Last week, after dropping the girls off at school, I drove back to the south coast, with my dog on my lap, and decided, on the spur of the moment, to do a walk I’d often thought about doing, but hadn’t yet got around to doing. I wasn’t best equipped. I really should have taken water, some food, and a few extras – for safety – in case of a twisted ankle, or any other unforeseen accident, but this wasn’t the Amazon rainforest and there were no poisonous creatures to worry about (just the odd possum living on the wrong side of the ditch).
On the up side, I had my faithful dog, Monsieur Cocoa, and a fully charged phone. I didn’t know the track, but there was a map at the start and I guessed it would take me a good couple of hours. I was only a 10 minute drive from central Wellington – the capital city of New Zealand – but, on the south coast, in the hills, to the west of Owhiro Bay, in the Te Kopahou Reserve, it felt wild – and I didn’t see a single other person for over an hour and a half (which felt AMAZING!).
I set off on the track, taking photographs as I went, repeatedly checking for cellphone reception in case of an emergency. After the first ten minutes I let my dog off his lead, realising the likelihood of seeing another person (or dog) was under 1 per cent (he’s a very excitably young pup – my first dog – and I’m not entirely confident with my leadership skills / aka control of my dog – should I encounter another being!).
Minutes later I spotted a wild hare – so did the dog – off he went… (my dog) chasing the hare! I thought back to the sign at the start of the track, stating that ‘Possum bait is used here’, or words to that effect, and willed my dog to have his fun, but stay on the track and return quickly… thankfully I needn’t have worried, as he acted like a toddler, ran some 50 metres and then turned around to realise I wasn’t running and ran back to me.
Anyway, moving on… we kept walking, up and up and up, round the next bend, and the next, higher still.
The gusting wind made me feel a little chilly if I stopped. I started wondering what I’d do if I twisted my ankle and was stranded for a long time… not much around to make a shelter or keep me warm, but then I could dig a ditch, wrap myself in leaves, cuddle the dog… but I didn’t have any water – a while ago I would have still had breast milk… I checked my cellphone reception and battery life – all good, and picked up my step, thinking, ‘Keep moving, keep warm, watch my footing, stay sharp… ‘ and so my inner voice went round and round as I climbed up and up.
I stopped a couple of times to shout out to nobody that, ‘This is AMAZING!’ and take some photographs of the distant city of Wellington and the main high-points of Mount Victoria, Mt Kau Kau and the Brooklyn wind turbine.
After quite a climb I reached a turning point, where the direction of the track was seaward – and that was reassuring as I was expecting to eventually end up back at sea-level, by ‘Red Rocks’. I turned downhill, with a skip in my step (well, kind of, maybe more of a little spring than a skip, as I was still watching my footing over the loose stones and uneven pathway).
After a while the footpath become more grass covered, which was pleasant underfoot after the loose stones, but (to stop me from getting too excited) a couple of hidden indents almost took my ankle out and made me step with more awareness again.
It was at that point that I spotted a possum in the grass ahead – a mere 5 metres or so away. I couldn’t believe that my dog hadn’t scented him out. I picked him up (my dog, not the possum) and stepped closer (with my phone out ready to take a photo). I got as close as a metre – maybe less – before the possum looked up at me, with a look of disdain that I’d dare bother him, and sauntered off the track and into the bush.
I carried my dog for a little while longer, before putting him back on his four-wheeled drive, turbo legs, to scamper along down the track.
It wasn’t long before the track starting to climb up again…
It was at this point that I wasn’t convinced I was getting any closer to sea level and would have quite a few more ups and downs before I got there.
I started to wonder if I was going the right way, but a signpost, a little further along, reassured me that I was only 3km from ‘Red Rocks’ so with that sign of reassurance I picked up my pace and got going (trying to ignore the slightly dehydrated dry feeling at the back of my throat, whilst looking at my little dog, loyally panting alongside me, with a touch of worry and guilt, ‘Maybe I should carry him a while?’ I thought, but then he looked at me with a determined spark in his eye and I knew he’d be fine).
The track kept following the best possible contours of the land, leading me in a twisting path toward the coastline. At one stage the track ran along the cliff top, from where I could clearly see the red rocks beneath me. The wind at that point was gusting so strongly that it was a struggle to remain upright – even my four legged friend was struggling!
I was surprised, shortly afterwards, to find myself taking a track leading away from the coast. The sign seemed to point down and the alternative was up and to an unknown place – without climbing up to see – though granted it was in the direction of the sea. I decided to follow the downward path, even though it led inland.
It was a narrow, switch back track, for mountain bikers and walkers. It eventually led down to the valley and followed a stream leading to the sea.
I felt quite swallowed up by the hills as I descended from the open cliff top to the valley gully. For a while I felt quite exasperated that I’d ever get to the coast, but eventually there was no doubt and I started to pick up my pace again, dodging rocks, skipping through waterways, balancing over stepping stones…
… and over a little bridge, until finally, finally, I saw open water, the sea and PEOPLE! I quickly put the lead back on my dog and walked out into the open, with a feeling of relief, but also a twinge of regret that my quiet adventure had come to an end.
I knew the way home from this point.
It was along the wild coastline toward Owhiro Bay, from Red Rocks. The gusty wind was still whipping up a few sand lashings, but other than that, it was easy going.
No more hills, just sand and pebbled terrain, till the final stretch of road from the Red Rocks visitor centre back to the car. My dog and I intermittently jogged and walked, stopping to exchange greetings with walkers.
An amazing walk with spectacular scenery. I felt like I was in the middle of no where, but the city of Wellington was always there – on the distant hills – and what a very special and unique city it is – to be set in amongst hills of such mixed terrain, with so many protected town-belt areas, dotted with tracks for walkers, runners and mountain bikers. This city really is one of action – in the way it moves everyone and everything – with its weather (mainly the wind!), its arts and cultural richness, its coffee and craft beers and its phenomenal scenery. I am never short of a breathtaking view in Wellington.
Linking up this post with ‘The Prompt’, where this week the theme is ‘View’