Sunday was the last day of my #peakbragging and I am happy and sad to report that I both succeeded and failed.
I succeeded in that I achieved the intangible goal of getting out and exploring more of Wellington while the weather was good. I went on a couple of walks I’d always wanted to do and saw my hometown from more angles than I imagined possible.
I failed in the tangible goal in that I didn’t set foot on the top of every peak. Wright’s Hill was planned for Saturday, but I was distracted by Scrabble and beer and never made it. I’m okay with that, I was up there a couple of weeks before Christmas. And Te Kopahou…well that’s a story all in itself.
On Sunday I had three peaks left: Brooklyn Hill, Hawkin’s Hill, and Te Kopahou. All three are on the same ridgeline running southwest of Wellington and I figured I could do all three in one day.
I started out early and caught the No. 7 bus to the Brooklyn shops and hiked up through the streets to the Sawmill Track, the recommended route for pedestrians (to keep them off the road). This tracks runs along the Zealandia pest-proof fence line, so you’ll often see birds of all description – I startled a family of California quails! It was uphill, but fairly easy and soon I was at the Wind Turbine. The early hour and clearing clouds combined to create dramatic views.
The second part was also fairly easy, just strolling along a semi-private road past Woofington’s Luxury Dog Stay until I reached the Hawkins Hill Radar Dome.
There’d been a bit of a climb, sure, but still relatively easy. It looked like it would keep being easy to my final peak, Te Kopahou: the trig station was clearly visible, roughly on level with where I’d already climbed to.
And then – foiled!
The flat road along the ridge was across private land. Clearly, loudly, frequently marked private land.
I cursed myself. I’d read about this in my trip planning, but had assumed for some reason it was much further along and I could have skirted it. Dammit, Te Kopahou was so close. It was tempting to just skip across, but I don’t mess with farmers – especially ones that have gone to so much trouble to specify ‘NO walkers’ on their signs.
I remembered I’d read about a way around the property and pulled up the Wellington City Council Te Kopahou Reserve brochure on my phone. Now, this is a print brochure – it’s not made for phones, it doesn’t even work that well on computers. But I could see that there was a track from back towards the Radar Station. I found the track easily – it didn’t have any signage, but it was a clear track. Being up high, I could see that the track went down the hill, along the bottom of the valley and then climbed back up to Te Kopahou. It was definitely a climb, but it looked doable. I had plenty of water, plenty of daylight and I figured I’d give it a go. If it got too hard, I would head over to Red Rocks and trek out along the coast.
I started off down the track. It was steep. Boy, was it steep. I headed down and down and down and all the while, the ridgeline track was at the edge of my vision, taunting me with its relative flatness. The scenery was gorgeous, steep hills with a gully, and very quickly I felt like I had the entire place to myself.
Down, down, down.
My knees and Achilles tendons started to hurt. I began to make contingency plans. Looking across the valley, I could see the track went up on the other side, then split, one path going up Te Kopahou, the other up to a slightly smaller hill with bunkers. I reasoned they’d have roughly the same views, the same feeling of achievement.
I got about two thirds down the hill when the path hooked around the ridge to the left. As I rounded it, I realised my path went quite a way along to the left, down to the stream at the bottom of the valley, and halfway up the hill on the other side, where it split into two, one which kept going up. The other went down the hill again and then reached the valley floor which I’d seen from the top of the hill. And only then did it start going up to Te Kopahou. That was a lot of extra climb, I thought. And then I’ve still got to come back and hike out…and my knee was really twinging…
I put off making a decision until I reached the fork on the other side. I looked across the valley and went – nope. My pride is not worth it. Te Kopahou will still be there to climb another day (unless we have a really bad earthquake and it slides into the sea. Not likely, but also not impossible).
I hiked up out of the valley to the old stockyards and was rewarded with beautiful views up the southern coast and across the harbour entrance.
As I made my way up and over to Red Rocks/ Pari-whero, I knew I’d made the right choice. And then I came out further along the beach than I thought I would and I again knew I’d made the right choice. And then I found out there’s no bus stop at the end of the Esplanade and the closest one is at Happy Valley Road and that doesn’t operate on the weekends and so the closest bus stop was actually Island Bay and I was definitely, positively sure I had made the right choice because I’d been hiking for six and a half hours at that point.
All up, a good day’s adventure and a great week-and-a-half of peaks.
So what’s next?