From Paekakariki the track climbs up to the lookout with Kapiti Island behind in the distance
|Looking back to Kapiti|
|View south from the lookout|
I walked the first half of the track from Paekakariki a year or so ago, but as the second half was not yet open we had to return the way we'd come. Then on April 9 this year the second half opened, allowing people to walk right through. So much publicity went into the opening event that over 1000 people turned up to walk the track on opening day.
|The scar of the new track in the hillside and road below|
But all this natural beauty doesn't remove the fact that for now much of the walk is through grass, with gorse and other weeds needing control, especially in the newer part of the track. It requires some imagination to see this as a 'stairway to heaven' as the media have dubbed this. Te Araroa news use the term 'devil's staircase' which seems more apt!
There are lots of warnings to read on the Te Araroa site too. The do's and don'ts of where to park, what to take, who should not walk this section etc
|A signpost near Pukerua Bay - 9 kms still to go|
Do you suffer from vertigo or just feel uncomfortable with heights? Then this walk is probably NOT for you. I'm in the 'uncomfortable with heights' (or rather 'with vertical drops') category and it took considerable mental concentration for me to complete the whole of the new walkway between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay. I wasn't alone, several people along the track where surprised to find this aspect of the walk harder than they'd expected, one - a builder - told me he thought he'd be fine as he was used to working on scaffolds.
Here are a few tricks if you embark on this walk thinking you'll be okay and then find yourself feeling challenged by the drop off down to the railway tracks and road below. These worked for me:
- Keep your eyes on the track but at the furthermost side from the drop.
- If possible follow someone else (who isn't struggling with this problem), keep you eyes focussed on their heels.
- Stop occasionally in places where you can sit well back from the drop and look out to the horizon.
- Approach this as a mindfulness exercise, focus on the detail that can you see on the bank next to you.
- Count the steps!
Ironically the two swing bridges are among the best bits - because they have sides - who cares if they swing a bit.
|Looking into a gully from a swing bridge|
If you don't have problems with heights this is a great new walk - it takes about 3-4 hours to complete one way, depending on how many stops you have along the way, enjoying the views and the patches of bush.
It's easily accessible from either Pukerua Bay or Paekakariki railway stations - take the train one way and walk the other way
Some useful links:
Te Araroa advice for walkers - http://www.teararoa.org.nz/wellington/paekakariki-escarpment/
About Ngā Ururoa conservation project - https://kapitibush.org.nz