My favourite Walk: A walk up the Ra­paki Track be­fore sun­rise

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - By Michelle Read

“WHAT? You haven’t walked up Ra­paki Track?” An ex­cla­ma­tion I have heard of­ten of one of the Port Hills’ most pop­u­lar tracks.

“Fan­tas­tic walk – oh the views,” I’m told, “but you’ll never have it to your­self.”

Which is pre­cisely why I have never walked up Ra­paki Track. I love gaz­ing over those breath-tak­ing Can­ter­bury moun­tain views with­out ir­ri­tat­ing jib­ber jab­ber spoil­ing the mo­ment.

But therein lies the dilemma. I re­ally want to walk up Ra­paki Track, but how to do it and avoid the masses?

And then it comes to me. Go when no one else wants to. Be­fore sun­rise on a win­tery Mon­day morn­ing. Fool proof!

I ar­rive at 6.30am, sur­prised to find that I take the last park­ing space at the top of nar­row Ra­paki Road al­though I sus­pect that a lot of the cars be­long to the houses perched pre­car­i­ously on the hill­side be­low.

The first part of the well sign­posted, open path­way is en­closed in trees and I curse my­self for not think­ing to bring along a torch as my eyes strain to ad­just to the pitch black­ness. My heart thumps anx­iously and I start to ques­tion my de­ci­sion to come alone.

Adopt­ing a brisk speed-walk, I soon come out of the trees and breathe a lit­tle eas­ier.

The track is wide and shingly, very easy to find my way even in this gloom. This is farm­land, and bunches of tus­sock grass punc­tu­ate the fields on ei­ther side.

There are farm gates every so of­ten, but along­side each is a very smart lit­tle cat­tle grid for walk­ers and bikers. So thought­ful and very easy to ne­go­ti­ate.

I am de­lighted to find my plan has some­what worked and the track stretches ahead of me – de­serted. Lovely.

I no­tice a light head­ing to­wards me. It’s a man, prob­a­bly in his 70’s, dressed in full ly­cra, hurtling past on a bike with

com­i­cally gi­ant tyres at a hor­ren­dous speed. I whip out my phone to check for a sig­nal, should I need to call the emer­gency ser­vices. I try not to think about skin on gravel and what I might do should the un­think­able hap­pen.

Al­though the path is all up­hill I stop reg­u­larly to turn and look be­hind. Christchurch’s white and orange glis­ten­ing light­show be­low is a mes­meris­ing won­der­land.

The morn­ing be­ing so still, I am able to hear the sound of the traf­fic hiss­ing its way through an early Mon­day morn­ing, sound­ing rather like the gen­tle lap­ping of ocean waves on a beach.

As I climb fur­ther, the sound of the traf­fic be­gins to di­min­ish, and is re­placed by the tin­kling of run­ning wa­ter which must be com­ing from the val­ley on my right. The odd bird hops along the track in front of me, but there is very lit­tle bird­song, per­haps be­cause of the lack of trees up here.

Light be­gins to creep in as the sun starts its as­cent, com­ing up over a ridge and throw­ing a sharp golden line across the hill on my right. Watch­ing it move I am re­minded that the sun is not com­ing up, but that we are turn­ing.

The speed that the golden glow grows is re­mark­able. Can we re­ally be mov­ing that fast?

A won­der­fully wind free morn­ing, I find my­self com­pletely over­dressed in far too many lay­ers: hat, gloves, scarf, which I re­move as the grad­ual up­hill climb warms me to the bones. Each

stop to catch my breath re­veals a lit­tle more – the Port Hills, the city, beach, ocean, moun­tains.

A dou­ble row of huge steel power py­lons, un­der dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances, may be seen as a blot on the land­scape. But to­day they have an en­chant­ing beauty about them. The rich glow as the ris­ing sun catches them. The way they stand, tall and strong, silently car­ry­ing power across the moun­tains.

Everyone on the track seems to be here for ex­er­cise. Mon­day morn­ing day­break is not a time for casual wan­der­ers. The age of passers-by gets younger as the morn­ing gets lighter.

A group of teens pounds past me head­ing up­hill. Where do they get the en­ergy? Oh, what I could achieve if I had that stamina!

At last I reach Sum­mit Road – the top of the track. Turn­ing to look back, the re­ward for all that hard work is a view that just doesn’t stop. It goes on and on, right out to sea.

I turn left, head­ing along the closedto-traf­fic part of Sum­mit Road and find just past a row of trees, the very best views of all. There is so much to see, it is dif­fi­cult to take it all in at first.

The en­tire sweep­ing coast­line is now in full sun with snow-capped moun­tains a glis­ten­ing line across the horizon. New Brighton pier is a tiny nee­dle pierc­ing the ocean, be­hind it the wet­lands re­flect­ing pinks and pur­ples from the sky.

Cross­ing over Sum­mit Road I dis­cover a stun­ning view down into Lyt­tel­ton Har­bour, Di­a­mond Har­bour and Quail Is­land. Houses cling to the edges of the land along the wa­ter line, as if they have been washed down the moun­tains and col­lected at the bot­tom.

There is no sound up here at all. Not even birds. I can barely hear the faint thrum of traf­fic from the city; a dog barks way off in the dis­tance, and per­haps a dis­tant seag­ull? The air is so chilled and fresh, my nose has never felt so clear.

The wind re­ally be­gins to pick up now, and at last I am grate­ful for all the ex­tra lay­ers I brought and start pulling them back on again. You can cer­tainly feel the snow up on those moun­tains now.

Ad­ver­tised as a 45 minute walk, it has taken me nearly an hour and a half to walk up here but I make no apolo­gies for that.

This is a walk to savour and dawdling is highly rec­om­mended. As is a win­ters morn­ing visit at day­break.

A walk up the Ra­paki Track be­fore sun­rise

Above: The view at sun­rise from the track. Be­low left: The en­trance to the track. Be­low right: A view look­ing back to the Christchurch CBD.,

Above: and be­low: The track on the way to the top.

Above: The view from the Sum­mit Road.

Be­low: The ris­ing sun hits the top of the hills first.

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