Day 48: Waikanae to Camp Elsdon (43km)
Only two days left on the North Island! These two days would be mainly characterized by suburban areas on our way to Wellington. Yet, some little gems and nice trails made these days enjoyable.
The first day started with a nice and easy stroll through the Waikanae estuary reserve and followed the beach for some 14-15 km.
Even though I had planned for a long day - as free camping options were once again limited - I stopped regularly at some cafes or smaller towns along the way.
At Paekakariki the trail left the beach and a local sign promised an "unforgettable" experience on the upcoming escarpment track. And indeed, Alex and I quickly climbed a narrow track with two swing bridges and beautiful views until we reached Pukeru Beach.
From here on it was mainly roadwalk for another 17km along some heavily trafficked roads and highways.
Day 49: Camp Elsdom to Southern Terminus North Island (43.5km)
Today's goal was to finish the North Island by hiking all the way through Wellington and another 15km down to the end of the North Island. The day started with a steep climb over many stairs and a really strong and cold wind.
Despite the cloudy skies, the two mountains on my way promised some great views on Wellington and the Kapiti Coast. The trail was in a great condition and allowed fast hiking. After just 30mins I had climbed the just 460m high Mt. Rangituhi and continued towards Mt. Kaukau and the Skyline track.
Just before 11am I had hiked another 15km and arrived at Mt. Kaukau which offered great views over downtown Wellington including the Stadium and Ferry terminals.
Wellington is known for strong winds, but the wind on Mt. Kaukau and the Skyline track was just nuts. The wind pushed me left and right and made it really difficult to stay on track and move on. At times I was afraid that it would rip my rainjacket into pieces. I tried to get off that mountain quickly for more wind protection and lunch in the small suburb of Ngaio.
From here on the trail went through some parks and along the Northern Walkway which skirted around Wellington, before dropping into the city at the Botanical Gardens. Following Bolton Street Cemetery I quickly found myself on Lambton Quay and Willis St., two of Wellington's main shopping streets. The trail passed the Beehive and went down to the marina and Te Papa national museum, before climbing up once again into the south-eastern hills.
Even though it remained quite suburban the trail and parks were lovely and even crossed a cricket field, where some local teams were playing an official game. I was therefore forced to have a short break and watch the game, waiting for the game to pause.
Shortly after Mt. Albert the trail finally dropped down, back to beach and continued another 5km to the southern terminus of the northern island. At 4:20pm I had finished the first 1.696km of the Te Araroa Trail. Instead of camping in the local park, I decided to take the bus back to Wellington, where I would stay for a few days to get some chores done.
Overall the trail had become much better in the last few days, especially since the Tararuas and walking through Wellington, was a nice flashback to my initial visit 9 years earlier, but that...wasn't yet the only flashback of that particular day ;-)