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Posts from the ‘Out & About’ Category

Wellyscapes: The 11th commandment

The birth of a new occasional series of Wellington snapshots.

I have long admired this sign at one of the inner-city churches. Holy humour.

Carpark, St John's in the City, Wellington

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While out riding: Under the runway

An interruption to the Rail Trail series for something similar but a little more current.

Yesterday we rode around the peninsula, a pleasant sub-hour ride with lashings of fresh sea air and very little hill exertion required.

Our route takes us underneath the Wellington airport runway, a convenient shortcut between Rongotai and Miramar. You’d think the underpass would be a hotspot for tagging and littering of glass etc, but it’s apparently monitored and is usually in pretty good nick.

Wellington airport underpass

While out riding: Coffeeeee

Today we were taken on a two hour loop ride from Palmerston North city out into the hilly Manawatu countryside. This was our first time back in the saddle since the Motatapu ride more than two months ago so we weren’t sure how we’d hold up. It was also Sunday morning after a number of drinks the night before while catching up with friends…

Manawatu countryside

We coped admirably though body parts were starting to protest loudly when we finally made it back into town and to our cafe destination.

Rarely has coffee tasted so good.

Bikes outside Moxies

Kapiti Island: 2 …must come down

We strode back down the track to the intersection of Wilkinson and Trig, turning right into the latter. It was more rustic than the earlier path though there was still a vaguely discernible track.

Not that way. The other way

Not that way. The other way

Markers were useful, until they seemed to disappear

Markers were useful, until they seemed to disappear

With camera in hand I wandered along much as I had on the way up, gazing out and up more than down. Then I tripped on one of the many exposed tree roots and thought I had better be more attentive.

However the track was damp and slippery from recent rain and best endeavours to be careful and sure-footed still didn’t save me from another couple of trips and falls. (More from good luck than good management my camera and dodgy wrist escaped intact.) Mike it transpires could be part-mountain goat and he almost skipped down the treacherous path.

Kapiti Island Trig Track

The brochure compared the Trig track to the other: “Considerably steeper, with narrow, uneven sections.” Pretty accurate really. Later we surmised that it could have been the original track up to the summit.

It was a good call that we didn’t walk up this way.

A feed station... I would never have called myself a bird watcher but we did stop here for 5 mins (when in Rome and all that)

A feed station… I would never have called myself a bird watcher but we did stop here for 5 mins (when in Rome and all that)

Success! A female stitchbird, also known as hihi. One of NZ's rarest birds

Success! A female stitchbird, also known as hihi. One of NZ’s rarest birds

The track was only 2km long and when the terrain started to even out it was a good clue we were nearing the end. This also boded well for my chances of staying upright.

Nikau palm, Kapiti Island

The bush-surrounded seat is a memorial to Flying Officer R M Jones of the RNZAF who died in WW2. Apparently the seat once had a view of the sea - you'd never believe it now

The bush-surrounded seat is a memorial to Flying Officer R M Jones of the RNZAF who died in WW2. Apparently the seat once had a view of the sea – you’d never believe it now

Yep. Cheers.

Yep. Cheers.

A kaka, or large brown bush parrot. Not in the least bit timid, around us 2-legged folk at least

A kaka, or large brown bush parrot. Not in the least bit timid, around us 2-legged folk at least

The kaka was quite happy in his tree but I’ve seen photos of them perched on people. In my last post, another blogger commented that one had bit her lip as it sat on her while she was eating a cracker!

Kapiti Island vegetation

There was enough time before the ferry was due to have a decent walk around. We were keen to find some takahe but they weren’t keen to find us and stayed well hidden. Not to worry, there was plenty of amazing vegetation to take in and the inevitable bird or two of varieties that weren’t playing hard to get.

A house for DOC staff peeks through the trees

A house for DOC staff peeks through the trees

Kapiti Island vegetation

The pot is a relic from whaling days

The pot is a relic from whaling days

Kapiti Island sign

A young tui

A young tui

Another young tui I think, though bird expert I am not

Another young tui I think, though bird expert I am not

Kapiti Island looking back to mainland

The high tide line is thick with driftwood

The high tide line is thick with driftwood

Another weka, just to round out the bird gallery

Another weka, just to round out the bird gallery

The ferry arrived and we stepped off Kapiti Island.

Boarding Kapiti Island ferry

As something of a bonus we tracked north along the eastern shore to collect visitors from the North End, which gave us a peek there. The island’s only accommodation is here (on private land that has been looked after by the same family since the 1820s) as are a few other walks. Another day maybe.

Kapiti Island: 1 – what goes up…

A few months ago I notched up my 10th year of living in Wellington and realised I still hadn’t been to Kapiti Island.

One of the region’s best regarded features, Kapiti Island is a beautiful nature reserve managed by the Department of Conservation and is renowned as a bird sanctuary. Its iconic profile is prominent as you drive along State Highway 1.

Kapiti Island

Why had I been so slack? It’s not like it’s far away, being only a few kms off Paraparaumu Beach on the Kapiti Coast, which on a good day is about 45 mins drive north from Wellington city. But quite often it’s the stuff on your doorstep you don’t get round to doing.

I did try once before, a few years ago. The logistics involve booking a permit, a ferry ride that is quite weather sensitive, and an early start. The sailings were cancelled on the day I booked and I never got round to rescheduling.

What finally spurred me into action was a hefty price increase! With a short time horizon, Mike and I synchronised calendars and booked. But this attempt was another dud as the early morning phone call confirmed the ferry was again cancelled. We were down to just one more compatible day before the price hike.

And finally, a slightly kinder forecast meant that it was on. Early one Sunday in late January we shot off up the coast to find the Kapiti Boating Club.

Paraparaumu Beach. It wasn't a stellar day but if the weather was good enough for the boats to run, it would be good enough for us

Paraparaumu Beach. It wasn’t a stellar day but if the weather was good enough for the boats to run, it would be good enough for us

On account of the looming price rise, the charter company said this was their biggest ever day for passengers. As a result they had to run a second early sailing and we had been put on the second. I wasn’t too happy about that as our return time was unchanged meaning we’d have less time on the island. I wanted to walk up to the highest point and the published times suggested this was going to be pretty tight.

A sperm whale had beached here not long before our visit. The carcass had been taken for burial but a sign remained warning about possible nasties

A sperm whale had beached here not long before our visit. The carcass had been taken for burial but a sign remained warning about possible nasties

When it was time we all walked across the beach to the boat, still on its trailer at that stage. The launching process was unusual in that regard but soon enough we were making our way across the choppy waters.

Boarding the ferry. The boats are launched off the beach using tractors

Boarding the ferry. The boats are launched off the beach using tractors

There are two destinations on Kapiti Island to choose from. We were going to Rangatira, roughly half way along the eastern shore, where up to 50 people can visit per day. Turns out we were the only two of our sailing getting off here. North End is the other stop where 18 visitors per day are permitted.

It was just the two of us disembarking at Rangatira and after we scurried off the boat promptly pulled away

It was just the two of us disembarking at Rangatira and after we scurried off the boat promptly pulled away

Before long we were intercepted by a DOC ranger who took us to the visitor centre

Before long we were intercepted by a DOC ranger who took us to the visitor centre

With time a bit scarce I was keen to find the track and get going. But first we sat through the talk, which went a bit quicker with just the two of us. She said the previous session was with 40 people.

Which got us thinking. Maybe our later arrival would be to our advantage as we wouldn’t be caught up with the ‘crowds’.

First weka encounter during the introductory talk

First weka encounter during the introductory talk

Finally we were released. There are two paths up to the top: the 3.8km Wilkinson Track and the 2km Trig Track. The brochure said they take the same amount of time. We tossed the figurative coin and turned up the longer track.

Later on we’d thank ourselves we did.

A peek across to the mainland

A peek across to the mainland

Zig zagging up the Wilkinson Track

Zig zagging up the Wilkinson Track

Kapiti Island tree

It was a beautiful walk. We’d get the occasional peak out across the water but for the most part we were enclosed in some of the most gorgeous native bush you’ll find in NZ. We didn’t make too much effort to find or see birds, that wasn’t really why we were there, so unless they jumped out and waved hello (which they didn’t) we would be oblivious to their presence.

Kapiti Island tree with holes

Traps are set up to help ensure the island remains pest free

Traps are set up to help ensure the island remains pest free

After powering up the hill, pausing numerous times for photos, passing a couple of rowdy family groups, we came to the intersection where both tracks meet and you make the final trudge up to the summit.

We arrived at the summit well inside the two hour guideline, hungry and ready to sit down. Momentarily taken aback at how many people were in the small clearing, we headed on up to the trig lookout. It wasn’t the clearest of days but it was a unique vantage point here at Tuteremoana with views both west out to the Tasman Sea and east back to the mainland.

The lunch break was occupied with chewing and more weka watching.

View from Tuteremoana, the summit

View from Tuteremoana, the summit

View from Tuteremoana, Kapiti Island

Trig at the summit

Trig at the summit

Quite crowded at the top

Quite crowded at the top

Excellent place for another weka close encounter

Excellent place for another weka close encounter

With an eye on the clock we didn’t stay too long, keen to get back down and explore the flat. Mike suggested we take the Trig Track and yep, that seemed a good idea to me. Of course I didn’t know then what I would soon be finding out.

While out riding: Oops and ouch!

This was me arriving home from an after-hours medical clinic three months ago.

It was not the result of a spectacular stack whilst fanging downhill or over jumps. Rather ingloriously, it happened during an uncoordinated dismount on uneven sloping ground. (Probably sounds silly, but sometimes the height of my seat catches me out!)

Me

Mike and I were on a training ride in a local bike park getting ready for the Motatapu Adventure Race. I had to stay off the bike for a couple of months and while the wrist is still a bit dodgy, I’ve recently been able to resume training.

The event is this weekend down near Queenstown – a 47km course across spectacular South Island high country. It should be a fantastic challenge. My goals are to a) finish in under four hours; and b) stay in one piece!

Wish me luck!

While out riding: Well hi there

Emu

This inquisitive guy (girl?) caused some distraction during a recent training ride

While out riding: Is it a bus stop? Is it a lounge?

A brief interlude to the road trip posts and the spontaneous spawning of a random series of occasional pictures taken while out on my mountain bike.

We rode by this on Wednesday and I had to stop, climb off and stumble across the road for a photo. Amazingly this has been in place – and added to – since mid December. In this day and age I think that says that all is not lost with some parts of society.

Decorated bus shelter, Karori, Wellington

Wellington hill walks: Mt Crawford (Pt 2) Fort Ballance via bush scramble

In the absence of an obvious path down the steep and scrubby hillside, Mike was appointed chief trail blazer. I tagged along behind in slightly more hesitant fashion, clambering with one hand where required due to the other gripping the DSLR. This made the fence crossings especially awkward.

Luckily the team leader wasn't wearing green

While he pondered which line to take I looked for distractions close by

We must have encountered about five fences, some could be climbed through, others over. Lots of potential to do mischief to oneself, but we coped. I like to think my farm upbringing makes me extra qualified to deal with fences.

One advantage in Mike going first is that he discovered the swampy bits

Though I found that I couldn't avoid the swampy bits either

Eventually, after scrambling uphill and downhill and trudging through bog (tried to use my lightest footsteps to minimise the mud effect, but who am I kidding), we emerged back in civilisation. Though we were initially perturbed by the 10 foot high fenced off complex.

Not sure what the thingies were behind the fence - a comms tower of some kind and a building - but luckily there was a track around the fenceline

On the other side we joined a paved road for the short walk to Fort Ballance. I’d been there once before and for me it is the most interesting place on Miramar peninsula. The fort was the first in Wellington, constructed in the late 1800s as a result of the Russian war scares. It remained operational during the two world wars before closing in 1959. The second photo on this page shows the fort during its construction years.

I spent a blissful half hour or so tearing around taking photos.

A snippet of barb wire fence remains at the old entry gate

At the entry to the barracks building

This diagram shows the general layout of Fort Ballance.

Inside the observation post, a good place to spot land invaders as well as water.

Last year it was announced that this area is to become a public reserve which will see the fort restored. It is fantastic that a concerted effort will be made to preserve this local history and make it more accessible. Though I have to say, it does have a certain charm in its current state and isolation.

I’m not actually sure that were allowed to be there – public access may not be openly permitted given some of the potential hazards around the ruins – but any signs instructing otherwise have long since been defaced or removed.

Looking across to the eastern hills

I blend in quite well I think

On the same website which I use as a bit of a resource, I was really interested to see some photos from around 1999/2000 of the fort without any graffiti whatsoever. Perhaps access was more robustly controlled then.

Scorching Bay

Fun though this was, we were still a wee ways from home so it was time to get going. We followed an overgrown track down to Scorching Bay, which was thronging with people (a tad cleaner than us) enjoying the summery day. As has been customary with walks recently, cold treats were procured and we walked and slurped our way home. One more hill was in our way and my legs definitely felt a bit poked after the afternoon’s exertions.

The Interislander heads into Wellington as seen from Scorching Bay

Wellington hill walks: Mt Crawford (Pt 1) via Maupuia

Miramar peninsula is a great place to live and I’ve raved about it plenty before. One part that I rarely venture into is Maupuia, the suburb on the hill as you fly in from the north.

It’s a bit of a funny place. On one hand Maupuia has the hallmarks of exclusivity – fantastic harbour views, loads of sun and upmarket houses. One of our most famous All Blacks used to live in one of the cliff-top mansions. On the other hand, it has a good measure of downmarket houses like any other suburb and the commercial buildings are perched in rather ugly and ungainly fashion on top of the hill, with rears facing out over the edge. Maupuia is also home to Wellington Prison.

A walkway along part of the hilltop has always looked appealing but as is often the case, you never get round to doing the stuff on your doorstep. Until this sunny Sunday rolled around!

One of my ravings about the peninsula has been its military history. In the course of some pre-walk research I came across a site which indicated that the various old inland military roads (many of which are hidden from view) can in fact be walked on. So we had a loose plan to go find some of that too.

Anyway, time to get going…

Normally we go right; today we're going left up the hill

A view across Miramar, one of our local watering holes below, and further away the large facilities of Stone Street studios where they are currently busy Hobbitting

Starting point of the small but very pleasant walkway

Looking back toward the start of the trail. The flat ground between the hills is home to the airport, Lyall Bay and Kilbirnie

We're lucky to have a road that goes right around the peninsula - about 15km long

Cabbage trees are a common sight around the peninsula

The walkway is very short, less than a kilometre. It would have been an anticlimax to end our walk there so we carried on to the top of the hill where some of the military roads could be accessed.

One slight complication was whether or not we could actually use the road on account of the prison further up. If the sign is to be believed – and it looked rather official – our entry wasn’t exactly authorised. But our wavering was decided when a couple of cyclists pedalled on through.

Duly noted

The prison is at the top of the hill. It is one of the country’s smallest, housing 120 men, and its future has been called into question. A much bigger prison is based in Upper Hutt. It certainly seemed open for business with flag flying and carpark full. We didn’t loiter, not knowing if we were legitimately OK to be there.

Wellington Prison takes up some very prime real estate

The paths we were after led off from the carpark. We set off down the forested hillside, excited to see what was hidden among the trees.

Until…

Well there goes that plan

I had heard they were doing some Hobbit filming on old defence land and well, here it was. We will have to try again later in the year.

We returned to the carpark and found the second path. A little more rustic this one, across paddocks. Off to the side is the site of an old infantry redoubt. We carried on to a lookout point.

While we plotted our next move, we could see down the hill a security office for the filming. Clearly we couldn’t go that way. In the other direction was the remains of one of the peninsula’s forts.

Fort Ballance (visible) was on a hill over a bush-laden valley with dubious tracks... let's go there then...

…Easier said than done! To be continued.

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