Before I head off to Christchurch tomorrow, I want to share my experience from this past weekend. Let’s just say things didn’t go as planned, but I got some great photos out it, so I consider it a success. I had been meaning to climb Mount Kaukau, a peak just outside of Wellington, for some time. Everyone raved about the views, so I finally set out to make the trek last Saturday. I checked the forecast numerous times, and it kept showing that the incoming rain wouldn’t start until at least 6 or 7 pm. I was at the trailhead before 10 am, so I assumed I’d have more than enough time to summit Kaukau and continue along the Skyline Trail to Karori, maybe a three or four hour trek.
The trail up Kaukau winds through the forest and features many staircases. The view got better and better as I climbed, and I was at the summit within a half hour of starting.
Taking pictures is always a great excuse to stop and breathe.
On one such stop, I found a mushroom straight out of Super Mario.
And then, the summit!
The 360 degree views were stunning.
That’s downtown Wellington to the right.
I really can’t think of a better spot for a bench.
After taking in the summit views for a while, I headed down the Skyline Trail. It goes all around Wellington, and you could definitely spend several days walking it from end to end. I’d never taken it from this direction before, but it’s usually easy enough to follow.
Much of it goes through pastures, so there are various precautions in place so cows or sheep don’t escape.
The views of Wellington were great as I walked further along the track.
Just look at that blue sky peeking through. Not at all threatening, right?
You’d think so, but see those rain drops on the lens?
Yeah… those are just a taste of what’s to come.
Those dark clouds behind me should have been a sign, but Wellington weather is so changeable that clouds often blow over before they even have a chance to rain.
I continued along the path, which made me feel like I was in the Scottish Highlands.
You can see Kaukau in the distance, getting swallowed up by a cloud.
The contrast of sunshine on one side and dark clouds on the other was striking.
The sheep didn’t seem too bothered.
I could also see one of Wellington’s windfarms off in the distance.
I then found an amazing rock and had to make use of my camera’s 20 second self-timer.
As I continued on along the Skyline Trail, all of a sudden the clouds came pouring over the peaks.
I enjoy a good foggy hike, but I wasn’t counting on the rain.
Luckily, I was able to get some pictures before I felt like I was risking my camera’s delicate life.
As you can see, there are lots of pastures up here. This means there are also lots of trails, both the Skyline Trail and others that split off.
I came to a point where both trails that split looked equally worn, so I took the one to the right. Wrong decision, as I quickly found myself lost and most definitely not on the Skyline Trail anymore.
I figured if I kept going, I would eventually hit the main path again.
The further I went, the more I realized that I had NO IDEA which direction I was even heading. I took out my phone and used the compass on Google Maps to show me which direction the Skyline Trail was. Turns out, I was completely off the reserve and on private farmland. I figured if I headed off the path and cut towards where the trail should be, that would be my best bet. Again… WRONG.
This is what the landscape looked like.
You try to find your way down muddy slopes covered in sharp gorse and other fun thorny bushes and tell me how it goes. Why is every bush in New Zealand so damn sharp? Once I got to a point where it wasn’t possible to go any further, I was forced to turn around and clambor back up the hill.
Then, this happened.
I should’ve worn my hiking boots, but I really wasn’t planning on this enjoyable little detour.
The sheep were none too pleased with my presence and would flee for their lives, turn around to look at me, and then run again. They’re like the dumb people in horror movies who run in a straight line instead of veering off or hiding somewhere. Apparently, I look like a sheep murderer.
You can see their terrified white forms off in the distance.
Here they are, staring me down.
I saw a bit of a clearing to my left and thought that climbing down the steep hill and back up the other side might lead me to the Skyline Trail. Why I didn’t learn my lessons with spiky bushes the first time, I don’t know.
Looks like it might be a straight shot, right? WRONG. I got a little bit past where those three sheep are in the distance and was forced to turn around. As if the sharp bushes weren’t bad enough, I walked through multiple spider webs and made pathetic noises that I’m glad no one was around to hear. I had to ford the stream at the bottom and climb up this hill again, basically grabbing on to those scraggly trees to haul myself up the steep parts. At one point, a dead tree broke off in my hands and I had to resort to just grabbing the muddy slope for leverage.
I now knew my only option was to retrace my steps back to the point where the Skyline Trail originally diverged. I should have done this much sooner.
Finally, I saw trail markers again, and I couldn’t have been happier. Hello, little yellow circle of salvation.
I decided to keep heading towards Karori, and after a while, I started to recognize the trail from my first hikes in Wellington when I was staying with Shalom and Sam.
I encountered some grazing cows, who were much less bothered by my presence than the cowardly sheep.
Once I made it to Karori, I took a track down to the road and headed to the bus stop. Luckily, most of the mud had been washed off in the rain so I wasn’t barred from boarding the bus. The entire trek ended up taking about five hours, but would have been closer to three without my little detour. I was exhausted and sore the next couple days, but I must admit, in hindsight it was quite the adventure, and I love the pictures I got out of it. In the future, if I find myself lost in a cloud, I’ll turn around before I end up terrorizing sheep and slip-sliding down muddy hills again.