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Escape to the Escarpment

Sunday 25 th September 2022

It’s always dangerous to make arrangements on the morning of the move to daylight saving, but itdoes herald the beginning of summer. All 4 managed to make the designated pickup times withtrepidation because a cold southerly was still blowing. In the back of our minds was what theconditions were going to be like for objective was a windswept coastal walk. The crossing of theRemutuka pass in heavy rain just added to our weather concerns.

Our greatest navigation issue was the new Transmission Gully motorway, an unfamiliar obstacle forus east coast provincial trampers for it didn’t appear on our topo maps! Finding the correct exitrequired an unplanned diversion.

With the car safely parked near the Paekakariki rail station our on foot journey begun from thenorth. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by this point and there were hints of blue sky. We followed the pavement briefly before picking up a small track squeezed between the road and therailway line. Using the underside of a bridge (us trampers are generally use the top of bridges to make crossings) took us to the hillside into the wooded area. It was interesting to see many unfamiliar species there were. There was a lot of restoration plantings being done.

After crossing a small stream the track climbs abruptly up countless, and soon to be despised, steps. There are claims that there are 1500 steps on the track. I did note dare to substantiate this. The first 100ms of climb forced us to shed a layer of clothing, but the stop did give us to admire the remains of some Maori terraced gardens. They must have been keen, as the soil did not look that good. Another 100ms of climb saw us at our high point (220ms) and a brief lunch stop.

The Escarpment track is a very contrived route (apart for the section to the Maori gardens) which was built in 2016 for $1.4m. It forms part of the Te Araroa trail network. Most noticeable about the track is the steep ground that it covers which is generally 30 o (at times 45 o ) in angle. You look down onto the Centennial Highway (circa 1939) and the main trunk railway line. It does give you good views of Kapiti Island and the northern aspects of the Marlborough Sounds.

The next part of the route took us down the flight of stairs known as the “Stairway to Heaven” to the first of two swing bridges spanning two side creeks. The bridges gives us a chance to admire the wind sculptured vegetation canopies. This vegetation graphically depicts the struggle for existence against the prevailing and accelerating coastal winds. The tracks middle section saw us pass through pockets of mature trees, or regrowth. Generally, the track is on relatively open ground.

The track has been closed just prior to our trip due to slips during recent rain. The evidence indicated that these “slips” were relatively minor. There is one slip (circa 2020) where one must navigate a substantial (formed) detour. Remedial work is slowly being carried out because it forms a threat to the railway line and road below.

Finally the altitude was lost and we entered the easier ground of Pukerua Bay. A few back streets saw us at the railway station. After a few minutes we were on the train for the return journey to our car at Paekakariki.

On the trip was Don, Denise, Sue and Lorelei.

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