Te Araroa Trail: The Paekakariki Escarpment Track
Ihad read about the opening of the latest section of the Te Araroa Trail on the Kapiti Coast.The Paekakariki Escarpment Track. It sounded interesting and I was familiar with the area, so I added it to my list of things to do during a week’s holiday in Plimmerton, further down the Coast.
On the drive to Plimmerton I looked up at the steep-sided tawny hills rising above SH1 and the railway line. It was a stifling hot day with the mercury rising to 30 degrees. The heat seemed to hit the hillsides and bounce back like a fan oven. Why would anyone want to walk along those baking exposed hills? Lovely views,but ........
However, my opinion changed after reading a brochure at the i-site at Paraparaumu. Yes - do it! Wellington’s public transport is the envy of Aucklanders and none more so than the electric units serving the Kapiti Coast as far as Waikanae.
I took the train to Paekakariki one sparkling clear morning brandishing my Gold Card. No inconvenient HOP card required. The 1km walk to the start of the track led me through the quaint little latte village and along a quiet residential street adjacent to the interesting untamed coast.
The narrow 10km track gradually gained height to a maximum 200m above sea level. Some people were obviously using it as a training run - no doubt locals who were immune to the stunning scenery below and beyond. Far below was the railway line snaking its way along the contours, with the parallel road following the same.
The constant traffic moved north and south in silent momentum. The rocky shoreline created another boundary before looking out across to lofty Kapiti Island dominating the horizon. Magnificent. Especially on a sunny calm morning
With such a perspective I could understand though, why the brochure
warns people with a fear of heights to avoid the track. Also it is unsuitable for young children. In parts the terrain is rocky, steep and narrow with no handrails. However there are seats at various scenic spots along the way ( it’s all scenic) and a sheltered lunch area in one of the forested gullies.
Information boards tell of the history of this coast and its development and importance in pre and post European settlement.
On the southern half there are two impressive swing bridges spanning deep valleys, both providing more photo opportunities. The track gradually descends to Pukerua Bay where a 2km walk takes you to the railway station.
Of course the track can be done in reverse - either way, it is preferable to go in the same wind direction if the weather is showing its true Wellington colours.
I’m so glad I did it! A favourite walkaccessible, challenging, spectacular, scenic and easily fitted into a holiday programme.
Well done Te Araroa.
Opposite page above: Looking down on SH 1 and the Main Trunk Railway line. Above: The beach settlement of Pukerua Bay in the background.
Below left: One of the suspension bridges. Below right: Kapiti Island in the distance.