Hello, 2016! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, whatever you may have done to celebrate. I really missed being home with my family for Christmas, but that’s not to say I didn’t fully enjoy the Kiwi festivities. Andy and I went to our friends’ house up the coast on Christmas Day and enjoyed the sunshine, amazing food and even a game of cricket. Yes, an American played cricket (I did require a little convincing).
After a relaxing weekend with more wonderful sunshine, we headed to Waikanae on Monday to house/dog-sit for our friends for three nights. Waikanae (pronounced “why-can-eye”) is on the Kapiti Coast, about an hour north of Wellington, and it has wonderful beaches and walking trails.
Here it is on a map:
To the west of Waikanae, just off the coast, is Kapiti Island, a nature preserve that has been entirely rid of invasive pests. I’d love to visit it one day.
On our first day in Waikanae, we relaxed for a bit and took Higgs and Hoagie for a walk by the river in the evening. Hoagie is a lab/huntaway cross and very high energy, so he and Higgs made an interesting pair.
The next morning, I decided to go on an adventure of my own and explore the densely forested hills behind our friends’ house. I knew the main path lead to a lookout, and the day was shaping up to be gorgeous, so I planned to do a 2 1/2 hour loop. No dogs on this jaunt, but don’t worry, cute pictures will come in the next posts.
The path was incredibly beautiful and wild from the moment I entered the rainforest. The scale of the trees was impossible to capture with my camera, so you’ll have to take my word that the entire place was jaw-dropping. One of my favorite things about NZ is that you can just step off a road and instantly be surrounded by nature. The modern world disappears in an instant and everything is simple and peaceful.
The path quickly began to rise and the majority of the walk to the lookout was very strenuous. I’m glad I decided to go early in the day, because it was quickly warming up as the sun came further over the hills.
After about an hour, I came upon a clearing with a wonderful view out towards the coast and hills of Waikanae.
There was a memorial bench alongside the trail, and I couldn’t help but smile at the message a hiker left behind.
I continued on past beautiful pastures, enjoying the gorgeous greenery and sunshine through the trees.
Before long, I came across another lookout with fantastic views of Kapiti Island and central Waikanae.
I ran into a birdwatcher at the lookout who had passed me earlier on my way up the hill. I mentioned the loop walk I intended to do, and he agreed it was beautiful but also warned it would be steep going at the end. I was up for the challenge, as I’m always keen to take the road less traveled by.
As I continued on, the path quickly became much less obvious, but I really enjoyed beings surrounded by old growth forest and the sounds of birds in the trees. Less path = more adventure.
The giant ferns were beautiful, illuminated by the sunlight.
Some of the lush groves of trees reminded me a bit of Vermont in the summer.
The path rose and fell, following the ridgeline. Although the trail itself was meandering and covered by roots in many places, it was well marked with orange triangles, which made it easy to follow.
Signs like this next one made me laugh, since they look like an afterthought. Maybe a hiker just did their part to point people in the right direction.
I came across some interesting flora, like these mushrooms on a tree.
And this tree that was surely thought up by Dr. Seuss.
This was the point when the path began to steeply descend. The birdwatcher I’d met earlier wasn’t kidding. It was very rough going for about a half hour, and I often had to grab onto trailside trees to stop from slipping down the leaf-strewn and root-tangled path. I wasn’t able to take in much scenery since I was too busy looking down, but I still think taking this route was worth it.
It’s hard to truly see what the path was like from the photos I took, but I’ll give it a go anyway. Here’s the view looking back up the bit I had just descended.
The roots did come in handy at times, since they provided a good foothold on the steeper parts. Luckily, I made it in one (shaky-legged) piece to flatter ground. Then, the path opened into a field with another great view of rural Waikanae.
I traipsed through tall grass down to the road, where Andy was kind enough to pick me up. He had to drive about one minute down the road, whereas I’d taken a 2 1/2 hour, 9 km detour. It was a great way to start the day, though, and a beautiful way to get a feel for Waikanae.
More to come featuring dogs, as well as our trip up to Taranaki. Stay tuned!