The home stretch of the North Island is finally here! The Tararuas were our last major challenge and from the end of them, not much stood in our way before we reached Wellington. Matt and I were extra excited to arrive seeing as we had lived there for 2 months prior to hiking. We missed our Airbnb host Anna, her dog Maisy, and our two little neighbours we babysat and hunted for treasure on the beach with. We also missed the Greek Food truck, Pizza Pomodoro and all of the good coffee. Still 75km to go though. We predicted 2 days of walking.
From Waikanae, we worked our way to the coast where we waltzed down the beach for some 10 or 15km down to Raumati where Anna’s (from Wellington) mom , Rae, lives in a beautiful house right on the beach. In that 10km we managed to help a lady dig for a geocache under the footpath!
With a picture of Rae’s property for reference, we walked until we found a match and sure enough, Rae popped out onto her deck and waved us in. We spent a lovely evening, admiring the high tide and sunset while eating dinner, listening to Maori music and chatting up a storm about travelling, New Zealand and our eating habits (not our proudest topic of discussion) with Rae. Brad also took the time to bounce around a bit on the trampoline.
The next day we were Porirua bound via the Paekakariki Escarpment track. The Escarpment track had just opened early this year and ran in the cliff side parallel to the railway tracks, the highway and the coast. It gains 200m above sea level and has two swing bridges towards the southern end. It was definitely the highlight in this last stretch and an amazing addition to the Te Araroa trail.
After camping near Colonial Knob in Porirua, we began our last day of walking on the North Island, following Colonial Knob up and into the hills, down through bush and then up to the top of Mt.Kaukau, where we got our first real views of Wellington up close and also our first taste (or for me and Matt a reminder) of Welly’s famous wind. From the Mt.Kaukau summit onwards, Wellington was constantly in view but of course we would have to zig zag and loop around for a long while before we actually entered the CBD. It wasn’t all that bad though. Matt and I were seeing Wellington from angles we had never seen it from before. We were so used to exploring the south coast, it was nice to walk along the Northern walkway for a change.
After teasing Anna and ourselves with a number of texts about our predicted arrrival time, what felt like it took forever finally happened. We arrived at the end of the T.A. on the North Island. Beautiful Island Bay.
After picking up a 6pack of beer and a big bottle of soap, Matt and I walked up the familiar alley, street, and steps to Anna’s house. Maisy barked up a storm at us for a while before catching on to her memory of us. (She made up for it by jumping in the bed with me the next morning). Despite arriving much later than we had said, Anna was all ears to our stories and welcomed us back with a fantastic home cooked meal of fresh fish, salad from the garden and roasted veggies. It was everything that we had been missing for the last two months.
Our next three days off in Wellington were a blur of indulgence in delicious food, catching up, meeting new people, doing laundry, and stressing out over not having enough time to do all we wanted to. Then again, a lamb barby, pizza pomodoro, homemade pizza on the barby, the Greek food truck, ice cream, dessert, coffee… I say we did pretty well!
The first full rest day started off with a peach cobbler production in the kitchen. Anna was having her niece and her partner over for a lamb barbecue and of course, I was on dessert and dessert was peach cobbler and ice cream! Afterwards, Anna helped us out with some errands and took us to the post shop first to collect a few packages waiting for us- two that we had sent from further up the island and one surprise Christmas package from Yvonne and Paul up North in Whangarei. Being a fellow Canadian, Yvonne knew how to make us miss home with a couple of root beers, coffee crisps and some more lollies. They also sent us a card that could not be better suited for this ice cream eating couple.
Next we took care of my shoes which fell apart after not even a month of the trail. By the time those errands were done, it was time to start dinner so we headed home and to the kitchen. Lima I, Anna’s son, son joined us as well as Ella, Anna’s niece, and her mate Henry. Matt then cooked up the lamb on the barbecue. Of course Anna supervised him because who better to cook lamb than a kiwi! Matt also made a delicious Harissa (pepper) sauce and roasted the best potatoes he’s ever roasted. Complete with a fresh salad from the garden and you had one of the most spectacular meals we’ve eaten in a long time.
The next day we visited Pizza Pommodoro (the best pizza joint in Wellington) and we made homemade pizzas on the barbecue for dinner. Ooh, w also had root beer floats (courtesy of Yvonne and Paul) to go with our homemade pizza. Afterwards, we rushed off downtown to catch Star Wars: Rogue One at a sofa seat theatre with Brad, Jess and Francis.
Day at three was all about the South island bounce boxes and man oh man was it a bigger pain than either of us expected it to be. It’s easy enough eating couscous for fifty days when you go grocery shopping every week but grocery shop for fifty days of ramen and couscous is just plain depressing. It wasn’t horrible… just a new experience, exciting! Basically, for a stretch of 21ish days, we don’t hit any towns big enough to resupply in so we have to pre-shop and send boxes ahead to a few different backpackers/lodges to collect when we arrive at that mark in the trail.
Don’t let me forget that we had two short but sweet visits with our little 3 and 5 year old neighbours, Alice and Lily. We didn’t go for ice cream with them though…we’ll have to put that on the priority list for our return to Welly in another two months.
On to the South Island we go!