Saturday, May 16, 2009

More Walking, Less Driving Pt. 2

Footbridge in the Catchpool Valley

I'm back with the promised second post about hikes within an hour's drive from Wellington. Sadly, we didn't manage to squeeze a walk in this weekend because Wellington is kicking up one of its famous gales. Apparently the gusts got up to 140 km/h! Surprisingly, these big blows seem to do very little damage around town, although I suspect the next time we get up into the hills there will be a few extra branches on the ground.

The Catchpool Valley is in the Rimutaka Forest Park, and it's a favourite place for families, older hikers and beginners because the main track, called the Orongorongo Track, is quite flat and very simple to follow. However, there are more challenging routes to take if you head up into the mountains on either side of that main route. Last weekend we walked up to Mt McKerrow and back down another trail. It's about five hours as a round trip, and really gives the legs a good workout especially on the way down. The round trip along Cattle Ridge on the other side is about as long, but not as steep going up or down.
The Catchpool Valley

On Wellington Harbour, opposite the city, is the town of Eastbourne. By heading into the hills behind the town you can spend a few pleasant hours hiking along tracks of various lengths, many of which connect with each other. They also connect with the Catchpool Valley eventually.

View across the Harbour to Wellington

If you cruise up the Hutt Valley, there are additional places to walk. Kaitoke Regional Park is just past the town of Upper Hutt. It's a bit of a push to make it there within an hour of leaving Wellington, but I figured it was close enough to include and we do go there for day walks now and then. Kaitoke is at one end of the popular Southern Crossing of the Tararua Range. But for day walks, we normally walk up a ridge, then either back via another ridge, or a river valley.

An ex-tree in Kaitoke Regional Park
Also up the Hutt Valley is the Rimutaka Rail Trail. This route is doable both on foot and bicycle, and is easy enough for the absolute beginner. It's virtually impossible to get lost, and because it is graded for cycling, there are no tricky steps. In fact, I'm not sure I can really call it a hike, it's more of a walk in the park. However, it does make for a pleasant day out. It's about 5 hours to do the whole crossing over to the Wairarapa side, but this makes for an awkward car shuttle so most walkers do a return trip to the summit (about 3 hours each way.)

An old train tunnel on the Rimutaka Rail Trail

If you're keen to do some walks in and around Wellington, I can recommend the guide book Day Walks of Greater Wellington by Reed Publishing. It covers all of the areas I've mentioned plus a few others, and while you'll still need a proper map it will give you a decent idea of what to expect and driving directions to reach the trailheads.

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