Now my foot was better, I was so keen to get out of the city and start exploring the surrounding area. Wellington is a pretty green city with a town belt stretching all round it (town belt is like a green belt in the UK). And I needed to get some more green in my life so off I went on any free weekends I had. (All routes were accompanied by my partner in adventure Beth)
First up was RIVENDELL! “Did you hear that Mr Frodo, we’re off to see the elves!”
The shooting of Rivendell was in Kaitoke National Park, a 40 minute drive from the city. It was 30 minute walk along a river valley to reach the set of Rivendell. There were signs around the area to point out important trees and positionings. I’ve got to admit I was a little disappointed, I could hardly see any resemblence at all to Rivendell in the films as so much was done on computers. They had put a replica of the arch the fellowship leave through which is a nice touch.
Next was the RIMUTAKA RAIL TRAIL.
This is an 18km walk along a gently graded path of the old railway line filled with long dark tunnels and sweeping views of the rolling hills. We started the walk at 1pm. Our first mistake. We didn’t take jackets. Our second mistake. We believed Beth’s housemate that we could get a bus from the end back to the beginning where my car was. Our third mistake. I forgot my torch. Our fourth mistake. Of course all this just made for a greater adventure and better story.
At the beginning of our walk it was a beautiful, sunny day. It was a great start. Unfortunately it didn’t last and being an ex-railway line the routes were often shaded by the steep banks either side. It didn’t rain but it got cloudy and ever so windy. No matter, we plodded on and crept through the long and scary railway tunnels not looking down or up only ahead at the ever growing light at the end of the tunnel. The views were pretty spectacular across the Pakuratahi Forest and kept us going when we were getting tired and my foot started to ache (I wasn’t fully recovered from my sprained ankle at this point).
After 4 and a half hours of walking we reached the end of the trail! Wahoo. However, there is nothing that dampens your spirits like an empty car park and no sign of busses anywhere. No matter, we’ll just walk to the road and hitch hike. It was starting to get dark at this point, so we started the trek to the road. Probably another 3/4 km added on. Reaching the road we saw a bus stop, we’re saved! Um no, the bus doesn’t run at weekends. Okay, so now on an empty and deserted road with a really unhelpful sign which meant we didn’t know which way to start walking. Good job for google maps, iphones and internet. Oh nope, Beths phone just died so we’re left with mine. I figured out we needed to turn left and started walking praying that a car will come along before it got completely dark. The next 5 cars were going in the opposite direction to us, of course they were. Even though we were tired, hungry and cold we were in suprisingly good spirits trying to think of ways we could get back to my car not knowing how far it is or where we were.
Next we tried calling taxis but they wouldn’t com out this far. Where on earth were we?! Next we tried messaging one of Beth’s friends who lives nearish through my phone. Didn’t reply. So starting to feel a little desperate as the complete darkness descended we tried knocking at a random house. Even though their dog loved us, the owners were a young family and weren’t willing to help us out with a lift as they’d already had a drink. Fair enough it was half 6 on a saturday night. We continued to trundle along the road with Beths flashlight leading the way. We heard a car approach, and it was going the way we needed! Realising we would not be seen in the dark, I shone my flahlight onto Beth as she stuck out her thumb and grinned like a mad man. The car drove on. Noooooo oh wait. The car started reversing back to us! We’re saved! The journey back to my car was an experience to say the least, it took 40 minutes…we were so far away from our starting point. At the end the guy gave us what he liked to call his ‘Big Brother Talk’, telling us to be more careful in the future. Alls well that ends well and we have a funny story to tell of it now. But point taken that you should be more prepared as you never know what New Zealand will throw at you.
Then we tried the OTARI-WILTON BUSH WALK & SKYLINE TRAIL
We needed a walk we could get the bus to as my car was currently out of action. So we found we could get the number 14 up to Otari and walk through the reserve. It is a botanic garden solely for native species.
We hiked up and up and up through the forest, past an 800 year old Rimu tree, and up some more until we broke out of the native podocarp forest and onto the skyline trail. This trail was along the top of a ridge with rolling hills and windmiils one side and the city of Wellington on the other. This route was popular with dog walkers and runners. We made our way down at the other end, past cows and cowpats, to not know where we were. We kept on walking through the suburb until we reached a main road and a bus stop!
Next to tick off the list was MAKARA BEACH
This would be a spectacular walk if you had the right weather for it and you would even be able to see the South Island. That is no the way to do it though. The way to do it is in the pouring rain and gale force winds. We walked up the cliffs and along the top to an old lookout point. We turned around here and headed back as the loop walk takes you along the bottom of the cliffs on the rocks. And we did not fancy that in this weather. But it was fun, everyone should hike in the rain and watch each other slipping and sliding down the muddy hill trying not to fall on our arses and into the sheep shit.
This was one was done solo to PENCARROW HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
This walk starts at Eastborne which is the opposite side of the harbour to Wellington so you have brilliant views of the city skyline along some of this walk.
You also have brilliant views of the South Island Kaikoura ranges covered in snow. The walk was pretty tame along a gravel road next to the shore with the cliffs up on your left hand side. It was a gorgeous day though and it was nice to stretch my legs in the sunshine.
At pencarrow head I climbed up to the lighthouse where I stayed for about 3.5 minutes to take a few snaps and then hurry back down again before I was blown off the cliff. Seriously I was worried that might happen as it was sooooo windy, it was unreal.
Next I found a cosy little spot out of the wind (albeit next to some sheep shit but you gotta comprominse sometimes right) with a cool view of the inland freshwater lake to have my lunch.
After my 15 minute power break I walked up to the lake, witnessed some rare native birds and turned around for the long tedious walk home. I say tedious as I was going back the way I came so exactly the sames views but this time I was headed into the wind and it was such hard work. Definitely took me longer to get home but I made it and am here to tell the tale.
Following this RED ROCKS
This was a walk along a four wheel drive track on the shoreline. There was one tricky stream to navigate without getting soaked and getting sand everwhere. The red rocks were pretty cool, having been formed volcanically.
However, the best part was still to come as about 5 minutes on we came to fur seals! And not just a handful but hundreds of them. This wasn’t any group of seals but a bachelor squad living out the winter together as they had failed to get mates. They were so funny, lying around in the sun and waddling over to annoy another seal with their funny noises. Definitely made the walk.
Most recently was MATIU/SOMES ISLAND
This is the largest island in the Wellington Harbour and is reached by a short ferry trip from Queens Wharf. The island itself is a reserve and has been pest free for over 20 years. That means when you arrive you are greeted by the warden to inspect your bags and pockets to make sure you aren’t carrying anything considered a pest.
We walked around the whole island which didn’t take along, only about an hour. Stopping to admire the views and peek in the weta boxes. There were brilliant red crowned parakeets flying everywhere adding a splash of colour to the lush green surroundings.
The history of the island is interesting as it was used as an quarantine centre for animals brought over from Britain and the US, somewhere to hold potentially dangerous people during World War II and held a degaussing station for ships. There are various Maori stories telling of the origin and name of this island as well.