My Favourite Walk: The daily grind: Mt Kau Kau Welling­ton

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Clare Glee­son

My phone buzzing around 7.40am is the call to arms. The text comes through “walk­ing this morn­ing?” Whether I go or not, ev­ery morn­ing at 8.00am a group of not-so-young women meet at the Khan­dal­lah Park swim­ming pool and be­gin their as­cent.

We are no Hil­larys or Ten­z­ings but the climb up Mt Kau Kau is no walk in the park, de­spite its lo­ca­tion. It is a chal­lenge for all of us though some are fit­ter than oth­ers.

The track, in the heart of sub­ur­bia, trans­ports us to the New Zealand bush as soon as we en­ter. Ferns, trees, moss and climbers min­gle in their spe­cial con­fig­u­ra­tion.

As we walk birds sing and we spot white necked Tuis and pretty Fan­tails. The Kere­rus whirr as they fly to perch on a branch and watch us pass. Seem­ingly un­afraid of people it is no won­der they were al­most wiped out when the Euro­peans set­tlers ar­rived.

Af­ter a steep hill climb and sev­eral flights of wooden steps we reach farm­land and wan­der across grassy fields in what I have dubbed the English sec­tion of the walk.

As I tra­verse this part of the climb I imag­ine my­self in Wain­wright’s Lake District or the Pen­nines, al­though I know the gorse and bright blue sky be­lie this.

At var­i­ous points along the way there is a clear­ing and we get a glimpse of the city. With its green hills and twin­kling blue har­bour it’s an im­pres­sive sight on a beau­ti­ful day.

How­ever our walks are not con­strained by the weather and many the time we’ve bat­tled our way up in wind, mist and rain with no hope of see­ing any­thing once we got to the top.

The panorama of the city be­fore us is the re­ward for the stiff climb and then comes the plea­sure of de­scent. We scram­ble down a hill be­fore clam­ber­ing over the stile nick­named the Hil­lary Step and reen­ter­ing the bush.

Now we’re in what some think is the most spe­cial part of the walk. With its dark trunked trees and heavy canopy this area of bush has a mag­i­cal air to it and a hob­bit or wizard wouldn’t seem out of place.

On Wed­nes­days we walk with gloves, not for the cold but be­cause it’s Weedy Wed­nes­day, the day we stop for 10 min­utes on our way down to pull out the flour­ish­ing weeds clog­ging up the wooden steps.

A dis­parate group, we are united in our en­joy­ment of walk­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of such a lovely place to walk on our doorstep. We chat as we trudge along, steep­ness of track and fit­ness per­mit­ting, and have come to know each other well.

Some days we don’t see any­one else but usu­ally we see other reg­u­lars.

On a nice day there are lots of people, en­joy­ing the fresh air, the ex­er­cise and the bush. We see walk­ers and run­ners, old and young, fit and un­fit, and lots of dogs. We’ve got to know the dogs as well as we know the own­ers and they love the free­dom of romp­ing up the track.

Af­ter our ar­rival back in Khan­dal­lah Park we some­times stop for cof­fee – or some­times not.

We know that the next day most of us will be up again, en­joy­ing the bush and the com­pany as we com­plete our daily but plea­sur­able grind, the as­cent of Mt Kau Kau.

The view of Welling­ton from Mt Kau Kau.

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