cruised down to Plimmerton, stopping at Oranje Cafe for gelato. The weather was fine, a little too warm by the end of the day, but with a swift breeze to keep things cool.
Although we live in Wellington, we had not previously walked along the cycle path from Mana to Porirua, so we discovered Aotea Lagoon, an impressive reserve with a huge children’s playground, picnic areas and a miniature train. We hadn’t walked along Porirua Stream before either, and sat here for a while watching the seagulls fly in and out, feed their young and shout and posture at each other.
We deviated off the TA to stay with friends in Tawa, and started to feel that home was very close indeed. It was a different walking experience to be in an area that was so familiar. Knowing what was coming and what to expect relieved anxiety about the trail I didn’t realise I had.
Day 79 (Wed 27 Jan): Porirua to Wellington
Started 7am, finished 2.55pm, 31k.
Pain in the head status: No pain.
Word of the day: Bedizen, to dress or adorn gaudily.
Low clouds obscured the top of Colonial Knob this morning, the peak that the Te Araroa takes walkers over, so we didn’t mind skirting around its flanks to Spicers Forest, which was a more direct route from where we had stayed last night than backtracking to the bottom of the Knob. We found all the seagulls from yesterday hanging out at the tip, and dropped down to Ohariu Valley, an equestrian destination, and where the sheep were chilled enough to stop for a photograph.
We took the Old Coach Road to the back of Johnsonville and then up and over Mt Kaukau, where the winds were intense along the Skyline track, threatening to de-cap-enate us, and low clouds whipped around us, until we descended into Ngaio. We warmed up with a mochaccino and date scone at Ngaio’s Cafe Villa, but only after we had eaten our very last trail lunch of the North Island.
After that, it was blue skies into Wellington city, via the pretty walkway beside Kaiwharawhara stream in Trelissick Park, and up into Wadestown. We abandoned the trail at this point, electing to skip the traverse over Tinakori (Ahumairangi) and through the Botanic Gardens, having walked this way before. I had my sights set on Duck Island icre creamery in Cuba Street, which was a worthy destination, but after the generous servings of gelato we had become accustomed to (nominally two scoops, in reality four), their literal interpretation of what constituted a scoop seemed overly frugal.
Walking through Wellington CBD was a shock to my sense of what was suitable and acceptable attire – everyone was highly bedizened, overly dressed in outrageously inappropriate clothing. That tiny turquoise organza dress would be in shreds at the end of a day in the Tararuas. Those sparkly strappy sandals would be no use for a river crossing. That sharp suit and tie would be a liability on a hot road walking day. We were obvious misfits in this new environment.
We powered up the hill to our house, not far from Island Bay and the end of the North Island Te Araroa trail – but we’ll leave that for another day. It was enough to have a long shower, start the washing and do a grocery shop. I was unexpectedly delighted to be able to cook a meal that wasn’t a one-pot dehydration soak. A meal with fresh vegetables, salad leaves and a bottle of home-made kombucha from the friend who is babysitting our kombucha SCOBY. It was nice to be home – for now.
Irony of the day: We were accosted by a group of children in Wadestown who insisted on handing us this flyer. We patted ourselves on the back for doing our bit for climate change (except we don’t have Netflix and I don’t have the ability to generally raise the standard of living), including having less children. It felt paradoxical that the children were the ones who were encouraging this action.