17 February 2013

Highbury to South Coast walk

Yesterday I took advantage of the bright sunshine and clear skies to undertake a hill walk I've been meaning to get under my belt ever since I moved back to Highbury. While I regularly walk up to the Wind Turbine from my place on a Sunday morning, it's always been the endpoint of my walk. This time I vowed to make it all the way to the South Coast via the hill trails, and then to finish up in Island Bay.

Through the magic of the camera timestamp I can provide a minute-by-minute chronicle of what turned out to be a three-and-a-half hour walk.

1.20pm Departed Highbury Rd with plenty of supplies, having donned my trusty Doc Martens (faithful servants since they were purchased in Covent Garden, 1997) and slapped on some Western Australian-bought sunscreen. They know their sun in WA. The opening stages of the walk skirt the outside of the Wildlife Sanctuary exclusion fence and follow the mountain-bike trail up a steep incline to the turbine.

1.34pm A fine view back across Wellington to start things off. My place is about 200m above sea level, so this is probably 250-300m up.

Wellington from above Highbury

1.36pm And the first clear view of the turbine, working steadily in the summer breeze.

Wind turbine (merged image)

1.46pm Brief pause at the turbine itself to down some water, and then head on to undiscovered territory (for me, at least) - past the carpark and onto the private farm road to Hawkins Hill.

2.08pm Hello, you're a long way from home! An ostrich patrols a roadside field, keeping a beady eye on passers-by. I continued on up the road along the crest of the hills, with Cook Strait on both sides in the distance.

2.36pm First sight of a peculiar dwelling - a mock castle in a fenced compound, flying a Dutch flag. Are there any Dutch super-villains? If so, I bet they live here. I pass the VHF transmitting station and take a detour up to get a photo of the radome atop Hawkins Hill.

Dutch castle & Hawkins Hill radome

2.43pm Good timing - the radome appears to be being painted today - maybe the first time since 1997? - with an abseiler perched halfway down. Must be a great view up there, although I suppose he'd need pretty powerful sunglasses. Turning back to the track, I head south along the ridgeline towards the sea.

Radome abseiler

3.08pm Another left turn, this time onto the prosaically-named Tip Track - that is, the track that leads to the city tip. A Cook Strait ferry sails below, en route to the harbour entrance a few kilometres to the east.

3.41pm Slowed down by the Tip Track valley incline. I'd hoped the track would veer seawards after it dipped down into a steep, gorse-lined valley, but naturally it climbed back up the other side to an even higher peak. On a hot summer's day this incline proved to be quite a challenge, so it was lucky there were a few shady spots midway for a pause to catch my breath. It was properly hot down there!

Tip Track valley, S-SE view

3.58pm First sight of the city tip, which is as unlovely as an open-cast mine. But because it's behind the hills, most people forget it's there. The track turns rocky and becomes harder to negotiate, particularly heading downhill at a steep gradient. Good for mountain-bikers though, I guess.

4.11pm The track edges closer to Happy Valley, and gives a good view over the back of Carlucci Land. Here's the world's tallest Fiat Bambina guarding the entrance.

Carlucci Land, Happy Valley

4.23pm Back into civilisation, relatively speaking. Heading down Happy Valley Rd past the playing fields and the school, I admire the thought-provoking 'tsunami safe zone' markings across the road. Reaching the south coast, I confirm my suspicions: the Happy Valley dairy is boarded up. I'll have to wait until Island Bay for an iceblock.

4.37pm Leaving Owhiro Bay, two ferries off the south coast are travelling in convoy from Picton: an Interislander followed by a Bluebridge. Must have been a great day to be out on the water.

4.41pm Pass a wedding party having their photo taken on the jagged rocks. Presumably there's some sand there to perch on, because ladies' wedding heels and south coast rocks do not mix well.

4.50pm Island Bay! Why aren't there more people on the beach on a marvellous day like this? All at home playing on their X-Box, I guess. I make my way to the bus terminus and wait for the bus back to town and may car, which is cunningly positioned at the Karori Tunnel to save me having to walk up Highbury Rd after the afternoon's exertions.

Island Bay

So, in summary, it was a great afternoon's walk. By my calculations the route from the top of Highbury to Shorland Park in Island Bay was 11.9km. If you're planning a similar outing, I'd recommend getting plenty of supplies in: I was glad I brought two 750ml bottles of water with me, because one wouldn't have been enough on such a hot day, and there's no safe-looking streams to fill up from. Good boots are important, because the Tip Track in particular is rocky and uneven in places. While it was a cracking day when I walked the route, if there was any doubt about the conditions then carrying an extra layer of clothing would be important, because the route is completely uncovered and open to the elements. And lastly, don't forget to tell people where you're going and when you expect to be back, because you'll lose mobile coverage in the valleys.

See also:
Blog: Pukerua to Plimmerton, September 2012
Blog: A river walk to Richmond, December 2010
Blog: Milford Track, November 2005      
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