Grand Traverse of Paekakariki Escarpment M
12 February 2014
We started at St Peter's Hall in Beach Street, Paekakariki, in misty weather with a slight drizzle. A walk along Ames Street took us to the bridge over the railway. At the northern end we dropped down some steps and went under the road, coming out at the start of the new section of Te Araroa. Phew! That was the most dangerous part of the trip! We walked along by a stream which burst its banks and flooded the railway in 2003 during a very heavy rain event. Further on we saw the start of Nga Uruora's Loop Track† (a 45 minute trip through kohekohe forest), and we saw some of the trees which Nga Uruora planted about 8 years ago and are now almost mature. Another 15 minutes walk took us to the quarry where road metal was extracted when Centennial Highway was built and 10 minutes further on we reached the site of the Maori village Paripari. We could vaguely see some signs of terraces where kumara were grown. In Wakefield's time there were about a dozen huts and canoes drawn up on the beach.
The new section descends here to within 6 metres of the railway in order to get around private farmland. Then it climbs the hill by steps and a series of zig-zags. In July last year we planted flax and cabbage trees here with bamboo tubes for watering and now the plants showed signs of wilting in the heat. Drink bottles were filled at a creek and everybody had a go at filling a bamboo tube. By this time the weather was improving and views of Kapiti opened up as we climbed the hill. We reached the highest point of the track, the ‘Lookout’ and the party demanded morning tea. This was the end of the new section of Te Araroa, and the rest of the escarpment to the south was out of bounds to the public. Nga Uruora enjoys access to the whole escarpment through an arrangement with QE2 National Trust and KiwiRail. Fortunately everybody had done their watering duty and consequently qualified as a Nga Uruora work party, so we stepped around the NO ENTRY signs and started the hard work. A steep descent and crossing two gullies took us to the terraces which were constructed in 1989 by the Ministry of Works in order to drain and stabilise the hillside, which was showing signs of slipping down on top of the railway. Then a climb up through the ‘Ecoforest’, a mature native forest full of kohekohe and karaka trees. We popped out of the bush into brilliant sunshine with stunning views of Pukerua Bay – just the place for lunch.
The rest of the trip was on private farmland. When Te Araroa is complete (perhaps in 2015?) it will avoid private land altogether and contour the steep slopes on KiwiRail land. We crossed a fence and started a steep descent into a big gully full of native bush and scrub. It was a case of following sheep tracks through tauhinu bushes but with plenty to hang onto. We had a good view of the new swing bridge in the mouth of the gully. On the other side we had to crawl through holes in wind-blasted kanuka before a steep climb to a spur and another steep gully loomed ahead. This one was even steeper and we slid down a very steep bank holding on to flax for support. We stopped for afternoon tea on the other side. Another climb to a spur, then a few minor gullies took us to the top of a farm track and the property belonging to Pamela Meekings-Stewart. It was cool walking through her pine forest out to open paddocks beside the Woolshed and her private road leading to the old Muri Station past Melody Farm. From Muri Station it is about 800 metres to Pukerua Bay Station so those of us in a hurry started to worry about missing the next train, but no real problem as trains were half an hour apart in both directions. We split up as some returned to Paekakariki to pick up their cars and others took the train direct to Wellington.
Many thanks to property owners Hamish Smith and Pamela Meekings-Stewart for permission to cross their land, and thanks to all the plant irrigators!
†Nga Uruora is a charitable trust, based in Paekakariki, which does conservation work on the steep escarpment between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay. The aim is to reforest the escarpment and bring back the birds from Kapiti Island.
- Party members
- Robin & Sue Chesterfield, Ken Fraser (leader and scribe), Tricia French, Paddy Gresham, Diane Head, John Hill, Tony Holmes, Chris Horne, Wayne & Mary Perkins, Lynne Pomare, Marilyn Richards, Penny Salmond, Lynne White, Christine Whiteford, Alan Wright.